Tag Archives: Jr.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016 Review)

14 Mar

In what is being touted as “The best sci-fi blockbuster thriller of the decade”, 10 Cloverfield Lane marks a different approach to storytelling than its cinematic sibling Cloverfield. Released in 2008 as a found-footage alien invasion, the former isn’t so much as a direct predecessor as it was inspiration for this J.J. Abrams-produced mystery.

Something has happened. Something big. Our heroine Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up in a sort of make-shift hospital after a car accident. She learns that “an attack” of some sort has left much of the civilized world in shambles and she had been brought underground for her own safety by a mysterious ex-military man named Howard (John Goodman).  Tensions between the two characters rise as the films progresses, creating unexpected results.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg and co-written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a quieter, scaled back, and more intimate film than Cloverfield, though equally as anxiety-ridden and claustrophobic. By restricting most of the action to a few rooms, the film becomes heavily reliant on the writing strength of its plot and characterization. Unfortunately, this is where 10 Cloverfield Lane falls a bit short; the few characters are simply a flat and uninteresting mix of tropes we have seen many times before, and the narrative becomes convoluted and veers dramatically off course during the film’s second half. At points the film almost feel comically hokey in the same way something like Grand Piano does (a film that was also written by Chazelle). However, if you liberally apply your suspension of disbelief and just accept whatever happens, then 10 Cloverfield Lane actually becomes a lot of fun. Though it’s filled with tropes and plot holes, the story, most importantly, is a largely unpredictable slow burn, with several twists awaiting the viewer during the chaotic third-act.

Bottom Line: Though it suffers from basic character tropes and less-than-stellar writing, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a surprisingly fun and unpredictable thriller if one is willing to suspend expectations. 

Rating: 6/10

Film Recipe: Room War Of The Worlds 

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

30 Apr

The money-making Marvel machine is at it again with the latest entry into the largest franchise of the decade (and possibly the most lucrative franchise of all time) with The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Here we see our beloved icons Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, The Hulk, Hawkeye, and Nick Fury battling it out against a sentient robot named Ultron.

Directed by Joss Whedon (who directed the first Avengers film), Age of Ultron wastes no time getting to the action, or explaining things for those who haven’t seen the first Avengers  (and let’s be honest here, with a net box office of well over 1.5 billion, who hasn’t). We are immediately placed dead-center in a battle with the Avengers as they try to reclaim Loki’s prized staff from a military base in what appears to be Russia (spoiler alert: they get it). It’s a dizzying scene and a bit of a rush to see the Avengers in action all at once so soon.  Eventually, we get to the opening title, but the fanatic pace doesn’t slows much.

Whedon is known for creating energetic ensemble pieces without compromising on characterization, making him a perfect choice to bring the long-anticipated Avenger team to the silver screen in 2012. This second time, Whedon brings back so much of that spastic energy we loved from the first Avengers film and cranks it up a notch. Age of Ultron is so jam-packed with subplots, exposition, sarcastic one-liners, mesmerizing battle sequences, and set-up for future Marvel films, Whedon barely has time to tell an actual story. There is something about an AI supercomputer named Ultron, a freak experiment of Iron Man/ Tony Stark gone wrong, but then there is also stuff about a brewing romance between Hulk and Black Widow, a new set of twins with magical powers, something about infinity stones, and Iron Man rambling off about evolution, or the nature of war.  Like a 9-year-old boy hopped up on a big swig of Mountain Dew, this thing jumps all over the place with little regard for pacing, character development, and thematic material. It looks glossy on the surface, but underneath all the explosions and CGI fighting, things feel too rushed to make much of an impact, emotionally or otherwise. For a simple popcorn-flick, things get unnecessarily complicated.

I’m no comic book junkie by any means, so perhaps I’m being a bit harsh by not understanding all that’s going on (though I can imagine Whedon has done his research and hardcore fans will end up loving this thing), and yet, Avengers: Age of Ultron still wrestled up the kid in me. There is just an endearing joy that comes from watching Hulk go at it with an upgraded Iron Man suit, smashing countless buildings along the way.

Despite there being so much stuff going on, Whedon is smart enough to avoid getting bogged down by the film’s own weight – or at least not to the same degree as something like The Amazing Spiderman 2Possibly the most brilliant line in the film, Hawkeye explains to Scarlet Witch “We are on a city, and the city is flying. And we are fighting robots…. and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes any sense.”  It might be overstuffed, but at least it still has it’s humor.

Bottom Line: An overstuffed presence keeps Age Of Ultron from being taken as anything more than mere eye candy for comic book fans.

Rating: 5/10 

Film Recipe: The Avengers (2012) + Hulkbuster suit