Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Cup of the End of the Way, Way Iron Man University

Or, as we can also call it, Reviews, Reviews, Reviews. Oh, and, Reviews.

Happy weekend to all!  I'm getting ready to head to San Diego Comic-Con, so things are in (even more) slight disarray (than normal). And, since we're in the midst of the summer movie extravaganza, I have a lot of movie reviews coming up. So, I figured, what the heck, I'd just give them to you NOW, because I'm a giver, me.

First up, though, check out what I Smell Sheep thought of A Cup of Joe by Anita Ensal (yes, that's moi).

Then, if you missed out on watching our live taping of Slice of SciFi, well, go catch the first show, Pacific Rim Robots Rock. Is this one of the shows where the ever-awesome Ben Ragunton sings the opening credits and you hear a laughing hyena (aka moi) in the background? It could very well be. (Hey, I just was NOT prepared for the awesome that was Ben bursting into song to share the lead stories, okay? He has a lovely voice, too, which was a bonus.)

Speaking of Slice, check out my review of This is the End over at Slice of SciFi.

And speaking of reviews, I've seen several movies over the past couple of weeks that I'll tell you about right here.

Finally caught Iron Man 3. I know, I know, where was I? I was on deadline for Alien Research, that's where I was. But now that said bookie wookie is safely turned in and all edits aside from galley are through, I got to catch Marvel's latest. And what did I think? Really enjoyed it. No, it's not as good as The Avengers, but it's better than Iron Man 2. And I happen to like that Tony Stark spends most of the movie cracking wise in the face of danger -- it's something I appreciate. There are a couple of plot points I filled in for myself, but it would have been better if the film had done so for me and the rest of the audience. But still, a nice conclusion to the Iron Man trilogy.
Rating: A-

Also finally caught Monster's University. As with all things Pixar, it was great. Not the same kind of heart at Monster's Inc., this was truly more like Revenge of the Nerds, but since I like Revenge of the Nerds, I was fine with it. Got home and watched Monster's Inc. right after it -- strongly suggest you not do that in the reverse, as there are some small continuity issues between the two films that would have bothered me a lot if I'd watch MI before MU. Great choice for a family film, though of the animated sequels I've seen this summer, I liked Despicable Me more than Monster's University. However, that's like saying I prefer cotton candy to snow cones.
Rating: A-

And now to my most recent movie experience, The Way, Way Back. There are two actors I love who have tended, until recently, to fly far under the radar, recognized by critics and their peers as awesome, but ignored by audiences. Peter Dinklage is finally getting some of his long-deserved due in Game of Thrones, and Sam Rockwell is starting to get a higher profile as well. So, I was very excited about this movie because he's in it in a major role. Is this the film that will do for Rockwell what Game of Thrones did for Dinklage?

The Way, Way Back is a coming-of-age film starring Steve Carrel playing WAY against type, Toni Collette, Liam James (who played the original version of Young Shawn on Psych, meaning I've watched this kid grow up), Allison Janney, a whole fistful of other great and good actors, in addition to my man Sam. James plays Duncan, a 14-year-old having the worst year of his life -- parents have divorced, dad's moved across the country with his younger wife, and mom's new boyfriend (Carrel) is pretty much a textbook definition of a bullying tool.

The actors are all good, but this is really two films being merged into one, though both of them are coming-of-age. One is the dramatic side of this genre, and one is the wacky, Meatballs side. I loved one of the movies, and didn't love the other. (Three guesses for which, and the first two don't count.)

The dramatic side of this movie is inert and heavy and depressing. It's also slow -- there's a running joke in the movie that Rockwell's character, Owen, is always telling Duncan that they need to speed up their conversations. That's the issue for any portion of the film that Rockwell isn't in. I wanted them to speed it up, mostly so we could get back to scenes with Rockwell in them, but also because the scenes seemed to go on too long, too slowly, and without enough actual action or dialog that moved the movie forward. (And before you say that this was because I love Rockwell, I point to the fact that I've watched James grow up on film and was excited to see him in a major role, and I pretty much like all the other actors in this movie.)

When Rockwell or the water park are on the screen, this movie is alive. Even when Rockwell's not being funny his scenes are lively, even if he's just standing there. And the water park, old though it is, looks like fun. Everyone's fun or funny at the water park. The dramatic moments there have a lot more life and energy.

The rest of this movie is not fun. The rest of the movie is not as light, either, and I mean that in both figurative and visual terms. I'm sure that was the filmmaker's point -- that life is sucking for Duncan everywhere but when he's near Owen and the water park. Thing is, we didn't need 2/3rds of the movie to tell us this and only give us 1/3rd Owen and the water park. I wanted 75% Owen/water park and 25% dreary exposition. Frankly, it's me. I wanted 100% Owen and the rest of the film could go sulk off in its corner.

Is this a bad movie? No. It's well done and it's heartfelt. And there is no easy, "happy ending". The lessons learned are about self-reliance and why people who build younger people up are way more beneficial than those who drag them down. All these points are noble and true. But noble and true don't always make for a great movie. I had some quibbles with the passage of time as well, since it's not clear in the film if weeks, days, or only hours have passed. I don't ever need to see it again, but I don't regret seeing it and am glad that I did. And, if you're a fan of any of the actors in this movie, or the genre as a whole, then you'll probably enjoy this movie, at least parts of it, if not all of it.

But, Sam Rockwell! Being awesome! As with The Heat, there's sometimes one thing that affects a grade for me, up or down. In this case, the mere presence of one of my Great Ones being there and enhancing the film moved its rating up for me.
Rating: B-

That's it for now, but I'll check in at least once more before I head to Comic-Con. Trying to find out where you can see the me there? Hit my SDCC Schedule blog post (scroll down one) and make sure we meet up!


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