Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Posts tagged “Dominic Cooper

Film Review – Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter

No, I didn’t read the book. I know, shame on me. How else can I make the standard exclamation of “the book was better!” if I haven’t actually read it? Who really cares, though? I think this is the sort of thing that should have gone direct to screenplay anyhow. It is the sort of B-movie concept that I feel can’t truly be captured and exploited as literature. But then again, I could be wrong. Because I didn’t read the book. On the plus side, it does allow me to have a completely unbiased review of the film. That’s a good thing, I think.

The film is everything you think it is. As ridiculous as you may think it is in your mind, it is every bit of that and more. There is no subtlety to this movie in the slightest. Everything is hammered home in loud bombast and with the firmest tongue-in-cheek attitude. The only reason this film is able to function as well as it does is because it plays everything 100% straight. There is no *wink wink* to be had here. By doing so, the film becomes incredibly fun. Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter is melodramatic and dumb in ways that most people would struggle to fathom. This is a film in which a vampire throws a CGI horse at the titular character in the midst of a stampede. He literally grabs the horse by the hooves and chucks it at the man who freed the slaves. Reading that line should tell you everything you need to know about the tone of this movie. Whatever manner of true sincerity this film may ever hope to put on screen is trampled underfoot by scenes of horses being thrown at the president of the United States or someone power-sliding a horse drawn carriage into the manor of a slave plantation. In short, this film has the same depth of vision as a child playing with action figures in a sandbox.

Don’t think I’m slamming the movie though. This movie is my kind of stupid. The fact is that everyone involved sells the premise so hard that you can’t help but enjoy it. Benjamin Walker is an excellent Abraham Lincoln. I suspect he may have gotten the part because he looks so much like Liam Neeson, who was the frontrunner to play the president in Spielberg’s take before Daniel Day Lewis took over. Jimmi Simpson, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Marie Elizabeth Winstead, and Alan motherf##king Tudyk as Stephen Douglas all round out the cast and do a superb job of selling the insanity. I suspect that Cooper is going to break out as a big star pretty damned soon. If I’d had my druthers Mary Elizabeth Winstead would be a leading lady ten times over. She’s beautiful, confident, and even in a film like this she manages to sell us on her character with very little material to work with.

I know there are going to be many people who trash this movie, some without even seeing it. Yes some of the action scenes are overly muddled by the CGI as well as the editing. Yes you may feel a little guilty for how this film treats the subject of slavery. The fact of the matter is that this is not a great film, but as a pure piece of popcorn entertainment you really can’t ask for more. The difference between this film and many like it is this film’s ability to sell its own ludicrous nature. While the film is played completely straight you can tell the intent was for the audience to walk out with a smile on their face asking themselves what they just saw. This film does exactly that. Let’s just hope the producers don’t get too bold and try to hoist a sequel on us. That my friends, would be going too far.

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Film Review – Captain America : The First Avenger

Did you guys see Jurassic Park III? You know the guy who directed that also helmed this. He was also responsible for The Wolfman last year. Though that won an Academy Award, so I won’t be cruel to that one. Plus, much like Captain America, the best part of that film was Hugo Weaving straight up chewin’ scenery. My point is that Joe Johnston was a bold choice to direct what would be the final piece in Marvel’s film-puzzle before The Avengers hits next may. At the same time, much as Kenneth Branaugh was an inspired choice to take up Thor Johnston is one of those directors who, when on his game, would be perfect for something like Captain America. The number one reason that people have been giving since the day he signed on the dotted line was the fact that he directed The Rocketeer which shares some similar themes as well as the “period piece” setting. Well, Captain America is decidedly better than The Rocketeer. Though to be honest I’d love to see Timothy Dalton hamming it up against Hugo Weaving. That would be golden.

