Film Review: Jack Reacher

•January 14, 2013 • 1 Comment

As you’re reading this, the world didn’t end in 2012, so 2013 has arrived, RhettMedia is back and by the looks of Paramount’s latest release Jack Reacher, ImageTom Cruise is very much still Tom Cruise. Delving into the action genre once more, Cruise’s latest picture is an adaptation of the popular Lee Child novel One Shot. With a thirty year career at the top of the box office, Cruise has the ability to pick and choose roles that he has the most faith in, and with Jack Reacher it is clear that his selection process involves sticking firmly to his comfort zone.

In Jack Reacher, Cruise plays a mysterious private investigator that moves around the United States like a ghost as a means of solving murder cases that pique his interest. In this particular outing, he stumbles upon a case involving a homicidal sniper who has picked off several seemingly unconnected civilians from the lavish comforts of a multi-storey car park. Reacher has history with the shady accused party, having served together in the army, and so appears as if by magic to insert himself into the investigation to prove or disprove the man’s guilt amid the dangerous, murky waters of political conspiracy.

The film benefits greatly from its roots, with the foundations from One Shot lending itself favourably to shaping the tension and giving context to your average take-or-leave ImageHollywood thriller. The action itself is decent enough, with enough set pieces and violence to satiate those looking for buzzes, with the crime back-drop providing just enough story to keep the film ticking over. Where the film hits its high points though is in its humour, never quite taking itself completely seriously as a Tom Cruise picture often does. In addition, the supporting cast is respectable enough for Cruise to bounce off without being overshined, with Rosamund Pike offering a good romantic foil and exchanges with the excellent David Oyelowo manufacturing the film’s highlights. In this regard, the film is well-balanced, with self-deprecation providing the anchor to what could potentially have been little more than a Tom Cruise vanity project.

However, it’s not all plain sailing for Jack Reacher. Tipping the scales at a bulky two hours and ten minutes, the plot is sound with the lay-out of the novel as its foundation, but the movie veers off course at times and fails to tie story arcs up neatly enough. The main antagonist changes three times over the course of an hour, with the decision-makers obviously feeling not one of them strong enough to carry the picture for its full run-time. The main villain is an elderly man who obviously cannot partake in the fight scenes and is so largely insignificant to the plot that he is merely killed off as an after-thought before the final credits, while his crony takes much of the brunt of the action scenes while not matching up enough to Cruise’s Reacher to the point that they had to add an unrelated political double-agent to the story as well. The main thematic tone of the film surrounds Reacher and his own personal understanding of justice, but by the film’s conclusion, the motivations of the villains are so sparsely correlated that Reacher’s focus becomes distorted as to who is being given comeuppance that the hero’s form of justice ends up looking like a meandering and inconsequential mess.

Channelling the popularity of the book series into movie mega-bucks is particularly in vogue at the moment as discussed last year here at RhettMedia (https://rhettmedia.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/opinion-hollywoods-adaptation-factor/), and is a sound decisionImage from a business point-of-view. However, the problem with this film lies in the typical arc of Tom Cruise self-aggrandising as a top-rank action movie star, where amid extended car chases, a 5-on-1 brawl won by Cruise and an eyebrow-raising martial arts face-off in the pouring rain, we are beaten over the head with the aggressive ongoing agenda trying to market Tom Cruise as the ‘coolest man in the world’. Add to this the ‘epic’ speeches that come across as stilted and clichéd, and there have to be questions raised as to whether or not Cruise can still believably perform these roles and whether he should really be pushing himself to reinvigorate his career. The film suffers at Cruise’s insistence to play the hero, and with such a widely scrutinised reputation and personal life reflective of modern attitudes to celebrity culture, it may prove far more critically fruitful for Cruise to contemplate his role selection more deeply, in particular to stop playing the hero and start becoming the screen villain that his pop cultural reputation affords him.

Opinion: Michael Bay – Franchise Killer?

•May 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

A couple of months ago, a major announcement was made in Hollywood which made a wide audience of people cast decidedly sceptical and unimpressed glances upon producer/director extraordinaire Michael Bay. A careless comment from Bay at a press conference intimated that Paramount’s upcoming reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would retcon all previous versions of the popular characters, replacing  the origin story with a facetious narrative that casts the turtles as part of an alien race instead of adhering to their well-known backdrop of the mutation of genetics which forms the focal genesis of the series. The comment was perhaps taken out of context in terms of poor wording and the potential of the insufficient briefing of Bay stemming from miscommunication; however it goes without saying that this change in direction for the series was inevitably met with fan backlash and negativity towards the project. This is a common occurrence with such popular cult figures with a hardcore fan-base, yet the connotations of Bay’s involvement with the PR issue reflects a deeper problem at the root of his career and more harrowingly at the heart of Hollywood. The question here is whether Bay himself is potentially the killer of viable, profitable franchised brands, or is he merely a personification of the fickleness of big-budget Hollywood in 2012?

