Friday, June 17, 2011

Green Lantern

Let me start with the most important part of this blog post: I hate, and have always hated, Green Lantern.

I hate that the DC comic book superhero has A-List swagger when he's a C-List character. I hate that God-awful oath he chants as he charges his ring. I hate the premise that he's a space cop responsible for an huge section of the galaxy, but spends most of his time in Coast City fighting the Tattooed Man. I hate that the Lantern ring -- supposed to be the most powerful weapon in the universe -- is used by Jordan mostly to conjure up over-stuffed boxing gloves and cages for trapping foes.

The comic book Green Lantern has always been held back by the limited imaginations of various artists and writers. And, I'm afraid, the movie suffers from the same lackluster inspiration.

The special effects in Green Lantern are clearly the best part of this flick. Flying sequences are the best I've seen, the trips into space are visually stunning, and the lantern-made gimmicks look and sound real. Ryan Reynolds looks and acts like Hal Jordan. The other GLs -- some really unusual life-forms -- are well done.

But the flick lacks substance. Trying too hard to tell multiple stories, the film never really seems to go into depth with one particular story line. One minute Hal Jordan is experiencing an existential dilemma, the next he's overcome it and can be found lecturing the immortal Guardians of the Universe.

Green Lantern fits in nicely as part of a team. Perhaps as one part of the Justice League this character can be compelling. As the lead in his own movie, however, Green Lantern just doesn't work.

And I knew it wouldn't.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Super 8

"What do you get when you mix E.T. and The Goonies with Stand By Me?"

In truth, that joke isn't a fair way to describe Super 8, the Steven Spielberg produced movie written and directed by J.J. Abrams. The flick is solid, especially in the first half when we are becoming acquainted with the characters. Super 8 can stand on its own as a well made, moving, thought-provoking work of art; it was well acted, visually appealing, and interesting.

Throughout, though, I kept waiting for a discussion about Pez candy. Or -- during one of dozens of bike scenes -- for one of the kids to fly his bike into the sky and across the moon in silhouette.

Abrams' Super 8 is that much of an homage to the coming of age movies from a generation ago. So much so it was distracting.

Coming of age flicks rely on young actors to carry a mature storyline. The child actors of Super 8, particularly Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths, give complex and layered performances. The adults in the film, however, are stereotypical and one-dimensional.

Just like most kids see adults in real life.

Filmed in and near Weirton, West Virginia, Super 8 garnered a lot of buzz during the past few months. Most of that buzz had to do with how secretive Abrams was with details about the movie. The anticipation caused me to leave the theater disappointed, even though I generally liked the movie.

I just expected more.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I avoided Unstoppable for months, presuming it was another in a long line of skimpy-plotted action thrillers designed to give audiences more ka-boom than substance.

I was wrong.

Unstoppable, a story about the efforts of two men attempting to stop a runaway train, is really a movie about redemption. A story about overcoming challenges -- like a runaway train, or the difficulties life throws at you -- not for the notoriety that comes with heroism, but because you have to.

Because it's the right thing to do.

Denzel Washington and Chris Pine are excellent as two every-men who find themselves in a remarkable situation. Each has personal problems so significant no one would blame them if they clocked out and had a cup of coffee while others attempted to stop the train. The recognize they are in a position to help, and do so selflessly.

Because it's the right thing to do.

Unstoppable was inspired by a real-life chase after a runaway freight train in 2001. The film gives terrific insight into how such an accident could easily occur to those like me who know next-to-nothing about the railroad business. And it makes me curious what I'd do if I found myself in such a situation: clock out and watch, or lend a hand because it's the right thing to do.

I'm not sure.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Case 39

Case 39 belongs in File 13.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

X-Men: First Class

Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class is so good, it's easy to overlook the inconsistencies with the legendary comic book series, and the problems that occur with continuity.

And there are lots of those issues: Mystique was never a childhood friend of Professor X; most of the students recruited for the team were not part of the original team in the 1960s; Sebastian Shaw, played wonderfully by Kevin Bacon, seems to be a composite of several comic book characters, and . . .

Well, you get the picture. There are lots of issues in this film that might bug some comic book geeks, and even annoy others.

But not me.

The X-Men storyline has always been about social issues. Those
-isms that create a lot of stress and strife, and the problematic nature of relationships. It's my opinion that the greatest aspect of X-Men was the complicated relationship between Professor X and Magneto: two strong, brilliant leaders who desire the same outcome, but hold perspectives on how to achieve it.

With a running time of more than 2 hours, Vaughn's movie runs long. But it's a necessary length, designed to allow the relationship between Xavier and Magneto to develop. The audience comes to appreciate their love and respect for each other, making the rift that occurs at the conclusion powerful.

This X-Men prequel lives up to the hype generated. It's also a worthy member of the X-Men movie franchise, the only comic book movie series that's never disappointed comic books geeks. Like me.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Hall Pass

"Don't get any funny ideas," she said as we sat down to watch the movie. And she said it in her I'm-only-half-joking tone, so I knew to keep my head straight as we watched the flick about a guy who gets permission from his wife to fool around with other women in an effort to save their marriage.

Although I was conscious of the decision to keep my inner 13-year-old Id in check, I realized early that I could never use a "hall pass," even if granted one. Casual sexual relationships are more complicated -- and perhaps even too complicated -- for any benefit they produce, and require a perspective on life that I just don't have at this age. I love my wife more deeply and more completely in my 40s than I did in my 20s and 30s; despite the day-to-day challenges that come with raising a family, I can't imagine wanting to live a different lifestyle.

I can't imagine wanting -- or needing -- a hall pass.

My inner 13-year-old Id loved Hall Pass. It howled at Jason Sedeikis' efforts to get laid, and his inept attempts to please women in order to please himself. My Id snorted at the gratuitous shots of boobs and butts. I even heard my Id call Owen Wilson's character a pussy once because he backed out of talking to the hot chick who worked in the coffee joint. My Id thought that Hall Pass was awesome, and wanted more.

On the other hand, I had a sense of contentment and satisfaction after watching Hall Pass. Because I'm not that guy. And I don't wanna be.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sci-Fi wannabe.
Strange hats, magic doors, and rain
Makes for waste of time

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Hangover II

Look, I'm the first to admit that we shouldn't judge a sequel by the first generation flick that spawned it. It's seriously unfair; sequels, like any work of art, should be judged on its own merit.

But . . .

The producers of The Hangover II make it difficult not to compare it to the origional. The same cast is used, despite the near-impossible plotline that allow supporting cast members to be involved. The same comedic scenarios from the first movie that made me laugh until snot came out my nose was used in this re-tread: somebody jumped outta a locked container, surprising the audience and The Wolfpack; cars were destroyed by mobsters; the boys have a run-in with cops; something is stolen during the night of drunken-ness that must be returned the next day.

The same old same old can be funny, I suppose. But it really isn't good art. It's a rip-off, and an obvious one at that.

The Hangover II earned over $100 million dollars over Memorial Day weekend, including $20 cash money from my pocket.

I feel like I just bought a blue velvet Elvis painting from a road-side vender.