Hal Jordan/Green Lantern is played by puppy-eyes, sadface Ryan Reynolds. Peter Saarsgard’s acting talents as Hector Hammond are misused and overshadowed by shallow character development. Blake Lively plays Carol Ferris, the love interest whose only role is to stand in front of the camera and make Peter Sarsgaard’s character jealous that Hal Jordan gets the girl for being a good looking guy.
The storyline is also something to be left desired. The Green Lantern mythology is certainly not a plot that cannot be done. The childhood story theme of good conquering evil, courage defeating fear, can be understood by all viewers. It’s classical and universal, but the way the film attempts to exhibit these themes are horrendous. Hal Jordan is suppose to be an irresponsible, shallow, and somewhat of a playboy that still expresses some sort of guilt for being the way he is. Somehow the viewer is suppose to sympathize with this character for his screw-ups and tragic past, but it comes off as a checklist of problems for Hal Jordan to overcome than actually fitting consistently within the film.
Peter Sarsgaard’s character, Hector Hammond, is less of an antagonist and more of an annoying side character. Hector’s motives for killing people is because he can’t tell the world a secret, and because he can’t get Hal Jordan’s girlfriend. His father is somewhat disappointed in him but at least is encouraging and exhibit some fatherly qualities. Parallax is suppose to be the larger-than-life antagonist that consume whole worlds similar to Unicron (played by the Orson Welles of all people) in Transformers the Movie, but he comes off more like the giant cloud from Fantastic Four—emotionless, uninteresting, lacking, and well, not monumental.
The film is a string of awkward dialogue behind okay CGI and mediocre action scenes. Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris showcase weak chemistry and poor mismatch interruptions. At certain instances the two are arguing about responsibilities at work, ther past relationship together, and Hal’s newfound responsibilities as a super hero. The next instance they kiss and make up without any realistic shift of emotions. They just happen. The relationship between Hal, Carol, and Hector are also near non-existent, as they are only strung together by brief, awkward mentions in conversations. Characters make dumbfound faces whenever the past between the love triangle are even mention.
The CGI is conflicting. If the computer graphics were meant to look cartoony, then they certainly did that. If it was meant to look realistic, then they failed to meet today’s expectations. At times the computer generated characters seem lifelike with visible skin textures and great reflective lighting. At other times, such as Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern suit, the special effects just look awful. Hal’s body, once transformed into the Green Lantern, looks disproportionate and poorly anatomotize.
It’s all about execution, but execution is dependent on talent, time, and budget. They clearly have the talent. The cinematography was certainly not horrible. The concepts within the script is certainly there, if only more tightly handled. And the unbalanced CGI is filled with potential. It seems like the Green Lantern franchise was sacrificed just to have a DC summer flick out of a sea of Marvel franchises, like Thor and Captain America. In the latter half of the film, Hal Jordan flies off earth during a battle with Hector to make a pathetic excuse of an inspiring speech to the Green Lantern Corps and quickly flies back to continue the fight. Other characters randomly appear without context. The pacing is at times too slow to keep the viewer interested and at times too fast to build enough tension to care.
I don’t want to sound like I’m personally attacking the film. In a lot of ways, I sympathize with it. I dreamt of a Green Lantern film for a while. I wanted an epic film with core, meaningful themes of good conquering evil. Instead, I get a popcorn summer flick that made me cringe throughout the film. I suppose it is unfortunate that Green Lantern is not a large enough brand name as Batman, Superman, and Spiderman to get a better budget. I don’t really know if Green Lantern should have a sequel, but then again Fantastic Four had one regardless.
The Tree of life is a cinematic masterpiece. The film is a string of interconnected stories, meticulously pieced together through visual brilliance. It is truly beautiful, a film that will be remembered for eternity, a film that will be studied by students for its cinematography. Director Terrance Malick (Days of Heaven, Badlands) and cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki (Y tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men) returns to paint landscapes of lush greens, hazy summer yellow, and clear blue skies. Sunsets cascade downwards, highlighting the rim of the characters’ faces. Light flares are not artificial but mere examples of the natural beauty of the Waco, Texas suburb. Landscapes are shown through crisp clarity. Colors compliment one another, never conflicting. The visual beauty of the adolescent Jack’s world will bring the viewers back to the time of innocence, a time of endless summer joys and curiosity.
The film is a study of a family upbringing and the meaning of life through a lost son and brother. The film starts with a quote from the Book of Job where God asks, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation…while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” A few cut scenes occur in which the O’Brien’s deal with their loss of a son and brother. In order to make the story of a family coping with a lost loved one become more universal, the film shifts to the very beginning—the creation of the universe. CGI and other special effects are carefully used to create the feeling of isolation and marvel. What was once nothing, empty, bleak, black, becomes form. In what would take billions of years, occur in a course of a few minutes. Suddenly a burst of colors appear. Organisms evolve. Life forms.
