March 5, 2014

Reviews! Get your reviews here!

Mud - The rebirth of Matthew McConaughey continues.

The man is an absolute blast at this point, and he's actually a heck of an actor. In spite of his prominence on the poster and his big name as the primary draw for folks to check into the film, McConaughey isn't nearly the lead in this film. The lead is the far younger, Ellis, played by Tye Sheridan from Tree of Life, and he's spot on perfect in the role as a young man who throws his lot in with the titular Mud and his quest for the love of his life, a barely in the film Reese Witherspoon.

The movie is a quality slice of life on the Arkansas river, families living on hacked-together houseboats, and just barely hanging on. Mud shows up as a change for Ellis at a time when he's in desperate need of something to hang his hope onto. Mud's background is revealed in drips and drabs with Ellis helping him stay in contact with Juniper, bringing food to Mud's island, and 'procuring' the parts needed to get Mud's recovered (and oddly treed) boat in operating shape.

Along the way, Ellis learns that true love isn't always true love and that there might be a second chance for him and his father and mother. It's an impressive film and one that comes together perfectly for a conclusion that left me with a catch in my throat.

Easy A - Emma Stone's lead is an engaging character whose choices get far, far out of hand. She's a mature-for-her-age, highly literate, raised by her NPR-loving-far-too-understanding parents, and well-off high school student whose initial exaggeration (or, more truthfully, outright lie) takes on a life of its own very, very quickly thanks to her nemesis, Amanda Bynes (in her pre-crazy days). From there Stone offers to help out a few of her friends, and her troubles grow. For the cost of a $25 gift card to Home Depot, Stone tells the world that she knows a number of the male students a little more intimately than people might otherwise imagine. Along the way, Stone predictably falls in love (or at least strong like), realizes that reputation just might actually matter, and only ruins a couple of lives.

The leads are all personable and likeable. The plot seems fairly predictable, but I didn't see the resolution coming until it was right upon us. It's not a spectacular film, but you could certainly do a lot worse in passing a couple of hours.

My stack of comics is becoming daunting, so we'll go with quick reviews of most of the rest of this week's media.
  • The Lego Movie - Go see this immediately. Yes, it's loads of fun. For about 2/3 of the movie, I thought it was just going to be a fun, little lark, a cute distraction and nicely made corporate advertisement...and then (spoiler alert) Will Ferrell came out in person, in real, honest to live-action person, and the film became a brilliant muse on fathers and sons, on freedom and creativity versus control and order. (spoilers done) This one isn't to be missed.
  • Pacific Rim - I read the prequel graphic novel a couple of weeks ago, and it left me far more curious about the movie than I'd been when it initially came out. Plus it was a Guillermo del Toro production, so that's a positive thing. Then I watched the movie and was underwhelmed. It's a big budget popcorn movie with not much else to offer beyond that. Most of the flick is predictable or unreasonable enough to not be interesting. Meh...
  • Fables (vol 19) Snow White - This series continues to be pretty well perfect. The first half of the collection collects the back-up story of Buffkin's time in Oz, overthrowing the government, building the new government, and then trying to figure out what to do next. This story was mostly told in three- or four-page entries at the back of the issues, and the collection suffers a bit here because of the constant recapping, but the final, full-issue wrap up left me in tears. Buffkin has grown into a likeable enough character, and he will be missed, but I'm happy he got the heroic send off that he deserves. The second half of the collection has Snow White's first husband returning and treating his 'wife' in a very un-PC manner, kidnapping her, breaking her arm, and eventually taking the sword to her current husband, Bigby. I didn't think the story would go the way it did, and I can't imagine we've seen the last of Bigby. Either way, Bill Willingham continues to tear at the heart strings. We only have twenty more issues of the series to go, and I'm looking forward to them all.
  • Fables: The Deluxe Edition - I've been re-reading the entirety of the Fables series again. I'm currently through the first five volumes of the Deluxe Editions, and I'm eager to keep reading. The story holds together marvelously on the (I think) third reading. At $30 per deluxe collection (and probably 16 editions necessary to collect the full series - versus 22 or so non-deluxe editions), the price is a little steep for very few extras and no noticeable improvement in print quality, I can't endorse purchasing these if you already have the trade paperbacks.
  • Gravity - I'm thrilled that we got a big, new television so I could watch this in something vaguely resembling theater quality because I would have been peeved if I had to watch this on our old television. Sheesh... This one easily deserved to win for best director, and I'd've had no problems if it had won for best picture. It's brilliant, and I have no idea at all how Sandra Bullock didn't win best actress for absolutely carrying this film on her back. Great, great, emotional, tough stuff. I was in tears on three separate occasions. See this.
  • X-Men: X-termination - dumb...dumb...dumb
  • X-Men: Age of X - I didn't recognize at first that I'd read this one before. It starts as a pretty typically dystopian future version of the X-Men but turns into something more as the cracks in the story - in the world, really - begin to become visible to those in the world. In the end, it's actually pretty well written and interesting. The two issues of extra content collected here (I don't remember them from my first reading, wonder if it was a different collection) make me wonder just how far-reaching the effects were on the Marvel world.
  • Incredible Hulk (Jason Aaron, vol 1) - I read the second volume recently and didn't understand what had happened to split Hulk and Banner apart. Now I know, and it's an interesting tale, in which Dr Doom splits the pair successfully but leaves Banner wanting his big, green monster back, something that Banner didn't expect. We again get the idea of Banner being the really dangerous one of the pair.
  • Indestructible Hulk: Agent of SHIELD (vol 1) - Every new author of the Hulk seems to throw Banner/Hulk into an entirely different direction. The lack of long-term continuity has really limited how well people (me, at least) can get into the Hulk series (plural). Here we get Banner looking to do enough good to offset the bad that Hulk does in his madness. He offers his services as a weapon of mass destruction up to SHIELD in exchange for a fully-funded lab facility with a group of four scientist side-kicks. Banner invents for a while, then he hulks out and gets pointed at whatever SHIELD wants to destroy. This set-up won't, I imagine, last long, but it's a bit of fun for now. 
  • This Land Was Made For You and Me (but mostly me) - This book of illustrations showing what the fictional wealthiest people in the world do with their money (mile-long fireplaces, ski lodges on skis, Galapagolf, paintballing on the range) is funny for about two pages. Sadly it lasts a hundred pages. Don't let David Letterman's name on the cover fool you; this is boring.
  • Joe the Barbarian - It's so rare that I read a non-capes and tights graphic novel that finding a great one is a pleasant surprise. This one's spectacular and beautiful. The bulk of the tale takes place in Hypogea, a fantastical world where Joe's return has been foretold and whose presence seems a mystery to Joe, himself. He doesn't remember having ever been there before, but everyone there recognizes him and looks to him to save Hypogea. Told in parallel is Joe's attempts to get from his attic bedroom down to kitchen to get some sugar into himself so he can come out of his diabetic hallucinations. Can he save the world and himself in the process, or will he lose both? It's a brilliantly written and gorgeously illustrated tale.

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