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IR Film Review: DARK PHOENIX [20th Century Fox/Disney]

The essence of the X-Men mythology has placed it with some ideals of archetypes but, with some of the actors involved, the texture of nuance is always an interesting progression in what is embraced and what is shown below the surface. This reviewer did interviews for “X-Men: The Last Stand” back in the last iteration of the cast before “First Class” but also visited the set of “X-Men: Apocalypse”. With “The Last Stand”, the approach involved the aspect of Jean Grey as well. However unlike Famke Jannsen’s iteration, there seems a times a lack of stakes or perhaps disconnection from Sophie Turner’s inhabiting of the character, much in the way of Captain Marvel in “Endgame”: she is so indestructible that the balance of her take down is somewhat like ants trying to destroy gods . That said, this installment is the most engrossing since “First Class”. The inclusion of Jennifer Lawrence works simply because of the structure of what it is setting up and that allows in true form the most connective tissue that motivates all the characters. Whether it be Tye Sheridan’s Psyclops or in a more pronounced fashion Beast played by Nicolas Hoult, “Dark Phoenix” has some more true acting from these performers because the entire proceeding is not overtaken by visual effects unlike some of the iterations before. It comes off more practical.

Also the characters, even more so, seem to engage in their baser desires at times which makes them more fully realized. Michael Fassbender’s Magneto seems both more conflicted but also at times more brutal than before. When he emerges in terms of his focus, it is interesting because it you can see him fighting against his own instincts (even though his character comes off more as supporting). James McAvoy as Professor X also has a more dynamic approach because his character is not the all wise. He makes mistakes and ego plays a part in this outing. These are superheroes but they are flawed and that is what this picture is allowing (perhaps in a darker way than perhaps Disney would approach it at a different time). Even Nightcrawler becomes brutal in a way not seen since “X2” when he was on the opposite viewpoint. That said, the story timing conversely is, at times, erratic. However this does not take away from the emotional notes. What scattershots the beats is Jessica Chastain and her minions. Chastain is on point in terms of her performance but there is not a reflective basis of her motivation. Her character’s origins are left to the ether which works to a point but not in the final revelation. “Dark Phoenix” in a great way handles many emotional beats in a way far superior to some of its predecessors thanks in part to director Simon Kinsberg who understands this mythology and the characters through and through. But endings, especially of an era, never are clean. They are messy. “Endgame” tried to do everything and reflected emotional but many plot holes still remained. “Dark Phoenix” writes a different story than the one previous to “The Last Stand” but in doing some creates something more contextual even if the final shot reflects a vague contentment.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR BD Review: THE SNOWMAN [Universal Studios Home Entertainment]

The aspect of “The Snowman” is wrapped in the different precipice of a Scandinavian thriller. If it were presented simply as that and not as a major Hollywood thriller, it might have fared better. The texture of the story despite being a graphic novel is simply a little too off kilter in terms of storytelling structure than it needs to be. Thomas Alfredson’s films are effective but, in all frankness, slightly more akin to an art house crowd. Mark Romanek roams in a similar hemisphere, not to say they cannot take on larger fare but their storytelling is more akin to eccentric character fare. Michael Fassbender plays Harry Hole, an intrepid detective with more than a little bit to hide. He seems effervescent and yet removed. A new detective aware of his previous cases played by Rebecca Ferguson shadows him. Whereas Ferguson enjoyed some chemistry with Tom Cruise in the “Mission Impossible” outing, here the interaction seems very droll and that might have to do with the direction. Ultimately for American audiences, no one was aware of the character to begin with so the fanfare behind it was what perplexed US audiences. The movie isn’t awful. It’s sensibility is a bit off. Tinker Taylor, which Alfredson had done previous, had a similar progression in pace. An aside is also the inclusion of Val Kilmer, post op, which is both interesting and disheartening in its presentation also because the use of heavy ADR with a different voice seems to be what has happened. The extras seems to address the idea of Harry Hole being such a hallowed character in Scandinavia along with profiling the author Jo Nesbo. The aspects of the different locations in Norway do highlight a beautiful aspect of the films (there are some beautiful flying over bridges sequences) but there is not a sense of true geography. There is also an anatomy of a scene which takes place on a frozen lake, both capture on site and in studio. “The Snowman” is not bad yet not great and wholly unexceptional.

D

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: PROMETHEUS [20th Century Fox]

The progression of modern science fiction builds its basis on the oft misunderstood “Blade Runner” while the horror genre finds respect through the first “Alien”. Both films were undertakings of an early 30s Ridley Scott attempting to progress a notion of mortality or simply of loss within an unforgiving world which casts aside whatever it pleases.

That is why “Prometheus”, his long awaited return to the genre, is exactly reflective of that personification. While functioning simply as a thriller using ideas of immortality might be attributable and somewhat indulgent, the intonation of what he is saying is personified in his aversion to saying what really might be below the surface.

The functionality of the movie is based in Noomi Rapace’s character (whom she herself calls a “believer”) who convinces a certain company to fund a trip to a distant planet that might be the origin point for the human race. The interesting angle here in terms of topography, landing and literal proportion of the objects involved is that one could see this as the Alien planet. The key is in the details of which they are many and many are misdirects. Damon Lindelof, the writer (also responsible for “Lost” and the “Star Trek” reboot) knows the lore undeniably which concedes his point of misdirection but also essentially let him keep certain elements open.

The proponent of many things also revolves around David, played with almost comedic (say Chaplin) progression by Michael Fassbender. Whether through his fastidious coloring of hair to resemble Peter O’Toole as Sir Lawrence in a well-regarded film or small seemingly strategic ploys of the movie that only the audience sees, the intention is to use what we know of the “Alien” universe to extrapolate motivation. However, also in play is what a new generation will see without the background of those movies. The layers are applicable which is what gives this movie a bit more than one would expect.

That said, there are many theories that can abound and that is what is good about a film like this as well as the viral campaign that preceded its release. What it is also good at doing, unlike many films today, is feel the need to explain everything (which is more an extension of studio-watch guarding than anything else).

Charlize Theron’s character Vickers is of particular interest, specifically in the way she is built and inter-played throughout the film strategically with David and an older elder figure. The clues in the dialogue as well as what is not shown speak to something undeniably connected in who and what her character is. It is one of the nicely created puzzles of the piece. The ship itself as it lands and the maze they enter into are simply a construct for a different story being told.

Because saying any more would ruin much of the re-watch value on the picture, “Prometheus” does accomplish what it set out to do: create a thought provoking diatribe on modern science fiction by the man who redefined it nearly two generations ago. While time will decide this picture’s impact within the pantheon, it shows that time does allow a bit of perspective and, at times, influence on what is said, how it is built and how it is filtered.

A-

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