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By: Jeff Ford
By: Jeff Ford

Most of us at some point in time have walked into an event with a preconceived notion of how it will play out.

Most of us at some point in time have walked into an event with a preconceived notion of how it will play out.  For the most part, that is what I’ve been doing with my interest level ratings that I have been assigning to the new releases.  As I have found out, my previous feelings are usually confirmed.  Whether or not it is because of my mood and feelings walking in affecting the way I watch the cinematic endeavor playing before me I cannot say.  It is truly a rarity when I walk into something with slight hesitation and emerge singing its praise.

A recent example of this rarity would be the film “Real Steel”.  I initially gave it an interest level of 3 Cylon Centurians out of 5.  While it rated this modest amount, I’d have to admit that I was also expecting it to fall short of expectations.  The trailers made it seem a little dumb.  We have just experienced three “Transformers” movies with the same basic premise, robots fighting other robots.  The difference here is that humans are controlling the robots.  I expected a typical mindless summer type action movie.  What I got was a lot more.

The main reason I think this robot fighting movie succeeds while “Transformers” fails is the human element.  “Transformers” is all about Optimus Prime and Megatron duking it out while Shia LaBeuof is running around, screaming no as many times as he can in 5 seconds (I think he got about 25 once).  There is no emotional attachment.  Shia is annoying.  The rest of the actors are phoning it in.  The “humor” is juvenile at best.  The edits come so fast that it is hard to discern who is fighting whom.  It’s “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”* If I don’t care about the characters, then why should I care about what’s happening on screen.

“Real Steel”, on the other hand, is all about an absentee father and son bonding when circumstances force them together.  The father only sees the son as a way to get money out of the rich step-uncle.  As they travel around Michigan from fairgrounds to arenas with their fighting bot Atom, they grow to respect and care for one another.  It is a story that is filled with clichés, but here they work.  The fighting robots become an afterthought to the father-son dynamic.  Just like the first “Rocky”, the final fight is not about what is happening in the ring.  It is whether or not father and son can “go the distance” and become a family, with the backdrop of Atom going up against the undefeated and unstoppable robot “Zeus.”

This is a film that appeals to the 8-year-old boy that resides in me.  It’s the type of film that I wish I can see with my dad.  It may be rated PG-13 but I am having a hard time figuring out what is questionable about the material.  It’s not perfect, but I have no problems rating this movie a high 4 Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots out of 5.

Will the latest batch of movies change my expectations like “Real Steel” did?  There are three new releases fighting for your box office dollar, so let’s not dawdle. 

J. EDGAR

The Man with No Name (or Dirty Harry if you want to give him one) presents the true story of J. Edgar Hoover, the first FBI director who shepherded the agency from its infancy in 1935 until his death in 1972.  Throughout his 37 year tenure, he was the face of law enforcement but behind closed doors his secrets could be his undoing.  Leonardo DiCaprio (Critters 3) portrays the legend while Armie Hammer (Flicka) plays his close (some say too close) Associate Director.

Clint Eastwood’s career has spanned numerous decades and he is a living icon.  The fact that he is still going strong at 81 says a lot about him.  His recent outings have almost all been behind the scenes (he last graced the screen in 2008’s “Gran Torino”) but his movies have always been some that I have taken notice of.  This one appears no different.  I may not make it to the theaters to watch it, but it will definitely be one that I will catch on DVD.  I’m awarding my interest level in this as 4 Clydes, the orangutan, out of 5.  J. Edgar is rated R for brief strong language.

IMMORTALS

I am Immortal.

I have inside me blood of kings (Yeah!).

I have no rival.

No man can be my equal.

Take me to the future of your world.

-Princes of the Universe

Queen

Unfortunately (or I should say fortunately) this has nothing to do with the Highlander series.  Instead it is another film in the long line of hyper-stylized, ancient Greek films released after “300” became a surprise hit.  Here we have the future Man of Steel, Henry Cavil (I Capture the Castle), as a mortal who was chosen by Zeus (the God, not the robot) to fight the evil King Hyperion (portrayed by Mickey Rourke (Double Team)).  The King is making his way across Greece, searching for a device that can destroy all of humanity.

Tarsem Singh is more than likely a name most people won’t know.  He is best known as the man behind the Jennifer Lopez horror film “The Cell” (a movie that I did not care for.)  He is also the visionary director behind “The Fall” (a film I did care for).  This strikes me as a movie that I may or may not see.  If the mood strikes me right, I may plop the 10 dollars for the 3d version.  Then again, I could let this one slide.  I’ll rate it for now as 2 Connor MacLeod’s out of 5.  Immortals is rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, and a scene of sexuality.

JACK AND JILL

Adam Sandler (Going Overboard) plays dual roles as Jack Sadelstein and his identical twin sister Jill.  Jill comes into town for the holidays and becomes the horrible guest that will not leave.  But that’s OK.  She catches the eye of Al Pacino (The Godfather) playing himself and… I can’t finish this.  For now, I’m going to forgo my usual interest rating and leave it at this.

Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

-Billy Madison

Jack and Jill is rated PG for crude and sexual humor, language, comic violence and brief smoking.

That does it for another week.  Tune in next week for (sigh) a vampire wedding and some dancing penguins.  Until next time, go to your happy place (I’m resorting to mine as I type).

 

*taken from MacBeth Act V Scene V

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