Bay’s career hinges on the recent wave of reliance that cinema has seemingly come across on the premise of remakes, sequels and reboots, which I previously covered here on RhettMedia at https://rhettmedia.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/opinion-hollywoods-adaptation-factor/. Prior to the revelations held at March’s ill-fated press conference regarding the upcoming Ninja Turtles flick, Bay’s credits highlight the chequered history of the modern obsession with remakes and adaptations. Particularly focussing on the horror genre, Bay seemed determined to reinvent and modernise the most classic films of the category, becoming involved with remakes of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Amityville Horror, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street franchises, all which would receive fairly mediocre to downright awful receptions throughout the 2000s with audiences and critics alike. These ‘re-imaginings’ of such core films to the genre were largely regarded as visually upgrading their ancestral films, yet lacking in terms of the execution of enabling the remakes to live up to the lofty artistic standards of their originals. This phenomenon displays how Bay perhaps lacks the finesse of a truly excellent director/producer, and is perhaps the very first sign of the more worrying trend which conveyed his simultaneous willingness and disregard to put his own spin on projects with a heavily faithful and fundamentally critical fan-base.     

Perhaps a more pressing depiction of Bay’s ability to severely injure the legacy of a beloved cult series is the curse of his recent interpretations of the legendary Transformers franchise. With a heap of money from the monolithic Paramount Pictures production company to throw at the project, Bay construed his accumulated half a billion dollar budget over the current three existing movies in the franchise as a means of producing approximately a million CGI battle and action scenes, sacrificing character development, coherent plot and any semblance of the original heart of the series in the mean-time. While the pictures amassed absolutely colossal box office profits of near three billion dollars, it can be said that as pieces of cinematic art Bay’s visions of the Transformers franchise bombed massively. Cold and devoid of the real characters that fans know and love, the movies became robotic clusters of grey, emotionally static set-pieces that, while visually impressive, remain spiritually demoralising, soul-draining to sit through and leaving its audience wondering why they should care about the events on-screen. The first half of the third instalment is so woefully atrocious in its attempts at humour that it leaves you pitifully begging for the mindless action scenes that span around an hour afterwards until the credits signal when you can go home and wonder where it all went wrong.

This unconvincing track record is intensified by Bay’s comments on March. Whether it is general ignorance on the part of Bay in regards to the terrible manner in which the Transformers franchise was also handled or more related to an over-eagerness to add an original spin to a story that has already been told is unclear, but what becomes overtly obvious is that the announcement of Bay’s fingerprints over a project will always be met with an anxious raising of the eyebrows by dedicated fans. Perhaps Bay is a killer of franchises in an artistic sense, yet it should be stressed that he is probably far more concerned with pleasing the higher-ups of Paramount Pictures than the loyal fan-bases and it is irrefutable that the ridiculous amount of money that his pictures have grossed over the years means that the franchises remain viable and most importantly profitable. With a record that cannot be argued against in terms of financial success, it seems more pressing that Bay will retain the power to mismanage some of the finest cult classics for the foreseeable future, but for now let’s hope that the comments from March’s press conference stem purely from a misunderstanding and that the Ninja Turtles franchise will not be another series that Bay has unwittingly damaged beyond artistic repair with his carelessness and ignorance.

Ninja Turtles is scheduled for release December 25th 2013.

Perspective 7: Jon Hamm

•May 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment

As we come off the heels of Sunday night’s latest instalment of the fifth series of AMC’s Mad Men, Perspective returns to RhettMedia to hold the magnifying glass over the screen career of its biggest and brightest star Jon Hamm. Having been shot to fame as one of the most recognisable faces of modern television drama, Hamm’s is a story of destiny and one that is heavily ingrained into the mythology of show business in regards to the stars aligning and the actor being one of the lucky few in the right place at the right time. Despite Hamm’s proximity and contributions to modern quality television, his career has by no means always been such an unmitigated success and is a parable of the tenacity that aids that hand of fate in getting actors to that right place at the right time.

