The Grinch Review

Illumination Delivers Another Perfectly Acceptable if not Necessarily Exceptional Animated Diversion in this Re-Telling of the Dr. Suess Classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

This Queen biopic Fails to Transcend the Genre the Way its Subjects Transcended the Music Scene, but at Least the Music is Good.

Overlord Review

Overlord Combines the Terror of War with the Terror of a Zombie Apocalypse and Accomplishes Exactly what it Means To.

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

An All-Star Cast Attempts to Usher The Nutcracker Story to a New Generation Via Disney Blockbuster, but Unfortunately the Results Fall Short of the Ambition.

A Star is Born Review

Bradley Cooper Writes, Directs, Sings, and Stars in this Fourth Incarnation of this Story Alongside Lady Gaga to Rapturous Results.

THE WAY Review

Movies are no longer about the basic story they are telling but instead marveled at because of how they convey them. What tools, characters, and instincts writers use to manipulate an age old story you have seen many times into something new and fresh. It has been taught that all stories can derive from a certain number of plots. I've heard many different numbers that can fill in that blank, but the fact of the matter is is that it doesn't matter. Because no matter how much the plot matters your audience will not be interested if you do not relate it to them in an appealing manner. It is about the journey and so in making a film about an actual journey it is likely hard to figure out how to make it fresh and interesting. This is certainly a challenge director Emilio Estevez was aware of when he began work on "The Way", a film that chronicles a fathers journey of traveling the "El camino de Santiago" from France to Spain. The story is rooted in more than just a man making a trek though, there is obviously the reasons why he is doing this and while in terms of storytelling this is of course used as a means to make us feel for the character, to relate to him, it is also the reason we want him to take a journey and ultimately why we don't mind tagging along with him. Estevez does a fine job of navigating our protagonists story while providing enough entertaining company and genuine incidents along the way to recommend this heartfelt, if not sometimes slow moving diary of a weary traveler.

Tom Avery (Martin Sheen) gets more than he bargained for
when retrieving his son's remains in France.
Estevez enlists his real-life father Martin Sheen in the lead role of Tom Avery, a California optometrist who upon learning about the death of his son Daniel (played by Estevez in flashbacks) travels to France to collect his sons remains. Daniel was a free spirit type who dropped out of Berkley to see the world and in doing so he began the journey of the "El camino de Santiago" himself but was killed in an accident on his first day out. When Tom reaches France and in a all-around great performance by Sheen we see the reality of his sons death begin to sink in, Tom realizes he has to finish the journey for his son. It feels the only proper thing to do and the most respectable form of honoring his son. What ensues on his journey is not something just for his son who he never seemed to fully understand, but of course a kind of self-discovery that allows Tom to see and appreciate the time he's spent on earth in a different light. This is like I said, a story so ingrained in our cultural DNA but is fortunately not the most important thing about the film. No, despite "The Way" being standard fare, it is elevated by the performances and the bonds that Avery makes during his journey that allow him to come to terms with who he has become.

Tom and his new found friends each have their own
reasons for traveling the "El camino de Santiago". 
This may all sound a tad melodramatic and "Eat Pray Love"-ish but unlike that film our protagonists quest for something more is not rooted in their own selfishness. In fact, Tom has no desire to leave his safe and secure world of being a doctor with golf games in the afternoon. He enjoys his life, he is content, but his son has always been a kind of challenge in his life, the unconventional part of it, yearning to break out of the California bubble. Tom at first doesn't even intend to finish the walk for Daniel. This pilgrimage is the first thing in a long while to give Tom something to achieve, but the problem this enlists for the film is it lets the audience know where the film will end. So the meat of what is interesting will happen en route and while Tom collects a diverse group of traveling buddies that while having their own personal crisis on their hands, they pale in comparison to the reason Tom has chosen to take this trip. The two main problems I had with the film were the too often occurring montages set to what felt like out of place popular songs and the slight episodic feel the film began to pick up.

Tom, Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), and
Daniel (Emilio Estevez) reach the end of their trip together. 
Tom's new found friends and their personal stories as well as their loyalty and determination to make Tom feel a part of something rather than a loner is the saving grace of the long pilgrimage and the level of acting elevates these characters to people we want to see resolve their issues. As the lone woman on the trek, Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) says she is trying to give up smoking by the end of the trip while seeming eternally pessimistic. It is clear there is more under the hood here than smoking though and her quest for a kind of self assurance compliments Tom's the best. There is the instinctively kind Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) who is walking the path to try and lose weight in order to once again feel attractive to his wife. Finally, we have the wonderful James Nesbitt who shows up about halfway through the film as Jack, an author with writer's block who finds in Tom a story worthy of his novel. The interaction between each of them and the bonds they form is clearly the strongest aspect of the film. And while at times the movie could do with better pacing and even shave a few minutes here and there; ultimately Estevez documents the natural progression of these relationships well and produces a heartfelt if not slightly modest effort.

THE WAY Review

Movies are no longer about the basic story they are telling but instead marveled at because of how they convey them. What tools, characters, and instincts writers use to manipulate an age old story you have seen many times into something new and fresh. It has been taught that all stories can derive from a certain number of plots. I've heard many different numbers that can fill in that blank, but the fact of the matter is is that it doesn't matter. Because no matter how much the plot matters your audience will not be interested if you do not relate it to them in an appealing manner. It is about the journey and so in making a film about an actual journey it is likely hard to figure out how to make it fresh and interesting. This is certainly a challenge director Emilio Estevez was aware of when he began work on "The Way", a film that chronicles a fathers journey of traveling the "El camino de Santiago" from France to Spain. The story is rooted in more than just a man making a trek though, there is obviously the reasons why he is doing this and while in terms of storytelling this is of course used as a means to make us feel for the character, to relate to him, it is also the reason we want him to take a journey and ultimately why we don't mind tagging along with him. Estevez does a fine job of navigating our protagonists story while providing enough entertaining company and genuine incidents along the way to recommend this heartfelt, if not sometimes slow moving diary of a weary traveler.

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE Review

In the process of watching a film like "Martha Marcy May Marlene" there is a feeling of unraveling that comes with it that leaves you in a tense state throughout. I was happy to see the film finally make it to my neck of the woods as I have heard so many great things about it. Still, with having heard much about it I was not familiar with what exactly the film was about. All the raving had mainly pertained to Elizabeth Olsen's performance (well deserved) and the accolades it was racking up at film festivals. In some ways I expected the tone of last year’s festival darling "Winter's Bone" to be present here and while this film does incorporate some slight southern gothic-esque staples it is more a movie that exists in two polar opposite realities. The line between those realities and where our protagonist actually exists within them is the subject of the film and it keeps its audience always alert and on its toes. As the anchor of the film this is certainly a great start for Olsen who immediately dismisses any negative assumptions that she is not an actress to be taken seriously just because she shares the same last name as the twins who played Michelle Tanner.

