Monthly Archives: June 2008

Review: Wanted

The summer of 2008 has been filled with overhyped blockbusters that are guaranteed to make money, no matter how good or bad the movies actually are. Sometimes the hype is deserved (“Iron Man”), and other times the hype isn’t so warranted (“The Love Guru”). Other deserving flicks that deliver the same goods as the Hollywood movies go under the radar and either find a home on DVD or in a garbage bin. In what could be the unexpected action hit of the summer or just another audience-less bust, director Timur Bekmambetov delivers a fast paced, no-holds-barred special effects driven blast in his new film “Wanted” that unfortunately leaves its audience wanting more from its big name stars, but works perfectly as a vehicle for James McAvoy – one of the best actors working in modern film.

McAvoy stars as Wesley Gibson, an unassuming nobody living his life day by day in a dead end job, and with his cheating girlfriend in his pathetic apartment. Wesley thinks himself a loser, often Googling himself to find no results and no answers.

One day a chance encounter with Fox (Angelina Jolie), leads Wesley to his ultimate fate. Wesley finds that he is in fact more than what he seems when he learns of his recently murdered father and his superhuman abilities as a professional assassin. Wesley is introduced to The Fraternity, a thousand-year-old elite group who specialize in randomized elimination. The group, led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman), explains to Wesley his fate and through an exceedingly clichéd montage our hero becomes killer certified and able to curve bullets and… grab a spindle out of a textile loom?

Much of “Wanted” is excessively over-the-top in terms of its clichés and usages of cinematic action that we’ve seen in many films before. The magic and allure of bullet time as invented by the Wachowski brothers in “The Matrix” is overused in this movie and in such a surplus that the visual technology becomes as irrelevant as it was when it was parodied a million times after Neo’s tale. The visual effects are often exciting in “Wanted” yet is does not pioneer nor impress as is could have.

The film doesn’t disappoint in delivering non-stop action, but getting drowned in action can take a lot of out an audience member. The script is adapted from the hit graphic novel of the same title by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones and both Bekmambetov and his writers Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, and Chris Morgan do a great job at presenting a film that feels like it comes from the pages of a comic. Many of the action sequences (except for the aforementioned montage) and dialogue have the same texture and reciprocate the styles and characterization of the modern comic book. A lot of “Wanted” works well in displaying this adjustment from book to film even in its most disappointing scenes.

Nevertheless, one would also suppose that an all-star cast including the great Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie would deliver stellar performances and overshadow McAvoy, but in fact they accomplish quite the opposite.

Freeman plays his typical, omniscient character who always has the answers and can be depended on for wordy speeches and implicit comfort. He’s natural for the role intended, but it would have been nice seeing an actor who doesn’t play the same character like Freeman. Jolie is absurdly cast, and besides looking fantastic she adds nothing to the role and in fact fizzles much of “Wanted.”

The real reason to see this movie besides fulfilling a drug-like fix for over-concentrated action is James McAvoy. However unprofessional and uncouth to write in a film review, McAvoy is absolutely badass in the role. His transformation from lowly loser to steel assassin is superb and while film narration is usually pointless, McAvoy’s cool American accent adds a perfect flair of sarcasm and enjoyment. It’s incredibly refreshing to see a talent like McAvoy in this kind of film, as it helps to affirm his amazing ability to fit into any genre.

From the family adventure “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” to the character drama “The Last King of Scotland,” to the spralling romance “Atonement,” McAvoy had already proved he had talent. No matter how “Wanted” does in the box office, it can be safely said that this young Scottish actor is headed for bigger and better things.

“Wanted” is not the best film of the summer by far and is not exactly worthy to take the weekend box office (go see Pixar’s little robot instead). Wait for the DVD if you want, but definitely try to check this out to see a film that could skyrocket McAvoy’s career into the new Hollywood A-list. His performance is definitely not Oscar-worthy but this young thespian will certainly find himself walking down the red carpet in the next few years.

Grade: B

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Filed under Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, Review, Wanted

A New Home

Here I am… on my very own .com… indiebum.com isn’t really going to change what I did on Best Play Ever, Man, just gonna keep focusing on writing about film and all its wonders. I want to use this site as a jump-start into the film criticism world and I want all the feedback I can possibly get. I’ve persevered until now because of your comments and all the support and with more updates including reviews, lists, retrospectives, and the occasional newsworthy trailer or poster… I hope I can keep my loyal readers and bring in even more.

I’m going to prove myself to the world of cinema, and with indiebum.com that will finally be possible. Also in terms of this site’s title indiebum, I’ll be focusing on a lot of independent cinema along with the classics and new blockbusters that I love to review.

By the end of this week I’m going to be posting a huge retrospective that I can’t wait for all of you to read… see you at the movies!

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A.M.P.A.S.: Two Song Noms Per Film!

One of the most ridiculous Academy Award problems has finally been fixed after years of unfair, worthless, go-to-the-bathroom style category that is “Best Song.” The past year is a good example of the cheapness of the category as the Amy Adams film “Enchanted” earned not one but three nominations for best song, shutting out dozens of other worthy film tunes. Last year “Dreamgirls,” a film that was adapted from an already existing longtime musical, dominated with three noms as well. Luckily, the smaller films such as “Once” and “An Inconvenient Truth” picked up the actual awards but the overabundance and cheese of the major musical songs took away what could be the magic of the category.