1. TV Extra (The Division, The Unit, What About Brian?; 2002-2006)

Hamm’s career began as early as 1995, over a decade before his break-out role in Mad Men as he relocated to Los Angeles in a bid to chase his dream and perfect his craft. Finding it challenging to be discovered, Hamm would undertake several low key jobs in order to fund his pursuit, which would include an extremely short-lived stint as a softcore pornography set designer. It would not be until the 2000s that Hamm would begin securing regular work onscreen, and even then, the world of television was proving to be a truly tough slog for the actor.

Hamm managed to land recurring roles in police drama The Division and military action thriller series The Unit as well as showing range in the light-hearted What About Brian?, an ill-fated drama focusing on the lives of several early-30-somethings in a youthful, middle-America. However, none of these shows provided the actor with long term success, his various roles making him little more than a glorified TV extra in his predominately supporting roles. Having been working for over a decade, Hamm’s patience for his big break must have been wearing thin by 2006, little realising that the role that would change his life and the face of television lay just around the corner.

 

2. Mad Man (Mad Men, 2007)

When Matthew Weiner and the casting team of Mad Men were starting the arduous task of scouring hundreds of thousands of portfolios of show business’ every corner, it was probably hard for them to believe they would find someone who would fit the role of the handsome, complex ladies’ man as perfectly as Jon Hamm does. But without the hindsight of how utterly irreplaceable Hamm has become and how incomprehensible that any other actor could portray the emotionally wounded ad man, Matthew Weiner has since noted that casting the role was not as cut and dry as you would imagine, as seen in the video courtesy of Youtube user TVLEGENDS here.

Though we can see Weiner was particularly enthusiastic for Hamm to take the part, circumstances clearly don’t always lie within the hands of those most passionate about the show or the characters, and the video expresses Weiner’s concern over how when certain executives are unconvinced of an actor’s potential, it can drastically alter the success or failure of a show. Thankfully for the actor and the incredibly large fan-base which would come as a result of the excellence of the first season of Mad Men, Hamm managed to secure the role that would propel him to television superstardom, and become one of the coolest and most recognisable icons of the modern television era. Hamm’s success here is typical of the show biz iconography of how one big break is truly all an actor needs to be a prominent figure on-screen for years to come.

 

3. Big Screen Bit-Player (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Town and Bridesmaids, 2008-2011)

Despite Hamm’s significant small screen success, the next mountain to climb was cinema and the movie world. With commitments remaining from 2008 onwards to the production of AMC’s now massively popular drama, the actor would find it difficult to land a major role on the big screen, instead settling for smaller parts in box office smashing sci-fi remake The Day the Earth Stood Still and Ben Affleck-driven crime drama The Town as well as a very minor speaking role in the movie adaptation of The A-Team in 2010.

By the time 2011 rolled around, a break in Hamm’s schedule seemed to open up due to the long absence Mad Men would take after the fourth season, yet this break did not see the beginning of Hamm transitioning into leading man roles. His side-role in the crass female comedy Bridesmaids reaffirmed the belief of the actor as a television star first and foremost, a performer who is perhaps unproven in terms of the massive stage of cinema. In this sense, it is clear that Hamm’s commitments to Weiner’s drama still rules over his schedule yet it perhaps also suggests that the actor is back in the position he was a decade ago as a bit-player in less successful pieces of media. Whether he can remedy this remains to be seen.

 

4. Tea Leaves (Directorial debut on Mad Men, 2012)

Although the apparent troubles of breaking into the film world may seem ominous for Hamm, it may perhaps be relevant to suggest that his interests lie elsewhere. Having become a producer in the latest season of Mad Men which debuted two months ago this year, the time spent working on the show has afforded him  the opportunity to explore the prospect of directing, making his first foray into the art form in the third episode, Tea Leaves.

With a plot line that mainly side-lined his character in order to allow him to focus on the artistic direction of the episode, Hamm revealed a creative touch of class that hinted at a future endeavour if his inevitable positioning as Hollywood leading man somehow falls through once AMC’s show comes to a close. Hamm has stated that he wished to maintain the tone of the show even through the distraction that his name as director in the opening credits would provide dedicated fans, and it is a testament to the performer that his guiding of co-star January Jones as well as others was rife with enough visual mastery while in keeping with the feel of the show. Having reached the pinnacle of his television career already, Hamm has allowed for a back-up plan to emerge behind the camera on the off chance that his desire or ability to remain in front of camera desists.