Patrick (John Hawkes) sings a song he wrote for
Martha.
The film is expertly paced and we receive just the right amount of information in the right increments as it moves along as well. Olsen plays Martha, a young woman who is essentially haunted by memories of her time spent in a cult while she tries to reconnect with her sister and become a normal member of society. The paranoia of what fleeing the cult could mean in terms of repercussions though keeps her permanently damaged as if unable to move on. We are introduced to Martha, or as she is referred to by other members of the cult, Marcy May, as she escapes. We know little of what has gone on, what she has been involved with or how she even came to be there. It is clear it isn't normal though; the opening still shots of men working outside as the women cook then proceed to watch the men eat from upstairs as they wait their turn. It is very subtle in its disturbances, but writer/director Sean Durkin knows the effect he is going for, he knows what he wants you to feel, even if you don't want to. And that is exactly the result of his work when combined with Olsen's performance which begs for you to care about Martha. You give her your sympathy and you are repulsed by what she has been through, but you are just as scared of her and what she might do as her sister is.

Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) allows her sister Lucy
(Sarah Paulson) to pretty her up for a party.
The real trick of the film though is the way Durkin and his editing team have composed the film. As if it were Martha's dreams they run the two worlds together. Sometimes to the point we too are unaware at what state Martha is in. Is she safe with her sister and husband at their lake side house or is she still trapped by the brainwashed men and women of this community. The lines blurring between what is real and delusion are not only in Martha's mind but in the technique, the audience begins to experience it as well. This only strengthens the narrative that is careful not to give us any more than we need to know. It keeps us constantly is a state of unease and honestly ends up being one of the best thrillers if not films of the year. Helping to reach this status though is not just the titular performance by Olsen but also that of John Hawkes who plays Patrick, the extremely charismatic leader of the cult. Hawkes (who was also in "Winter's Bone") has been playing small parts with big impact for years now but unlike before, this character has to make us believe people would actually follow him. That a person like Martha who seems intelligent if not slightly awkward and innocent, would buy into his game and philosophy. As Patrick, Hawkes pulls off the commanding yet quiet man who can you enough fancy words and clever phrasing to make you believe anything. He is flawless and as much as I could shower Olsen with praise, her performance would feel more loony and less credible if it were not for the one Hawkes delivers.

Patrick shows Martha how to use a gun, but not just for
defending herself it seems.
This is a dark, serious film that is also among a few that have truly affected me this year. It is a silent, slow burn that like a bad car wreck you can’t look away from. The story is engaging and mysterious while the characters are full and relatable. We could see ourselves becoming a part of something we fear. We wonder what would we do were we put in Martha’s sisters position. Mostly though, we want more from it. Unlike most films today, instead of showering us with over explanation or unnecessary backstory, “Martha Marcy may Marlene” almost feels like it is holding out on us, demanding we pay attention to it. Some people will not like how abrupt the film ends, but in an odd way it fits perfectly with the rest of the film. There is seemingly no beginning, middle or end to the film, instead this is just a piece of someone’s life, albeit fictional, that happened to be going through a serious trauma in trying to discover who she is and if it is possible for her to begin again. You will wonder if that really is the end of the film, but trust me, it is, and you will then debate it on the ride home. All I will say is that I was so wrapped up in the journey of it all I wasn’t even ready to ask if we were nearing the end. It simply happened and hours later, I am still thinking about the film.

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE Review

In the process of watching a film like "Martha Marcy May Marlene" there is a feeling of unraveling that comes with it that leaves you in a tense state throughout. I was happy to see the film finally make it to my neck of the woods as I have heard so many great things about it. Still, with having heard much about it I was not familiar with what exactly the film was about. All the raving had mainly pertained to Elizabeth Olsen's performance (well deserved) and the accolades it was racking up at film festivals. In some ways I expected the tone of last year’s festival darling "Winter's Bone" to be present here and while this film does incorporate some slight southern gothic-esque staples it is more a movie that exists in two polar opposite realities. The line between those realities and where our protagonist actually exists within them is the subject of the film and it keeps its audience always alert and on its toes. As the anchor of the film this is certainly a great start for Olsen who immediately dismisses any negative assumptions that she is not an actress to be taken seriously just because she shares the same last name as the twins who played Michelle Tanner.

THE MUPPETS Review

I am a child born of the late 80's and raised in the 90's. A time when if you didn't have any older siblings (like myself) to reference what was cool in that day then you were lost in the shuffle of Alf, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and eventually Power Rangers. All of which I enjoyed very much and despite coming to realize and understand who the Muppet's were, they and their show were not ingrained into my childhood mythology. I never even saw the last big screen outing "Muppet's in Space" that had every right to introduce me to these characters, but alas it wasn't meant to be and I am kind of glad I had to wait until now to be personally introduced to Kermit and the gang. Before, they were relative celebrities I only heard stories of; now, I feel a part of the Muppet community. As should everyone who goes out and sees (regardless of who is in the directors chair) Jason Segel's masterfully done re-introduction to these clearly beloved characters. I may not have the credentials from my childhood to warrant major love and investment in this film but it certainly is an immensely enjoyable film that will please old and new fans alike. It is a fun, corny romp with some catchy tunes and a nice supporting cast that features plenty of celebrity cameos to keep the Muppet faithful satisfied.

Mary (Amy Adams), Gary (Jason Segel), Walter (voice of
Peter Linz) and Kermit round up the old gang.
I enjoyed how Segel and co-writer Nicholas Stoller were smart enough to make the movie one with a light enough plot for the younger audience members to follow while keeping in plenty of jokes to fly right over their heads. This combined with their wink and nod satire to musicals of ole and movies in general when characters will ask for montages or "travel by map" gives the film a perfect kind of tone that while almost poking fun at itself also allows for us to relish in the simplicity of it all. The film is also clever for acknowledging the real life lack of Muppet influence on current pop culture. It makes it clear the Muppet's themselves are unsure in this day and age of 3D and computer animated cartoons, that their brand of fuzzy animals singing old songs is no longer desired. This allows the set up for Segel, playing the sweet and lovable Gary who has a Muppet brother named Walter as they travel to Los Angeles with Gary's long time girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams doing her Enchanted thing) to visit the Muppet studios.

Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plots how he is going to
destroy the old Muppet theater.
Walter doesn't even seem to realize he was a Muppet until seeing them on TV and upon arriving at their old stomping grounds he is shocked to see the place in disarray. He becomes even more disturbed when overhearing Chris Cooper as evil oil baron Tex Richman (maniacal laugh) plot to destroy the studio and salvage the oil underneath. Thus leading he, Gary, and Mary to track down Kermit (he'll know what to do) and inevitably get the whole gang back together for one last show to raise the money to save their home. I was simply happy to see that such a sincere fan as Segel was given this opportunity and in the end able to pull off a faithful homage to his favorite childhood show while introducing them successfully to a new generation. Segel also employs his songwriting abilities here with catchy, but almost more importantly, funny songs such as the opening and finale number, "Life's A Happy Song" as well as Mr. Cooper rapping that while funny, made me slightly embarrassed for the guy. The standout is clearly "Man Or Muppet" though, which you should go listen to here. Right now.

