Thor: The Dark World

I have few complaints for Thor: The Dark World. It had great humor and is a decent action flick. I was not a fan of the first film, mostly because I don’t particularly care about Thor’s mythology and I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. In Thor: The Dark World, the characters have been solidified very effectively by this point, thanks to the first Thor and The Avengers, and I felt more invested in the story this time around.

I will not recap the film for this review, but that does not mean that it won’t contain any spoilers.

Pros:

Similar to how The Avengers had major impacts on Tony Stark in Iron Man 3Thor: The Dark World touches on how Thor and Loki have been effected by the events of the ensemble film. Thor is a very different character here from what he was like in the first Thor. He’s no longer the arrogant, brash character from the first film – now he’s quiet and dissatisfied with his life in Asgard. Unfortunately, due to this Thor’s personality is kind of forgettable – all the “fish out of water” qualities that made him memorable from the first film are gone. Luckily he still kicks ass and has his funny moments.

Loki is still the woobie that everybody loves to fangirl over, but he’s still mischievous as ever. The film never reveals Loki’s true motives, which keeps him interesting and mysterious. He fakes his death and is revealed to be impersonating Odin at the end of the film, so I, along with many others I assume, are looking forward to what he may do next.

The action in this movie was awesome. Especially when the portals were used to mix up the setting during the fight scenes. Everything was fast paced and exciting. The humor in the film is also very good, especially because of Erik, with his mental breakdown (consequences of being mind controlled by Loki in The Avengers), and Darcy’s banter with her intern.

Cons:

Jane. Jane’s character is so awfully bland. Try describing her character. Do it. I bet you can’t. The best I got is that she does science shit. And by science shit, I mean she has this GPS thing that pretty much does all her work for her. She only becomes integral to the plot because of an “oops.” Actually, that’s the whole reason the plot of this film exists. “Oops. I happened to fall through a portal that happened to lead to the exact location of this evil red mist, which happened to infect me and then happened to wake up the big bad. Now he’s after me so he can use the evil red mist to destroy the world. LOL oops guys, my bad.” Yeah, Jane’s character is pretty lame and all she does is fuck shit up in a stupid way. Not to mention she’s pretty much the reason why Thor and Loki’s mother, Frigga, dies. Way to go Jane.

And speaking of bland characters, the main villain for this film is so boring. Nothing about him really entertained me. He brings no personality and isn’t generally likable, even in a villainous way. He’s just physically strong enough to fight Thor one-on-one during the climax and has an army big enough to rough up Asgard a descent amount. Okay, don’t get me wrong, he kicked a lot of ass during this film, but his character is so uninteresting he’s absolutely forgettable.

Short review for today, but overall Thor: The Dark World is one of those films that will leave you thinking, “That was awesome,” without compelling you to see it a second time.

Iron Man 3

Okay I apologize, I’m writing this review super duper late. I saw Iron Man 3 the second day it was out in theaters and there’s really no reason for the delay of this post. I actually started this review a month ago, but put it on hiatus. I’d like to blame my finals, graduation, and the ensuing summer, but really it was just laziness. Anyway, better late then never, right? Again, with all my reviews SPOILERS ENSUE.

The plot:

In the first five minutes of the film we witness a flashback, back before Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., created Iron Man, back when he was more douchey and sleeping with a new girl each week. We are introduced to Maya Hansen, played by Rebecca Hall, a botanist with an explosive plant (we’ll get back to her later), and to a physically disabled character who goes by the name of Aldrich Killian (seriously weirdest fucking name ever, Killian is a first name, but whatever), played by Guy Pearce. Killian invites Tony to become a part of his company. Of course Tony, being the douche that he is, falsely tells Killian that he will meet him outside to discuss this business proposition, leaving Killian to wait outside in freezing temperatures alone.

