It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these, but I’m hoping to start doing them a lot more often — along with a complete site refresh. And despite having a whole lot more to say, I figured this was the best film to restart with.
After rewatching Man of Steel for the third time, I still do not vehemently hate it as much as everyone else does. Yes, it changes the character irrevocably and yes, it really does feel like it should have been called Superman Begins with how closely it plays alongside the story beats of Batman Begins. But it is an entertaining and bold film, and one that actually made me like the character of Superman. No small feat since I have always been Team Batman.
I give credit mostly to Henry Cavill. He needs to stop yelling so much, but he brings a greater sense of gravitas to the role than anyone before. Christopher Reeve is the definitive Superman no doubt, but his take was larger than life. Cavill’s is more down to earth, more gritty and more real. We no longer look at him like he is an alien from another planet. We look at him like he is an extraordinary human being who can do things no one else can. And I think that alone makes him a stronger and more believable character.
The Gift got lost in the shuffle before TIFF earlier this year. I had heard increasingly great things about the average-looking thriller, and finally found some time to see it at the end of the summer. And now I regret not encouraging more people to check it out too. From the moment the film starts, it is anything but average.
Joel Edgerton (who was terrific in the under appreciated Black Mass) writes, directs and stars in this suspenseful gem that starts off akin to Fatal Attraction, before becoming its own scary thing entirely. It is easily one of the most unsettling films I have seen all year. It is the rare film that feels creepy and leaves you disturbed long after its twisty finale. The camera lingers too long on some moments, and adds some genuine horror to others. You expect some flaws from a first-time director, but Edgerton is a pro and makes you feel every range of emotion possible over the course of The Gift‘s lean 110-minute running time. Not one moment feels wasted, and it never really slows down. Edgerton is great in his supporting role, and Rebecca Hall is even better.
But the real standout is Jason Bateman. He plays the slimy prick character he has nearly perfected since Arrested Development, but he is completely devoid of all comedy here. And Edgerton taps into that archetype and turns it on its head, giving us what might be the best performance of Bateman’s career (Teen Wolf Too notwithstanding). It just feels so natural and brings a dramatic gravitas that you would have never expected from him. What easily could have been phoned in turns into a perception altering game changer. I have long waited for him to try something different, and hope he continues to be more daring in his future roles.
When Pixels came out earlier this year, everyone took their turns hating on it. I was excited to see it because of the Toronto connection (I walked through a literal war zone near my girlfriend’s apartment on Queen West), but there was not much else drawing me to it. And after watching the movie, I can say I did make the right decision skipping the theatre.
It’s not that Pixels is a bad movie — no, it is certainly far from. There is a lot of fun and wild imagination going into some of the battles with classic 1980’s video game characters. If you know the characters and the games, then you will be astounded by some of the details that have gone into bringing these characters to life. And they all look and sound authentic to the time period — a feat in itself considering the money that must have gone into licensing them all (Mario shows up for a brief cameo, and I’m sure that alone cost millions). It reminded me a lot of the wonder I had watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when I was a kid, and the fascination I have to this day of seeing Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse talking to each other.
Another Blu-ray/DVD release #ShortCuts review for you this week — this time for Cameron Crowe’s Aloha. Pretty proud of how quickly I wrote this one up. It came out a lot longer than I thought it would. But trust me, be glad I saw it and you didn’t.
Remember when I was complaining about how awful Hot Pursuit was a few weeks back? Well, I had the privilege of watching Aloha a short time later – and I think I may have found the worst movie of the year. Even that retched excuse called The Wedding Ringer was better than whatever the hell this is. Is it a comedy? Is it a romance? Is it a drama? Is it some hybrid mix of the three with thinly veiled allusions and commentaries on…everything? I could not tell you for the life of me, and I doubt writer/director Cameron Crowe could either.
Now it may sound like I am just jumping on the bandwagon and bashing this movie like everyone else did when it was released in May. But I am a huge Crowe fan – Almost Famous is legitimately one of my top five favourite films of all time. I love Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything…, Vanilla Sky and Jerry Maguire, and I did not hate Elizabethtown or We Bought A Zoo (Singles is sitting in a pile of movies waiting to be watched). But Aloha is easily the worst film he has ever done. It just lacks any form of cohesive story, the performances are all wasted, and it just comes off like a total disaster. I can readily admit I was not fully paying attention at all times, but it felt like the film had new ideas being introduced every 15 minutes, and then fully resolved without much conflict quickly afterwards.
As a writer, my problem has consistently been brevity. I always write too much and tend to overwrite in some cases. So as an exercise, I’ve devised #ShortCuts — short, timed reviews that I write within 15-minutes, check for spelling and grammar, and that’s it. The idea is a bit daunting for someone who has never really been limited with what he writes, but it’s something I’m keen to try out. I will continue writing long form reviews, but may try to post these a few times every few weeks and see if it helps make my writing a bit more concise.
With that, here are my #ShortCuts reviews for Hot Pursuit and Unfriended, both hitting Blu-ray/DVD this week.