Kermit and Miss. Piggy reunite after some serious effort
on the frog's part.
I don't think I've come out of another film this year with as big a smile on my face and just an all around good feeling as I did when exiting "The Muppet's". It is honestly a triumph of all things innocent and simple. It shows with unabashed heart that all we really need is silliness and self aware musical numbers to which we feel all goofy and warm inside. And while I enjoyed the movie with not a care in the world, at the end I probably didn't love it as much as those who returned for a nostalgia trip or a young child discovering the power of felt for the first time. I liked it, and I liked it a lot, but love isn't the word for it. It is touching at times and it certainly made me a fan of the troupe, but I guess what I am really trying to say is that I hope Segel gets to bring his brand of Muppet movie out for another round because as much as I enjoyed this first film, I would love to see more. "The Muppets" feels like a fresh start for something new, something great that Segel can not only use to expand his celebrity with but to live out a passion for songwriting and puppetry. It seems he would no doubt jump at the chance to do so and if he does, I'm sure I'll fall even harder the next time the Muppet's hit theaters.

THE MUPPETS Review

I am a child born of the late 80's and raised in the 90's. A time when if you didn't have any older siblings (like myself) to reference what was cool in that day then you were lost in the shuffle of Alf, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and eventually Power Rangers. All of which I enjoyed very much and despite coming to realize and understand who the Muppet's were, they and their show were not ingrained into my childhood mythology. I never even saw the last big screen outing "Muppet's in Space" that had every right to introduce me to these characters, but alas it wasn't meant to be and I am kind of glad I had to wait until now to be personally introduced to Kermit and the gang. Before, they were relative celebrities I only heard stories of; now, I feel a part of the Muppet community. As should everyone who goes out and sees (regardless of who is in the directors chair) Jason Segel's masterfully done re-introduction to these clearly beloved characters. I may not have the credentials from my childhood to warrant major love and investment in this film but it certainly is an immensely enjoyable film that will please old and new fans alike. It is a fun, corny romp with some catchy tunes and a nice supporting cast that features plenty of celebrity cameos to keep the Muppet faithful satisfied.

LIKE CRAZY Review

I was always one to dismiss young love as idiotic, as naive, and somewhat unnecessary. I would stare at couples who seemed to get too serious in high school and just want to look at them and say, "You know you have no idea right?" That to try to understand that feeling was impossible as a teenager. These are the years you research it, get to know the ups and downs of it, that way when you are older and meet someone you could see spending those ups and downs with, you are fully prepared. It isn't until you meet that person though that you really start to think about love and all its complexities and sweetness and heartbreak. These emotions were dissected with great respect earlier this year in the ensemble film "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and now we have another film that likes to associate the word "crazy" with the emotion, but in a much more focused way. "Like Crazy" is a film that follows the progression of a couple through the honeymoon phase, where those cute looks give way to thousands of possibilities and the world is a place easily conquered if you have love. We see them grow, adore one another but also how they come to find each others faults and the negative ways in which they are dealt. It is an involving film. It is very real, honest, and simple but if you have ever had even the slightest hint of loving someone, of longing to be with someone in your life you will understand where "Like Crazy" is coming from and you will feel it.

Anna (Felecity Jones) knows how to reel 'em in.
We are introduced to Anna in school and as an aspiring writer. She is smart and pretty; we see that and are quickly given the impression she has a liking to another boy in class. Jacob, a furniture designer who is surprised to find the sweet note on his car that prompts him to call her. They meet up, go out and the first awkward conversations and situations ensue. This is obviously a smaller, more art house type film though and so without second guessing we know these young academic thinkers are quirky kids coming into their adulthood, surprised by the fact they are old enough to take on such responsibilities as jobs and love, and the potential commitments that feeling can lead to. As our two young lovers discover one another on that first date we to get to know them. It is clear that writer/director Drake Doremus is drawing from personal experiences here and in doing that he allows himself to focus soely on the faces of the two young actors playing Anna and Jacob. It is in their faces that we see surprise of how well this is turning out, that feeling that is almost impossible to describe where every angle of each others face and body language offers a kind of excitement that is unknown but attainable. It is more than something new, it is a feeling you aren't sure you've ever even heard of, but you like it and you know there is no way you will be able to stop yourself from falling for that person.

Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna fall for one another
soon after meeting.
Those young actors playing Anna and Jacob are to truly be comended for their work here. Both Anton Yelchin who has proved with every role that he is capable of bringing raw human elements to any situation does a really extraordinary job of that with such a simple and human situation. His co-star Felecity Jones who, in her biggest role to date, brings the film a life, a heartbeat that without her strong performance might have relegated this film to a sub par love story. No matter how much we understand what Jacob is going through and why he does what he does, we are given the story more through the perspective of Anna. Anna is the one who refuses to accept the trappings of the life she is supposed to lead when she knows that she will forever regret not being with Jacob. As Jacob Yelchin comes to terms with what his reality has presented him. The plot of the story coming from the fact Anna is a British college student who, after falling for Jacob overstays her visa and is then banned from the U.S. for doing so. It is the separation they deal with that tests their relationship, that gives the audience real concern as to if things will be happily ever after by the time the credits roll.

It is a moment when Anna is in the UK and Jacob is hanging out with friends (both trying to move on) that Jacob calls Anna hoping simply to hear her voice after the time difference has not allowed them communication. We see him happy to hear her, but her dismissive tone so as not too seem upset puts him down. The call is short, not much is said and Jacob probably feels worse than he did before. He sits, staring at his phone unable to even enjoy the world around him because the one person he wants to experience it with isn't by his side. Then we cut back to Anna, laying on her bed and you can feel the heartbreak in how she lays. She curls up into the fetal position almost and you see the back start to jerk signaling the tears on her face. At this point we don't even have to see her face to know what she is going through. She sits back up, knowing she was wrong for trying to fool herself and calls Jacob back. It sounds slightly melodramatic here, but it is captured so perfectly, so honestly that if you don't feel Anna's hurt then there is seriously something wrong with you.

