Over the past weekend, Argo took home the prize as the Best Picture of 2012 from the Academy Awards. While I can’t say that I wasn’t surprised by the win (it became a heavy favorite once the Academy failed to nominate Ben Affleck as Best Director), I do admit to being slightly disappointed. While I feel that Argo is a very good movie, I did have a few misgivings about the picture.
For one, it was hard to feel the tension when the outcome is so well known. A masterful director can pull it off (see James Cameron with his Titanic but then again, he used fictional characters). However, I don’t feel that Affleck is in that upper tier just yet. He’s very good at directing (I count Gone Baby Gone as one of my favorite films) but I felt there was something missing with this film. Maybe if he had a better lead actor it could have worked better. Affleck was only serviceable in his role as the CIA operative who pulled off the con. Never once did I believe he was anybody else but Ben Affleck. His acting was not a detriment to the film, but it could have been much better.
In my mind, Life of Pi was the better film (I have yet to see Lincoln, Les Misérables, Beast of the Southern Wilds, and Amour… so almost half the field). Ang Lee took a novel that was considered un-filmable and made it a spectacular production. The majority of the movie was a man and a tiger on a life raft, and he created a gripping tale of survival on the seas. The use of 3D was spectacular and should be a showcase of how to properly handle the format. Everything moved fast and I was never bored or looking at my watch (something I did during Argo). The win for Best Director was well justified.
But that is in the past. Now is the time to look into the present. Three new films are opening this weekend and, I’m guessing, none will be up for any Oscars. First up, it’s time to climb the beanstalk.
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER
The ancient war between humans and a race of giants is reignited when Jack, a young farmhand fighting for a kingdom and the love of a princess, opens a gateway between the two worlds. *
The Good – Bryan Singer is a fine director. He was the man behind The Usual Suspects, X—Men 1 and 2, and Valkyrie. His only real misstep was Superman Returns, and that wasn’t much of one. In this, he is reteaming with his The Usual Suspects screenwriter (and director of last year’s Jack Reacher) Christopher McQuarrie in what looks to be a fun-filled adventure ride. Ewan McGregor appears to be having a great time in his role of the leader of the king’s guard, and looks far removed from his days as a bored Jedi Knight.
The Bad – The marketing for this film reminds me of another film from last year, John Carter. When that film was released, it failed to draw even a dent at the box office, earning the crown of one of the all-time biggest busts. While I liked that film and felt it didn’t deserve the harsh treatment it received, I can’t help but get that same vibe emanating from this film. With Disney’s Oz prequel on the horizon, this film may be left with only a bag of “magic” beans.
The Ugly – Hopefully the Giants do not wear kilts. I don’t think Jack would appreciate that.
Jack the Giant Slayer is rated PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language.
21 AND OVER
The night before his big medical school exam, a promising student celebrates his 21st birthday with his two best friends. *
The Good - It’s from the writers of The Hangover.
The Bad – This reminds me of last year’s Project X, a movie that I absolutely despised. While this film appears to be shying away from that abomination of cinema, it still carries the same vibe. A group of college students (as opposed to the high schoolers from Project X) go out and get blasted. What follows is a series of high-jinks that are meant for us to find amusing. Whereas the Harold & Kumar movies actually had characters with some depth that we can’t help but root for, this film looks like it has a bunch of paper-thin characters that have only one thing on their mind. It looks dull, crass and, worst of all, unfunny.
The Ugly – I had a strange vibe of Weekend at Bernie’s while watching this trailer. If Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman show up, there might be hope yet.
21 and Over is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking.
THE LAST EXORCISM: PART II
As Nell Sweetzer tries to build a new life after the events of the first movie, the evil force that once possessed her returns with an even more horrific plan. *
The Good – I will admit, I kinda liked the first one. It had many things going against it (it was PG-13 and, worse yet, was a found footage film) but somehow it inducted me into its cult. Not wanting to repeat what had come before, the filmmakers ditched the found footage aspect and went straight for a typical horror film. Producer Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) felt it would strain believability if they redid what happened before, and for that I applaud them.
The Bad – Another potential franchise that went that route…Blair Witch. That second film killed any future prospects of another Blair Witch as it delivered a horribly acted tale that questioned what was real. In the end, nobody cared. Can this film escape that route? One more bad. It’s another PG-13 rated horror movie.
The Ugly – How many people will make a snide quip on how they thought the last film was The Last Exorcism? I’m guessing everybody.
The Last Exorcism Part II is rated PG-13 for horror violence, terror and brief language.
That will do for this week. Tune in next time when James Franco follows the yellow brick road. Until then fe-fi-fo-fum. I smell the blood of Linda Blair.