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Tuesday: Footloose

If you're alright with the extreme amount of cheese that's provided here, then you should have a good time with Footloose.

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In 1984, the film Footloose was released. Despite the fact that it has now been 28 years, the movie still holds a strong impact on the media. There are a huge amount of references and copy cats out there that still make Footloose very relevant, even though it was released quite some time ago. With so many pieces of cinema and television being inspired by it, one would think that it's a marvelous classic. It actually wasn't received very well due to the ubiquitous storyline and unconvincing progressions. Putting aside these reviewers, it still defined a generation.

Ren McCormack, a decidedly urban teen who arrives to a small Midwestern town where dancing is outlawed. Recruiting his best pal, the quiet Willard, and his girlfriend, a clergyman's daughter, Ren starts a revolution by moving to the beat. From the get go, the plot is extremely predictable and quite ridiculous. It doesn't make very much sense that not very much attention is drawn towards the drinking and the smoking, although dancing is seen as absolute evil. This is the furthest I'm going to go into analyzing the story because I understand that it isn't meant to be a thought-provoking piece of cinema, but I just found that to be stretching the audience's mind on what would be realistic. However, it's rather clear that the filmmakers try to pull its viewers into the characters to care about them and to make us get the desire to tap our feet and hum to the music. For the most part, the first part fails. The music is catchy and definitely gets stuck in your head, but it fails at convincing us of the story and the characters. The clergyman's development from a strict and bitter man to a sweet and caring one feels utterly forced and unconvincing. The so-called 'love' between Ren and his girlfriend doesn't feel very real either. At the end of the day, we have a lot of quick cuts, music, and a completely unoriginal story with a screenplay that is a bit of a mess. Since this movie is meant to be seen with switching off the mind and simply having a good time, I tried to put the many, many flaws of the script out of my mind and enjoy what I could.

There isn't a large cast attached to Footloose, but we have been provided with two actors that have proven the talent they posses in other features. Kevin Bacon is Ren McCormack. He does just fine with the character, but don't expect to see anything close to some of the other performances he has given in his more recent motion pictures. Lori Singer is McCormack's girlfriend, Ariel Moore, and she gives an average performance. The chemistry between the two actors is lacking quite a bit. The emotions between them appears to come out of nowhere and we're expected to believe that this 'love' is genuine.. John Lithgow is Reverend Shaw Moore. He's a wonderful actor, but don't expect to see too much of that here. Despite the fact that he has a large amount of talent, the character he has been provided clearly doesn't provide him with enough to work with. The character is formulaic and unconvincing, therefore there wasn't very much that Lithgow could have done. Considering the material that he's been given, he does a decent enough job. The problem here isn't as much the actors as much as it is the source material. They weren't given the right notes to be able to provide the best of his or her skills.

The two biggest reasons that Footloose became so well-known for so many years are the visuals and the music. If you're curious about the visuals and haven't seen Footloose, then think of an MTV music video with blaring audio. There are a lot of quick cuts that actually become quite irritating. During the opening credits, there's a dance sequence of showing only the dancers' feet with the title song playing over it. This has most certainly been utilized in a lot of more recent cinema and television. There are multiple songs that make you tap your feet along and you'll find yourself humming it after watching it. Footloose deserves its two Oscar nominations for the music. When it comes to the rest of the dancing sequences, they're very well-known by the filming style. The audio transfer is actually stronger than I thought it would be. It's rather rare for movies made at this time to sound so clear. Don't expect a perfect transfer from this, but the surrounds successfully immerse the audience in the music.

Even after heavily criticizing it, Footloose is still an enjoyable feature. The plot is extremely formulaic, cliché, and generic, but a powerful storyline isn't what one would watch Footloose to find. It's a fun movie that utilizes the music and dance sequences rather well. I would have liked to see more dancing placed in this film, but what's there is good. If you're alright with the extreme amount of cheese that's provided here, then you should have a good time with Footloose. Make sure to switch off your mind, relax, and enjoy it for what it is.

My Rating = Three Stars

Next movie: The Avengers

Thursday: The Avengers

The Avengers isn't perfect, but it offers the explosive action that superhero fans crave along with a well-written screenplay.