 

What lies ahead of Jon Hamm remains to be seen, but his career is one that says much about the current state of show business and what it takes to make it in the harshest of industries. That wraps up this edition of Perspective, be sure to let your comments be heard in the section below and don’t forget about that like button.

TV Review: Homeland Finale, Marine One

•May 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Showtime and Channel 4’s Homeland came to a close in the UK this past Sunday with a feature length double episode finale, and after weeks of building up the central stories of Carrie’s descent into a bipolar episode and Brody’s internal struggle between his outward portrayal of American hero and inner potential traitor, the show promised to go out with a bang in more ways than one. Having revealed Brody picking up a vest lined with dangerous explosives and having it prepped for a meeting with the vice president of the United States, it seemed that Carrie and Saul were rapidly running out of time to convince the rest of the CIA that a terrorist threat existed in the form of the perceived great Sergeant Brody.

With this premise, the finale Marine One was representative of the twisting labyrinth that the show had become. I wrote in a review of the fourth episode Semper I (available here: https://rhettmedia.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/tv-review-catch-up-homeland/) that the show gave me the feeling that ‘some episodes may drag the overall quality of the show down in the sense that nothing much exciting or especially important will happen until the last few episodes’, but I’m pleased to stress that this feeling disappeared by the mid-point of the season. After the meandering first few episodes, the show really kicked into an intense higher gear around episode six and seven, and had become truly compulsive viewing to the point where the two-hour finale promised a magnificent television spectacle, the ambiguity of Brody’s intentions and Carrie’s infectious desperation to close the dangerous threat to national security making this one of the few genuinely can’t-miss episodic programmes to come down the pipeline in a number of years.

Marine One itself was an expert piece of story-telling for the small screen, particularly considering the mastery of the pacing of the episode. With two-hours of television time to fill (obviously with adverts included), this was an example of a show that never really dragged or outstayed its welcome, being truly captivating throughout its duration. Admittedly, the first twenty to thirty minutes seemed slower than the show usually does, but this was for a definitive purpose. With the knowledge of something potentially grisly happening over the course of the episode, Marine One drew the audience through the spectrum of anxious patience, with a deliberate pace that conveyed the lingering threat of death in the air as Brody travelled to meet the vice president and numerous other high-ranking government officials. This eerie sense of foreboding jeopardy hung in the air, before shots rang out from the sniper rifle of another turned marine, Tom Walker. The timing of this scene is exceptional, in that it captures the suddenness of violence representative of terrorism in the 21st century; a macabre instant of human cruelty resulting in pure panic and fear. The scene is shockingly brutal, visceral and grimly reflective of the darker aspect of the troubling constitution of modern human nature and absolutely conveys the senseless swiftness of pre-meditated terrorist violence.

While this scene was a brilliant example of how good Homeland can be, what followed was surely one of the most sublime performances and well-written pieces of all television to grace the screen for quite some time. With a bevy of prestigious political figureheads being sequestered in a secure bunker amid the chaotic rifle fire that took place just instances ago, it seems that now will be the moment where Brody, Marine One, can finally execute the horrifying attack he has been sent to perpetrate. With his vest strapped tightly to his chest and his thumb straying towards the cap of the detonator, everything we have learnt about Brody and the weeks of build-up surrounding the ethics, the motivations and the morality of the potential attack has led to a magnificent crescendo in this scene. Switching between fast-paced shots between the unaware politicians and the conflicted but more importantly terrified Brody’s face, the scene is incredibly tense and utterly absorbing, and when Brody presses the trigger to no explosion, a confused collective sigh of relief escapes the room. The vest has malfunctioned, and upon excusing himself to the bathroom, he fixes the suit and is ready once more to desperately attempt to go through with the deed. This leads to the marine being talked out of the event by his teenage daughter and by the time Brody is ushered out of the room, it does not come across as a let-down that Brody failed in completing his objective whatsoever. Damian Lewis’ performance here is what makes this truly mind-blowingly spectacular, and the intimate shots of the anxiety and genuine fear written on his face captures the grim internal view of suicide bombing with utter panache and total realism. People have leant towards rightfully showering Claire Danes with praise for her performance throughout the show and won a Golden Globe for portraying Carrie, yet it seems almost criminal that Damian Lewis missed out for his performance here: a taut introspection into the mind of a suicide bomber and the conflict of giving one’s life for a particular cause here displayed in unabashed and disturbingly realistic clarity.