Jacob sparks a romance with Sam (Jennifer Lawrence)
as well, but it doesn't comapre to he and Anna's. 
The appealing relatability of "Like Crazy" makes it a film that most will enjoy not because of its originality but in the way it approaches its subject matter. As the story develops I'll admit to getting slightly frustrated with the way Jacob comes to kind of be less passionate about his relationship with Anna. She seems to always have Jacob on her mind, an inescapable part of her life she feels incomplete without, yet Jacob seems almost content with settling on Sam, the more convienent of choices plyed here by Jennifer Lawrence. It is understandable and I get it, but even when we see Anna with another guy we still sense her allegiance to Jacob. That is lost when we see Jacob and Sam together. I will not spoil the end by saying whether or not they end up together because if you get the chance to view the film you certainly should and it should no doubt be a journey of love that you take with these two. I will however comment that Doremus perfectly handles his final moments, focusing again so closely on the facial expressions and crosscutting these unspoken feelings with flashes of one another at the beginning of their relationship. It is not a clean resolution to be sure, but it is satisfying and explains that feeling of love and it's overall meaning in life as tenderly as the entire film tries to explore it.

LIKE CRAZY Review

I was always one to dismiss young love as idiotic, as naive, and somewhat unnecessary. I would stare at couples who seemed to get too serious in high school and just want to look at them and say, "You know you have no idea right?" That to try to understand that feeling was impossible as a teenager. These are the years you research it, get to know the ups and downs of it, that way when you are older and meet someone you could see spending those ups and downs with, you are fully prepared. It isn't until you meet that person though that you really start to think about love and all its complexities and sweetness and heartbreak. These emotions were dissected with great respect earlier this year in the ensemble film "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and now we have another film that likes to associate the word "crazy" with the emotion, but in a much more focused way. "Like Crazy" is a film that follows the progression of a couple through the honeymoon phase, where those cute looks give way to thousands of possibilities and the world is a place easily conquered if you have love. We see them grow, adore one another but also how they come to find each others faults and the negative ways in which they are dealt. It is an involving film. It is very real, honest, and simple but if you have ever had even the slightest hint of loving someone, of longing to be with someone in your life you will understand where "Like Crazy" is coming from and you will feel it.

J. EDGAR Review

If "J. Edgar" were a research paper it would certainly get an "A". The new film from Clint Eastwood that stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role is deeply engrossing and incredibly detailed. The screenplay is penned by Dustin Lance Black, the man who's first script won him an Oscar (Milk), and is rich with important moments throughout history that shape the man who is our subject matter. The film is an engaging watch simply for the fact of the people involved with the project. DiCaprio is one of our finest actors and has given plenty of great performances that this one will indeed join. For his performance is not the issue with the film as a whole. If anything, his dedication and disappearance behind the prosthetic make-up help this film rise above the standard history essay that it is. The usually effective Eastwood seems to be lost in his own film here. It jumping so much from the 20's to the 30's and then to the 60's. It is difficult for us to know what point we are at some times and though this may have spawned from the script, it is the directors job to make clear his intentions, his themes that he wants the movie to emphasize, but instead of seeing those unfold in the storytelling we simply catch glimpses, hints of what this creative team is going for in DiCaprio's performance. It is actually strange how interested I was in the film, but at the same time so very bored with it. Maybe it was the anticipation that at any moment the film might pick up, that it might actually delve into what John Edgar did to in fact create the FBI, but instead we stay just above the surface. Skimming it and hitting the historically correct points while the motivation for what caused Edgar's entire mentality to develop as it did is scarcely shown. When the film does work up the courage to jump into speculative territory it quickly retreats as if hoping you didn't notice. This tactic works only for a short time before we realize the type of biopic this is and sadly, leaves us with a faint idea of what this film could have been had it really taken some chances.

Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) holds the cue cards for
Hoover as he makes a public address.
The first problem with a film like this is the its subject matter. The story of J. Edgar Hoover spans such a length of time and includes so many different aspects of a story that could be told it is difficult to even imagine where one would start (it probably would have worked better as a mini series a la John Adams). This gives way to the constant time hopping contained in the film, but it also detracts as the majority of the film can really be boiled down to two storylines. One being the case in which he tracked down the kidnapper of Charles Lindbergh's baby. The other being that of his lack of a personal life (he lives with his mother up until her death) and the possibility that Hoover might have been gay. He certainly tried with women; early in the film he takes out Helen Gandy a new colleague in the secretary pool at the time but decides to take her on a tour of the card catalog system he created for the Library of Congress rather than to dinner and a movie. Gandy seems to have been a vital role in Edgar's life, but is a relatively small role in the film that is played with great respect by Naomi Watts. Through the short moments we see her on screen we see the unwavering loyalty she has to the man while her expressions question his every move.

It is with a real vile feeling that we see Hoover's motivations begin to show. The film does a fine job of giving us the inspiration of his mother (Judi Dench) and how he comes to see himself. As someone deserving of high regard, of more importance to the world, as simply a better human being. It is with that kind of idea of one's self that gives him a craving for power. A power he will do anything to keep. He buries himself so deep in securing his position that he becomes a stunted human being. He stops growing, he never changes. Even as his supposed enemies change from the communists in the 20's to the gangsters of the 30's and social rights activists of the 60's Hoover sees them all as threats to a way of life that is constantly changing in the world outside but for him has always been the same. He is afraid, even in death, to disappoint what his mother thought she raised and so creates a life-long goal of pushing what his heart yearns for to the back and instilling his legacy as the face of the FBI to the forefront.

Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and J. Edgar
(Leonardo DiCaprio) attend a court hearing.
What that heart yearned for we will never actually know. Hoover apparently had as many secrets himself as he kept filed away on others. As said before, the one this film draws attention to is the speculation he was gay and had a relationship with Clyde Tolson,  an associate director of the FBI who was Hoover's heir. When I say the film feels hesitant to jump into speculative territory this is what I mean. I would have been perfectly fine with a film that instead chronicled the actual process of what it took to create the centralized database devoted to the fingerprinting methods he instilled. I would have liked to have seen more the process of Hoover making the collection of forensic evidence a priority. Of how integrating experts from other fields into investigations would help solve crimes, and the film shows this happening to an extent, but it doesn't give us the back story on how it all came to be, on what Hoover had to go through to actually have these things happen. We hear dialogue about it, but the storytelling, the action of it is absent. Instead the film does decide to investigate his sexuality. This is done with a hesitant hand though as we only see DiCaprio's performance suggest this type of behavior when he is put into awkward situations with women or is in the presence of Mr. Tolson. This mysterious relationship, one that is never truly acted upon, is truly the tragedy of J. Edgar. Armie Hammer of "The Social Network" does a fine job of creating this role that is one thing to the public with implications of so much more. It is that combination of his mother and the need to retain his status that keeps Hoover's heart buried and in doing that to himself it has also created a film that feels very much the same. Cold and distant.

