Sean K. Cureton

Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

Marvel Studios Still Going Strong

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on May 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Theatrical Poster

Thor
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
2 1/2 out of 4 stars

Given the fact that Marvel has three big budget movies coming out this summer, and that Jon Favreau has officially said no to doing another Iron Man film, it was important that the first movie they released this summer be good enough that it would make movie goers want to go back to see the others. Luckily for Marvel, Thor is just that good.

Set in a universe with some aspects of Norse mythology thrown in, Thor is essentially a story about the title character’s journey to find his own position in the universe around him in order that he may have both the strength and the wisdom to protect it. Of course, there is also plenty of stunning special effects and fight sequences thrown in along the way, as well as intrigue and betrayal between the characters concerned. But what makes this “superhero movie” stand apart from others made by Marvel over the past 10 years is the fact that it feels like a timeless epic tale of legends. The world of Asgard and the Nine Realms is certainly awe inspiring in its shine and polish, but what makes it really special is how it feels like a genuine society set in a completely different time and culture from our own.

Much of this originality of the universe of Thor, most probably all of it, can be attributed to the expert direction of Kenneth Branagh, whose own experience as both a director and a Shakespearean actor seemed to have influenced his creation of the mythic world found in this film.

It also doesn’t hurt that Branagh found a great group of actors to take on the roles that were needed to make this film as good as it was. From Chris Hemsworth who deftly wielded the hammer of the great Norse God, to Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard who played two of the scientists who find Thor after his arrival to Earth, Branagh was able to cast his film in a way that made all of the roles within it feel genuine and new. Even Anthony Hopkins fit as Odin, despite the fact that many of Hopkins’ recent film appearances have been less than noteworthy.

In conclusion, Thor is a perfect way to start off the summer movie season, as it is both filled with action and timeless themes of courage and justice, and a great continuation of the Marvel universe that was last visited in Iron Man 2. With Thor being released as the first Marvel film for this summer, things look good for the other films Marvel will be releasing later on, and it bodes well for next summer’s long anticipated film adaptation of The Avengers.

Indy Jersey

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on May 17, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Theatrical Poster

Win Win
Directed by Thomas McCarthy
3 out of 4 stars

Coming off the critical success of his first two films, New Jersey native Thomas McCarthy has directed his third Indy film that just goes to show that there is more to New Jersey than just the Sopranos and Kevin Smith. Win Win is a phenomenal film that is laugh out loud funny while dealing with quite dark and serious plot points. Set from the point of view of lawyer Mike Flaherty(Paul Giamatti), Win Win is about a good natured husband and pillar of the community who adopts a strange teenager who shows up on the doorstep of an elderly and infirm client of Mike’s. Soon after taking Kyle in, played by actual New Jersey wrestling champ Alex Shaffer, Mike finds out about Kyle’s past as a wrestler, and recruits him to his own failing team. The plot thickens from there, but it would be amiss to spoil anymore of the plot.

What is so special about this film, and what sets it apart from other sports films like it, is that McCarthy isn’t directing like a sports fan, he is directing like a film fan. The wrestling matches within the film are there, but they aren’t there for the sake of the sport, they are there to work as a larger metaphor for both Mike and Kyle, who are both controlled by things in the outside world that hold no power within the wrestling match. In other words, the wrestling that takes place within the film serves as the one source of control that Mike and Kyle have in an otherwise stressful and cruel world.

Giamatti is in top form as Mike, and he is accompanied by the likes of Amy Ryan as his wife Jackie, Jeffrey Tambor as co-coach Stephen Vigman, and Bobby Cannavale as the off-beat friend Terry Delfino, who all work really well off of Giamatti’s energy. Even non-actor Alex Shaffer’s performance shines in the film. If you didn’t know that Shaffer wasn’t really an actor, you might just think that he was an up and comer, and for all anyone knows, he could be.

Win Win just goes to show that great Indy films can be made in Jersey, and that Garden State, and films like it, can still be made there. With his third film, Thomas McCarthy proves that he has the skills to consistently deliver good films, and further seats himself within the ranks of the better Indy directors working today.