Apr 24, 2014

Hit Or Miss: Quick Movie Reviews 7

It's been a while since I've written anything, and I'm sorry about that. I had a sibling wedding to attend, and the week-long hangover that followed made me unable to blog. I should also mention at this point that when I say 'sibling wedding', I mean that one of my siblings got married, not that I went to a wedding wherein two siblings got married. Just want to clear that up. Anyway, even though I haven't written anything, I have been watching a ton of movies. So, I figured that the best way to jump back in the swing is to review some of them. And let's start with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the sequel to the movie that was featured in the very first Hit or Miss almost three years ago:

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Story: After Nick Fury is taken out of commission, Steve Rogers has to reevaluate his loyalty to SHIELD, the anti-terrorist government agency that he basically helped found back in the 40s. With questions on his mind and threats old and new around every corner, Steve has to figure out what Captain America stands for. Thankfully, with the help of the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), he doesn't have to figure it all out by himself.
Pros: When I reviewed the first movie, I mentioned that, for all the fancy CGI and Nazi-based villains, the film was pretty dull. Part of that has to do with the overall look of the movie, which is so sepia-tinged it almost looks the film canisters were dipped in tea to age them (the cinematographers totally aced their 8th grade Civil War projects).  Dullness is not something that can be applied to the sequel, which ratchets up the excitement with a ton of great action scenes and a more frenetic pace. The movie plays out like a spy thriller, with secret enemies lurking everywhere, and throwing the characters off balance makes for a more effective story. Steve Rogers/Captain America is a pretty one-note character (all patriotism and goodwill), so it's good that the filmmakers make him an outlaw and pair him with the most morally ambiguous Avenger, Black Widow. Chris Evans may finally be coming into his own as Cap, but it's nothing in comparison to Johansson, who turns in what might be the best performance of her career. She's usually so lethargic in her movie roles (it served her well in Lost in Translation, but less well in basically everything else), so it's nice to see her be the live-wire she's capable of being. It's also nice that, despite being one of the most gorgeous human beings in the world, she never rests on pretty. The same can also be said for Evans. Together, they look like a walking cpver of a Harlequin romance novel, but they don't seem overly posed. They're too busy running and kicking butt.
Cons: It's good for Captain America to question his allegiance to SHIELD, but it would have been nice if more characters had the same sort of revelations. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury has been working to weaponize alien technology and basically kill everyone everywhere for the last three movies he's been in (especially The Avengers). When that technology becomes the tool that terrorists are using to kill millions of people, it would be nice to see some regret. Instead, he's basically gone from most of the film. Also, Maria Hill is underused here, but it is nice that Cobie Smulders shows up, if only to make sure that the movie passes the Bechdel Test (which it maybe doesn't anyway). Also, The Falcon is underused, but it's fun to see him flying around, and his stories of war help ground the film.
Consensus: It's a good movie that poses a lot of interesting questions about drones and Big Brother before backing off the answers in the final third of the film. Still, it's a strong Avengers outing, and it's the best second film of any of the other Marvel properties.
Hit/Miss: I would say definitely HIT, but, since it's been the top movie at the box office for the last three weeks, I assume most of you already have.

Bad Words
The Story: Through a series of loopholes, lewd and crude adult person Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) enters a children's national spelling bee championship. With a newspaper reporter at his side (the always funny Kathryn Hahn), he takes on angry parents and spelling bee administrators in his attempt to... I'm not sure. Win, maybe? His motives aren't exactly clear. What is clear is that he forms an unlikely friendship with Indian moppet Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand), corrupting him and educating him in equal measure.  
Pros: The movie moves along at a nice pace, and the duo of Bateman and Chand cannot be denied. They're funny together, and the humor feels very real. Lived-in. They're adorable even as the movie makes every attempt to make them non-adorable. Also, spelling bees are great fun, and I tend to love movies that in some way incorporate competition and Allison Janney (Drop Dead Gorgeous is the only other movie that springs to mind, but that's a pretty great one).
Cons: Jason Bateman's "I'm a dick" character is a little played out, and he seems to know that more than anyone. He seems bored here -- not like he's playing a world-weary character, but that he himself is just bored of everything around him. Also, a big part of the movie is not knowing why Guy Trilby is doing what he's doing. When it is finally revealed, it's a bit of a letdown.
Consensus: It's a fun movie, and spelling is fun, but Jason Bateman is spinning his wheels in roles like this, and nothing really comes together in the end.
Hit/Miss: Catch it on DVD. Otherwise it's a MISS.

Draft Day
The Story: After Sonny Weaver, Jr. (Kevin Costner) makes a trade for the Number 1 draft pick for the Cleveland Browns, he has very little time to make a decision as to what that Number 1 pick should be. Is it the hard-working player who got booted out of a game for giving a ball to a fan? Is it the hotshot quarterback who threw a birthday party once? Is it the legacy player whose dad looks a lot like Terry Crews. Of course, what's really troubling him is that his mom is suddenly very active on Twitter, and his co-worker/secret girlfriend Ali (Jennifer Garner) is pregnant.
Kevin Costner is boring,
is what I'm saying.
Pros: This is a sports movie with literally no surprises, which is pretty much the best thing it has going for it. This paint-by-numbers flick, which is being called a "comedy-drama" for some reason (oh, the yucks are...plentiful), never throws you off balance. It's kind of nice to watch a movie that's all comfort. It's like taking a bath in mashed potatoes. Also, Jennifer Garner is great, in that she basically has to sell a relationship that makes no sense (for more reasons than the almost two decade age gap) and still seem like a functioning human being whose opinion matters.
Cons: If ever there was a Con for a movie, it is Kevin Costner in Draft Day. It seems like, before they shot each scene, they woke him up from a very nice nap. How else can you explain the irritated, lethargic performance that Costner gives in this movie? He's like a sloth to everyone else's cheetah, except that sloths seem like they have happy demeanors (because they're basically high all the time, but still). He's basically Kevin CON-stner, amirite?
Concensus: It's not a bad movie, and it's fairly well-written, but the casting choices are bizarre (I didn't even bring up Diddy) and the pacing is all off. Never has a film with a running time clock seemed so slow.
Hit/Miss: HIT if you want a total popcorn-bait movie. MISS if you're saving up your movie money for an Oscar contender.

Well, that's it for this edition of Hit or Miss. I've got a lot more movies to watch, so I'mma leave you now. I look forward to Draft Day 2, where Jennifer Garner gives birth to a smoke monster baby.
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