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Posts Tagged ‘samuel l. jackson’

11172241_det‘Oldboy’ was a very provocative film when it first released on Korean shores.  Beautifully shot with a frenetic style, it was part of a fascinating Korean renaissance of filmmaking and quite the film to watch.  As often as it happens in the modern day of films, the US has taken the property and remade it, unfortunately to very unsatisfying results.  This new iteration of ‘Oldboy’ may have the trappings of it’s original’s plotline but lacks little else in it’s messy execution that may only please on the most superficial levels.

‘Oldboy’ follows Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) who is working in advertising and is a drunkard in the worst ways.  After a drunken night in town, he suddenly blacks out and is awaken in a motel room which he cannot escape.  After 20 years of imprisonment and learning through an in-room TV that he is framed for murder for his ex-wife along with his daughter trying to live a normal life, Joe is put in a box and let go in the middle of the city – trying to retrace who may have wronged him and why.  Along the way, Joe encounters Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson) and finally, the Stranger (Sharlto Copley) himself.

Spike Lee’s remake falls apart in several key aspects: the bland aesthetical choices, a rushed/weaker script and a miscast set of actors.  In terms of just a visual and auditory experience, ‘Oldboy’ underwhelms.  A generic orchestral soundtrack that is oddly punctured with a metal guitar during action sequences feel completely uninspired.  On top of this, there is a lack of much physicality to scenes like the hammer fight scene, which feels odd in how it is shot and the lack of emotion within the choreography.  This scene is a great example of how this film simply takes a key scene from the original and only goes through the motions of remaking it rather than understanding what made the scene great overall.

How the hammer scene is written is a great reminder in how the whole script seemed to work – simply summarizing points from the original and never doing much to capture the spirit or emotion behind it’s predecessor.  More like a ‘greatest hits’ remake, the film makes nods towards the original (such as an octopus in a fish tank) and follows the original’s plot track beat-by-beat but never seems to capture the intensity or even mystery/tension that this film tries to grasp towards.  Joe, for instance, has an unnecessary and poorly shot scene where he fights a group of football players that tries to showcase his anger and new fighting prowess but comes off making the character even more unlikable and confusing as to why it had to happen.  The climax and explanations/additions/changes all feel undercooked and underwhelming as well.  Mixed in with the weak script is some of the worst product placement of the year that tries to integrate itself with Joe’s lack of technological prowess and ends up displaying more logos with unnecessary screen time.

Additionally, the majority of the cast feel completely misplaced or, at the very least, awkwardly written in.  Josh Brolin, for instance, is written off as a very unlikable character and does not find much redemption in his actions or given any really redeeming qualities.  These features become important since we stick with the character throughout the entire film and although Brolin is given a numerous amount of hardships to overcome, the audience rarely empathizes with the drama itself.  These casting problems extend to Copley and to a certain extent, even Jackson who feel more goofball than evil.  The most positive aspect about the film is probably Olsen who as a character is written a bit more logically than her counterpart in the original film and in terms of acting, is the most comfortable in her role.  It’s just a shame that the rest of the film was not given more attention like her.

‘Oldboy’ is a great example into how not to remake a film.  On top of a generic and inconsistent soundtrack and a mostly odd miscast cast, the script simply only replicates the beats than take the innovative style and charisma of it’s predecessor.  The end effect feels like a sloppy film that has been ‘Hollywood-ized’ in the worst ways.  If you are interested in the premise behind the film, go watch the original Korean version of the film.  This version of the story feels uninspired and generic even with the pedigree of the cast and crew behind it.  

Director: Spike Lee
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Rated: R

The Wie muses: * 1/2 out of *****

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A superhero film usually limits itself to it’s hero and it’s villain or perhaps two or three heroes or a few more villains.  With the limited time frame of a film, it becomes fairly difficult for a film to maneuver the more characters it adds as evidenced by films like the ‘X-Men’ series which showed off a plethora of films although not always the best showcase for all it’s characters.  And so comes the Avengers, a unique endgame that Marvel Studios has been brewing and setting up since Iron Man, combining some of Marvel’s biggest heroes into one film.  The end result isn’t always perfect with a fairly predictable narrative and a flimsy first half, but many will adore the geeky, fun moments that are big on thrills and entertainment value while still retaining heart and character.

The Avengers follows a group of remarkable characters from previous Marvel films including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).  Thor’s exiled brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has returned to Earth to find an energy source that could power a gateway between Earth and another realm in an act of war.  Together, the heroes must do their best to put their egos aside and work amongst one another to try and figure out a way to stop Loki before it is too late.

The Avengers does run into a few problems throughout it’s duration due to it’s scope and positioning and doesn’t necessarily elevate the genre to any new heights.  The first is in it’s actual plot structure, which is fairly predictable.  Both as a positive and a negative, the way the plot progresses is reminiscent of a typical comic book hero story which makes the film feel very much rooted in it’s comic book lore but also doesn’t make very many deviations from the standard formula.  The end result is a lack of surprises in where the story actually goes and by the halfway point of the film, most audience members will be able to accurately predict how the film will end and where the characters will end up.  Also, due to the nature of the film being positioned as a tentpole film after all the other Marvel films to date, the first half of the film is most likely going to confuse newcomers and still be somewhat slow even for veterans as the film tries to introduce, reintroduce, and explain concepts without seeming too mundane yet still falls victim to the complicated puzzle it needs to fit together.

That being said, the core film of Avengers is good and entertaining to combine the best of all it’s characters.  On one level, there are good action set pieces that are not just full of explosions and destruction but includes smart opportunities to show off character and create memorable moments.  During these scenes, fans, especially, will enjoy seeing their favorite characters shown off in different ways and with a fairly good sense of distance and chronology, Avengers uses these action moments to create some exciting moments by combining and distancing the heroes in interesting and fun ways.  This positive point leads into another – the actual attention to character and heart.  Not only are nearly all of the characters given a good amount of screentime but each are given something to work with that allows them to (at least) be a little more than just a one-sided character.  Playing with the egos and big personalities of these distinct characters and mixing in their backgrounds create an interesting rhythm that is fascinating to see play out, helped much by all the actors who not only reprise their roles well but at times, adds much more to them whether it is Hiddleston’s much more bombastic Loki to Downey’s snark and clever quips clashing well with Evans straight shooter personality.  These characteristics and growth help to not only flesh out the characters but gives some more emotional weight and thoughtfulness amongst all the fierce action scenes.  Finally, the script itself is full of fun nods and some good humor to round out the package that are full of geeky, fun moments for fans and not tire out the audience with constant explosions and noise.

The Avengers has all the trappings of a big summer blockbuster movie from the good to the bad while retaining it’s character both in it’s comic book roots to the chemistry and fascination of seeing such larger-than-life characters mashed up here as well. Newcomers to this Marvel universe should be aware (although some enjoyment is still present) that there is a bit of a learning curve in understanding the plot and proceedings of the first half along with other weaker elements from a fairly unsurprising narrative arc to a slow build-up.  However, what Whedon and the rest of the crew accomplished must be commended – they created a summer movie of huge action, superhero set pieces with a good heart and care still taken in actually creating some empathy and growth in it’s characters while giving fans a healthy dose of humor and fun.  It’s a movie really for the fans of the series and although that may mean it might not exactly be cinema perfection, it sure as hell means that viewers will get more than their money’s worth of entertainment and some interesting proceedings.  

Director: Joss Whedon
Running Time: 142 Minutes
Rated: PG-13

The Wie muses: *** ½ out of *****

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