Tag: Review

Iron Man

Iron Man [2008]

Director: Jon Favreau
Actor: Robert Downey Jr.Terrence HowardJeff BridgesGwyneth PaltrowJon Favreau

Iron Man is the next in a long procession of movies based on characters in the Marvel comics universe. Some of these movies were pretty good (X-Men, X2), and some were pretty bad (the rest). One of the things that takes away from these movies is the notion that all of them must develop into mega-movie franchises, and so they’re entirely geared up towards that. The stories are written in such a way that they can be picked up, which is fine if it actually does get picked up, but if it doesn’t, then I start to get irritated by the high number of loose ends in the initial film. Also, to set up a franchise costs quite a bit of money, and in order for there to be sufficient return on investment they try to make the movie appeal to everyone, effectively turning it into a family movie, leaving the option open for action figures and lunch-boxes. I could go on listing the reasons why a movie that is supposed to be a deliberate franchise is usually a flaming bag of dogshit, but I’ll leave it at this and conclude that usually they don’t really appeal to me. Iron Man, in all its attempts to set up a massive mega-movie franchise, was actually quite fun to watch. And before you jump down my throat while reading the rest of my review, I said it was fun, not good.

Tony Stark (Downey) is a sexy, rock and roll, billionaire, genius, engineer-slash-CEO of Stark Enterprises, a massive multinational, primarily developing and manufacturing arms. When he is in Afghanistan to demonstrate Jericho, a new missile system, to the American military, he gets kidnapped by some very determined “terrorists,” who lock him up in a cave with some other dude and force him to build them a Jericho missile. He’s a good patriot, however, and tries to resist them for, like, eleven seconds before he agrees. Nefarious little Tony decides to build a super-suite instead to bust out of his cavern prison and succeeds.

Oh, wait, let’s back up just a second; ironically, during his kidnapping he gets wounded by a shrapnel bomb, built by his own company. When he wakes up in a cave, they have installed a big electromagnet right over his heart so that the small slivers of shrapnel in his bloodstream are kept from moving into his heart, which would surely kill him. Tired of lugging a carbattery around, he decides to use the supplies given to him in order to build a Jericho missile in order to build a tiny nuclear fusion reactor instead. So while faced with his own demise, he perfects nuclear fusion…in a cave! That should be the end of the movie, since he should just go back to the real world, publish his findings and everyone would have free, clean energy for the rest of humanity’s existence, ending all war, eradicating hunger and strife.

But no. He goes back after the dude who was in the cave with him, who saved his life on two occassions, dies during Tony’s escape in his super-suite and tells him to change his life around and become a philantropist-slash-superhero.

Anyway, he’s back in the real world and immediately announces that his company will cease arms manufacturing and concentrate fully on renewable energy instead. Obidiah (Bridges), his father’s best friend and long-time advisor to Tony, gets a little pissed off at that and tries to overthrow Tony as head of Stark Enterprises. Tony is blind to this as he works day and night to build a new suite, a better suite, with working rocket boosters, elbow-lasers and airconditioning. When he’s done, he transforms into Iron Man, superhero and alround-do-gooder!

Oh, the reason why I know this is supposed to be a franchise is because of the little short extra clip at the end of the credits, which is kinda worth the wait.

Jon Favreau directed this film, which is a surprise, because I thought he was all about Indie-projects, but I must admit, considering what an empty, contentless script it was, he did a really good job. So did Downey, who basically reprised his Kiss Kiss-roll only was now that guy with a suite and money. I liked Kiss Kiss a lot, and I like seeing Downey play that goofy character. Actually, that’s exactly what made this movie fun (not good); Downey is hilarious and has great comedic timing. It never occurred to me during Kiss Kiss, though it should’ve, but he’s very funny. And to think that the first movie I ever saw him in was Weird Science. That should’ve clued me in, right? :)

Appleseed: Ex Machina

Appleseed: Ex Machina [2007]

