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Mini-Reviews: Oblivion, The Company You Keep, GI Joe: Retaliation

Oblivion:

“Oblivion is familiar territory, both for Cruise and for the science fiction genre. It unquestionably remains devoted first and foremost to delivering stylish visuals and gorgeous imagery, yet unlike Tron: Legacy’s emptiness, second-time feature director Joseph Kosinski laces the world he’s built with ideas. Granted, we’ve seen these ideas elsewhere, but in an era so hellbent on catering an absence of actual philosophy in its biggest budget studio fare, I found myself grateful that Oblivion didn’t merely find inspiration in plot points from better sci-fi stories, but also in their themes. While many moments will likely provide deja vu, I didn’t find the film derivative in a negative sense, but in a literal sense: the word derive comes from the Latin derivare, to draw off, as if from a stream. Oblivion draws its samples from the best sources available– in a film whose first frame is a memory, it uses its familiarity to us to its advantage. It’s like making a sandwich the way your mom used to make them, achieving sense memory of past pleasures. For a film set in the future and chock to the brim with special effects, it’s surprisingly old-fashioned.”

Read the rest of my Oblivion review at Movie Mezzanine.

The Company You Keep:

Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep is surprisingly good– surprisingly because it’s been nearly twenty years since Redford’s last directorial effort, Quiz Show. Redford keeps a steady pace and a slow burn for this suspenseful drama, full of old vets and old-fashioned craft. After a brief description of the Weather Underground terrorist movement, we’re brought several decades later to present day. One of these former terrorists (Susan Sarandon) turns herself in, leading a young curious journalist (Shia LaBeouf) to the door of Jim Grant (Redford). When Grant suddenly flees town, it’s a race between the journalist and the FBI to find him. The tempo is certainly slower than the modern-day thriller, but I remained riveted throughout. There aren’t any stylistically distinctive visuals or patches of dialogue. Instead, Redford relies on the economical development of characters and the gradual unfolding of a mystery. A shocking idea in this day and age, I know. The film is full of terrific performances, especially LaBeouf, who is perfectly cast as the egotistical fast-talker in need of some form of redemption. Plus, with supporting turns by the likes of Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Terrence Howard, Stanley Tucci, Anna Kendrick, and the unflappable Julie Christie, every moment of frame is filled with the highest caliber actor; between the names just mentioned, I count at first glance 17 Oscar nominations and 3 wins. It likely will underwhelm those accustomed to the more ADD-friendly modern thriller, but the old school will find themselves keeping good company.

GI JOE: Retaliation:

Remember my Olympus Has Fallen review that I posted roughly an hour ago? GI JOE: Retaliation is a terrific example of how an action film with everything going for it can fall flat on its face. This film’s fatal flaw is its inability to create a hero. Dwayne Johnson is the perfect choice for a gritty wisecrack-spewing hero… but his character is devoid of any personal stakes in the story. I thought they were going to when they introduced his children and friends from his past, but they fail to factor into the story whatsoever. Worse still, he’s barely given any wisecracks to spew. Why is so much of this film straight-faced? Instead of hamminess, the actors all try to ground the proceedings. COLOSSAL MISTAKE. Adrianne Palicki gives her all to an empty (and surprisingly sexist) female hero– she deserved better. Bruce Willis phones it in more than normal, other characters fail to register even a blip on my radar, and the action is pretty poorly shot and edited. The only person who works in this film? Jonathan Pryce, as both the president and the evil man posing as president, lays on the ham so thick that Melissa Leo would be jealous. He zaps the film to life every time he’s on screen, including in a fantastically silly climactic nuclear disarmament conference. Unfortunately, everything around him is an absolute dud. As someone who felt the first GI JOE at least gave us the B-level action we’d hope for in an action figure movie, Retaliation is a bland and mostly humorless affair.

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~ by russellhainline on April 30, 2013.

One Response to “Mini-Reviews: Oblivion, The Company You Keep, GI Joe: Retaliation”

  1. I think even 1 1/2 is too much for G.I. Joe, it was a very disappointing experience 😦 Although watching it in D-box made things more bearable

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