Hoover thinks back on his life.
There is ambition in this film and what it was meant to be yet the execution has produced a final product that while feeling full and grand also leaves you with a sense of emptiness as you leave the theater. Eastwood is a master filmmaker and his skills are certainly appreciated here. Bringing a cold gray palette to reflect the time period and the stone like shell our titular figure presents gives the movie a definitive mood. It is more the pacing that presents the issue with the aforementioned crosscutting between time periods that ends up proving to be a little too much while creating a lack of focus. It is as if the film jumps around so much that we never get to know Hoover that well, and for who he was at that point in his career. It doesn't help that when we fast forward to the 60's when he is attempting to keep the Kennedy's in line and do away with Martin Luther King that Leo is in old age make up that is hard to take him serious at times. Even worse is Hammer's make-up that creates a wax doll look for him as he lumbers around after a stroke. Needless to say the film has many missteps and ones that could have been corrected with a few more drafts of the script. The direction is certainly more than capable and DiCaprio is more than eager to deliver a performance that will win him a statue. He certainly does that here, but in the wrong film. As with the real J. Edgar Hoover, we may never know what this film really could have been but we can always speculate.

    
  

J. EDGAR Review

If "J. Edgar" were a research paper it would certainly get an "A". The new film from Clint Eastwood that stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role is deeply engrossing and incredibly detailed. The screenplay is penned by Dustin Lance Black, the man who's first script won him an Oscar (Milk), and is rich with important moments throughout history that shape the man who is our subject matter. The film is an engaging watch simply for the fact of the people involved with the project. DiCaprio is one of our finest actors and has given plenty of great performances that this one will indeed join. For his performance is not the issue with the film as a whole. If anything, his dedication and disappearance behind the prosthetic make-up help this film rise above the standard history essay that it is. The usually effective Eastwood seems to be lost in his own film here. It jumping so much from the 20's to the 30's and then to the 60's. It is difficult for us to know what point we are at some times and though this may have spawned from the script, it is the directors job to make clear his intentions, his themes that he wants the movie to emphasize, but instead of seeing those unfold in the storytelling we simply catch glimpses, hints of what this creative team is going for in DiCaprio's performance. It is actually strange how interested I was in the film, but at the same time so very bored with it. Maybe it was the anticipation that at any moment the film might pick up, that it might actually delve into what John Edgar did to in fact create the FBI, but instead we stay just above the surface. Skimming it and hitting the historically correct points while the motivation for what caused Edgar's entire mentality to develop as it did is scarcely shown. When the film does work up the courage to jump into speculative territory it quickly retreats as if hoping you didn't notice. This tactic works only for a short time before we realize the type of biopic this is and sadly, leaves us with a faint idea of what this film could have been had it really taken some chances.

JACK AND JILL Review

If you have been an Adam Sandler fan for any length of time you have come to expect certain things from his films. They usually feature tons of cameos, a ridiculous premise, fart jokes, and in the middle of it all is our level headed protagonist that looks, talks, and acts like Mr. Sandler. It has been obvious since about "Mr. Deeds" that Sandler no longer had to really try in order to bring in the crowds and meet the box office goals. He lumbered through film after film while occasionally putting in the extra effort to be ridiculous (I am one of the few who really enjoyed "Don't Mess With the Zohan") but it was his side projects that really showed what a flourishing career he could have if he looked outside his Happy Madison production company. Whether it be "Punch Drunk Love", "Reign Over Me", or the one that applies best to examining Sandler's current situation, "Funny People" (I don't care for "Spanglish") it showed a Sandler that could really act if he wanted to, a Sandler that given good material and innovative people to work with he might actually leave a legacy as a credible comedian and not the farcical joke of a comic actor he has become today. With "Jack and Jill" though Sandler continues to cement himself as a one note kinda guy that doesn't mind going for the cheap laughs, enlisting his buddies in every film and in this case, dressing like a woman to play his main characters twin sister. If you go see this, you can't be mad because it delivers everything you expect it to, and the fact is most people won't. This is exactly what they are hoping for.

Jack and Jill (Adam Sandler) share their birthday together
for the first time in a while.
The one thing you can give "Jack and Jill" that separates it from Sandler's last two outings, "Grown Ups" and "Just Go With It" is the fact Sandler actually does something other than play himself. The guy deserves props for dressing up like a woman (though it looks like it didn't take much as many jokes are made about Jill's masculinity) and trying to pull a Robin Williams a la Mrs. Doubtfire, but the sparks dull as soon as we get to know Jill and learn everything her brother has said about her is actually true. Jill is a loud, lonely woman from the Bronx who loves her brother dearly, if not a little too much, but knows how to push buttons and overstays her welcome. Jack (regular Sandler) works at an advertising company in LA (oh, how convenient) and has a beautiful wife (Katie Holmes this time) and two children one of which is adopted and enjoys tape so much he gets a running gag of having different objects taped to his body. The wife, the children, they don't really matter though. All the film really cares to focus on is all the damage Jill does in trying to fit in and find a man. The focus doesn't even stay close to the brother/sister relationship that gives the film its title. We see Jack trying to get what he wants by using his sister and Jill playing oblivious to her actions trying to find a family so she doesn't have to bother her brother every year. In a twist that makes you wonder if this is even real, Al Pacino makes an extended cameo as himself who immediately falls for Jill and also happens to be Jack's ticket to saving his ad company (oh, how convenient).

Jill and Erin (Katie Holmes) along with the kids are
excited for the on set vacation, I mean cruise scene.
I hate to sit here and write this even because we all know critics will and do hate "Jack and Jill" but that folks will still turn up to see it. In its opening weekend it came in second place with $25 million and will no doubt continue to do well throughout the holiday season as it is marketed as a PG-rated family film. In the theater I saw the film it was more crowded with families and young children rather than teenage boys or younger adults which I for some reason still expected to show up to Sandler comedies. What is interesting still is that no matter what the topic or premise for one of his "comedies" turns out to be I always seem to be going back to the fact that the man is now a parody of himself. That he truly has become the George Simmons character of "Funny People" but without the incentive of a life threatening disease to make him stop and take a look at what he has become. Sandler no longer seems interested in genuinely making an audience laugh or raging against the movie factory machine, no, instead he has become an integral part of it. It is as if after "Funny People" a film where he had to put in long days, and dig deep into the psyche of his character to get to that place where the thought of death was immanent, he became exhausted by the effort it took to pull off and has since resorted back to his safe zone. A place where he can slum through a role, get all his friends a paying gig, and still make plenty of money. Actually, he makes more money by doing what he is doing, "Little Nicky" is his lowest grossing film and probably considered his most awful critically as well and it still made more than "Punch Drunk Love" and "Reign Over Me" combined. There is no incentive to face what he has become, but this is surely incentive to continue the trend he has now perfected.

