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Entries in kevin bacon (2)

Friday
Oct142011

Footloose

The original Footloose starring Kevin Bacon is one of those cherished films that the younger generation of the time grew up with and still loves to this day. Now in their late 30’s and early 40’s, those people surely remember the high spirited energy and reckless abandon of the characters who stood up and challenged a ridiculous anti-dancing law. What they probably don’t remember is that the movie is a mess. It wants to say one thing, but instead says another. Its message of expressive freedom is rendered moot by a screenplay with plot turns that contradict it. The remake is, by and large, the same. Aside from a few minor, yet notable differences, 2011’s Footloose suffers from identical problems. For all intents and purposes, the majority of this review can double as a review of the original. It’s a two for one. You’re welcome.

Ren McCormack, this time played by Kenny Wormald, is a high school teen from Boston who has just landed in the small town of Bomont, Georgia. Because of a fatal accident a few years back that occurred after a night of riotous partying, dancing and listening to loud, vulgar music have been outlawed. The person most in favor of the law is Reverend Moore, played by Dennis Quaid, who lost his son in the accident. It’s because of him the town finds dancing sinful. Ren, being the free spirit he is, disagrees with the rest of the town and, along with his new friend, Willard, played by Miles Teller, and Reverend Moore’s beautiful, but rebellious daughter, Ariel, played by Julianne Hough, he sets out to change the law and open the minds of the people of Bomont.

If a winner must be chosen, it seems pretty clear to me that this remake is a superior film than the original, even if only slightly. It’s cleaner, tighter and it does away with many of the extraneous side characters that were given little to do. Ren’s mother, who sat around and twiddled her thumbs in the original, is rightfully forgotten here, replaced by his aunt who lends an ear when the time comes for Ren’s big emotional spill about why he has to fight authority. The book burning townsfolk who came off as caricatures are also dropped, giving more time to the story at hand. In those ways, as minor as they are, this version of Footloose is able to improve upon a much loved story.

Unfortunately, the bulk of it is still the same. The situations remain, the characters are unchanged and much of the dialogue is copy and paste. If you’re familiar with the original, prepare to get a strong sense of déjà vu upon watching this. This remake is a film that refuses to find its own voice and it’s that refusal to change, to adapt to our times, that makes it suffer. It uses different musicians like Wiz Khalifa to portray the type of music the town is against, but it still rests on the same foundation of the 1984 film. Even back then, it was a story that was hard to take seriously, but it’s even harder today. The rebellious preacher’s daughter, for instance, may not have been much of a cliché in 1984, but it sure is now.

Its biggest and most glaring flaw, the entire reason both movies fail, is its approach to confronting the supposedly unjust law. Here’s a movie that wants to make the argument that dancing and music of all types don’t lead to rebellion and violence, yet nearly every violent act in the movie happens at a dance or stems directly from dancing. When Ren and his pals head out of the town to dance at a bar, Willard is overcome with jealousy while watching a random man dance with his girl, which leads to him getting his face smashed. Later, due to her attraction to the rebellious nature of Ren and his willingness to dance in the face of the law, Ariel gets smacked around by her boyfriend. When the kids finally get the approval of the town to host a dance, a fight breaks out almost immediately in front of the building it’s being held in. These things wouldn’t have happened had Ren not started a minor revolution and began dancing. In these ways, the film goes against its very reason for being.

For every step forward, this remake takes, oh, I don’t know, half a step back. It’s always leading its predecessor in terms of quality, but it’s never far off from it. I suppose if you liked the original, you will enjoy this one too, but if this story is ever told again, significant changes to its poor narrative construction need to be implemented for it to work.

Footloose receives 1.5/5

Friday
Jun032011

X-Men: First Class

This year is the year of superhero overload. The Green Hornet and Thor have already passed while Green Lantern and Captain America are still yet to come. In between those four films is this week’s X-Men: First Class and it’s likely to be the best superhero film you’ll see all year. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the best since The Dark Knight. While it is by no means up to that film’s caliber, it’s nevertheless an immensely entertaining summer thrill ride with terrific action, great performances and some surprisingly effective drama.

As the title suggests, the film follows the younger versions of the X-Men characters as they figure out who they are and what they stand for. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has just finished school and earned his doctorate, giving him the title of Professor. Before he’s able to celebrate, however, CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) enlists his help. Despite her best efforts, her agency won’t believe her when she says she saw mutants that are planning on starting a nuclear world war. Luckily, mutant genetics is Professor Xavier’s specialty. So he, along with his sister, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), and not-yet-an-enemy Erik (Michael Fassbender), begins to recruit mutants to help them put a stop to the evil opposition, led by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon).

If you, like me, are not familiar with X-Men mythology, you will be lost when this movie begins. This is one of those films that loves to jump from place to place, establishing characters in different locales that will have an impact later on in the story. It starts in 1944 Poland at a Nazi concentration camp before jetting to 1960’s New York, Switzerland, England, Nevada, Argentina, Florida, Virginia and even an undisclosed covert CIA research base. In its opening moments, X-Men: First Class shows signs of cinematic ADHD, never truly focusing on anything in particular. Throw in the fact that the film then goes on to introduce no less than a dozen characters (most with superhero pseudonyms), like Angel, Riptide, Azazel, Emma Frost, Beast, Banshee, Darwin, Havok and more, and those without a familiarity with this universe will find the proceedings difficult to grasp.

Because of this, X-Men: First Class takes a while to get going and will not instantly grab many of its viewers. However, it must be said that once it settles down, it becomes easily accessible. Although there are a lot of characters, they are balanced delicately and, aside from a few notable cases (I can’t recall Azazel or Riptide speaking at all during the film), each comes into their own. In many cases, like with Mystique and Magneto, you get to see the downward spiral the characters take towards villainy. There is passion in their personalities and motivations and you come to understand why they choose the way they do.

X-Men: First Class is directed by Matthew Vaughn, the same guy behind last year’s Kick-Ass, an entertaining film that was nevertheless plagued by many problems. In comparison, this film seems to fix a lot of them, showing growth in Vaughn as a filmmaker. Kick-Ass had an inconsistent tone and its over-the-top goofiness undercut the climax’s dramatic intentions. X-Men: First Class avoids that problem by excellently balancing the seriousness of the story with some hilarious comic bits, including a couple of cameos that most viewers will find very amusing.

This is a stylish movie. It’s not as action packed as some will expect, but when stuff blows up, it blows up real good. The CGI is hit and miss, but when you’re having this much fun, you won’t really care. Still, it’s not perfect and when it stumbles, it’s noticeable. The script is so smart and witty that the numerous cheesy speeches about accepting and loving yourself stick out like a sore thumb. While certainly a good message in general and relevant to the story, it’s hand-fed so forcefully it comes off as childish. But don’t let those minor blunders stop you from checking it out. If upcoming films continue in cinema’s recent bout with mediocrity, X-Men: First Class could end up being one of the best of the year.

X-Men: First Class receives 4/5