2013 Film #2: Iron Man 3
(Director: Shane Black; Writers: Drew Pearce & Shane Black)
My first summer blockbuster and it was a stinker. Like most people, I really enjoyed the first Iron Man and was decently entertained by the second. Although I had high, high hopes for a Shane Black written and directed effort, this is just loaded with problems. First, I’m completely unclear why Tony is having such a hard time coping with the events of Avengers. This whole anxiety thing just does not work. Either go all “Demon in a Bottle” or leave it. Second, these bad guys are so stupid. Their basic power is that they make things hot, which makes getting close to them ridiculously stupid. And yet, that’s all Iron Man does. (And why are all of Tony’s suits breaking?!) Finally, there are like 10 different plotlines here, but none of them are actually followed through with. It just a hot mess from start to end, lumbering along until it doesn’t anymore. Major disappointment.
Film #19: End of Watch
(Director & Writer: David Ayer)
It’s amazing what I’ll watch simply because it is on Netflix instant. Writer and director David Ayer’s attempts to tell this in a sort of “found footage” style, with lead cop Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) recording while on patrol for a student film (and weirdly, we never see him in the class or near a college). But Ayer isn’t consistent in this and your brain will start melting when you try to figure out how Brian was able to get the kind of shots he did. You’ll then give up when they start throwing in footage from nonsensical sources like Border Patrol and the criminals themselves, who are all carrying HD cameras. But let’s set that aside. The story itself is asinine, and more importantly, our two cops are borderline incompetant. In our first scene of them “policing”, Mike (Michael Peña) gets into a fight with a suspect and Brian cheers him on, while filming. Mike wins, which means the perp goes to jail. But we learn later from the now released suspect that the fight was cool, and that Mike and Brian “keep it G.” WHAT. The only moments where the film works is when Brian and Mike are just casually talking in the car. These conversations feel natural, funny, and even revelatory, but they are too few and far between. As soon as the plot starts back up, everything falls apart. And the Mexican gang in the film has some of the worst actors I’ve ever seen on film. Truly terrible.
Film #20: The Grey
(Director: Joe Carnahan; Writers: Ian Mackenzie Jeffers & Joe Carnahan)
Another Netflix Instant watch, but this was actually really good. Grizzled men get stranded in the Alaskan winter after a plane crash and search for safety while a pack of wolves hunt them. Not a complicated plot, but Carnahan makes it work through a fantastic depiction of this frozen wasteland. This is why we have HD cameras. Carnahan embraces the look of HD and uses it where it shines: bright whites and harsh blacks. The only colors are red blood and orange flame. Much of it is shot at night around campfires, and in these moments, we watch and listen as the men take in their predicament. I think Liam Neeson’s Ottway is a little too…knowing? He feels a little off, but overall, the film really works. A very surprising genre flick.
Film #21: Jack Reacher
(Director & Writer: Christopher McQuarrie)
Talk about surprising, I loved this movie. It seems like there was a time when you could count on a steady stream of these types of Hollywood action films. It isn’t revolutionary, but in contrast to what we get now, it’s fantastic. The key to this is in the directing: it is smooth, readable, and easy to follow. The action scenes are clean, the chase sequences are thrilling without being nauseating, and McQuarrie gives us moments of levity that remind of that it’s just a silly action movie. There are a couple issues: the plot is pretty hoaky, especially when it is all revealed, and there are some obvious plot twists. But there are also pretty solid performances all around, particularly from Tom Cruise and a super creepy Werner Herzog. I really can’t recommend this enough. This is already criminally underseen, but I could see it developing a cult following. I’d certainly like to see more, although that seems unlikely.
Film #22: Prometheus
(Director: Ridley Scott; Writers: Jon Spaihts & Damon Lindelof)
There are moments in Prometheus that are truly awesome. In particular, I think the first half is fantastic. The limited CGI, the stark cinematography all work to make this a unique blockbuster. And it is a fairly heady action film, which might explain some of the criticism. I love the premise, but I don’t think it really sustains itself. You get the sense that writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof weren’t quite sure where they wanted to go with this, and by the last half hour or so, things get pretty muddy. It seems like there were far more interesting places this could have gone, but they just didn’t. Or they left them for a sequel. I’ll say it’s ¾ of an excellent film, but it just didn’t quite make up its mind.