The film begins in the present day, where a team of scientists drilling in the arctic find something unusual. The story is familiar to anyone who has a basic knowledge of Captain America beyond “he fights Nazis.” From there we fade back to World War II, where we meet up with Hugo Weaving’s Johann Schmidt laying siege to a village in Norway hoping to obtain some ancient Norse artifact supposedly taken from Odin’s throne-room. At this point we must accept that if you’re not seeing every Marvel Studios film you’re not getting the full experience. The item in question is of course the Tesseract, or the cosmic cube, which was actually glimpsed by keen eyed viewers in Thor earlier this year. We’ve finally reached the point where everything has come together and while if you missed Thor you can still enjoy Captain America, the sense of connectivity will be an added bonus for fans who have been following the buildup since Iron Man.

I have to say that this is probably the best origin story comic adaptation to date. Only Iron Man really comes close. There have been some complaints that Steve Rogers doesn’t really have a character arc, he just has a physical transformation. Those people clearly missed the point of the film. Steve was always a good man. His discussion with why he was chosen to be a super-soldier with Stanley Tucci’s Abe Erskine (another standout among many) touches on this quite effectively. Steve’s real arc doesn’t get a chance to begin until he reaches the future. With this being a true origin story, we don’t get to deal with that yet. A good portion of that will be dealt with in The Avengers I would assume. And that is the only downside to Marvel’s interconnected universe. There will always be things that get lost in the shuffle. In a movie like this you can’t get everything in a two hour time-span.

But they do manage to work in a good number of things that work, a truly epic villain who isn’t afraid to go big in a way that most villains have been lacking for a while on screen now for one. Hugo Weaving is perfect as the Red Skull and it’s good to see a true, and pardon the term, “comic-bookey” villain on screen and done well. He’s what the scenery chewing villains of the 90’s Batman franchise aimed for but missed entirely. Much credit must be given for making a character that could have been hokey and downright lame into a memorable character.

Chris Evans also does a good job portraying Steve Rogers. He’s almost too likeable. He brings that sense of honor and duty that Steve Rogers has always had as well as a truly great degree of charm. After seeing him in the role I’m not sure if any of the other names on the shortlist to play the character would have worked out near as well. This is the first time where I watched Chris Evans and didn’t see Chris Evans. I saw Captain effing America. As much as I enjoyed him in Fantastic Four, his Johnny Storm was much like the wise-cracking characters he had played in other films. In Scott Pilgrim, I got a feeling he was mostly just Chris Evans making fun of Chris Evans trying not to be Chris Evans. Here, he was Steve Rogers. The earliest parts of the movie where they used all the CGI left in the universe to make him a skinny little runt seemed to distract from the fact that this was an actor playing a part. I was greatly impressed.

But one of the things that truly stunned me, especially coming off of something like Thor, is that the romance element of the story was handled organically and sincerely. Hayley Atwell, who will likely become a lot of young men’s new celebrity crush after this film, plays a fully developed character in her own right whose relationship with Rogers is given time to shift and grow in a way that feels very real and genuine. Compare this to Chris Helmsworth’s attraction to Natalie Portman in Thor that was basically boiled down to “She’s Pretty, He Has Muscles.” Granted sometimes that’s how real relationships do happen but it doesn’t make for the most satisfying cinematic experience. The Rogers/Carter romance is definitely more interesting. Steve’s jealousy of the attention Tony Stark’s dad keeps throwing her way over the course of the film is one of the more entertaining aspects and shows that even though Steve is a good man at heart, he’s just like you. He hates it when good lookin’ dudes start eyeballin’ your girl.

Personally, this is my favorite of the Marvel Studios entries. I’m a big Cap fan and I feel they nailed it with this one. Iron Man comes very very close. But there was something about this film that just felt more like a Marvel comic come to life than any of the previous entries. Iron Man II attempted that feeling but in the wrong manner. Cameos out the wazoo do nothing. But capture the tone and feel of the page and translate it to screen, and you’ll get something truly special, which Captain America is. I plan on seeing it again very very soon.