by Kris Katz
Brief spoiler-free entertainment reviews

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Somewhere along the way, the metaphor was completely lost. The stories in the X-Men comics and films have always been about persecution, alienation, and a thinly-disguised story about civil rights. This film isn't about anything, other than two hours you'll be happy to hang on to. It fails at almost every possible level. As cannon for the long-running X-Men series, it sabotages key relationships and white-washes plotlines. As an action-thriller it fails to be exciting or thrilling, instead plowing through one set of remarkably dull explosions after another, all of which are set up in ways that defy the film series's more grounded sense of continuity. As a chance to see some upper-tier celebrities have fun onscreen it seems like only Ryan Reynolds was able to squeeze out any personality, while everyone else simply can't push their talent through the awful script. Even as a showcase for big-budget special effects it flops, with more than a few moments of obvious matte lines, miscalibrated green screen effects, and generally poor integration throughout. It's sad to see the series brought to this. It used to have a message, it used to be about characters, and it used to at least be fun to watch. This is just boring, filler white-noise. Don't bother.

2 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wall Street (1987)

At the risk of dating this review and making it less relatable to future generations, within the confines of our current economic turmoil this entire thing feels almost like some sort of fable or fairy tale. Showing a man's meteoric rise to wealth under the wing of an entirely ruthless stock buyer, this is the kind of film that reminds a person of the reasons why our portfolios all droop and drag right now. The core of the film is simple rise-and-fall type stuff. It contains almost no surprises, but is still smart about what and how it shows you the machinations at play. Better than that, though, is Michael Douglass as the buyer. Every tiny piece of the character can best be described as “total bastard”, all the way from his suit to his “greed is good” speech. As a relic of a bygone era of infinite prosperity, it is behind the times, but it seems to know it was a snapshot and not a timeless yarn. For what it is, the bits and pieces are impressive, and Douglass is magnificent. Beyond that, it's almost depressing the things this film preceeded.

8 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Soldier (1998)

There is a reason why the “hardened killing machine defends adorable children” genre died out, and this is as good an example as any. Supposedly taking place in the same universe as the film Blade Runner, we're introduced to an infant being raised to be an unstoppable terminator, who is then rendered obsolete right about the time he starts looking like an over-the-hill Kurt Russell. Maybe then he'll learn to love and care for people instead of ripping out their throats, teaching children valuable life lessons and helping a community of refuges squeak out a living. It's exactly as cheesy and stupid as it sounds, and worse yet it doesn't even have any badass action bits or good explosions to soften the blow. This is as by the numbers as these films can get, and aside from a halfway decent turn by an almost completely silent Russell offers nothing notable. Skip it, move on. Blade Runner's universe doesn't need this.

3 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Casino (1995)

Ever the master of the the montage and the mob movie, Martin Scorsese here gives us the raw, bloody red belly of Las Vegas casino management in the late 70s. It's basically like Goodfellas but with more sand. And like Goodfellas, it's based on truth. Here you get all the Scorsese crime film staples: brutal, unglamorous violence, an absolutely pitch-perfect classic rock soundtrack, Robert De Niro being somber and awesome, and Joe Pesci throwing out hundreds of the most finely crafted f-bombs in cinema. The whole thing runs at a blistering pace as well, which is good because even at such a brisk jog it still runs just shy of three never-dull hours. The epic length begets a story that feels even bigger; the first hour alone has enough plot to bury a half-dozen other movies and things only build, beautifully, from there. Martin Scorsese is simply the master of this genre, and once again he shows us why. There isn't a weak part, a slow moment, or a wrong cue anywhere to be found in this film. About the only way in which it fails is in not giving more of the real life stories behind the mayhem.

10 out of 10.