Underneath Cincinnati has undergone a number of behind-the-scenes changes in its 10 years of existence (members of the Southern Ohio Film Association now guide it), but its mission has largely remained the same — to showcase and support area independent filmmakers.
As is the case every year, the big studios use the first quarter as a dumping ground for its duds, movies that for one reason or another they think are unlikely to generate much interest in an audience whose expectations are already diminished. Still, this year's list of dumpster dwellers seems even more robust than usual. On the other end of the spectrum, I can think of only two studio films to this point that have transcended the mediocre: Paul Feig's Bridesmaids and Duncan Jones' Source Code, both of which tweak genre conventions in slightly unexpected ways.
Why can't Sam Rockwell find a movie that fully takes advantage of his singular talents?
Long one of our most expressive, instinctual and interesting actors, the 42-year-old Rockwell has added spice as a supporting player in a string of high-profile studios movies (Iron Man 2, Everybody's Fine, Frost/Nixon, Matchstick Men, Charlie's Angels and The Green Mile, among others) and has been compelling as a central figure in a handful of smaller films (Choke, Joshua, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Lawn Dogs and Box of Moon Light).
A “re-imagining” of A Nightmare on Elm Street opens this week. Really? The original Freddy movie, which is now best known as Johnny Depp’s first big-screen role, not to mention its endless (and endlessly lame) sequels?
What does it say when Golden Globes’ host Ricky Gervais is getting more post-show attention than the night’s winners (or January Jones’ gravity-defying dress)? Sure, Gervais’ sharp-tongued shots at various targets — from the easy (Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson) to the slightly less so (Steve Carell, Tim Allen and God) — were often insensitive and sometimes crass, but none of them were necessarily untruthful or even far from what most viewers would say about each recipient.
After months of sparse and, more importantly, mediocre (if not abysmal) movie options, recent weeks have give us a bounty of worthwhile offerings in a variety of genres — from art-house fare like Catfish, Jack Goes Boating, Lebanon and A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop to multiplex stuff like The Social Network and Let Me In and Easy A. And this week delivers yet more of both: Buried, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Secretariat and Never Let Me Go.
Add in the Cincinnati Film Festival, which opens today and runs through Oct. 16, and we have a smorgasbord of cinematic offerings from which to choose.
As a long time Thor fan, this movie has been on my calendar for months. Going into The Avengers I was excited but tried to keep my expectations from getting out of control. Fortunately, I didn’t need to do that because the movie is that good. A lot of that credit has to go to writer/director Joss Whedon. Some of you might recognize the name because he created the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.
The movie could have fallen apart from the beginning with so many big characters — both figurative and literally speaking — on screen at once. With Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk taking part in the story, any number of things could have gone wrong. Characters could have been underutilized — having four strong stand alone characters could have made them feel not like a team at all — but in the span of just a few hours, Whedon and company have created a giant leap for comic book fans and movies.
Whedon was the right person for the job because, based on his past work, he knows how to generate great characterization and interaction. He knows how to tell a story through the characters and not through the special effects, which was needed in a situation like this. Whedon, the other writers and the actors were able to make these comic book characters more human, so to speak.
The interactions between Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) were some of the best moments in the movie. Some of my favorites were Stark poking Banner to see if he will Hulk up, Thor giving a great one-liner about his brother Loki and Stark verbally sparing with Loki toward the end of the movie.
The story is simple enough: Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wants to take over and rule Earth and the Avengers have to stop him. The major battle doesn’t take place until the end of the movie, but then again it does take up the final 30 minutes or so.
With Loki as the main villain in the movie it helps to have seen last year’s Thor. It isn’t a must to but it does help set up the relationship between Thor and Loki. Watching all of the individual movies helps with understanding some of the character traits in The Avengers, though the last the two Hulk films don’t really do much for the character except see him smash through tanks and cities.
While Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk are the main heroes, there is a strong supporting cast around them. Scarlett Johansson is Agent Romanoff/Black Widow and Jeremy Renner is Agent Barton/Hawkeye, both agents for S.H.I.E.L.D. Clark Gregg returns as S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson, and How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders is Agent Hill. The guy who brings all of these characters together is Nick Furry, played by Samuel L. Jackson.
Tom Hiddleston is terrific as Loki. He is sinister, brutal and devious — after all, he is the Norse god of mischief, deceit and lies. I hope he returns in some fashion in the next Thor movie or the next Avengers. Robert Downey Jr. is back to his witty, sarcastic ways and he has some of the best lines in the movie. Mark Ruffalo is able to finally bring some credit to the Bruce Banner/Hulk character.
The Avengers is a great way to kick off the summer movie season. It combines wonderful action sequences, well done comedy and heartfelt drama in the span of 142 minutes. Whedon was a perfect fit for this movie because he understands character and doesn’t rely on flashy explosions like some directors. If you like flashy explosions there are a decent amount in The Avengers but there is also some of the best character development/interaction I’ve seen in a Marvel movie.
Surprisingly, early word on No Strings Attached — Ivan Reitman's sexually liberated romantic comedy featuring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher — is strong.
The movie awards season kicked into overdrive Dec. 15 with the announcement of the 67th annual Golden Globe Awards nominations. I’m typically the first one to criticize the Globes’ often banal, stars-and-studio-influenced nominations, but this year’s crop seems more discerning than usual.