Director: Shinji Aramaki
Writer: Masamune Shirow
Producer: John Woo

The first time I saw the original Appleseed was with Sam, by accident, because I had heard that the writer of Appleseed was also responsible for that piece of wank called Dominion Tank Police. Of course, I hadn’t realised that the guy was also responsible for all the Ghost in the Shell stuff, which is, arguably, the best damned anime I’ve ever seen. It was much like GitS in the way that it was fast-paced, gritty, mature, and dealt with some deeply philosophical subject matter. It did, however, deviate a little bit into Dominion Tank Police land, where the biggest Japanese, cultural mystery lies; their facination with the combination of super-cute and hyper-violent. It’s something that I can’t wrap my head around too well. In my experience, everything that’s hyper-violent is hardly ever cute, but those guys gobble that shit up like it’s eggs on toast. The cuter and deadlier the jailbait, the better. Anyway, Appleseed certainly had a tendecy to go there at times, but luckily they kept it to a minimum and focused more on the ravaged world, the rebuilt society, the constant threat of terrorism, and the introduction of so-called “bioroids,” synthetically generated humans, gengineered to have none of the negative human emotions, like greed, anger, jealousy, etc.

In this episode of Appleseed the story still revolves around Deunan Knute, the young, brash but gifted officer at ES.W.A.T., a paramilitary organisation working hard to keep the streets of Olympus safe in the year 2199. The world has been ravaged by decades of war and a vast majority of the world’s population has perished. In order to replenish the global population to a workable level gengineered humans, or Bioriods, are created, who are indistinguishable from humans, except that they have no propensity for violence.

Deunan’s partner at ES.W.A.T. is Briareos, a cyborg, and her lover. Before Briareos was critically injured trying to save Deunan from an enemy grenade, they loved eachother deeply but had yet to really start admitting that to one another. After that tragic incident, Briareos’ radically altered physique was always a barrier for them to get truly romantically involved. After Briareos gets injured while on a mission (see movie below), the Olympus council decide to use his genetic tissue to start making Bioriods, and the first to come off the assembly line is Tereus, who looks and acts exactly like Briareos, which confuses Deunan deeply, especially when she is partnered with him during Briareos’ recovery period.

When the Olympus council tries to get a hold of every remaining nation’s sattelite system, in order to combine it into a sophisticated network of sattelites to counter terrorism they get unexpected support from one of the largest industrial corporations left on the planet; Poseidon. One of their newest products, Connexus, a small, portable, wireless device that allows users any number of conveniences (think a VR-Blackberry on steroids), has shown some glitches and they are willing to make repairs in order to safe their corporate backsides. Secretely, unbeknownst even to Poseidon, a disgruntled employee is using these devices to link every consciousness on the planet together into one big hive-mind. Cue rapid violence and stunning visuals.

As said, the visuals are absolutely stunning. As with the first Appleseed, which wasn’t fully 3D yet, a lot of the visuals are there simply to impress the fuck out of you, and you know what? It does just that! The only thing they haven’t really mastered yet is how to make people look a) detailed, b) ugly. I’m sure that in 2199 there are some women left without a perfect 10 body and some men left with a beer-gut.

The story gets a little confusing sometimes, especially when you’re watching the Japanese version, as I did, and you’re watching it with horrible subtitles. In the end it all makes sense, logically, but the jarring things are mostly those things that are way out of proportion. A secret Poseidon laboratory the size of a city, hovering half a kilometer above the ground like some massive conglomerates of Borg ships. “Oh, I remember that place, I know where it is,” Briareos says like he drives past it on his way to work every day. Yeah, it’s a massive upside down pyramid made of Borg ships hovering half a kilometer above the ground, eclipsing the sun for miles around, I’m sure you have!

Anyway, as far as the quality of the anime, I prefer GitS, but there’s little that can touch that gem. Appleseed isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it does lack a certain depth. It has about the same depth as an average Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex episode, for those of you who know what that means. :)


Primer [2004]

Director: Shane Carruth
Actor: Shane CarruthDavid Sullivan
Writer: Shane Carruth

Abe and Aaron work full time jobs as engineers. In their spare time they work on creating a new superconductor out of Aaron’s garage together with two others. A creative difference drives the group of four apart, and Abe and Aaron focus themselves fully on the superconductor. They build a small prototype, and for the longest time they can’t get it to work. Once they finally do, they notice strange things about the machine that they can’t quite explain yet. When one of the test samples shows signs of a build up of exellerated fungal proteine they struggle to understand what’s happening. If their sample spends some time in the machine, it comes out with enough fungal proteine on it equally five or six years of time passage. Slowly but surely they realise they have accidentally discovered a way to influence time. They both become obsessed by the machine and finally manage to develop the machine to the point where they can travel six hours back in time. The only problem is that they leave behind duplicates of themselves…

This movie is absolutely amazing. Complicated and hard to follow, but amazing. If you like Pi, then go and see this film. It boggles my mind, but in a good way. Also, it won the top award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and it was made at a budget of $7000, but manages to never look cheap. Wow, wow, wow.

