Thor

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston.
Runtime: 115m

You would think that the man behind the camera of such excellent period-pieces as Hamlet and Macbeth would have done better with the Norse-material; sadly, Kenneth Branagh turns it into a simplistic Cain and Abel combat of spoiled and expectant demi-god brothers. The only character who deserved anything was Odin, a well-cast Anthony Hopkins, but he already is the king, nigh for his heir to replace him.

The voices of the Gods and of Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, are near as bad as Batman’s voice-overs in 2010’s The Dark Knight. The surface-pounding omnipotence of it all is appealing at first, but by the time the battle finally rings onto the screen, the whole ‘this hammer breaks all’ ordeal becomes tiring, and Thor just plain isn’t cool or catchy enough to cheer on, besides his daunting look, bright-red cape flowing in the wind and muscles like that of Hulk on estrogen-pills.

The Asgaardian portal and special effects are nonetheless dazzling and should be looked at separately from the rather weak storytelling. The Human-acquaintances, played by Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard, are a bit forcefully touching, but still remain well-fitting in the overall breakdown of Thor and his personality; he Is sympathetic, or rather needs to be while involving himself with his brother, and shows that Earth Is not at all alien to him. I suppose the psyche of the superhero is a bit reversed in ‘Thor’; we are used to the under-appreciated, poor or disaster-stricken hero like Spider-Man and the parent-less Superman, not a God ready for the throne to defend and judge the righteousness of his rebellious younger brother, Loki.

The Dark Knight

8/10

The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, is a despairing door into a city of madness and corruption; The Joker, played with enigmatic gesture by Heath Ledger, has one thing planned only: To turn Gotham city into crumbling dust. Christian Bale returns from the earlier entry, Batman Begins, as the Knight, and lives up to his corporate splendor as he did during his role in American Psycho, though they are very opposite. The film is an amazing feat in special effects and cinematic action, featuring some enthralling shots filmed in a Chicago-based tunnel and a philosophical tone.

Maggie Gyhlennal plays Rachael, who is split between her love of Harvey Dent, the intelligent district attorney, or her old friend Bruce Wayne. The relationship has the strained essence through out, and it’s conclusion is expressed in a way by the hands of the joker. Christopher Nolan and his brother Johnathan, a co-scriptwriter, packed the Dark Knight with philosophical dimensions: throughout the movie, the joker pokes at Batman by demanding he remove the mask, and when people die because Batman refuses, he feels it is his fault; yet, the wise Alfred reassures with the fact that he would kill people anyways. It’s in their nature and we must only focus on our own and its benefits.

Their is a mysterious, gangster-like element to the film, also: the five Italian crime families are introduced, and Batman goes to them to find information on the joker. The use of sub-plots makes a great effect, the gangsters, Rachael and Harvey, Jim Gordon, and even more, similar to Scorsese’s The Departed. It balances it all perfectly, each consequence of a character leading to another, good or bad. We live by our choices, Batman must know, and his choices need to be above himself and for the sake of Gotham; because if we sit down and look at personal choices, they are self-interested, neurotic (the joker), and disillusioned (Harvey Dent).  Though it all swings in accord with the Batman mythology, I did find The Joker’s ease in persuading Harvey Dent onto his side rather unrealistic; Dent, above all people, would be hard to pull onto one’s side: he is a defense-lawyer.  Why would he bend over a few dark sentiments from The Joker?

The Dark Knight is a huge bang in the blockbuster genre: It virtually re-defined the comic-book genre almost to the point of not calling it one: Noirish, cinematic, philosophical, and intelligent, The Dark Knight is an entertaining benchmark in dark science-fiction.

Death Race 2000

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: David Carradine, Slyvester Stallone
Runtime: 80m

‘Death Race 2000’ is a must have for the Corman-collector, a slick and violent game with death and mockery. It features the desired manly quo from actors David Carradine and Slyvester Stallone, with punky sidecar navigating sweethearts played by Simone Griffeth and Mary Woronov. The premise in no way stifles or outweighs the characters, as they all have their own motivations and psychological tendencies that ensue later.

The premise of the movie doctrines Racers to garner points by driving through the city streets and highways and running over citizens with their alligator-jaw bumpers. The point-system gives the racer higher points for certain types of people, elder people being the highest amount of points possible, the second highest toddlers and babies. Frankenstein (David Carradine) is the notorious bad-boy of the race, masochistic and perverse in his grand theft killings. He must pair his jaded ways with his new navigator (Simone Griffeth), but little does he realize she too has a side-story of her own. Meanwhile, Machine Gun Joe (Stallone) remains the steady conniver against Frankenstein, his repeated one-upper, and turns maniacally set on wreaking him.