Well, the Academy has ruled that a film can only have two nominated songs in the “Best Song” category and hopefully this means that more deserving artists will get their names out there and just maybe watching the musical performances will feel a little less childish and out of place. The family romp “Enchanted” dominated the musical section of this year’s ceremony, albeit the no-holds-barred violent art film “No Country For Old Men” took home the best picture award… riiiight. A.M.P.A.S… who is your audience?

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Filed under No Country For Old Men, Once, oscars

Review: The Incredible Hulk

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…”

Bruce Banner has always lived in a state of fear that his alter ego, the Hulk, will come out through intense, provoked anger. After 2003’s unimpressive “Hulk” directed by Ang Lee and starring Eric Bana as the title hero, many comic fans and filmgoers alike found themselves close to the edge of “hulking out.” When a reboot was announced, the initial thoughts across the Web were either excitedly refreshed or ambiguously indifferent.

The big green brute is back in theaters with French director Louis Leterrier’s resuscitation “The Incredible Hulk” starring a brand new cast, with an oddly familiar tone. By taking cues and staying faithful to the 1978-1982 dramatic television series of the same name Leterrier has crafted a sometimes corny, but guiltily fun popcorn flick that doesn’t disappoint in terms of action and the creation of a new action star: Edward Norton.

“The Incredible Hulk” is not a traditional series reboot, like 2005’s “Batman Begins.” Instead, Banner (Norton) is already five years into his affliction and has been on the run from the villainous General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt) after a terrible experimental accident in which Banner’s love/Ross’ daughter Betty (Liv Tyler) and the general himself were seriously injured.

Hiding out in Brazil, working day labor in a soda-bottling factory and searching for a cure through an online contact named “Mr. Blue” (Banner’s codename is of course “Mr. Green”) by night, our hero is tracked down by General Ross and a crack squad including the delightfully evil Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth).

After a particularly exciting chase sequence through the packed city of Rio, Banner gets cornered by a group of thugs and the military force, his anger gets the better of him and… well we know what that means. The giant green mass emerges out of the darkness and with one loud roar, we the audience finally find the Hulk movie we’ve been looking for.

Edward Norton is expertly cast as Banner. As portrayed by Bill Bixby in the original television series, the character was a somewhat introverted man, yet always curious and with a slight hint of bitterly removed charm. Norton is the perfect actor for the role due to his slow, somewhat sarcastic tone and his intriguingly grinding attitude. Because of this natural talent, when Banner is close to transformation, the anger portrayed by Norton is quite stirringly realistic. Along with Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and most recently Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man (who makes a hilariously wonderful cameo at end of the film), Edward Norton is among the best – and he deserves it.

The supporting performances are also unquestionably strong. William Hurt proves his almost veteran status, with a wonderful performance as General Ross. He does a tremendous job a creating a truly detestable character, one who pisses on ethics and can always been depended on putting himself first above all (even his own daughter).

The underused and often overlooked Tim Roth is absolutely fantastic. While General Ross is the bad guy in the film, Roth’s Blonsky is pure evil. When this militant mongrel first sees the Hulk in action, he becomes addicted to the power he has observed. In cahoots with General Ross and the excited yet gullible Mr. Blue a.k.a. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson), Blonsky turns into the twice-as-powerful-as-the-Hulk mutant “Abomination.” With Abomination devastating New York City, our hero must face his ultimate obstacle which will forever change the way he lives. Bruce Banner must learn how to control his alter ego.

The anchor of the film, which truly drags it down in terms of likability, is the tragically wasted performance of Liv Tyler. She’s exceedingly irritating, and her inability to create any agreeable chemistry with Edward Norton is unabashedly annoying. There is a hint of linkage between the two characters at mere moments, but most of the time she is exasperatingly awkward and horribly miscast.

Tyler’s weak performance is also emphasized by the film’s unbelievable overdramatic tones. The original television series featured a lot of melodrama through slow-motion and through the performance of Bixby, but it doesn’t exactly translate well to the screen. There are a lot of excessive moments of exaggeration that work better than the extremely histrionic work that Ang Lee did with “Hulk” in 2003, but the “corny-factor” is a bit distracting at times in this movie. The script, written by Zak Penn with edits by Edward Norton, is sometimes tongue-tied but has a heart and a very well-written lead character.

The melodrama may be a bit preoccupying, but the film’s overall action is what drives the attention of the audience. Featuring work by the aptly titled Gentle Giant Studios, the visual effects are brilliant and cohesive, and the set pieces are marvelously elaborate. Leterrier has only been known to American audiences as the director of the “Transporter” movies, but his masterful eye at action under the direction of a superhero flick shows extreme promise and hopefully Hollywood will take notice.

The summer of 2008 has been very kind to movie fans so far, especially those seeing films produced by Marvel Studios. “Iron Man” is by far the best film of the year so far, and despite its problems, Leterrier’s “The Incredible Hulk” is another Marvel winner and definitely deserves to rampage the box office and get all the “green” it can get its big hulk hands on.

Grade: B+

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Filed under Edward Norton, Iron Man, Marvel Studios, Robert Downey Jr., The Hulk, The Incredible Hulk, William Hurt