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Movie Review – Real Steel

I took my son with me to see Real Steel last night.  Much like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this was a movie that hit my radar late.  I mean, I knew about it, and probably made the jokes everyone else made about Rock’em Sock’em Robots.  It wasn’t until reviews started to come in that I really took note.  Ebert liked it?  Hmm.  I’ve had my differences with his reviews in the past, but you can at least get a sense of the movie from Roger whether or not you end up agreeing with him.

Jackman’s character is a former boxer, Charlie Kenton, who got pushed aside when the human boxing game ended, and robots took over.  Now he travels on the outer fringes of the robot boxing sport, fighting them at state fairs and underground arenas (sometimes badly).  Complicating things for him is his son Max, who he takes on after his ex-girlfriend dies.  He only agrees to that for cash to get another robot, as the kid’s rich aunt and uncle want to adopt him.  Anyway, that’s not important.

The real story starts after Charlie gets a second robot (the one bought with the money from the aunt and uncle) destroyed, and they have to search for parts in a junk yard.  Max finds an old fighting bot and in the process bonds with dear old dad.  OF COURSE the underdog gets a shot at the big show, and digs down and…well, you know.  If you’ve seen Rocky, or Rocky Balboa, or any other ‘little underdog beats the odds’ type of film, you know how it goes.  That doesn’t make it any less fun, though.  The fights are solid with real boxing choreography.  The dialogue shades to the corny side.  You have to accept a lot to get to a place where the only obvious robots in the world are the boxing ones but if you can, there’s a solid, enjoyable movie here.    I think the last paragraph of Mr. Ebert’s review sums it up very well for the naysayers:

“Real Steel” is a real movie. It has characters, it matters who they are, it makes sense of its action, it has a compelling plot. This is the sort of movie, I suspect, young viewers went to the “Transformers” movies looking for. Readers have told me they loved and identified with their Transformers toys as children. Atom must come close to representing their fantasies. Sometimes you go into a movie with low expectations and are pleasantly surprised.

I was pleasantly surprised.

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Featured Review

Movie Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is not a bad movie.  I know that seems like faint praise, but considering the flack Michael Bay gets for the first two, I thought I’d put that right out there.  I enjoyed myself, and if you suspect that you might as well, go see it without guilt.  Wait for the second run theater if you are unsure, it’s definitely worth the $4 or whatever you’d pay there.

I remained unspoiled as to the plot of the film, and I got caught up in things enough that I didn’t see the twists coming for the most part.  I do wonder what sort of magic Michael Bay has that makes respected actors want to be in his sequel to a sequel to a remake of a kid’s cartoon designed to sell toys.  I mean, Frances McDormand?  John Malkovich?  Though I did have to laugh at Patrick Dempsey, telling my wife *spoiler*McDreamy is eeeevil*end spoiler*.  The weak links in the movie, as always, are the ridiculous sidekick bots Bay seems to think are necessary, often with offensive (or at least stereotypical) accents.  They even have a Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker moment where the two little Autobot screwups destroy a major Decepticon ship during the big battle.

The new love interest chick, Carly, was a miss for me also.  There is something about her look that is unsettling, and at least Mikaela seemed tough enough to handle herself and not be the screaming damsel in distress.  Perhaps in contrast to Carly, Sam seemed tougher, more adult and less of a kid.

One other thing I’d like to address – the ‘bloodthirsty’ (or would that be circuitthirsty?  energonthirsty?) nature of Optimus Prime.  Hearing Peter Cullen bark out something to the effect of “Let’s kill them all!” was shocking, but it’s a product of the more realistic world of live action movies.  It’s easy for the Autobots to be ‘good’ and never kill in a serial cartoon for kids.  In the (somewhat) more realistic world presented in the movies, these are giant metal constructs that are being blasted with powerful weapons, so some WILL be destroyed.  They’ve been at war, a real war, not the GI Joe style of war where lasers always miss unless the plot dictates they wound (but not kill) someone.  Megatron and the Decepticons were responsible for the deaths of numerous of Prime’s friends, so I don’t begrudge him a bit of glee at being able to take vengeance upon Megatron, Starscream and so on.

I’d honestly be more effusive with my praise if it weren’t for the typical Bay screwups.  They are so easily avoided (and yet so often repeated) that I just can’t be more ebullient.  What I would say to you is this:  don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for enjoying this one.