The film is structured well, with equal moments of race-time and driver/navigator off-road relations or public relations. The moments of rendezvous at dinner and resting time makes the audience a truly third-person viewer, watching the racers social-gesture for tense, ready to burst moments.

The film is a Corman-classic and demands a sense of pessimism from the starting-line; essentially, it is a fun romp through revolutionary-intrigue, character dynamics, and fast-paced, heavily-theoretical racing. But it is also a satire on what media shows and why they show it; for reasons we can’t seem to understand, but nevertheless like.

Avatar (2009)

7/10

After the DVD release of Avatar and the overbearing presence on T.V., I’ve realized how quick it ebbed and flowed: it is not a movie you can watch over and over again. The purple shimmer of the wild-forest now seems unimaginative; the raw emotion and power of Jake Sully’s commanding now seems cheesy. And the whole concept so redundant and copied. But man, the first viewing in the theater was one of the best visual experiences ever.

The story follows paraplegic soldier, Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, who enlists in the avatar program after his twin-brother dies; the avatar science, costing millions, cannot just let an avatar go to waste, biologically toned only to Sully’s brother, however, since they are twins it seems to work also for Jake. Then its a game of pick your interests for Jake, whether or not he wants to help the scientists or the Military and their destructive agenda, Colonel Miles Quaritch played by Stephen Lang, who wears a Naavi’-induced scar across his temple, and likes it.

The CGI technology of Avatar is no doubt innovative and groundbreaking; the impact can be seen by the box office, because a movie that brings in more than 700 million is not done from repeat viewings by fan-boys. People who rarely see movies came out to the theater for this blockbuster. The world is not green-screen painted, like Jackson’s Lord of the Rings,  it is three-dimensional and drawn-out; each specimen, flora, and fauna had to be specifically thought-out, Director James Cameron says. On first viewing, it is magical, yet on the third viewing one starts to see a pattern: Nondescript bright purple and green flowering everywhere in massive quantities. It’s an alien world, why not make it flashy. The most exhaustive part of the process had to be pre-production: they had to work with linguists to train the actors on the Naavi’s pronunciation, and had to have a pixar-size crew of animators and artists establishing the groundwork for the movies world; for this, It will doubtless be forgotten.

The story is woven out of many older stories, but it still gets the job done: a showcase for the blue-technology, actors performing as aliens, and of the magnificent landscapes, like the great winding tree, and the floating mountains. It’s mythology is bound to create a very large fanbase, and the eco-theme will no doubt spread into the easily inspired minds of young people. Visually potent and imaginative, James Cameron’s Avatar is a memorable feat in digitally created effects.

Blade Runner

Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Harrison Ford
Runtime: 1h 54m

Blade Runner is a meditative auto-pilot of a film, in which we are led by our philosophically-minded host Rick Deckard through the eerily-lit cityscape of L.A. 2019. His android cohort and ambivalent sex-doll, played by the porcelain Sean Young, creates a baby-like contrast to the films consistently brooding tone. It’s performances are universally well supplemented and the direction by Ridley Scott is sharp and dimensional.

The story follows Rick Deckard, a Blade-Runner whose sole job is to find and destroy rogue androids. He is troubled by doing this after so long, similar to a public defender’s self-consciousness, but this feeling he sort of diagnoses as the normal hatred for working,and irrelevant; and in the Philip K. Dick book this would be even more reasonable to think, as they woke up to mood-alarms and selected which mood they wanted for the day. Then he gathers the attention of an android woman upon visiting the prism-shaped Tyrell complex, and is released from his self-described sinning after seriously considering having sex with the woman Android. He continues his search for the rogue androids, the posse that sent a fellow Blade Runner to the grave, with the hesitation of the android-woman Rachel wallowing beside him in her lucid thoughts of who she, having found out to be a patented Tyrell Android, really is.

The structure is well-kept throughout, matched with solid operatic musical entries that one can imagine
echoing through the metallic structures where the Rogue androids reside. In fact, everything in the movie seems of the same proportions: huge. Do we ever see small apartment complexes or homes? The set design I have no problems with, although I may say the bleakness of it all makes the prospect of monochrome seem well fitting; I’m surprised they never released a DVD in such format, as it would undoubtedly make a few bucks.

Blade Runner flows like a lofty philosophical talk with a well-acquainted friend. It is about human contradiction, human responsibility, morality and the realization of the bigger ‘reason’ for doing things that may be morally transparent to some. It explores the the cause for exploitation with human artificial intelligence, a concept dismissed in the simstim prostitution of most sci-fi films. And most of all, it displays that even in a world of programmed-action, you can choose the right path.

