Man on a Ledge (2012)

For me, Man on a Ledge played out like something that was a cross between The Negotiator, The Ledge and Inside Man.  You’ve got this Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) guy, who apparently has been wrongly imprisoned for Reasons that will be revealed and is dealing with a negotiator (Elizabeth Banks).  Yet Nick never seems like he’s out of control of the situation, and he’s the titular Man.  Of course there’s more to the story than just the situation the title describes, and those past three sentences explain exactly how I came to that mash-up conclusion.  Thank you, and good day.

It’s a fairly straight forward movie, and would be merely average if it weren’t for the cast involved and how they breathe more life into the sort of story we’ve all seen before.  Banks and Worthington pretty much dominate the screen time, and they’ve got great chemistry together.  Jamie Bell and Génesis Rodríguez are also great together, taking care of the heist sub-plot in an entertaining and believable fashion.  Well, maybe there’s a little bit of disbelief that you need to suspend, but ultimately, the movie works.  Ed Harris turns in his trademark performance, which is always good, sometimes grand.  And I love seeing William Sadler in anything.

It’s not a great movie, just a pretty good one, and definitely engaging and entertaining.

3.5 / 5

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Across the Universe (2007)

Wrote this awhile back, and it’s a passable enough musical, deducted half a point because my Beatles love has increased.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of The Beatles (I have become at the very least, super interested in The Beatles since), I certainly do recognise their influence on pop culture the entire world ’round since their debut over 40 years ago. To say that they changed things would be a very large understatement. I’m also not super-familiar with their entire song catalogue, which is why when I saw the trailers for Across the Universe a couple months back, I had no idea that the song “I’ve Just Seen a Face” was a Beatles tune. I thought it was a super-catchy ditty, and the visual spectacle that unfolded throughout the trailer definitely made me want to see the movie, whenever it finally came out. Just from that trailer, I could tell that it was Moulin Rouge!-esque, but minus the almost freakishly odd Baz Luhrmann.

Screenplay writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais take a less anachronistic approach to incorporating Beatles songs into a full-blown musical feature film, placing the time period and characters of the film in the exact place where The Beatles became world famous. Jude (Jim Sturgess) is a young dock worker from Liverpool, heading off to the bright lights of America to find his father (Robert Clohessy) and seek out a change from the drearyness of his everyday life. Soon after arriving, Jude befriends Max (Joe Anderson) and meets Max’s younger sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), and all three of them eventually make their way to New York. Once there, they meet other like-minded individuals in the Janis Joplin-esque singe Sadie (Dana Fuchs), the shy introverted Prudence (T.V. Carpio), and the talented guitarist JoJo (Martin Luther McCoy). The film then follows these core characters as they deal with love, rock ‘n roll, drugs and the Vietnam War, all the while expressing themselves through the songs of The Beatles.

Apparently these characters are living in a world that has never known The Beatles, since none of the non-singing characters ever comes right out and says “Hey, why are you singing that Beatles tune?” Musicals are a strange beast to adapt to the screen, since the entire genre pretty much requires the biggest suspension of disbelief imaginable in films. It’s one thing to see an explosive action film and point out all the ridiculous contrivancies that pop up, it’s another to just accept that people are bursting into song as a means of communicating their inner emotions to others. That being said, Taymor finds a way to make it successful at least half of the time. Sometimes it comes across as forced, sometimes painfully predictable/on the nose, sometimes happily predictable, but there’s no way the structure of the film is going to please everybody.

This is a film that will garner more than a few Oscar nominations (it received only one in Costume Design), though more than likely only in the technical and costuming categories, not in the high prestige acting categories. That isn’t to say that the acting isn’t top notch, because all around the cast does a passable job with their performances. It’s hard to really quantify them as “acting” per se, since most of their work is simply singing the works of The Beatles. Still, the emotions, inflections and reinterpretations the cast puts into their vocal stylings are quite stirring and could conceivably jog a few tears from people, particularly T.V. Carpio’s nearly-heart-wrenching performance as Prudence. Taymor doesn’t put much into the development of the characters, so you take what you can get from the singing bits.