At this point it’s already obvious that Aldrich Killian will be our main villain for the next 2 hours. Why is it obvious? Because Killian is introduced as a new character, Tony is a dick to him, and while this flashback is occurring, Tony is monologuing about his “inner demons.” The writers are setting up past actions that lead to consequences that take place later in the film. The flashback ends and, in present time, we are introduced to Aldrich Killian again, but he has cured his disability under unknown circumstances. Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, notices this change (he honestly looked like a bum in the flashback), but doesn’t question how he cured his disability. She just says he looks great. Er… Pepper? Your’re not gonna ask him how he can now stand with perfect posture? No? Okay then…

Killian wows Pepper with technology that his company, Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.), has developed, resulting in a brief moment where Pepper looks like she might have the hots for him, which could possibly form a romantic rift between her and Tony. This goes nowhere and any sexual tension between her and Killian is never brought up again. If anything, the scene just helped solidify the nature of Killian’s character (evil!ahem).

While this is happening, a terrorist known as the Mandarin is planting bombs throughout America and is hacking public television programs to taunt American citizens and the President. Happy Hogan, played by Jon Favreau, picks up on Killian’s sketchiness and follows Killian’s henchman to Hollywood Boulevard. The henchman gives a drug to an unknown man – this drug causes the man to explode, which results in Happy becoming hospitalized for the remainder of the film. After this incident, Tony publicly challenges the Mandarin, causing an attack on his house by the henchman. Due to suit malfunctions, Tony is unable to save his home and plummets into the ocean, while Pepper and the public believe him to be dead.

Tony’s suit then autopilots him to Tennessee, where one of the Mandarin bombings had previously occurred. Alone and out of batteries, Tony shacks up in a garage, where he meets ten-year-old Harley, played by Ty Simpkins, who helps him recharge his drained Iron Man suit. The moments between Tony and Harley are great, they have a really funny chemistry and the audience laughed at almost all of the dialogue the two of them had together.

Interestingly, I was reminded of The Iron Giant once Harley was introduced. He has a single mom who works at a diner (similar to Hogarth’s mom), he has to help hide Tony from the bad guys (similar to Hogarth hiding the Giant from the government), and there’s even a scene when parts of Tony’s Iron Man suit are flying out of Harley’s garage (similar to when the Giant’s body parts fuse back together at the end of the film). I don’t know if the writers were trying to do this on purpose, but I liked the similarities.

In a mansion located somewhere in Miami, Killian is patiently waiting for the Mandarin to arrive and send out a broadcast about their attack on Tony Stark. As the Mandarin is approaching, everyone keeps saying “The Master is approaching”, “Get ready for the Master.” During this scene, it’s made kind of obvious that the Mandarin is not actually the guy leading the attacks. We know Killian is the main villain, he has a more personal conflict with Tony, while the Mandarin is merely the face of a terrorist. The writers were really trying to set up the Mandarin as this powerful character, but they kinda ruined the surprise by forcing it. “The Master” my ass.

Harley takes Tony to the site of the bombing where several people lost their lives. Tony discovers that the bomber was involved in an Extremis experiment, which is an experimental regenerative treatment intended to allow recovery from crippling injuries. However, a subject explodes when their body rejects the experiment. The Mandarin was set up to cover-up the flaws of Extremis as terrorist attacks.

Tony heads to Miami without his Iron Man suit and discovers that the man who calls himself the Mandarin is merely an actor hired by Killian (big shocker). Tony is captured and finds out that Maya Hansen helped create Extremis (remember the botanist with the exploding plant?) and that she and Killian captured Potts and were subjecting her to Extremis treatments. Hansen has a last minute change of heart and Killian kills her immediately. Nice knowing she was an important character and all that…

During this time, James Rhodes, played by Don Cheadle, the superhero Iron Patriot (formerly known as War Machine), is kidnapped by Killian. Killian uses the Iron Patriot suit to infiltrate Air Force One and kidnap the President of the United States. Tony escapes and reunites with Rhodes and they head to an oil tanker where Killian is holding both Pepper and the President. Tony reveals that he has built a small army of Iron Man suits, controlled remotely by JARVIS, which he releases on the oil tanker to face off against Killian’s Extremis minions.

Rhodes saves the President while Tony finds Pepper. Before he can save her, the tanker falls apart below them and she falls to a fiery death. OR DOES SHE?!?! Tony doesn’t mourn too long over her fall and the movie promptly moves on, making it obvious that she survived the fall due to the Extremis treatment.