Al Pacino and Jack discuss the latest commercial for
Dunkin Donuts in which Pacino appears.
Sorry to stray so far from the film at hand, but in seeing a move like "Jack and Jill" as compared to his earlier juvenile comedies it makes me yearn for that kind of Sandler if not one that has matured into something more than what we are currently seeing. We all know he has it in him, we have seen it, but Sandler faces a rare circumstance where the easier road is the more fortunate one (in terms of money anyway) and he has chosen that road. There is no reason to even comment on how mediocre or bad "Jack and Jill" really is because you have already heard that a million times if you read film reviews. To be honest with you, it has a few good laughs; the best coming when Sandler himself seems to just improvise on the fly and we see that spark of imagination trying to sneak its way in. Sure, there are plenty of stereotypical religious and racial slurs and more than enough fart and poop jokes, but the movie is more than tolerable and simply playing spot the celebrity in this movie would make it more fun. Why Al Pacino agreed to do this I will probably never understand, I mean the guy has been in bad movies before, but he knew what he was getting into here going in. Oh, and a bonus: Pacino raps! Which is swiftly followed by a scene where he says "No one can ever see this." I sometimes wonder how Sandler doesn't say that about some of his own films, but no matter, there is no escaping them. Let's just hope his pairing with Andy Samberg in this summer's "Donny's Boy" will prove a stimulating experience that might help him step back and see not only how far he has come, but what he has become. Fingers crossed.






 

JACK AND JILL Review

If you have been an Adam Sandler fan for any length of time you have come to expect certain things from his films. They usually feature tons of cameos, a ridiculous premise, fart jokes, and in the middle of it all is our level headed protagonist that looks, talks, and acts like Mr. Sandler. It has been obvious since about "Mr. Deeds" that Sandler no longer had to really try in order to bring in the crowds and meet the box office goals. He lumbered through film after film while occasionally putting in the extra effort to be ridiculous (I am one of the few who really enjoyed "Don't Mess With the Zohan") but it was his side projects that really showed what a flourishing career he could have if he looked outside his Happy Madison production company. Whether it be "Punch Drunk Love", "Reign Over Me", or the one that applies best to examining Sandler's current situation, "Funny People" (I don't care for "Spanglish") it showed a Sandler that could really act if he wanted to, a Sandler that given good material and innovative people to work with he might actually leave a legacy as a credible comedian and not the farcical joke of a comic actor he has become today. With "Jack and Jill" though Sandler continues to cement himself as a one note kinda guy that doesn't mind going for the cheap laughs, enlisting his buddies in every film and in this case, dressing like a woman to play his main characters twin sister. If you go see this, you can't be mad because it delivers everything you expect it to, and the fact is most people won't. This is exactly what they are hoping for.

A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS Review

As odd as it may sound Harold and Kumar are all about responsibility. That is, at least, the picture painted this time around by our favorite Indian and Korean stoners; that life isn't always going to be care free and weed dependant is a shocking revelation to Kal Penn's Kumar while John Cho's Harold has accepted that fact and moved up in the world with a beautiful wife and a "not shitty" place to live. In sitting down to watch this latest installment of the Harold and Kumar saga it did come to mind that it really has been to long since we've seen this pair on screen. The first adventure where "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" was pure stoner comedy genius. It was the kind of film, especially if you're a guy like me who is to scared to touch an illegal drug, that one could live vicariously through while experiencing all the fun of getting high without suffering any of the negative effects. When they followed it up four years later with "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" things became even more ridiculous if not as pleasing. Still, the center at both films was the dynamic best friend relationship these guys had. Harold has always been the guy ready to get ahead, trying so hard for everyone else to see him as a winner, while Kumar could care less what your public perception of him is. This still rings true and these characterizations form the basis for the newest film in which the creators do a smart job of not just giving us another "stoner comedy" but one that satirizes every Christmas movie you've ever seen as well as the current 3D craze while utilizing both of these tools to their advantage.
Harold is trying desperately to win the approval of his
father-in-law Mr. Perez (Danny Trejo).
In the years that have passed since the Guantanamo Bay fiasco Harold and Kumar have grown apart. They've even replaced each other with new, white guy best friends. Harold's in the form of Tom Lennon's Todd, the man with the baby who gets the biggest running gag in the movie after accidentally getting high off weed, coke, and ecstasy. Then there is Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld), Kumar's stoner roommate who drags him to a party where he will get to de-flower a virgin for reasons unbeknown to him other than believing he is that lucky (suffice to say, he is not). How do Harold and Kumar reunite you ask? I was wondering the same thing as it seemed their Chrstmas Eve nights would take on two different tasks, but it is when Kumar receives a package for Harold at their old apartment that he feels the need to deliver it. Harold is having problems on the home front as he and his wife Maria are trying to have a child which can be hard to do when the impending arrival of your in-laws is hanging over your head. To make matters worse, Harold has felt the pressure to live up to Maria's fathers Christmas traditions and to impress him with his Christmas spirit when he arrives. Best part about this whole scenario is that Harold's father-in-law, Mr. Perez, is played by Danny Trejo. Trejo has become a kind of cult movie star and just enthuses a badass-ness into any line he mutters making Maria's Hispanic heritage seem all the more ripe for fodder when Mr. Perez shows up with his entire extended family. Surprise, surprise, Mr. Perez is not impressed by the fake tree Harold has rounded up and quickly replaces it with his own (the real one he has been growing for eight years) which Harold promises to have decorated by the time Maria and her family return from midnight mass.

Harold and Kumar re-unite with ole' NPH for a
Christmas musical number.
It is safe to assume some shenanigans happen before one ornament is placed on the tree and that package Kumar delivers contains a substance that quickly burns down Mr. Perez's pride and joy so our pair is off in hot pursuit to find a replacement. As with both previous installments this is a race to accomplish something before the night is through and that still works, I don't have a problem with using the same formula as long as the journey gives us a different story. This is why it was smart to bring in the Christmas element. While going through the night and encountering the unexpected (or in the audience's case, the expected) there is not only a sense of familiarity with who these guys are now, but there is also the delight of seeing them play up all the Christmas-time cliches. There are plenty of offensive jokes for Christians, Jews, and pretty much every other religion or race. There is the hopped up baby which is more funny than creepy, a sequence of claymation that is pure golden, and of course Santa Claus getting all shot up. They are jokes you really do feel bad about laughing at, ones that you almost can't believe they make, but then again you are laughing so you are kind of glad someone said it.

From Left: Todd (Tom Lennon), Harold (John Cho), Kumar
(Kal Penn), and Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld) begin their
adventure together.
The film moves along at a nice pace, never slowing down too much to make us look at our watches and keeps consistent laughs throughout. Yea, there are a few shout-outs to real life events that fall flat, but the biggest one in the film is the best thing about the movie. Making his return as himself NPH (Neil Patrick Harris) offers a rendition of a Christmas musical that is a home run and follows it up with making fun of himself and how the "gay" thing is just a PR stunt and an opportunity to score him more...

