Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Captain Phillips (2013)

Captain Phillips is a movie based off of a true story, very very loosely. It has been years since I looked into the actual story, and I have no real desire to do so again. I do remember the actual Captain Phillips being more of a coward, but given the situation, I can't really blame him for that. A quick google brings up a few stories to this point. The crew being outraged at how big of a lie it is, the Seals team saying the same thing about their portrayal. They even twist some of the factual details such as Phillips supposedly getting a e-mail saying he was to close to shore and needed to change his Route. In the movie it is simply a warning about increased Pirate attacks, though it does allege to the fact that he is sailing to far out earlier on. So why do I bring all this up? It is not to detour you from seeing the film, but more so to simply give you some insight into it. This movie is Nominated for a Oscar for Best Picture, and Barkhad Abdi is up for best supporting actor....he is the main pirate if you are unfamiliar like I was. So for those of you that followed the story when it happened, who may be turned off because of that knowledge, this section was for you. Don't let that be a reason not to see this movie. While changing the facts, and trying to portray Phillips as something he was not is wrong, if you can get past it, there is something honestly quite Fantastic here. 

The story follows....well Captain Phillips as his ship is attacked and taken over by Somali pirates. We see him try and use the in place procedures, and we see the military pretty much tell him to piss off. The actual Boarding scene is one of the more tense moments in the film, even though you already know what will happen. One thing I really liked was that the movie did not waste to much time on the set up for this though. Given its 2 hour plus run time, I honestly expected a lot of build up to that moment, and a lot of boredom. We are introduced to Phillips and his wife, we get a short talk about his family to make us care, and then we meet the crew. After that we learn about the pirates, and get some insight into how they operate, and then the movie just takes off running. From the time they set off after the boat, to the time everything in finally resolved, we rarely get a moment to rest. The tension is high, and along with all the suspense, the movie never got boring. While you don't really get much time with the crew, they have a few stand out roles, and you really do quickly come to care about them. Maybe that is why I felt one of the main components of the film fell flat for me. The movie isn't just about Phillips, the Somali's also have a story to tell. And while the movie did a great job of portraying them as villains, it also did a decent job at making them seem like the reluctant antagonist. I felt like it was trying to get me to like a few of them, and it did this by making it seem as if they were forced into this way of life. There is even a scene where the main pirate is discussing this with Phillips. However given the situation, and what was happening, I had trouble caring about them. Maybe it is because I am not in their situation, but I could not come to terms with that lifestyle not being a choice. And every time the crew or somebody else manage to get some offense in, it just made me happy. I never was sad to see harm come to the pirates, though I think I was supposed to.  

The story, while simple, works so well though mainly because of the actors. Chances are you like Tom Hanks, honestly how can you not? And he does fantastic with this role. Seeing him react to everything, and his ability to portray all the emotions that would come along in that situation, really drags you into the film. He never seems to miss a step, and paired with a well written script, he makes the movie. Barkhad Abdi plays Muse, the Captain of the Somali pirates. He was creepy, and had a eerie quality about him. While not a big guy, he was able to carry a role of fear quite well. I can see why he is up for a award, and frankly I think he deserves it. There are other roles in the film, but most of them do not get a lot of attention. A few notable people would be Michael Chernus as Phillips second in command. And Fayal Ahmed as Najee, another pirate. Chernus got to be heroic in his own way, and created some of the early on drama in the movie. While Ahmed played the crazy and just plain evil pirate who had you worried maybe they will just kill everybody.

