January 25, 2013

Broken City (2013)

It seems like Mark Wahlberg has been slowly building himself a career that involves him being typecast into the role of the down-on-his-luck, working-class maybe ex-cop character, thrust in a web of double-crossing and framing that’s just too much for his simple Joe-six-pack (recovering) self. In a universe that seems to always be Boston,  where characters are always in the midst of the old Hollywood cliché of Irish catholic or Italian (or in this case Latino) communities, there isn't much place for straying from the formula. And formulaic it is, complete with political scandal, financial fraud and “they want to take what little you have that you worked for so hard all your life” mentality. I won’t say it’s not a great fun to watch, considering the expectations. Performances are solid both from the main cast and the supporting characters, and if you like the kind of movies that Wahlberg has been pumping out (you know the kind, Four Brothers, We Own the Night, Contraband and even The Town, which I was surprised to find out didn't include Wahlberg), you’re sure to also enjoy this one. He even has a new one coming out, Pain & Gain, which is a little stray from the formula, and is a Michael Bay project, with all that that implies, but in the end, there is still a heist and Wahlberg’s lovable loser. Definitely a fun watch.

January 6, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Trying to navigate through the hype and fanboyhood that surrounded this juggernaut, I opted for the 24fps 3D version of the film. Reading through several reviews that panned it, I couldn’t bring myself to sit through 2:50 hours of “soap-opera” effect, but I like 3D so that worked for me. Without going through a comparison to the novel (which I didn’t read), it’s still easy to see that this has taken the source material and stretched it as much as it could. By comparison, the entire The Hobbit novel is shorter than the first Lord of the Rings book, so consider the material that fueled the first movie in LoTR trilogy, cut away some 200 pages, then split that in 3 and make a movie out of each part - that’s the Hobbit. I’m sure financial or “fan service” considerations would have been in play when making this decision. Maybe studio directors were thinking more about how many Hobbit figurines they could sell over the next 3 years than whether this was going to be a good movie. As for the film itself, it is of the same great quality that the first 3 LoTR movies benefited, albeit a little diluted because of duration. This could have benefited from some significant cuts. The usual culprit is the extended dinner/song/dance scene at the beginning, which honestly I didn’t find that long as it was happening, but which contributed to my indifference for most of what followed. I could mostly relate to Gandalf and Bilbo, most likely because I like both actors portraying them, but except for them, most of everybody else was forgettable. As for the CG creatures, Gollum excels again as always, and I did like the Great Goblin which was a filthy yet entertaining bit of goblin royalty. Plot-wise, if this wasn’t based on a book, it would be risible. Gandalf and the great Eagles act a bit too often as a deus ex machina, and some obvious choices seem like they were made for the sole reason of filling in some plot. The most glaring example, like in LoTR, is the Great Eagles fallacy. in the words of the great philosoraptor: “At the end of lord of the rings frodo Gets eagles to fly him back - Why didn't those sluts fly him there in the first place”. But I digress. Overall this was enjoyable, if a tad long. I’ll probably watch the other 2 films, and maybe give 48fps version a shot at some point as well, if I feel really bored. Essentially this is more of the same LoTR goodness, so if you loved those, be sure to not miss this as well.