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Spring and Summer 2011 Movies

The meat of the 2011 movie season is coming up, including the Summer blockbusters, and I thought I’d run them down and see which ones I’m planning to check out.  Note that as a Dad, the list leans towards animated movies as well as comic book movies and summer blockbusters.  I don’t like horror and dumb comedies.  Month by month breakdown:

March

Will see:

Rango– Interesting to see where Johnny Depp can go with this 3D animated/motion-capped role, with original Piratesdirector Gore Verbinski.

Sucker Punch – Zack Snyder and hot chicks, I’m guessing the guys at work will open the movie-going season here.

Maybes: 

Battle:  Los Angeles – Need more data on this one.

April

Will see:

Hop – From the Despicable Mefolks, so I’ll probably see it with my son.  I’d like to see more of a trailer, first, though.  They don’t have the built-up cred that Pixar has with me.

Rio – Another movie with the kids, from the Ice Age guy this time.

Maybes:

Source Code – Interesting premise, but time travel movies are tricky.

May

Will see:

Thor– Now we’re getting somewhere.  The latest in the inter-connected Marvel universe movies is also the one that seems most likely to, well, not fail, but perhaps underperform.  Fitting Norse gods into a fairly ‘real’ world, with a Shakespearean director in Branagh, is a tougher sell than a billionaire playboy with sleek toys.  For me, if you add Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins into the mix, with Chris Hemsworth as the Mighty Thor, and it could surprise the skeptics.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides– While the second and third movies weren’t super, there was some entertainment value.  I’m curious to see more of Captain Jack and Captain Barbossa, and just adding Ian McShane’s voice is a plus.

Kung Fu Panda 2– The original was a heck of a classic kung fu movie story, animated or not.  Might be looking forward to this more than anything.

June

Will see:

X-Men:  First Class – Sigh.  This might get dropped to ‘maybe’, just because I dislike the idea of rebooting something that isn’t that old (same with Spiderman).  The problems in X-Men:  The Last Stand were fixable.  But anyway, I’m a Marvel guy, so I am giving them just a little bit of rope with this one.

The Green Lantern – I’m only passingly familiar with this DC title, as I really only read Batman back when I used to buy comics.  But Ryan Reynolds is pumped, and hey, most comic movies are fun.  Definitely a guy’s night movie.

Cars 2– Ooh boy.  Would probably be a maybe if I didn’t have young children or this wasn’t Pixar.  I enjoy the original well enough, but I don’t think I need more of it.  Pixar has proved me wrong enough times though.

July

Will see:

Transformers:  Dark of the Moon – I like big robots blowing s$!# up.

Captain America:  The First Avenger– I actually liked Chris Evans as Johnny Storm, despite the failings of the Fantastic Four movies, so I think he can handle this.  Toss in Hugo Weaving and Joss Whedon, and it’s up towards the top of my list.

Maybe:

Cowboys and Aliens – Dimly on my radar at this point, but Daniel Craig and an interesting premise.  Requires further investigation.

August

Will see:

Nothing on my radar yet.

Maybes:

Conan the Barbarian – I don’t have any memories of this, save maybe being in the room by my older brothers when they watched it while ‘watching’ me. 

I’ll stop there – don’t see anything yet in September but that is far enough out that it’s subject to change.  By the way, the Smurfs movie looks like an unholy abomination.  I saw an episode of the show the other day, and while it’s not something that’s held up since childhood, I seriously hate the ‘take a “classic” set of characters and put them in the REAL WORLD’ idea here.  Like Yogi Bear, what works as a cartoon (talking bears that have a collar and tie with no shirt) just looks extremely odd as a mix of live-action and 3D animation.

Faithful readers, anything else you are looking forward to?

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Featured Review

Movies With Repeated Theater Viewings

The title says it all – I thought I’d start a discussion about what movies you just HAD to see more than once in the theaters.  Where possible, I will be putting how many times I saw it and any other details I think of.

  • Despicable Me – (2) – Once was at the drive-in for a triple feature.
  • The Incredible Hulk – (2) – Another involving the drive-in
  • Iron Man 2 – (2) – Just love Iron Man.
  • Iron Man– (3) – Once at the el-cheapo theater for a couple of bucks.
  • Ponyo – (2) – Such beautiful animation, just had to check it out on the big screen again at a matinee.
  • The Lord of the Rings – (3, 2, 2) – That’s for each movie, of course.
  • Transformers – (2) – Screw you, I enjoyed it for what it was, definitely a big screen movie.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull  – (2) – Another feature at the drive-in.

If I remember more, I’ll add them in later, but that’s a start.  Really, I like to see the blockbuster/action type movies on the big screen more than once if I can, since some of that doesn’t translate well to the small screen.  What do YOU have?