Overall, Marine One built upon the growing legacy of Homeland as the finest new show on television within the last few years. It should be stated that there was a level of predictability to this finale, due to common sense ruling that Brody would not in fact blow himself to pieces and although it seems that the evolution into season two potentially offers Brody in the exact position he started season one at, it should be commended that the show didn’t have the marine realign himself completely to the United States, and his inevitable rejection of terrorist methodology is being treated with a more adept and astute slow burn over the course of next season. What all this means is that Marine One was an intensely riveting instalment that set things up magnificently for next season, and ascertains Homeland as one of those few shows that surpasses the incredible amount of hype lavished upon it, and I for one am waiting intently for the new series’ debut in the autumn.

TV Spotlight: Archer

•May 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

In the first of a new series on RhettMedia, TV Spotlight aims to emphasise some of the hidden gems that may have flown underneath the televisual radar somewhat while also looking at particular aspects of shows and what makes them either a success or a failure. While this will hopefully bring the shows into a wider awareness, the series will also look to ask pertinent questions about certain shows and their on-air status, with a special concerning Fox’s averagely received Alcatraz in the workings over the next few weeks. This first edition of TV Spotlight though will focus on FX’s cartoon adult comedy Archer.

When you think of cartoon comedies on television, the mind tends to focus mainly on family-based settings, with The Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad! perhaps the most prominent of examples. These particular shows base their narratives around the lives and times of dysfunctional nuclear American families, wherein the episodes tend to be both self-contained and barely mentioned in future instalments, leaving their specific universes resolved of any problem that arises in the episode by the its end. In this sense, the cartoon comedy earned a very different reputation to that of your typical hour-long dramas and even the majority of modern sitcoms, and with it came the niche ideal that the writers could plug well-established characters into a multitude of situations and leave the characters largely unchanged, without having to deal with the concept of storyline arcs.

What has enabled this is the significant advantage that cartoons offer the writers in that the timescale is virtually infinite as there is not the problem of aging actors which allows for Bart Simpson to remain believable at 10 years old through the impending 24th and 25th seasons of Fox’s inimitable series. However, this phenomenon marks the genre with the problematic issue of keeping the show in question fresh and appealing to audiences. Although characters can be plugged into any scenario imaginable, there is a discord between the events of each standalone episode and the concept of character development which marks the modern understanding of quality television.

With this in mind, FX debuted the new show Archer in 2009 and it is slowly gaining a cult following for both its similarities and advancements of previous examples of the cartoon genre. Created by Adam Reed, the show itself focuses on the titular Sterling Archer, a secret agent in the mould of every spy stereotype you can imagine, and his various adventures within the context of his work at spy agency ISIS. This leads him through many difficult and dangerous missions alongside his co-workers at the agency, and the humour of the series lies mainly within the ineptitude of all of the characters at the agency. Archer is characterised as an immature man-child who, despite being talented in his profession, is hampered by his general ignorance, crude frat-boy sense of humour and his playboy-like indulgence in alcohol and women. In this sense, Archer as a show puts a spin on the spy genre, with mature humour and a cutting sardonic edge and is different from its peers insofar as it lacks the family-friendly appeal that The Simpsons, Futurama and even occasionally Family Guy are renowned for. With a sense of humour and style that reflects a more evolved South Park, Archer is a show that is far more complex and cultured than it seems on first impressions.

Where the show shines is that there’s a more developed, intelligent structure to the series in regards to its story-telling ambitions. Every episode is more or less typically self-contained as is the curse of cartoon comedies, yet throughout its present three season run, there has been definitive evidence of storyline arcs, call-backs to past events on the show and actual character and relationship advancement, something almost unheard of in the genre. The dialogue throughout is razor-sharp, both in humour terms and in content terms, as a set-piece between two characters will seamlessly segue into an ongoing conversation between other characters. In this manner, it bears more than a passing resemblance to cult favourite Arrested Development, a similarity exaggerated by the main cast inclusions of the superb Jessica Walter and the underrated Judy Greer. As with Arrested Development, Archer is a show that is better than it has any right to be, and its confidence in its own excellence is infectious and truly translates onscreen to the audience.

What truly makes it stand out in the genre is that there is a more linear structure to the series that is absent from other cartoon comedies, in that although you can watch the episodes out of order, there are often references and call-backs to previous situations that you will miss if you do so. In this sense, Archer is an anomaly in the cartoon world in that its appeal lies strictly with adults and the existence of storyline arcs and character development means that this is a show extremely confident within its own abilities and a show looking to mark its genre as capable of being appreciated as quality television in a way that has never been done before.