As far as a final verdict goes, I don't believe these guys will ever be able to top the first, simplistic adventure of making it to white castle. This "Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" certainly comes in second though as that story in Guantanamo Bay simply tried to be too much, too outlandish even. In keeping the task simple and the attaining of it harder than it ever should be these guys are back to doing what they do best. There are some great cameos throughout though a storyline featuring Elias Koteas as a mob boss is too underdeveloped to become in some sense the climax of the film. There is a weird Christmas toy named wafflebot that the writers used too much to an advantage and isn't as awesome as Kumar would like to believe. But overall this is a great alternative to all the standard Holiday films we will be bombarded with this season and gives us genuine laughs with good ole' friends in some of the best 3D you will see this year. What more could you want from a stoner comedy?


A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS Review

As odd as it may sound Harold and Kumar are all about responsibility. That is, at least, the picture painted this time around by our favorite Indian and Korean stoners; that life isn't always going to be care free and weed dependant is a shocking revelation to Kal Penn's Kumar while John Cho's Harold has accepted that fact and moved up in the world with a beautiful wife and a "not shitty" place to live. In sitting down to watch this latest installment of the Harold and Kumar saga it did come to mind that it really has been to long since we've seen this pair on screen. The first adventure where "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" was pure stoner comedy genius. It was the kind of film, especially if you're a guy like me who is to scared to touch an illegal drug, that one could live vicariously through while experiencing all the fun of getting high without suffering any of the negative effects. When they followed it up four years later with "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" things became even more ridiculous if not as pleasing. Still, the center at both films was the dynamic best friend relationship these guys had. Harold has always been the guy ready to get ahead, trying so hard for everyone else to see him as a winner, while Kumar could care less what your public perception of him is. This still rings true and these characterizations form the basis for the newest film in which the creators do a smart job of not just giving us another "stoner comedy" but one that satirizes every Christmas movie you've ever seen as well as the current 3D craze while utilizing both of these tools to their advantage.

MELANCHOLIA Review

"Melancholia" is my first venture into Lars Von Trier-land and with all that has been said about him and his previous films I tried to separate his reputation from his work. He is a director who clearly likes to stir the pot and ask people to talk about him which in turn makes his films all the more intriguing. I didn't want that image of him hanging over the film though. The trailer was completely enthralling, it offered beautiful imagery with the most personal of apocalyptic stories at its heart. Much like Terrance Malick's "Tree of Life" I wanted this film to be an experience and Von Trier has indeed created a film so moody, so full of a wide range of emotions that you easily become invested in its cast of characters. We sit, for just over two hours and study these creatures as they face serious personal issues and depressions that are embodied and put into perspective as a planet, once hidden by the sun, comes hurtling toward earth. It is a strange film, one you will indeed need to have patience with and a certain degree of academic-like thinking to really find it worthy of discussing. "Melancholia" is in all its grand exquisiteness, a sci-fi film with a heavy heart that is just as interesting to talk about as it is to view.

We catch a glimpse of Justine (Dunst) and Michael (Alexander
Skarsgard) enjoying wedded bliss before all goes down hill.
While it is true that the story consists of this mysterious new planet and its unavoidable crash course with earth, the film is really based around the relationship of two sisters. Von Trier breaks the film into two parts, the first focusing on Kirsten Dunst's Justine. The film opens with Justine and her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) on their way to their lavish wedding reception. It is in these opening moments we glimpse a happy and content Justine. As her and Michael try to help their limo driver maneuver around a corner we not only have our first impression of these characters but for the actual tone of the film. It is an intimate portrait of a special moment that is soon to be overshadowed by Justine's drastic mood swings. Von Trier's point here is to show the heavy weight of depression and sadness that is clearly putting immense amounts of pressure on Justine's mind and body. As Justine suffers through her darkest days we are never really given any indication as to what caused this or why she feels the way she does, we just see her suffering. It is sometimes hard to watch as this emotional kind of chaos just takes over her life. She seems to try and find strength only for her supportive sister Claire. Claire is the focus of part two. She is very much the opposite of her sister. Like the earth she is a force standing in the way of Justine's melancholy mood.

John (Kiefer Sutherland) gives a spirited toast despite
what he knows of impending doom.
Claire, as played by Charlotte Gainsbourg (who won the same best actress award at the Cannes film festival for her work in Von Trier's last film "Antichrist" as Dunst won for this film) was, for me, actually the more affecting of the two sisters. Don't get me wrong, Dunst turns in a very moving and desperate performance. Dunst herself suffered through bouts of depression and we can see her reaching back to how she felt in those times and applying them to Justine, but as Claire, Gainsbourg is the solid rock on which the film stands. She is protective, and she along with her astronomer husband (a subtle Kiefer Sutherland) give everything to make sure Justine is happy. As we watch the roles reverse though as Melancholia, the planet, draws closer and closer to earth it is easy to see some of ourselves in Claire. In writing through that process though it comes to me that it most likely just depends on the type of person, the type of viewer you are that depends what character you feel more connected with. I easily became irritated with Justine and didn't enjoy the way she seemed to take for granted all that others did for her, that she could feel so depressed when actually being more blessed than most. It is Claire who has earned her spot in society (even if she married into it) and continues to be selfless and put others before her whether it be her child, her husband or her sister.

Justine and her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) share
a moment in the garden as the atmosphere changes.
"Melancholia" is stimulating if not as ultimately moving as Von Trier would have seemed to hope it would be. It is a striking film though, in every aspect, and deserves to be meditated over and discussed with other film lovers. One aspect of the film I have not addressed is the opening montage of beautiful images set to the sweeping sounds of the famous prelude from "Tristan und Isolde". They show us our characters and their reactions, their physical actions, their mind sets as the end of the world is actually approaching and there is literally nothing you can do to escape the impending doom. It is a perfect metaphor for what we are about to experience through Justine in the way that she is so broken, so fragile in her doom filled eyes and in Claire and how she feels the need to be responsible for everyone and everything until the moment when she has no control and can do nothing but to face death with uncertain fear. One may not understand all that happens in the film or what reason we are given such a lush family backdrop for the girls other than to see the nature vs. nurture debate fight it out between Justine and Claire. It is a complex, yet simply paced film that takes us on a much bigger journey than it's surface implies. It is a film Von Trier can be proud of and one that doesn't allow his own psychological missteps to influence our reaction. It is a movie all its own, a fine experience at the cinema.


MELANCHOLIA Review

"Melancholia" is my first venture into Lars Von Trier-land and with all that has been said about him and his previous films I tried to separate his reputation from his work. He is a director who clearly likes to stir the pot and ask people to talk about him which in turn makes his films all the more intriguing. I didn't want that image of him hanging over the film though. The trailer was completely enthralling, it offered beautiful imagery with the most personal of apocalyptic stories at its heart. Much like Terrance Malick's "Tree of Life" I wanted this film to be an experience and Von Trier has indeed created a film so moody, so full of a wide range of emotions that you easily become invested in its cast of characters. We sit, for just over two hours and study these creatures as they face serious personal issues and depressions that are embodied and put into perspective as a planet, once hidden by the sun, comes hurtling toward earth. It is a strange film, one you will indeed need to have patience with and a certain degree of academic-like thinking to really find it worthy of discussing. "Melancholia" is in all its grand exquisiteness, a sci-fi film with a heavy heart that is just as interesting to talk about as it is to view.

