Monday, October 10, 2011

REAL STEEL and THE IDES OF MARCH: Reel Rhino Reviews

This was a weekend that jammed about 20 hours of stuff into each 15 hour waking day, up to and including one nature walk, one visit to the pumpkin farm, and one helluva garage sale.

I am a tired Rhino, but I did manage to catch both flicks.

REAL STEEL - 3.5 of 5 Horns
From "Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he's found a champion in a discarded robot. During his hopeful rise to the top, he discovers he has an 11-year-old son who wants to know his father."

If I had been a younger man, I may have loved this movie.  If I had been a bit less jaded of a movie goer, I would have had a passion ignited in me, for a film like this.

As it stands, I liked this movie.

I did have the good fortune of catching the flick with my friend Matt and his girlfriend Jen.  Matt is one of the main AMC faithful, who recently surpassed more than 800 AMC Stubs memberships sold...a helluva milestone indeed...1000 is a knockin' brother!  Matt, being a wide-eyed 19 year old, did enjoy the flick a fair bit more than me, and I think watching it with him helped me enjoy it more, as he was a big proponent, who immediately put this into his top 5 of the year to date.
I am a fan of Hugh Jackman's and I am happy to see Evangaline Lily getting some post Lost work.  Anthony Mackie wowed us in The Hurt Locker, and he again showed himself as a fully capable and extremely enjoyable.  Dakota Goya was really solid as Charlie Kenton's (Jackman) long lost son, Max.  You think you saw him somewhere before?  Yep, he was the young Thor earlier this summer.

This movie was well shot, looked great, and had a moderately enjoyable story.  But it was maybe just a little too much in the robots fighting department.  I did like the sense of weight that was given with each step they took, especially seeing it in IMAX.  That said, it was really good, just not great.

I had hoped for more, but you take the good, you take the wasn't a terrible flick and it served its purpose for a mindful summer flick.  Yes, I know it isn't summer anymore, and I wonder if some of this films shortcomings didn't keep it from going head to head with that other giant robots fighting movie.  I think Real Steel would have had more impact if it had dropped in August, rather than October.  What we need now is a good horror movie, and what we are getting is Paranormal Activity 3.  Like I said, you take the good, you take the bad...

Also, Steven Spielberg was an Executive Producer for this flick.  It showed...Atom, the underdog bot that becomes the lead fighter for Charlie and Max, was found and salvaged by Max.  This essentially becomes the non-transforming version of "a boy and his car" that Spielberg pushed into the first Bay Transformers.

These robots are not thinkers.  They are controlled by operators, which brings more "realism" to the concept and keeps this well out of the realm of being a Transformers spin-off.  But, with the robots being nothing more that machines, there is less invested in the outcomes except for the emotional attachments that have been added to them by the humans that control them.

The upside was that for a mildly effective drama throughout, I really thought the last fight and the resolution between Charlie and Max struck me as effective.  The movie ended at exactly the right moment, but that was exceptionally important since it clocked in at 127 minutes.  I think the whole thing would have been a tighter film at about 100 minutes and the drama would have been tighter if not stretched out so much.

Watch the previews, you'll get a good sense of the action the film presents.

Again, not great, but definitely worth seeing at the theater, and I promise it will be enhanced if you see it in IMAX. 

THE IDES OF MARCH - 3 of 5 Horns
Directed by George Clooney, here is the IMDB description in brief: An idealistic staffer for a newbie presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail. Based on the play by Beau Willimon.

This movie is being critically lauded and this is definitely the result of the superb acting chops that fill this flick from start to finish.  Ryan Gosling has been relatively quiet through the past 10 years in subtle roles, making a choppy wake in the Hollywood pool.  Folks, this is the year of the Gos.  He is making waves now, and with the Ides, Drive, and Crazy Stupid Love trifecta, he is officially marked as a superstar.  He excelled in all three roles, bringing high drama, delivering unwavering violence, and napping status as a sex symbol who has comedic delivery on top of it all.

George Clooney is standard (read: great) as presidential hopeful; Phillip Symore Hoffman is standard (read: stellar) as his campaign manager; Paul Giamatti is standard (read: stellar) as the opposing team campaign manager...even Evan Rachel Wood was above par in her role as the scandalous intern that serves as the fuel to feed the fire of drama in throughout the flick.  Also featured were Jennifer Ehle (see also: Contagion); Jeffrey Wright; Marisa Tomei; and Gregory Itzen.

Clooney is an effective director and I enjoyed a good number of his shots and the mild tension that some of the lighting choices brought.

But all this said, here is what I didn't like...

The overall story was far too light in its handling of the drama.  There was far too little tension and while the gravity of the events unfolding were apparent, there was too little featured in the film that conveyed that any of the characters were really affected by the weight of things going on around them.

Really, only Gosling's role as the idealistic staffer takes appropriate action when the situations around him demands it, but everyone else seemed to be coasting along.

George Clooney is a Steven Soderbergh favorite and I think the Soderbergh style has rubbed off on him.  I was reminded of Clooney's 2006 role in The Good German, also billed in part as a thriller.  I liked The Good German, but thrilled I was not.  Just as with that film, I thought the Ides of March was an effective drama, but there was too little dramatic tension that gives the film the chance to be elevated to the status of thriller.

That I was expecting a political thriller, I was let down.  I remember thinking during the flick that if you told me that this was a dramatic re-enactment of actual events, I would have believed it.  Life is usually filled with drama, but far less thrilling that the movies make it out to be.  To that end, as a drama; as a view through a window looking into the procedural world of dirty politics, I guess the movie succeeded.

For my money, I was happy to see this flick, but overall, I liked it for the actor's workshop we were treated to, more so than the tale that was woven.  I don't know how the Willimon play came off, but I think the story created for the screen by Clooney and Grant Heslov was a little milquetoast.

That's all folks....I will catch up with you soon.  I hope to get to business catching up on some TV this week.  I have three more episodes of Breaking Bad before I can watch the season finale from that show.  Dexter is back.  I tried revisiting CSI with Ted Dansen in the lead...he looked competent in the role, but I decided to keep it off my watch list.  The first 8 season wore me out, but I will always remember the Quintin Tarantino directed two-fer back at the end of season four or five...perhaps my all-time favorite episodes of any show ever. 

I would have liked to have caught Emilio Estavez's The Way this looks a little schlocky, but in a wholly enjoyable and heartfelt way.  Also, I am pretty excited for The Thing...hopefully this prequel will be the horror fare I am clamoring for.  That and Footloose are prediction on Footloose: atrocity.

Until later, take care....
Reel Rhino

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