Film Review: Avengers Assemble

•May 2, 2012 • 1 Comment

After a long period of nervy anticipation from fans, the latest film from Marvel’s movie division hit the screen in the form of Avengers Assemble, starring Hollywood heavy hitters in Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L Jackson. With the project being in line for a number of years upon its release, anxiety tends to swell just as equally as excitement within the large pockets of Marvel fans globally, as a concern arises as to how true the film will stick to the audience’s interpretations of some of their favourite characters. With this, the cinema becomes a ball of enthusiastic energy mixed with a fascinatingly tense undercurrent. Though their strike rate is particularly envious in terms of converting the comics to the big screen, Marvel know that it’s never a sure bet as to whether an often fickle and judgemental fan base will accept the movie as evidenced by the dire performance of 2003’s Hulk being received so poorly that the company felt the need to reboot the series in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.

Marvel will be relieved then by Avengers Assemble deservedly receiving a round of applause upon reaching the credits at the cinema I attended. Much like I wrote in my review of another of this season’s blockbusters Wrath of the Titans (available here: https://rhettmedia.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/film-review-wrath-of-the-titans/ ), Avengers Assemble is not a film designed to reinvent the wheel of film and having carefully outlined what its intentions were, it is safe to say that Marvel have more or less reached the majority of their goals. The picture itself regards a group of superheroes coming together to form the Avengers in the face of an extra-terrestria threat led by the villainous Asgardian God Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston. Obviously this ends with all-out war ensuing through the streets of Manhattan, destroying the iconic landscape in the name of good versus evil. In this sense the narrative of the piece is typically fairly basic but is exactly what you’d expect and moreover what the picture should be offering. Throughout the movie there is the very strong sense that Marvel’s film division is very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of such movies, and thus as a story Avengers Assemble comes off very well onscreen.

In terms of filming this monster of a film that is truly epic in scale, I voiced concerns in the Upcoming article for April saying that ‘the only potential problem that could occur is if there is not enough room for each character to truly shine in what could become an oversaturated mess’ (full article available here https://rhettmedia.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/upcoming-april/), and it’s clear that the issue was a problem in terms of muddying the movie. The integration of the larger-than-life characters with one another was perhaps the most vital aspect of the movie, insofar as a character looking weaker or less important than another could severely dampen the name value and drawing power of the character in terms of selling one of their individual pictures. With a character list looking to heavily feature the appearances of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and The Hulk just for starters, it is clear that the movie may have to have been more balancing act than anything else.

However, the various action-packed face-offs between the characters left everything pretty much even-steven throughout, with every character getting a chance to shine. Robert Downey Jr. typically shone as Tony Stark/Iron Man, despite not appearing until at least the 30 minute mark, and his performance and underlying enthusiasm for the role bodes well for the next instalment of the Iron Man series. Similarly, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth build well on reprising their roles of last year’s blockbusters of characters Captain America and Thor respectively. The most notable performances though were perhaps Mark Ruffalo debuting in the role of The Hulk and the aforementioned Hiddleston as villain Loki. Ruffalo was thrust into the role after Ed Norton backed out of reprising the character, and he performed admirably by adding a more quiet and refined demeanour to Bruce Banner and it seems only a matter of time before he stars in his own standalone version of The Hulk series in the next wave of Avengers movies. Perhaps most interestingly is that with a cast list boasting stars such as Downey Jr., Johansson and Samuel L Jackson amongst them, the person who is charged with carrying most of the picture is the excellent Hiddleston in his nefarious role as Loki. It is quite a curious thing to consider that Hiddleston potentially received more screen time than any other character in such a packed ensemble cast, yet he owns the screen and completely immerses himself in the character to the point where it genuinely raises the experience.

The only downsides to this picture lie in the typical over-reliance on special effects which drives most of the minutes of the two hour, twenty minute presentation but this is far more of an issue that transcends this film on its own. Overall, the only potential problem laid in the oversaturation of star power and engaging the balancing act of equal screen presence for the character, yet this seems to have been dealt with a certain panache and care. Perhaps the most important factors contributing to the success lies in the typically good script work that builds on stories a wider audience may not know and also the careful control that director Joss Whedon has of the product. With a bevy of typically hard to please fans sidestepped with the perceived accomplishment of the film, Whedon’s performance has led to rumours of him resuming his role in light of a potential sequel. In the meantime, Avengers Assemble will act as a sounding shot for the Avengers franchise, capping off the successful larger scale Avengers campaign that featured the Captain America, Thor and Iron Man movies of the last few years. With a number of potential avenues and characters to explore ahead of the inevitable sequel to this character mash-up, it is perhaps apt to suggest that the Avengers franchise may in fact be a far greater money spinner for Marvel than the upcoming Amazing Spiderman reboot. Only time will tell whether that will be the case.