IMMORTALS Review

It is easy to dismiss "Immortals" as an excuse to cash in on the success of "300" and "Clash of the Titans" which it is, but it is an unfair stigma because it is clear that director Tarsem Singh tries to make his sword and sandals epic with a singular vision that sets it apart from the aforementioned entries in the genre. The film truly is a beautiful sight to behold with gorgeous landscapes and striking violence galore but the story is so predictable and bland it almost makes even the most glorious of visuals feel commonplace. Singh has directed visual enticing pieces in the past with "The Cell" and especially "The Fall" but this story of courage and valor which should be used to infuse the story with real themes instead feels dated and stiffly acted. We have seen this hundreds of times before and despite Singh's approach to the genre that attempts to bring to life the work of Caravaggio rather than Frank Miller there is something missing. It simply does not feel as if the script was fully realized (immediately what comes to mind is I wanted more of the Gods on Mt. Olympus) but was instead settled upon and produced with reassurance that the way the movie looked and the fight scenes would distract viewers from the direction the story was heading. Still, the real question is whether or not this actually is as strikingly bad ass as "300" was when you first saw it or as disappointingly horrible as "Clash of the Titans". The answer in truth is that it's somewhere in the middle. Its visual flare almost rivals that of producer Zack Snyder's breakout hit but its cheesy dialogue and been there, seen that story are reminiscent of "Titans". In the end it felt completely average, a word Greek Gods should never be associated with.
Athena (Isabel Lucas) and Aires (Daniel Sharmen) watch
from Mt. Olympus as Hyperion destroys the earth.
"Immortals" draws from its source material the same way George Lucas borrowed from Joesph Campbell and based his underdog story on the archetypes of old myth and legend essentially exposing that all stories are expressions of the same pattern, which Campbell called "The Hero's Journey". The difference here is that "Immortals" stuck with the time period and used the mythology to map out our protagonist's journey. Not a bad idea when you read it, but it was the original elements Lucas brought to his "Star Wars" series in the same way the Wachowski brothers' did with their "Matrix" films that made them milestones in the pop culture universe. Needless to say, "Immortals" will not be awarded that same label. If anything, that spot for this genre has already been taken by Snyder's "300" despite its own flaws in the story department, its impact will be remembered and is clearly still being felt as films such as "Immortals" are getting made and turning a profit. So, as you may have figured our story here focuses on a lowly Theseus who has been taught all his life the ways of the Gods and just didn't know it. Zeus in disguise has trained him to fight and preached the value of courage. It has turned Theseus into a hard bodied, loving, and determined young man so it is fitting that as the truly despicable King Hyperion invades his homeland killing everyone in his path in search of the "Epirus Bow" that will allow him to free the Titans and conquer the Gods, that Theseus will be there to stop him. The most effective aspect of the story seems to be the one the writers spent the least amount of time with. That being as the Gods watch from Mt. Olympus while Hyperion obliterates village after village they feel the need to intervene despite Zues restricting them to interfere in the affairs of men and having already dealt his hand in secretly building young Theseus for this moment all his life. The moral dilemma the Gods face is never explored and besides that it is hard to even take them seriously as their head gear is more ridiculous than guests at the royal wedding.

Phaedra (Frieda Pinto) tries to keep
Theseus (Henry Cavill) alive.
One of the things that intrigued me about "Immortals" as I really had no desire to see it initially was the fact it offers a glimpse at our new Superman. As Theseus, Henry Cavill proves brooding enough and if you've seen the previews you can tell he has made himself physically adept for Greek God status, but I was eager to see if his charisma would first be enough to lead an army we could root for and hoping that would translate into a caped hero who saves our world. There is no way to tell how a film over a year off will turn out as his performance in this one is more quiet. A shy, humble man who asks for no favors, but will take what he deserves if pushed to those limits. In that Cavill was convincing but he, along with most of his co-stars that include Mickey Rourke as Hyperion and Stephen Dorff as Theseus' new found friend Stavros (who both feel too modern of actors to play these roles) cannot make the wooden dialogue or the lack of substance in their words feel genuine or real. Instead it all comes off more than a little cheesy. The only character we ever really feel we can get on board with is Frieda Pinto's oracle named Phaedra who sees visions of Theseus and is convinced he is the one to stop Hyperion's destruction. She salvages Theseus who wants to give up and like all great oracles convinces our hero that he is destined for this journey, for this one moment of glory. I vouch that the Gods would have been just as interesting had they more screen time as Luke Evans makes an intimidating and powerful Zeus while his younger supporting cast including "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen's" Isabel Lucas as Athena and "Twilight's" Kellan Lutz as Poseidon never get the screen time to develop into more than pretty people in sparkly outfits. This again points back to the main flaw of the film in its story. The producer's, maybe even Singh's approach, that despite the lackluster quest, the films visuals would fill-in for any feeling of inadequacy is simply untrue. Instead, it becomes even more apparent in the gaps between fight scenes how thin the story actually feels and how much more we deserve from our big, bombastic films based upon figures that were larger than life.

King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) does some serious skull-
crushing in "Immortals".
"Immortals" does, despite my obvious issues with the plot, at least give us a few memorable moments whether we want them or not. In the midnight show I attended the crowd reacted favorably to the engaging fight scenes, especially when Aries goes crazy and smashes heads as if they were gushers candy as different shades of red come pulsing out of the screen (though not as much as you'd think in 3D) or when the Gods finally do arrive on earth and deal with the newly freed Titans in much the same way Aries dealt with the guards. The impact of the fight scenes is so engrossing it will literally leave your heart beating a little faster. It almost makes it worse these scenes are so good because when they end, despite the brutality, we want them to keep going because we no what no action means: boredom. The scene that probably gathered the most reaction was that of Hyperion straight up crushing a traitors balls. It is one thing to torture people by trapping them in a metal bull that resides just over a fire, but to have a man spread his legs just so you can swing a hammer at his funky bunch is wrong and all together worthy of being mentioned here. I don't know if it was because most of the audience seemed intoxicated or juvenile that they reacted so strongly to this moment early on but it might also be noted that by the end of the film, most were passed out or had calmed down. The excitement was gone, the story was standard and the hopes that "Immortals" would give a chance at experiencing something that was worth a midnight show were shattered. Like a bombshell with no brains-they are pretty to look at, but just not interesting enough to want to see again.