Monday, August 2, 2010

Three films, three short reviews

I saw three (fairly) new films within the last week and I have things to say about all of them but not too much to say. Without further ado...

Iron Man 2 - Iron Man 2 is a mildly entertaining, yet completely soulless action movie. The movie never really raises the stakes like sequels are supposed to. Mickey Rourke's character is completely underused and he really isn't much of a villain even though the character had tons of potential to be a great villain. Sam Rockwell's character, Hammer, also had great potential but his transformation to become Tony Stark's nemesis felt completely one-dimensional. As far as Tony Stark is concerned, well, he was just sort of annoying. The love story between him and Pepper was practically non-existent and humorless whereas the relationship between him and the Black Widow was just... bland. Iron Man 2 did have some pretty cool action scenes but the ultimate showdown between Iron Man and Ivan just wasn't as grand as it could have been. A lot of missed opportunities with a movie everyone had such big hopes for, it's sad to see so much squandered talent on the screen. Barely passable action entertainment, nothing more. Rating: 5/10

Cyrus - I have been very intrigued by the work of The Duplass Brothers. They've made three movies now and though I only saw "The Puffy Chair" before I saw "Cyrus," I was still interested to see how their style translated into a more mainstream film. I was somewhat relieved to see that they hadn't really changed their aesthetic too much, but that herky-jerky style of camerawork that they have can be really off-putting and I feel that it even cheapens some scenes sometimes. Cyrus isn't exactly beautifully shot but it doesn't have to be. It makes good use of its cinema-verite style and The Duplass Brothers give their characters room to breathe with their organic way of filmmaking. This leads to some great performances from John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, and most surprisingly, Jonah Hill. There isn't really much to the plot other than the fact that it's about a recently divorced man named John (played by John C. Reilly) who strikes up a romance with Molly (Tomei) which appears to be going on very well until he comes across her fully-grown son Cyrus (Hill).

What's most surprising about this movie is just how unpredictable the movie feels even though it works with a premise that's been done before, albeit in various other ways. The Duplass Brothers have made great strides with this film when it comes to getting the best performances out of their actors. They made a fun film, a raw film, with some great talent. I still feel that they have to take it easy on the zooms and the handheld camerawork, but if they continue pumping out solid material like this, it can be easy thing to ignore. Rating: 8/10

The Kids Are All Right - The Kids Are All Right is a very solid, sometimes funny, portrayal of what is called an "unconventional" family. Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have been together for many years and have two kids (played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) that are in their teens. The oldest, Joni (Wasikowska), is heading to college after the summer and her brother has been urging her that they should meet up with their sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo). Little do they know how much this meeting will impact their family. Filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko does a great job with wonderful performances from all the main actors. Moore, Bening, and Ruffalo all show just what fine actors they really are, but Mia Wasikowska was the most surprising. If you may remember, she was Alice in Tim Burton's flat, yet slightly entertaining "Alice in Wonderland." She was interesting yet forgettable in that film, but here she shows just how capable she really is as an actress.

Cholodenko also does a good job of realistically portraying this family although I did feel that Mark Ruffalo's character Paul kinda gets a bad rap throughout the movie. Here's a guy who owns his own restaurant and may be a bit into himself, but through meeting his kids, he realizes just what he's been missing in his life. But things happen between him and Jules and he, ultimately, winds up looking like the bad guy when really what he did really wasn't as horrible as what Jules did. Some can say that he was taking advantage of Jules, but in many ways, Jules was taking advantage of him too. The fact that Paul comes off as the "bad guy" was sort of off-putting to me. Nevertheless, the movie is not about him, it's about the relationship between Jules and Nic and it's about their kids. It's about two people who have been together for a long time and have hit a rut in their relationship. It's about two kids who, after finally discovering who their father is, realize that keeping the family together is much more important than bonding with a man that they only started to get to know. The film has great performances and, as previously mentioned, the relationship between Jules and Nic and their kids is done very well. But, the relationship between Jules and Paul did not come across as strongly to me. There were just certain things about the film that kept it from being great, and instead, it was merely good. Rating: 7.5/10

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