Tony and Killian face off. Tony gets the upper hand and blows Killian up. Interestingly, Killian survives and his body reforms. Pepper shows up, no surprise there really, revealing that she too has powers given to her by Extremis. She fights Killian and is able to kill him. Later, through Tony’s narration, Pepper is healed of her Extremis treatment and Tony himself gets the shrapnel pieces in his chest removed. Despite not needing the reactor in his chest anymore, Tony says that he will always be Iron Man.

My thoughts:

Iron Man 3 is a badly written film hidden under a veil of funny dialogue and a charismatic Robert Downey Jr.

The biggest issue I had with the movie was that it was incredibly predictable. Killian isn’t a subtle character and we’re able to determine that he’s the villain the moment he appears on screen. The writers forced this idea of “The Mandarin” too sloppily for us to fall for it. The reveal that the Mandarin was an actor the whole time didn’t come as a surprise and was underwhelming , though I did like the character, Trevor Slattery, played by Ben Kingsley, when he wasn’t acting as the Mandarin (he has some funny lines). There’s even a surprisingly dumb moment where Tony is slow to realize that confidential documents from an organization called M.I.A actually belong to A.I.M (really Tony? Slow day there?). Even the scene of Pepper’s death isn’t dramatic enough to ensure us that she’s actually dead, making it obvious that she’s fine. Because of all these predictable moments, the movie sufferes by becoming boring.

The powers that the veterans receive through Extremis are often inconsistent. I don’t really understand why their powers cause the Iron Man suits to malfunction. As far as I understand Extremis powers consist of pyrokinesis and regeneration abilities, so how can they render the suits useless? Also, the henchman character survives multiple wounds and beatings, but then he dies after getting a hole shot through his chest. Later Killian’s entire body gets blown up, but he recovers from it only to be killed in a similar fashion by Pepper. And speaking of Pepper, not only does she get the Extremis powers after treatment, but she also becomes a martial arts master or something. Seriously, she starts flipping around and punches right through an Iron Man suit in mid-air. It looked cool and all to see her suddenly become kick-ass, but it was more ridiculous than anything. It also really bothered me that curing her of Extremis was an easy fix and didn’t have any serious consequences.

One part I liked about the film was that it focused on the psychological backlash Tony received after the events of The Avengers. He now suffers from anxiety attacks. Robert Downey Jr. acts out his attacks well (I have experienced anxiety attacks myself, and he portrays their effects pretty accurately). What I like most about this development was that, despite Tony being a superhero, he can still buckle under stress over the things he encounters. He fought aliens and almost died in a different dimension, so I’m glad that the writers touched upon his recovery from such an experience.

Overall, I felt like the writers didn’t really care about the plot enough to make it interesting in any way, that or they weren’t trying very hard. I think the writers knew their plot was lacking severely and did their best to make the film incredibly funny, which it was. I was laughing out loud to most of the dialogue, and of course having Robert Downey Jr. as the leading actor made the film enjoyable enough. Iron Man 3 is not a film that I’m going to attempt to watch again, but if you enjoy watching Robert Downey Jr. being the awesome actor that he is, it will be worth your time.

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Just got home from watching The Great Gatsby, so I figured why not give my two cents? This is not a recap, so there aren’t really any SPOILERS.

I will not do a comparison between the film and the book for this review. I have only read the book twice, and it has been three years since I’ve last read it. I will do my best to remember parts of it, but I honestly should have read the book again before watching the film.

Initially, after I saw the trailer for the first time, I was very excited to see Gatsby. I was at fist taken aback by how shiny everything looked, but I liked the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio and Carrey Mulligan as Gatsby and Daisy, and the more I saw the trailers they more my interest grew. My excitement for Gatsby crashed and burned the moment I learned who was directing the film: Baz Luhrmann. Luhrmann’s past films include Romeo + Juliet and The Moulin Rouge, and while I cannot say much about Romeo + Juliet (I haven’t seen it in eight years), I’m not a fan of The Moulin Rouge. I do not like his directing style. Luhrmann focuses primarily on the looks of the film rather than the content. Moulin Rouge is filmed to the brim with clichés, over acting, and character motives that don’t make sense. Not going to lie, his sets look amazing and I love looking at his films, however he makes the movie so fast-paced that the audience hardly has enough time to focus on one shot before it cuts away to another one.