The Avengers
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Every summer, the major studios release superhero films one after the other. After introducing Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, and Hawkeye in previous movies, the anticipated The Avengers has finally been released. In one weekend, the movie managed to break a bunch of different records for opening weekend. One may think that this is due to the fact that audiences heavily enjoyed the characters from the previous movies and wanted to see them fight side by side. While this is true, the biggest reason why this movie has been as successful as it has been is due to writer/director Joss Whedon. He's surely one of the more talented big name filmmakers currently making movies. After surprising me with the well-written The Cabin in the Woods, I couldn't wait to see what he would do with The Avengers. This could have been an utter disaster with somebody who couldn't handle the script, but that fortunately isn't the case.

Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army. It sounds a lot like yet another cliché superhero flick. If you have seen Iron Man 2, you should know exactly what to worry about with The Avengers. There are a lot of important characters all either speaking dialogue or fighting Loki and his army. In Iron Man 2's case, the characters appear to constantly fight for screen time and it feels like a lot is attempted to be fit into the running time. It ended up feeling like a mess. Joss Whedon has created a film that may run a bit long, at 2 hours and 22 minutes, but it flies by. There isn't any filler since the time has been provided for each superhero to get his or her own screen time. It never feels as if they're fighting for screen time and they all get an equal amount of attention. Some people may say that Hawkeye received the least amount of attention, but he has plenty of time to shine. His character has never been as interesting as the rest, but Whedon still heavily involves him in the story. Surprisingly, the dialogue is well-written. Comic book fans should be pleased to know that the conversations that take place between the characters feels very genuine. All of the characters have remained pure to the roots of his or her roles throughout. There are a couple plot holes here and there, but they're so tiny that they aren't much of an issue. The Avengers does what many superhero movies don't dare to do. They're able to mesh the action with a lot of dialogue and character development. While this movie is full of action, there's much more Whedon has to offer. The moviegoers who never read any of the comic books receive a large amount of development, which is more than sufficient for viewers to get a feel for the characters. The ending unsurprisingly sets up for the sequel, so be sure to stay through all of the credits to see the extra footage. What we ultimately have here is an intense and highly entertaining screenplay, which is surprisingly well-crafted and suitable for both newcomers and longtime fans.

The other irregular notion in a comic book superhero feature is good acting. Sometimes there are nice surprises, such as in Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr., but there are too many disappointing performances out there. The team of The Avengers is composed of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. Downey Jr. is just as great as expected. He's witty and is convincing as Iron Man, also known as Tony Stark. I'm still disappointed with the casting choice of Chris Evans as Captain America, but he proves to have a better performance here than in his own movie as the Captain. Perhaps this is because there are too many other characters to enjoy to pick on him too much. Mark Ruffalo is surprisingly very fitting as Bruce Banner, also known as The Hulk. I wasn't sure how he would be able to stand up in this role, but I walked out of the theater being rather impressed with him. Chris Hemsworth is just as suitable as Thor as he was in his own title film. Scarlett Johansson is a perfect match as Natash Romanoff, also known as Black Widow. I can't imagine a better pick for this role. Jeremy Renner connects as Clint Barton, also known as Hawkeye, well. Even those outside of the team performs well. Tom Hiddleston is very believable as the antagonist, Loki. None of these performances are award-winning, but they work wonders in the superhero universe.

It shouldn't come as even slightly a surprise that the visuals are fantastic. From start to finish, this feature is absolutely filled with eye candy from head to toe. Joss Whedon does a wonderful job behind the camera. There are some breathtaking sequences with gorgeous cinematography. However, prepare for some scenes being a bit dark. I saw The Avengers in 3D. This is post-converted, so this isn't going to blow anybody away. However, it certainly enhances a few of the fighting sequences. It does absolutely nothing during the dialogue portions, which are a big part of the movie, but the extra dimension is nice during the final battle. Alien ships, rubble, fire, and everything else flies out from the screen towards the audience. With the exception of this part, the 3D is useless. Therefore, it isn't a necessity in the case of this movie. The 2D version will perfectly suffice. The audio is a very crucial element of The Avengers. The bass and the surrounds are constantly being put through a tough workout. Make sure you go to a theater with a big screen and a loud sound system to fully immerse yourself in the action.

I was excited to see The Avengers for quite some time now and became even more excited when I began to hear such good things about it. Some moviegoers were even claiming it to be the best film of 2012 so far, which I disagree with. Some audiences most certainly overhype movies. In the case of The Avengers, it's an explosively entertaining picture that I recommend everybody see. As far as action movies go, this is everything you could possibly crave. A group of likable superheroes, a lot of explosions, and enough destruction to crave even the biggest of action fans. On top of that, there's a well-crafted screenplay by Joss Whedon and great casting, for the most part. Around 35 minutes had to be removed from the movie otherwise it would have been too long, according to the distributor. However, I would have loved to see the extra footage. I definitely look forward to the Blu-ray release to check out what has been trimmed. If you're a superhero fan, then this is a must see. Even casual moviegoers should check this one out because it's the strongest Marvel feature to be released thus far. The Avengers isn't perfect, but it offers the explosive action that superhero fans crave along with a well-written screenplay.