Upcoming: May

•April 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It’s the time of the month again to stop and look at the impending movies being released over the course of the next month in the latest edition of Upcoming for May 2012. This month sees a host of comedy films coming out ahead of blockbuster season, with a few potential dramatic gems hidden amongst them. Without a big attraction picture scheduled for the month though, it’ll be interesting to consider which film will be worthy of being the pick of the month here at RhettMedia.

 

American Reunion, Released 2 May

Returning for the eighth movie in the series and fourth with the central cast appearing, American Reunion is the latest chapter in the tried and tested American Pie formula. Thirteen years on from the original, Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan and Seann William Scott reprise their roles in the comedy series, with the premise of the original high school group attending a reunion as fully fledged adults.

What follows is an inevitable amount of immature comedy based on sexual innuendo and gross-out moments which made the series such a resounding success. Though probably being unable to recapture the magic that appealed to so many in the first instalments due to an aging cast and the maturation of the target audience who remember the originals, it is still unsurprising that American Reunion has made a substantially flattering profit already due to the success and name recognition of the American Pie franchise.

Watch/avoid: Despite its financial success, the movie has received mediocre reviews and it’s not hard to see why, with aging performers such as Biggs and Hannigan outgrowing these roles years ago. Hopefully this is the last cash-in on the franchise, but still probably deserves an AVOID.

 

Jeff, Who Lives At Home, Released 11 May

In the second movie of the month to feature one of the main How I Met Your Mother stars, Jason Segel takes on the role of the titular Jeff in indie comedy Jeff, Who Lives At Home. The premise of the film relies on two brothers who attempt to come to terms with their disappointing lives with Segel’s character stuck in their parents’ basement and Ed Helms playing his brother dealing with a rapidly disintegrating marriage.

Pairing up two differing personalities as brothers, the movie concentrates on their relationship and both characters getting their lives on track. Segel looks to be playing the similar role of the relatable, likeable loser with enough dorky charm to make you root for him, so while it doesn’t look like he’s exactly reaching very far into his acting reserves, it is clear that there’ll be a dependable protagonist for an audience to rally behind. The movie opened to mixed reviews, but the response has been largely positive and with the anchoring two actors in charge and a reputable supporting cast featuring Susan Sarandon and the talented Judy Greer, it’s not hard to see why.

Watch/avoid: If you’re going to see Segel in the role he does best, you may as well rent Forgetting Sarah Marshall on DVD instead, but a great looking cast list mixed with a potentially interesting premise means this falls marginally on the WATCH side.

 

Dark Shadows, Released 11 May

Next on the list is Tim Burton’s latest feature which invariably features Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in a reimagining of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. The film consists of Depp portraying an 18th century vampire who after being buried alive awakens in 1972 where his old mansion has fallen into disrepair while housing an eclectic array of descendants. With this, Depp’s character must reintegrate into a new time while learning how to co-exist with his bizarre family members, presumably finding himself in humorous scenarios along the way.

Marking the umpteenth collaboration between Burton and Depp, the partnership is something that has definitively been tried and tested, and another foraging into the dark depths of the gothic by the two recognisable faces is to be expectedly met with much enthusiasm from fans. The question remains over this picture as to whether or not the source material is strong enough. Depp will undoubtedly make this film work, reverting back to a role that is extremely familiar to him after turns in the Burton-driven Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice In Wonderland.

Watch/avoid: Fans of the Burton/Depp partnership will relish this latest delving into the gothic, though these two need to be careful that the well isn’t running dry. Tentative WATCH.

 

Faust, Released 11 May

One film that might fly under the radar this month is the Russian art-house picture Faust. With the dialogue in German, the film retells the classic tale of Faust and his deal with the devil in a spectacularly gritty yet artistic fashion, with the trailer revealing gorgeous and darkly captivating cinematography. Having combined the absorbing plot regarding human introspection and the corruption of man with hypnotic instances of beautiful imagery onscreen and delicacy of music means that director Alexander Sukurov has already received plaudits for his efforts, and the film’s reputation is growing steadily ahead of wider release.