In order to the understand human nature, the story shifts from the entirety of the universe to the O’Brien’s, a normal family in Waco, Texas during the 1950s. The Tree of Life is a film filled with jealous siblings and a father losing his sense of identity. Children side with certain parents. They deal with themes of trust, puberty, fairness, death, and honoring a father.
The cast of characters are versitile and stand out. At the same time, they are uniform and complimentary to one another. The family is real, each one having their own philosophical ideas on human nature and how to raise and be raised. Brad Pitt shifts away from his typical good looking and lovable persona and plays a convincing family man, a man that wants his children to be strong and self-made men. Mr. O’Brien fears being too outwardly soft on his children. Jessica Chastain plays Mr. O’Brien’s opposite, his better half. She is youthful, playful, less stern. She dances in the front lawn, walks barefoot, washes her hands and feet with the water hose.
The children are also distinguishable in their own ways, especially the oldest of the three, Jack, played by the young Hunter McCracken. Through his lens, the viewers observe how Jack is raised, learning right from wrong, his conflicted mind, and his influences that make up his future. The youthful Jack is playful, curious, and caring but also full of fear and bewilderment. He fears losing his father’s trust; he deals with issues of puberty. The film juxtaposes the adolescent Jack to the present Jack (Sean Penn) who is a successful architect living in a metropolitan city. The film shifts back and forth between both Jack’s as time intertwine and intermixed. The present day Jack lives in an upscale home and works in a large metropolitan skyscraper. Where the adolescent Jack lives in an organic paradise filled with colors, trees, and excitement, the present Jack is living in an eternal bleak world. Walls are white and vertical. The buildings are made of steel columns and glass windows. Men dress in black indistinguishable suits.
The Tree of Life is based on the foundation and roots that interconnect one another. Whether the focus is the family or the so-called bigger picture of the universe, there is a message that any viewer can see from watching the film. One can interpret the film as the children that play in the fields as being interconnected with nature, the marvel that the creation of the universe that have taken billions of years have met to this very present moment for something so simple as children playing in the grass with sticks. One can view the film as an ode to prayer, the interconnection of family and a lost love one. The Tree of Life is mutidimensional, marvelous, demands multiple viewings. The visuals will bring the viewers back. Terrance Malick’s direction will help guide.
Guess what? Hip-hop is not dead. Who woulda thunk it right?
I must be the only person that didn’t realize it. Nas might have said that hip-hop is dead, but I don’t think so. Like many diehard hip-hop fans, I’ve been feeling sort of down about the quality of hip-hop recently, especially what is being played on radio. But to put it into perspective, last summer we had the much anticipated Big Boi release. How I Got Over is one of my favorite Roots release. And Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek are still doing what they do best. This year we had a solid Raekwon release. Then there’s new up-and-coming artists such as J.Cole and Jay Electronica that haven’t released any studio albums yet.
This brings up Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80. Kendrick Lamar is a 24 year old rapper living in Compton. His style blends the meaningful lyrics reminiscent to 2pac (including chanting “thug life” and shoutouts to the late rapper) with lyrical dexterity without overly complex vocabulary similar to Jay-z. His mission is to get his voice clear for everyone to hear, not to be to too caught up into complex wordplays. Kendrick Lamar plays on themes based on what he sees without preaching.
In “No Make-Up”, Kendrick tells a story of a girl putting make-up during the morning while Kendrick is in the same room watching her. Kendrick describes the girl’s artificial beauty built on make-up but wants to see her true face without the mask. The ending of the song is made to shock the viewer as to why she wears so much make-up. Other noteworthy songs include “Kush & Corinthians” where Kendrick questions the meaning of existence. He tries to get to the point but ends up constantly getting side-tracked. “ADHD” has been a recent underground favorite, describing a party filled with videogames and drugs but also the feeling of isolation and depression.
Section.80 is a hit or miss for me. Maybe I need to listen to the album more, but I’m one of those people that prefer “conscience rap” music. Whenever rappers mentions bitches and hoes or demean women or talk about their dick too much, I start to feel uneasy about the artist. With that said Kendrick Lamar clearly is a talented rapper. The album feels out of focus at times, but Kendrick Lamar is still young and has time to mature.
The political and socially aware “Hiiipower” gives shoutouts to Martin Luther King Jr. and Marcus Garvey, but I question the depth of the song. Something seems to hold him back. Maybe it’s the fear of sounding preachy like how Dead Prez can be or too controversial like Immortal Technique. Whatever the case may be, if anybody is looking for new hip-hop artists, Kendrick Lamar is a good recommendation. You might not agree with everything he says, but there are some good songs and interesting storytelling.
Let me get something straight here. I am not a fan of Hollywood bringing back franchises. It’s not that every franchise that comes back is horrible. It’s just that for every Batman revamp there are many horrible ones like as Indiana Jones. And for a film that has been given little to no hype, I was expecting almost nothing. The only reasons why I thought that Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be any good was because James Franco was in it and that I wanted to see talking apes.
And I got both of them.