Gatsby is no exception to Luhrmann’s directing style. We move through the movie like how Gatsby drives his car, carelessly and rushed. This became an issue when the film flies through certain important scenes, like the scene when Tom, played by Joel Edgerton, slaps Myrtle, played by Isla Fisher, in front of Nick and their friends. It just sort of happens while Nick narrates over it and the film promptly moves on. Tom breaks his mistress’ nose, but that’s not really important, let’s continue. It bothered me that Luhrmann felt the need to hurry scenes like this.

The first half of the film is definitely guilty of being fast-paced and full of glossy splendor. Honestly, everything in this movie, except for the “valley of ashes,” looks like it’s covered in shrink wrap or made of hard plastic. We shoot from one scene to the other of brilliant looking settings that switch off looking like real sets to CGI constructions. We are introduced to our narrator, Nick Carraway, played by Toby Maguire, a newcomer to New York City and neighbor of the mysterious Jay Gatsby. We aren’t introduced to Gatsby for a while, so in the meantime Nick goes on to meet with his cousin, Daisy, her husband Tom Buchanan, and Jordan Baker, played by Elizabeth Debicki.

I found the introduction of Daisy to be filmed rather awkwardly. Actually, both her and Gatsby are introduced rather laughably. Daisy’s revealing is through the use of excessive flowing white curtains and her giggling excitedly on a sofa, while oddly playing with her hands in the air above her head. I understand that there’s a white theme that surrounds Daisy throughout the novel, but I don’t really understand Luhrmann’s sense of direction here. I guess he thought it would appear “artistic,” but really it’s just odd. Gatsby’s revealing actually made me laugh out loud. He turns to Carraway while raising a glass in slow motion as fireworks explode in the air behind him. The addition of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” playing in the background of the scene, in an attempt to make the scene even MORE epic, was just too forced to not be funny.

Speaking of “Rhapsody in Blue,” the soundtrack for this film was so out of place, I found it distracting. All of the music done for this film is modern music done by current artists, such as Lana Del Rey, Florence + The Machine, Beyoncé, Gotye, Sia, will.i.am, Fergie, Nero, The xx, Andre 300, and more. The first few songs, “100$ Bill,” “Back to Black,” and “Bang Bang,” are rap/hip-hop songs and I don’t really know why. Why weren’t songs more suited for the time used? “Rhapsody in Blue” was actually composed during that time period, but the rest of the songs took me out of the film. The whole film felt like it was a 20’s themed college party rather than something that actually took place during the 20’s.

I did like the scenes depicting Gatsby’s parties. I loved how grand they looked, with all the people dancing, jumping into the pool, and dressed in those awesome 20’s dresses and suits. I wanted to partake in these parties rather than watch on the other side of a screen. These scenes made more sense with Luhrmann’s fast directing and editing style, so they were really the only scenes I enjoyed during the first half of the film. Only after Gatsby and Daisy finally meet again, which was a nice quiet scene, does the movie slow its pace and become a little more focused.

I liked the acting in this film. DiCaprio is a talented actor and he played Gatsby’s desperate love and frustration towards Daisy really well. I also liked Mulligan’s performance. I couldn’t help but compare her to Mia Farrow’s performance of Daisy in the 1974 adaption of the novel (which I hated). Farrow was very over the top with her performance, so over the top that I pretty much laughed at Daisy the whole time and found her annoying. Mulligan was far more subtle, and I felt a little sorry for her, having Gatsby pressure her to leave her husband and being confused by her feelings towards both men.

The only problems I had with casting and characters were Toby Maguire and Jordan Baker respectively. I didn’t like that Maguire was cast as Nick only because I don’t like his voice. Having to listen to him constantly talking in this monotonous tone during the entire film was almost unbearable. The problem I had with Jordan Baker was that she was a little inconsistent. She’s first portrayed as this uninterested character, nothing fazes her nor does she seem particularly engaged in anything. The next time she’s on screen she’s excited and overcome by Gatsby’s party and she suddenly has interest in Nick. Then the next time we see her she’s back to her bored expression and “whatever” attitude. I don’t remember if that’s how she was written in the book, but her portrayal here bugged me.