Final thoughts, given the source material I can see why they choose to go a different route with the movie. Without spoiling anything, it honestly was one of the better movies I have seen in a long time. Everything was done so well, and the actors really pulled it all together. There are moments when you find yourself holding your breath, and you never quite feel certain about how its all going to end. Looking back on it, it seems like such a simple movie, and you wonder how it filled as much time as it did. But in the moment you don't notice that. If you haven't seen it yet, give it a try. It is at redbox now, so you are only losing $1.27 if you don't care for it. If you like suspense though, and don't mind some drama, I think you will enjoy this one.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Man of Steel

So I got a copy of this movie quite some time ago, and never could bring myself to watch it. Everything I had ever heard about the movie was negative, and never being much of a Superman fan myself...well I had no real interest in it. But a night of boredom, and after reaching the end of netflix, I figured what the hell. Surely this could not be as bad as everybody keeps making it out to be. So I put the dvd in, made some food, and sat down to watch one of the oddest movies I have seen in a long time.

I remember stories when the movie was in production, stuff about them changing Supes back story. His home world not being wiped out, or them changing the sex of a certain main role. I never really followed up on them, so I have no clue if they were just rumors of if the studio went back and made changes. But I can say Krypton goes boom, and Jimmy Olsen is either not in the movie, or is now named Jenny. They never said her last name, but it is pretty clear that is who she is supposed to be. They also changed the race of Perry White, but that is something they do quite often so it should not bother anybody. So unless you are just a die hard comic fan, and everything has to be just so, all the controversy really should not come in to play to much.

So let's get to the actual movie. The easiest way to describe it as a young teen. It is angsty, overly serious, and not very fun to be around. We get a decent back story showing the end of Krypton in the beginning. We see Zod try to rise to power, and then his banishment into the phantom zone. The whole scene is actually pretty well done, but it also serves as a great example for what is wrong with this movie. Which is in one word, Stupidity. Krypton is dying, everybody knows it. They have moments until the planet goes, and everybody along with it. So what do they do with the big bad Terrorist who just murdered quite a few of the planets higher ups? Well they blast him into space instead of simply letting him die on the planet. Not really sure who came up with that idea, but odd decisions are a constant theme in this movie. Later on Clark is a young lad, and he is on the school bus. The driver somehow goes off a bridge and the bus is in the water. It looks like everybody will drown, but Clark saves the day. What does Pa Kent tell him afterwards? Maybe he should have let them all die in order to keep a low profile.  The portrayal of Johnathan Kent is actually a pretty big point of contention of all the comic blogs. Some say his overly depressing view points make sense, but others point out it is in no way similar to the established versions of the character we already have. I will tell you this, I turned off the movie 3 times before finishing it. Most of those were because of Johnathan Kent. Whats bad is the school bus scene, was not even the worst part about him in the entire film.

So we now have a film, with actually pretty good acting, but horrible everything else. The story telling is decent, but the story is garbage. Zod is pure awesome, but without a good lead to play off of, he just seems wasted. I think Henry Cavill did a good job as superman, and I am glad he is playing the role again in the upcoming Superman vs Batman. But hopefully they give him better material to work with this time. Also maybe let him actually be Superman, instead of whatever this crap is Zack Snyder came up with. It was like when Batman started growling every line, but times 100. There is a part in the film where we find out what the "S" on Supes chest stands for. On Krypton it was the symbol for hope, which is fitting given that is what Superman is supposed to be. Sadly though Snyder's version does not come across that way. We see Superman destroying large portions of a very populated city while fighting, most of which is entirely avoidable. He even tosses the bad guys into a few populated buildings and a gas station at one point. I have no clue how many innocents Superman killed in this movie, but it had to be quite a few. He also kills one of the villains in a conflict that did not really call for that kind of ending. In the comics, Superman has killed before. But it is a last resort, and something he absolutely refuses to do unless needed. That was not the case in this situation, there were many other ways to move forward. And while they would have all made things harder for Clark in the long run, they would have all been more in character then what we were given.

Redeeming points of the film? Well the effects were cool to see, and Amy Adams is attractive. Other then that though? I don't really know. The fights could have been done better, and the final conflict was simply them punching each other over and over again with no real effect. Plus with all the annoyances that were stupid choices throughout the movie, I never stopped being angry at the film. Between this and the last Batman movie, maybe DC should just take a break.