Released at the 68th Venice International Film Festival at the end of August last year, the picture caused a considerable stir within the panel and reviewers alike, ultimately claiming the most prestigious prize that the festival offers with Sukurov taking home the Golden Lion. After acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky presented the award, a large amount of press interest resonated throughout the movie world, with Faust rapidly becoming one of the more heavily anticipated pieces of cinema in the critical and artistic circles.

Watch/avoid: If you want to get something a bit different into your schedule before the cinemas are dominated with megabucks action blockbusters, then this is potentially a good pick for the WATCH category. However, if subtitles and European cinema is not your thing, I imagine you stopped reading after the first sentence of this write-up anyway.

 

The Dictator, Released 18 May

After a typically controversial and attention-grabbing PR stunt at the Oscars ceremony at the end of February wherein his newest character purportedly spilled the ashes of Kim Jong-Il over affable presenter Ryan Seacrest, Sacha Baron Cohen is back from a short absence in his latest comedy vehicle. Working in the same vein as the widely recognisable Borat, Bruno and Ali G Indahouse, the movie sees Cohen as a character who doesn’t understand the way that the Western world works and thus integration into this world results in calamitous events transgressing.

In The Dictator, Cohen is basing his character on such autocrats as Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi in an attempt to play off of and comment on American sentiments and ways of thinking. Its release will see no end of controversy, and although it will likely receive a baying crowd of supporters who lap up everything Cohen produces, it will be important to see whether Cohen has managed to establish a coherent enough message to the picture or whether it is merely a rehash of past glories that courts controversy in place of valid substance.

Watch/avoid: Cohen is intelligent enough to make this work, though it has to be questioned whether the concept is old news by now or not. It feels as though this will be no different to his past efforts, and despite an almost guarantee of raging success at the box office, it would be refreshing for Cohen to go in a completely new direction for future projects – AVOID.

 

She Monkeys, Released 18 May

Another of the more artistic releases of the month, the Swedish She Monkeys has been catching the eyes of critics in the nation and is released to a wider, international audience in the coming month. Telling the story of two teenage girls’ rivalry amongst an equestrian vaulting team, the picture has been lauded for its deeply cerebral and disturbing aspects, with a darkness to the film that heightens the viewing intensity, borrowing a number of its psychological elements from the excellent Black Swan.

Using a mainly non-professional cast emphasises the grittiness and reality of the She Monkeys world, and its success at film festivals in its native Sweden shows that a picture doesn’t have to be immaculately acted and produced in order to be engrossing and captivating. If it summons half the evocative imagery and excellently drawn and motivated characters as the gorgeous 2008’s Let the Right One In from the same nation, then this will be a surprising hit.

Watch/avoid: In a month saturated by comedy sequels and Sacha Baron Cohen rehashes, now might be the right time to venture outside of the box and view something with a bit more thought and pathos behind it ahead of blockbuster season – WATCH. Pick of the month.

 

Men in Black 3, Released 25 May

Finally this month we cover the return of the Men in Black franchise with Men in Black 3 reaching the screen fifteen years after the first instalment was released. With Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones returning in their roles in the comic sci-fi flick, the premise lies predominately in the former’s character venturing back in time in order to stop an alien assassination attempt on Jones’ character in 1969. While this perhaps is a crutch to excuse the now 65 year old Jones from some of the more adventurous action scenes, it does perhaps also serve the purpose of introducing Josh Brolin into the role to potentially star alongside Smith in a future instalment at the expense of Jones.

Again, as with American Reunion and The Dictator, Hollywood is relying on tried and tested formulae which have an audience intact from over a decade ago, but what this spells for Will Smith’s career remains to be seen. Obviously the offer from the 215 dollar production of MIB 3 was too good to refuse, yet after spending such a long time in his career distancing himself from comedy roles to establishing himself as an action star, a return to this franchise seems like a step in the wrong direction for the talented Smith. However Smith will likely be just energetic enough in the role to spin this picture into the positive it has the potential to be and bag the truly spectacular role that has been eluding him for a while now. As long as we don’t see another dip into the dire Wild West franchise, he should be fine though.

Watch/avoid: As it is a comedy month, this is up there with The Dictator to be most successful at the box office, however this picture perhaps edges the battle with the fondly remembered MIB concept having waited a decade since the last instalment – WATCH.

 

That does it for this month, be sure to let your thoughts be heard on these films and any not on the list that you’re dying to see in the comments section below and don’t forget to press the like button.     

 
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