It’s 3:00am now and I’m finding it hard to stay awake and think of further opinions I have of this film. Overall, I knew I was going to be disappointed by the film before I saw it. I honestly believe that most of the film’s flaws are due to Luhrmann’s direction. I wish a better director was handed the film, perhaps then it could have been handled more steadily and had been better paced.

Psy – “Gentleman”

Roughly two weeks ago, one of my anonymous followers on my Tumblr asked me what my thoughts are on Psy’s new single, “Gentleman.” I’ve decided to take what I said in my response and expand on it here:

I actually hadn’t seen the music video nor heard the song by the time my anonymous follower asked me what I thought. I had heard that Psy did have a new single, but never had the urge to check it out because I knew it wouldn’t be as memorable as “Gangnam Style” (in a similar fashion to how Rebecca Black’s second single was nowhere near as popular as “Friday”). He already set the bar too high with “Gangnam Style.” There was no way “Gentleman” was going to be as popular and it was definitely going to disappoint people no matter what.

I don’t find the song to be particularly catchy. It doesn’t have that much energy and it has this annoying beat in the background. I honestly didn’t get into it and I could have gone without ever listening to it. And this is coming from someone who actually listens to and enjoys Korean Pop. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the lyrics, since I do not understand Korean.

The video is trying way to hard to replicate the randomness and humor of “Gangnam Style.” The director to the music video is Jo Soo-hyun, the same director of the “Gangnam Style” video, and it shows. I think Soo-hyun was trying to recreate what made “Gangnam Style”’s video the hit that it is, because they both have similar elements: Psy doing weird things in front of strangers, the primary dance, and shots that take place throughout the Gangnam District in South Korea. It even has some of the same characters from “Gangnam Style,” Yoo Jae-suk (guy in yellow suit) and Noh Hong-chul (hip thrust guy). This is something that viewers have all seen before, so none of this is shocking anymore. I also found the video to be cliched. Psy’s singing about how he’s such a gentleman, yet in the video he’s doing non-gentlemanly things. Hur hur, get it? Though knowing Psy and his sense of humor, this is kinda expected.

The primary dance used for “Gentleman,” from what I’ve read, originated from a different KPop group, Brown Eyed Girls, in 2009. According to Psy, this dance is well known to the Korean populous. As an American, I have never seen this dance, nor do I find it all that interesting. I preferred “Gangnam Style”‘s dance, and how it resembled riding a horse. This dance is a simple swaying of the hips, which isn’t all that energetic or interesting.

The problem is that everyone has already seen Psy and his antics, so it’s not as much as a shock as it was last time. It’s still going to get millions of views, cause people are curious to see what Psy will do next. Problem is, it’s the exact same thing he’s shown us before, and it’s not as entertaining the second time around. I still respect Psy and his style of music. He’s been a performer for 12 years now and he’s still going strong, internet fame or no. It’s unfortunate that most of America sees him as a one-hit-wonder.

Glee, 4×18 “Shooting Star”

[BEWARE: Spoilers ensue]

Before I watched this episode I was told that something very unexpected happened during the ~42 minute run time. This made me very excited for the episode and I constantly kept guessing what the event was going to be during the first half of the episode.

“Shooting Star” starts off with Brittany telling the Glee club that she predicts that an asteroid is on it’s way to hit Earth and destroy it, which nobody, except Sam, takes seriously. Despite this outlandish prediction, Mr. Shuester themes their weekly assignment on last chances, what the Glee kids would say to others if it was their last chance to see them again. This was standard for Glee – something kooky ensues, usually due to Brittany or Sam’s antics, none of the other characters take it seriously (and neither does the audience), and Shuester turns it into a life lesson for some reason. At this point I was only waiting for the twist, so I didn’t care much for Brittany’s asteroid thing and her issue with proving to Lord Tubbington, her cat, that she truly loves him. Eventually she finds out that she was not viewing an asteroid through her telescope, but it was actually a bug on her lens (and that her telescope was actually a kaleidoscope). Oh the hilarity!