Blade Runner, to put it emphatically, is a masterpiece. It’s provocative morality along with the ethereal tone bring about a not well-known mixture: Tough guy sentimentality. And with this comes entertainment-discrepancies for a shell-pumping culture, which would explain its meager box office on first release. Philip K. Dick, the author of the source novel ‘Do androids dream of electric sheep?’ had seen some movie shots of the L.A. design and apparently was very much in awe. This was before his seizure and consequential death, when soon thereafter a solid chunk of his body of work was adapted to the screen. Recommended to all sci-fi and even open-minded drama connoisseurs.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” takes you into a world not only because of stellar set-design, but also some twisty and absorbing film-making techniques. The sets are relatively two-dimensional, painted, with architecture and furniture based on the artwork of artist Allen Jones; a feminist who made table-tops supported by mannequin, skimpily-dressed women. The film’s a looking-glass into adolescent violence and deviousness, with a timeless performance by Malcolm McDowell as the protagonist, Alex DeLarge.

Through wide-angle lenses and close-ups, Kubrick spins the image. The first scene starts as a close-up of Alex’s face, with his signature spiked-brow, and then zooms out and displays the world where Alex and his friends reside, the Korova Milk, where he and his friends, or ‘droogs’ as they’re called in the book and movie, are served tall glasses of milk laced with drugs.

The film follows teenager Alex and his droogs as they gather together and raid through houses, stealing from people in a society that seems to lack authority and discipline. After Alex’s droogs become resentful of Alex having always been the self-proclaimed leader, he puts them back into their place by a violent showcase of his ‘leadership’. They don’t like this, and resulting in a setup for a robbery where the gang leaves Alex behind and abandoned to be scooped up by the police. Alex now must begin his rehabilitation by the State.

Alex is given the choice while imprisoned if he’d like to be released early, if he participates in an experiment for a new treatment to rehabilitate the minds of heinous criminals. He agrees on a whim, seemingly excited by it. It turns out that this experiment will change his life, his likes, and his personality permanently. The experiment subjects him to violent images filled with blaring Beethoven, his favorite musician, and other terrible images, by keeping his eyes latched open with a wiry device clasped around his head. This causes him to be repulsed by the violent deeds he previously enjoyed, thus curing him. This poses the question of the importance of free will: Does the effect on society equate to more than the individual’s desires? The movie is a meditation on exploitation and abuse of authority, though in an ironic way: we’re told, almost forced, to try and have sympathy for a violent criminal.

The film blends together glassy, dystopian cinematography with a brilliant soundtrack of songs that may or may not be fitting to their particular scenes; they aren’t supposed to be. Initially outlawed in many countries, it soon became a cult-classic thereafter, with video stores having to put up signs on their doors that read, “No, we don’t have ‘A Clockwork Orange'”.  A classic and utterly unique science-fiction movie.

Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens is a disappointment from Iron Man Director Jon Favreau, with a lackluster plot and characters as Harrison Ford-like then ever; cringing and grunting is the main gesture that goes on here. A cowboy takeoff, yes, but a very poor one at that and action that is unispired and unexplained. When your watching a blockbuster and predicting, based on the Hollywood-smirks and giggles that means a movie is rounding-up, you know it is not very good. The only admirable effect is the special effects, which is a kick to the previously induced sobriety come the end conclusion: Like the spider in Lord of the Rings, it is a daunting beast that dwells in the wild west.

The title sounded so apolegetically cheesy when it was first announced and got me excited to see the outcome; The problem is that it takes itself far too seriously, with acts of brutality like they were trying to make a Paul Thomas Anderson movie for the human-interactions, and a Steven Spielberg movie with the alien-interactions, though that is a hyperbole of insult. The plot surrounds a man, Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig), who wakes up with a metallic-device on his arm and no foreknowledge of how it got there or what it is.  He finds the town of Absolution, which is run Colonel Dolarhyde, who keeps things under a tight-watch, but the town soon grows into chaos when alien-spaceships swarm overhead and barrage the town with weaponry the Cowboys have never seen before; A maniacal action sequences of implausibility, with people hiding under wood barricades and miraculously surviving: The wood architecture of that day was is like a house of straws compared to the modern world, and the aliens should be able to see and act on it right away: Why not have those unique in-the-helmet shots that were in Iron Man on the Alien’s vessel: Is it not Cowboy’s and Aliens, not Cowboys with Aliens? Show the lack of structure in the Western-world, do something original.

The movie takes its characters and of course slams them into each other and forces them to work together; the Colonel and Jake seperate for most of the time, and the Colonel is clearly a hot-headed man who thinks he can take down a machine with a pistol. The movie is an uneven, reckless look at the wild-west and what could happen if aliens attack, and lacks the fun of a carelessly cheesie movie, which knocks a poor serious movie out if its pretentious waters any day.