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

Next movie: RoboCop

Saturday: RoboCop

RoboCop is a must see for those interested in seeing a science fiction/action/thriller that's actually worthwhile.

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There have been a lot of films released within the science fiction genre over the past few decades. However, not many of them have held up so well over time. It appears that it's difficult to even make a strong film in this genre to begin with. Often times, when extreme amounts of violence is portrayed in films, it's looked down upon by many people in society. The MPAA even unfairly judges many movies based on the violence. Well, RoboCop embraces its violence. Some may call it an exploitation film based on the fact that there's a lot of violence that isn't toned down, although it's a science fiction/thriller with a purpose. Viewers should be able to look past the violence and see what the message is and how the filmmakers are judging society here and what we're turning into with the advancements of technology. How corrupt cops and corporate greed are affecting society. With a hint of superhero flavor, RoboCop proves to be one of the best science fiction films of all time.

The incredibly powerful cooperation controlling a futuristic, crime-riddled Detroit transforms a dead cop into a cybernetic law-enforcement unit called RoboCop, wiping his memory clean. Soon, the streets are safe, with the exception of the criminals who dare to stand up and fight against the new crime-fighter. From pretty early on in the movie, the violence stands bold. This wasn't placed in the movie for no reason. It's definitely a way to shock the audience, especially for 1987, but also to make a bold statement. The message of corruption and fighting such crime wouldn't have come across as well without this violence. The plot doesn't sound too original, but it accomplishes a lot of what so many other science fiction films have tried and failed. Not only does it have a strong statement to make, but it surprisingly has a well-written screenplay, crafted by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. It doesn't take very long for the audience to feel attached to Officer Alex J. Murphy, also known as RoboCop. At the same time, we even have an emotional attachment to his partner he was assigned while he was still alive, Officer Anne Lewis. The script is able to connect with the viewers very well and make connections without trying too hard. Similar to many other science fiction features, the line between good and evil is very distinct. The twists and turns are predictable, but it somehow is able to bring fresh air to the genre each time I see it. The main group of criminals who killed Officer Alex J. Murphy when he was alive have the cliché bad-guy type roles. Despite the clichés that are present in RoboCop, it's still an extremely fun adventure that still manages to bring some new stuff to the table.

With the well-written script, just alright acting would suffice and still be able to mask the performances. Fortunately, the acting doesn't need to be masked to begin with. Peter Weller performs as Officer Alex J. Murphy, aka RoboCop. His charm somehow draws the audience in to be fond of his character rather quickly, even before he has become the ass-kicking robot. He's certainly convincing in the role. Nancy Allen is Officer Anne Lewis, who also delivers a solid performance. She has the look for her character, but has a similar charm to her that creates a connection between the viewer and her role. While these aren't brilliant performances by any means, it's rare for a science fiction flick of this nature to host some solid acting. Even the cookie-cutter criminals, such as Kurtwood Smith as Clarence J. Boddicker, do quite well in his or her roles.

The visuals of RoboCop scream the mix between science fiction and action. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you're looking for gorgeous high-definition, you aren't going to find that here unless the film goes through a complete restoration However, the effects still manage to look strong. As previously mentioned, there's a lot of violence in this. However, it's displayed very well. The blood looks realistic and the gun battles are very entertaining. The audio transfer suffers in this feature. However, I'm not particularly surprised since it didn't undergo a complete restoration. Therefore, those who own a home theater system shouldn't be expecting an explosive track from this one. The visuals themselves shine in this one though.

If we're talking about science fiction and action flicks from the 1980's, you can't possibly leave out RoboCop out of the list of the strongest ones. There's a lot of violence here that disturbed many audiences, but there's a point to it all. The filmmakers are trying to make a real message to the viewers through all of the violence. When I originally saw this for the first time, i wasn't sure how I would like it. Fairly early into the running time, I knew I was in for one hell of a ride. This is very entertaining and some actual quality cinema. RoboCop is a must see for those interested in seeing a science fiction/action/thriller that's actually worthwhile.

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

Next movie: Footloose (2011)