There is a subplot involving Ryder and this girl, Katie, whom he has been talking to online. He’s completely into her, yet has never met her. Glee set up this subplot several episodes back and by that time it was already obvious that Katie didn’t actually exist and that someone was pranking him. This episode reveals this to be true, when he finally runs into the girl “Katie” only for her to tell him that someone else has been giving him her photos. I liked this subplot more than the asteroid one, even if it’s cliched and the twist about Katie was obvious. At least there was some mystery in finding out who “Katie” actually is. At this point, I thought the surprise during the episode had something to do with this subplot, but it turns out that we have to wait till next episode to find out who “Katie” is (I’m betting it’s Wade/Unique).

During a Glee club meeting, two gun shots are fired somewhere else in the school, sending the Glee kids and the entire school into a panic. This definitely caught me off guard, since I did not expect Glee to ever attempt a shooting episode. What ensues is 10 really well acted minutes of the Glee kids, minus Tina and Brittany, trapped in the choir room trying to stay safe. Tina is able to evacuate with most of the students and is ushered outside by cops, while Brittany is trapped in a bathroom stall. The short scenes showing Brittany alone in the bathroom were my favorites; those scenes made me feel as terrified as she was. The quiet scenes in the choir room broken by tiny sobs and the Glee kids telling each other their “last chances” were really good, all the while I was feeling unsettled, wondering who the shooter was. Is it a character we would recognize, or one of the faces in the background? Was someone shot? Will someone die? I was trying to anticipate what was going to happen next.

Then I remembered a quick scene that occurred earlier in the episode between Becky and Brittany, in which the former tells Brittany that she’s worried about graduating and that life after high school scares her. I didn’t mention this scene earlier because it didn’t have much significance to the plot, but once I remembered it I knew the shooter had to be Becky. I really wanted to be proven wrong, because such a reveal would be so disappointing. I wanted to see Glee do something serious and go all the way instead of dipping their toe and deciding to back out. Of course I didn’t get what I wanted.

Eventually the cops show up to get the Glee kids safely out of the school and the scene cuts to a new day (I think it’s implied that an entire week passed). Nobody got hurt and the shooter was still on the loose. While Mr. Shue, Beiste, and Sue are discussing the shooting, Sue reveals that the gun fired was actually hers, which she had on campus to protect herself. The gun went off twice because she accidentally pulled the trigger while cleaning it and dropped it.

Bullshit.

Not only is it incredibly obvious to the audience that she’s lying, it’s obvious to the other characters in the show as well. Mr. Shue and Principal Figgins both imply that they know she’s covering for someone else, but she gets fired for possession of the gun anyway. The episode shows us, through flashbacks, that Becky confronted Sue about her worry for graduation and she pulls her dad’s hand gun out of her bag. It’s not really revealed whether or not Becky thought about killing herself or anyone else, she just kind of had it on her. Sue tells her to hand the gun over, causing Becky to accidentally fire the gun and drop it, resulting in two shots.

School shootings are a very serious matter and I actually felt insulted that Glee ended up treating the whole issue like a mistake. Not only did they use Sue’s character to brush off the whole event as an “oops, my bad,” but the writers also made the character make a choice that could actually leave the students at McKinley high school in potential danger. A student brought a gun to school with the possible intention of using it, yet covered for said student in order to keep her from getting expelled. Sue actually allowed herself to get fired in order to protect a student who posed a threat to their school. I can’t even comprehend that.

The episode wraps up it’s moral in a pretty decent cover of “Say” by John Meyer. Ryder is frustrated that he hasn’t found out who fake Katie is, Tina and Blaine share a moment while holding hands (implied possible future relationship? God I hope not), and Kitty shares a hug with Marley. I guess they’re BFFs now or something.

Glee actually impressed me for a second. I understand why the writers took this episode in the direction they did, but they executed the outcome of the event terribly.  The episode ended feeling too preachy to me, but I did like how the Glee kids reacted to the situation while trapped in the choir room. It felt genuine to me. I’m wondering how Glee will address the shooting in tonight’s episode.

Oh. And there was this moment when Beiste told Shue that she loved him, but that moment was so stupid and unnecessary I do not feel compelled to address it fully.