Not only did I get to see James Franco act like a scientist while making cute puppy faces, but I also got a lot more. The film has heart. A lot of it. Possibly the most difficult part of making this film was bringing the CGI apes to life, making the apes humanlike. The apes were not on screen to be cute. They’re a pivotal part of the story. Enter the character Caesar (Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings series), the ape of scientist Will Rodman (James Franco, 127 Hours). Caesar was saved from a testing facility by Will, who was going to put the testing animals to sleep after a failed experiment to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Through the failed experiment, Caesar was able to rapidly develop intelligence at an early age, being able to understand sign language as well as converse with Will. The viewers quickly develop the notion that Caesar is not merely Will’s pet but his son. The film not only displays the humanizing effects of the experiment on Caesar but also the dehumanizing treatment that the viewers can sympathize. Images of apes trapped under ill treatment by Dodge Landon (Tom Felton, Harry Potter series) set the viewers back to images of prisoners living under harsh conditions. Enter the uncanny where the viewers are able to strangely relate to the harsh treatment of apes!
Rise of the Planet of the Apes also makes a point in making Will Rodman into a relatable character. The reason why he is searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease is because his father Charles (John Lithgow, Dexter) is suffering from the disease. The film makes it a point in showing Will and his connection with his father, his love interest Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire), and Caesar.
But let’s not hark any longer on the human connection of the film. Though Rise of the Planet of the Apes does a pretty good job at connecting the viewers to the characters, it also has great action scenes and CGI. The last 30 minutes is pure action. Once the apes start rebelling (this is not a spoiler, it’s in the title), things start shaking up. Helicopters crash, cars are being wrecked, apes start jumping out of windows, and yes, the apes are throwing staffs similar to the original films. It’s just plain enjoyable to watch without too much of the annoying ADD Michael Bay incomprehensible BS quick cuts.
In the span of two hours, Rise of the Planet of the Apes were able to humanize the apes, draw the viewers to care for them and understand their desires for rebellion, bring enjoyable action scenes, make a few nods at previous films, and set up future sequels that are worth anticipating (I’m looking at you Green Lantern).
Midnight in Paris is the best summer film of the year. It is delightful, lighthearted, and full of magic. It is thoughtful as it is enjoyable. Woody Allen returns to directorial prestige, bringing the viewer back to the era of Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Stardust Memories.
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, Bottle Rocket) plays the Woody Allen-esque charater Gil, a Hollywood hack screenwriter that hopes to achieve greatness as a novelist but fears that he could never live up to the likes of his literary heroes, such as Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway. He is trying to finish his novel, when he ventures off with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams, Wedding Crashers, Mean Girls) to Paris. Inez, unlike Gil, is not a romantic. She does not understand why anybody would want to walk in the rain. Instead, Inez is a cold bourgeois girl living in California that would rather look at jewelry than marvel the beautiful historical cityscape. Inez’s parents, John and Helen, are played by Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy and provide rich chemistry along with Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams’ characters. Another notable role includes relatively unknown actor Corey Stoll (Salt) that plays a convincing and humorous character.
And that is all I can explain about the story. The rest can only be seen as any further explanation will ruin the experience.
The film starts with shots of the Parisian cityscape—the lights, the streets, the buildings, the people walking, the rain. It is the beginning of the film that culminates the entirety of it. It’s through sheer beauty of the city that encapsulates, invigorates, and embodies the film. Make no mistake; Paris is as much of a character as Gil, Inez, and the rest of the cast. Cinematographer Darius Khondji (Funny Games, Anything Else, Se7en) presents Paris as mysterious, beautiful, romantic, radiant.
Through this comes with some criticisms of modern films. Many films today like to try to make itself edgy and dark by monotoning the colors, cranking the visuals down to almost black and white. Scenes are chopped sloppily in rapid succession blinding and distorting the viewers to the point of confusion. Scenes move so fast that the viewers have no time to think. But in reality, these films are nothing more than soulless. They are wasted trash, popcorn films for the cynical world that we live in. They distort what is truly important in life, such as the randomness of connections, the beauty of existence, the marvel of colors. Black and white and distortion can also be beautiful, but it is cold, damp, depressing, and can only be taken in so much.
Films should be tools of escapism, bringing the viewers to worlds unlike any other. It should not just be mere reflections of how depressing life can be. And I’m not strictly talking about making only fantasy/sci-fi films like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. I’m talking about films such as this. Midnight in Paris may speak to the nostalgic dreamers and maybe this dreamer laments the loss of colors and keeps going back to films similar to this, but this films fulfills something that is relentlessly unfulfilled today. Very few films recently are as memorable and downright enjoyable without the need of hints of nihilism. The last film off the top of my head that I can remember was (500) Days of Summer.
Maybe the reason why Midnight in Paris has received so much high praise is because Woody Allen returns to form that many have remembered him. As Chris Rock had said (and I’m really really paraphrasing here) Woody Allen is the only director that can make romance. Very few can make romantic films that are as heartwarming as he can. That’s not to say that Woody Allen cannot be versatile and experimental, but for many, this is what critics have been waiting for.