There are some simply wonderful and beautiful scenes throughout Across the Universe, but as a full-length feature film, it works better as a wondrous trailer. It’s definitely worth giving a view if you have the chance, or if you’re a diehard Beatles fan I suppose. Keep an eye peeled for a couple of fun celebrity cameos from the likes of Eddie Izzard, Joe Cocker and Salma Hayek. And Bono too I guess. As a complete package, the film is a bit lacking in the emotional resonance department and there’s a bit of dragging throughout, but otherwise is a relatively enjoyable way to spend a couple hours.

2.5 / 5

The Avengers (2012)

I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous.  See, I’m not a Marvel Comics fanboy and the success that their high quality movie versions of their characters are enjoying makes me – a DC Comics fanboy – insanely jealous.  See, I know that if there ever were to be a Justice League movie, well DC Comics would have to have some sort of alternate (read: inferior) version of Batman, because it’s quite clear that the Christopher Nolan Batman isn’t in a world populated with heroes.  And while I enjoyed Green Lantern there are loads of others that didn’t.  Not to mention how every Superman movie that has come out since Superman II has been pretty craptacular.  Marvel went and signed Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers, so there went the best hope for any Wonder Woman movie, and there aren’t even any rumours that I’ve heard about a Flash movie.  So yeah, super jealous because DC can’t get their cinematic shit together.  Moving on.

In the next couple days, my reviews for the rest of the movies that are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be posted (except Captain America, as that one was already posted) and what you’ll find is that they’re all pretty damn good movies.  For the most part.  The sum of them all is The Avengers, and honestly, you couldn’t find a better director than Joss Whedon to helm this ship.  Whedon has an affinity for the characters that he’s been reading for decades, and if we’ve learned anything from Whedon’s fanbase, it’s that he can make us feel in a way that most directors/writers take for granted.  When Wash dies in Serenity, he wasn’t the only who felt like they’d been impaled, and that was because of the heart that Whedon instills in his characters.  So the whole time watching Avengers, I was wondering which ancillary character was going to bite the dust so we could truly feel like This Means Something.

Another trademark Whedon-ism is the wry sense of humour that characters have in the face of insurmountable odds, and that humour is very much evident throughout the entire film.  I’m pretty sure every character, from Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) to Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) hell, everyone of them gets a laugh in the movie.  Of course, front and centre is the most fleshed character out of the Avengers team (so-far), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), but this movie isn’t his.  It’s not Captain America’s (Chris Evans) or Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth).  In fact, I think that the Big Bad of the movie, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), might have had more screen time than anyone else.

The movie doesn’t really have to waste time with showing the origin stories of all these heroes, because they have their own series, just like in the comic book world.  It’s the story of a bunch of combustible elements coming together to form a super power to combat the end of the world.  Honestly, I would have to say that this is the greatest comic book movie of all time, and that’s mostly because I think the Christopher Nolan Batman films can actually hold their own as non-comic book movies.  The Avengers movie and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a lot of fanboy pandering to them, but it’s all great popcorn, summer blockbuster fun.  The Nolan Batman films, well they’re exploring areas outside of the comic books with the implication that they take place in a very realistic world.  Nolan’s Batman would never be in the Justice League.

Anyways, The Avengers is pretty much what any comic book nerd dreams of: the action on the screen taken directly from the pages of their comic books.  The heroes they love, the villains they hate, they’re all expertly interpreted into a new medium and it’s a goddamn great movie.  I don’t even think you’d need to see the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to completely enjoy the movie, but they would certainly add more depth to the experience.  Also, the 3D was much like Toy Story 3, not invasive and all OMG LOOK IT’S 3D so I strongly recommend seeing it in a theatre when you can.

5 / 5