The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski [1998]

Director: Ethan CoenJoel Coen
Actor: Jeff BridgesJohn GoodmanJulianne MooreSteve BuscemiPhilip Seymour HoffmanPeter StormareJohn Turturro

If there had been a machine that could distill all the cool and awesome out of every cool and awesome thing that has ever happened, ever, I’m sure that some of that pure coolness and awesome ended up in this particular Coen Brothers movie. I must’ve seen this film at least half a dozen times, and it continues to make me laugh as much the last time as it did the first.

The story is about The Dude (Bridges), a lazy, unemployed guy without a care in the world, bowling his time away with his friends Walter (Goodman) and Donnie (Buscemi). He shares his real name, Jeff Lebowski, with an old, rich and vain man who has a young, trophy wife who is an ex-pornstar whose escapades all over town leads her to owe money to known pornographer Jackie Treehorn. Treehorn sends his goons to retrieve the money, but these boneheads shake down the wrong Lebowski; The Dude. In the process, one of them, in an act of fuck-offedness, pisses on The Dude’s rug, ruining it forever. The Dude decides to talk to The Big Lebowski to get compensated for his loss. By the time he does so, Bunny, the ex-pornstar wife of The Big Lebowski, is kidnapped, and Lebowski wants The Dude to help in delivering the ransom money. The Dude gets caught up in a big conspiracy, with feints within feints. Hilarity ensues.

The acting is top-notch. Jeff Bridges usually does these really straight-laced roles, but here draws together every aspect of lazy together in a great, great character. John Goodman plays a tremendously disturbed ‘Nam veteran, obviously intelligent and well-read, but dealing with intense rages. Julianne Moore plays Maude Lebowski, The Big Lebowski’s eccentric daughter, is a bit of a caricature, but one that’s very lovable in her weird way.

The Coen Brothers don’t necessarily have all the best movies, perhaps most of them are pretty good, but for me they’re not all very enjoyable (Oh, Brother… for instance), but they certainly know how to make a movie that falls outside the norm that Hollywood preaches. They make refreshing and exciting films that defy the normal formula, and therefore remain unpredictable.

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle [2004]

Director: Danny Leiner
Actor: John ChoKal PennNeil Patrick Harris

Harold (Cho) is a Korean-American investment banker. Well, he’s a junior, which means he does all the work while his seniors go to meetings and lunches and hang around the coffee machine all day. Kumar (Penn) is an Indian-American student, extremely intelligent and gifted and has a natural knack for medicine, just like his successful and demanding father and brother. They’re roommates and they like to get high together, during which they usually come up with bone-headed plans and get into all kinds of trouble. Harold feels in a funk because he’s in love with Maria, the girl that lives in the next apartment, but doesn’t dare to approach her, on top of that he’s being fucked by his senior co-workers to do all the work. Kumar is busy rebelling against his father’s wishes that he goes to med-school, and doesn’t take any of his application interviews seriously.

One night, Harold needs to do a lot of work, but Kumar convinces him to get high together. While high, they see a commercial for White Castle on television, a fast-food chain the likes of Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s. There’s one difference between White Castle and the rest of the chains; their burgers are like little bits of heaven. Of course, being high and having the munchies, they go on a quest to find the nearest White Castle and have some of these burgers.

During their quest they run into all kinds of trouble, get arrested, meet two hot diarrhea-loving British chicks, a weed-obsessed hippy, bigot punks, and a near-sociopathic, drugged out Neil Patrick Harris, the guy who used to play Dougie Howser, MD. All the while Harold tries to come to terms with his love for Maria, and Kumar tries to come to terms with the fact that he’s going to be an outstanding doctor.

This is a film in the Bill & Ted-genre of film, and it suffers from all the same problems, while still being incredibly entertaining. I can’t wait for the next installment, out this year, called Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay!