The Rocketeer Review: A Forgotten Disney Classic

Hearkening back to action/adventure serials of the 1940s and 50s (like Flash Gordon), The Rocketeer stars Billy Campbell as Cliff Secord, an overconfident pilot in love with a stunning actress Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connelly). When Cliff discovers a hidden jet pack that was stolen from the U.S. government, he puts on the rocket, creates a makeshift helmet, and becomes the hero known as The Rocketeer. But when the criminals who initially stole the jet pack catch wind of this hero, they attempt to retake possession of the jet pack and use it for evil. Cliff must now assume the role as this masked hero to save the day, and his girl.

I love The Rocketeer in the same way I like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars. It’s simple action/adventure movie fun. A straightforward story with traditional characters and themes from a much simpler time, all leading up to an exciting, action-packed conclusion.

Our main protagonist Cliff Secord is the dashing everyman, as in every man would want to be him. Really, that’s the entire appeal to his character. The personality of Cliff is almost nonexistent and is more just an afterthought, but that’s okay as he serves his role in the story well. He’s charming, heroic, and willing to risk his own life to save those closest. And best of all, Jennifer Connelly is his girlfriend, a major plus.

The charming and devious Neville Sinclair (played by Timothy Dalton) is as evil as his name sounds. Dastardly villainous in every way, Sinclair turns out not to be a greedy businessman, but a Nazi secret agent. Can there be a worse evil? Well, Sinclair stands as the perfect antagonist for our heroic Rocketeer, who dukes it out with Sinclair and his cronies in a finale of epic proportions.

I enjoyed The Rocketeer in its entirety, and I wish more films could embrace the same simplicity that it operates on (while also putting in the same amount of attention and care). The Rocketeer never really got the affection it so rightfully deserved, and as far as Disney flicks go, this is long gone and forgotten. Audiences shrugged, critics shrugged, and everyone eventually forgot all about The Rocketeer.

I’ve heard news about a potential remake of the film by Disney, which would fortunately bring attention back to this wonderful, forgotten flick. At the same time, I fear Disney would lose sight in what made The Rocketeer a good film in the first place, attempting to force too much crowd pandering messages/themes into what should be a simple, cut and dry story. Just as a remake of something like Alice in Wonderland can’t tarnish the image of the Disney animated classic, a poor remake of The Rocketeer would only help to remind people of why the original was so good in the first place.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

The Dark Tower Review

Based on the dark fantasy book series by Stephen King, The Dark Tower takes audiences on an all too brief journey into a very creative and unique universe.

The film stars Idris Elba as the Gunslinger, the last on an elite group of marksmen, who is constantly at war with an evil sorcerer known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). It’s the Gunslinger’s duty to prevent the Man in Black from destroying the Dark Tower, the key to holding the universe in balance. When the Gunslinger meets a young boy named Jake (Tom Taylor), he discovers Jake has the power to take him to the Man in Black. Because of this, the Gunslinger teams up with Jake to exact revenge on the Man in Black, and perhaps save the Dark Tower in the process.

For reasons beyond my understanding, The Dark Tower felt the need to cram all eight of Stephen King’s novels into a single, ninety-minute film. And for this reason, the film is unevenly paced and condenses too much complex material that needed more time to develop. Character arcs, logical plot progression, and even necessary background information is all completely ignored due to limited time constraints. What should have been at bare minimum a three-part trilogy is instead just a CliffsNotes guide to The Dark Tower, which is sure to upset most fans of the novels.

The only actor to give a serious, respectable performance in The Dark Tower happened to be Idris Elba. Elba’s role as the Gunslinger carried the film through its roughest and most emotionally void scenes, giving the audience one aspect of the film to take seriously.

Even more memorable then Elba, we have the wonderfully miscast performance of Matthew McConaughey, who was already hamming it up by the first scene in the movie. There were many moments where he’d get real close to another character and whisper his lines in this creepy, perverted way. It didn’t help that he was dressed like a 90’s boy band singer for the entire film, which made it impossible for me to take him seriously.  Everything from his facial expressions to the way he carried himself was comical, making McConaughey an absolute delight to watch.

Overall, I can easily see why so many fans of the book series have expressed anger and frustration at this adaptation. To take a series so dense with lore and boil it down to a single ninety-minute adventure film feels needlessly disrespectful.

I, never having read the books, was able to look past this issue and enjoy the flick for what it was, a typical action-adventure movie. The few action sequences that The Dark Tower did sport were very well shot and a lot of fun to watch. It also had some pretty amazing visuals, and managed to hold my attention for the entire runtime, which is more than I can say for many films of this genre.

So, if you’re a fan of the books this film was based on, then I’d stay far away from The Dark Tower, as this adaptation will probably just upset you due to how unfaithful it is. If you’re someone like me with little knowledge of the book series, than I’d go ahead and check out The Dark Tower. Its action scenes, creative set locations, and oftentimes comical demeanor will keep you entertained the whole way through.

The Verdict: B

-Zachary Flint

Alice: Through the Looking Glass Review

 

Alice through the Looking Glass managed to feel even more dull, drab, and overall worse than the previous Alice in Wonderland. Even to the point where I cannot remember laughing once throughout the whole film.

The story takes place three years after the events of the first film, as Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is returning from a voyage at sea, only to find out her mother sold her half of the company to that pale guy Sheamus from the first movie. Alice gets upset and somehow makes it back to “Underland”. Only to find out that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is literally dying because nobody believes him that his parents are still alive somewhere.

Right off the bat everything is going wrong for our protagonist. All these problems mixed with the dark tone of the film create a very depressing mood. I hardly smiled while watching the movie. Did nobody in the production of this film stop and think that maybe it was a little too dark? Given the source material of the usually wacky and nonsensical world of Wonderland.

Since the main comedic relief of the previous Alice in Wonderland film is a wet blanket in this film, there are few jokes made. The jokes that were made in Alice through the Looking Glass got very little laughs from the audience. The theater was dead silent the entire runtime and some moviegoers even got up and left before the halfway point.

The creators of Alice through the Looking Glass even managed to make Sacha Baron Cohen as boring and drab as possible. I felt that his dialogue was just as unfunny and lame as the rest of the cast. I guess he was supposed to take the role as comedic relief but his character came off as painful to watch.

The one major plus of this movie is our protagonist Alice herself. More specifically, Mia Wasikowska’s acting. In Alice in Wonderland, I felt she was very drab and showed little to no emotion throughout the entirety of the runtime. In Alice through the Looking Glass she genuinely held my attention more than any other actor or actress in the movie. She showed emotion, and led us a little deeper into the character of Alice.

I know many people, including myself, felt that Time Burton taking a back seat to directing and only producing the film would give a better outcome than his Alice in Wonderland. Maybe it wouldn’t be so dark, the characters as bland, and the general feeling not “style over substance”.

We were all very wrong.

Overall, I was mostly disappointed with Alice through the Looking Glass. Other than some of the visuals and Mia Wasikowska’s performance, I don’t think this film had anything going for it. It’s a real shame that the live action adaptations of Alice in Wonderland didn’t turn out as everyone would have liked. Perhaps in the future, with Disney’s other live action remakes, Alice in Wonderland can have a better fitting movie.

Zachary Flint

 

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Superman (1978) Review

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Superman (1978) is a well deserving film for one of America’s greatest icons. I not only loved the film for the nostalgic feel it brings, but for how well made Superman is.

Superman tells the story of Kal-El (Christopher Reeve), the only living being from the distant planet of Krypton. He is sent as a child by his father Jor-El (Marlon Brando) to Earth from Krypton and found by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter) who take him in as their son, naming him Clark Kent. Clark grows up learning of his powers and where he comes from.

As an adult Clark takes a job at the Daily Planet as a journalist and meets the young Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) an independent and determined journalist whom he falls for. Clark juggles from being an everyday journalist to being Superman, flying around and saving the day. The latest plot he must foil is that of Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), a cunning, evil business man who puts millions of people’s lives in danger.

The casting in the film, especially Christopher Reeve as Superman and Margot Kidder as Lois, is superb and couldn’t have been better any other way. The actors fit the characters like a glove and make it feel so real. Christopher Reeves is Superman, not just a guy who is playing the part of Superman. Reeve also plays off the nerdy, bumbling Clark Kent perfectly. Seeing him act that way just about convinced me Clark Kent was a completely different person.

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor was also a perfect fit, every minute with him on screen was a pleasure. He is twisted, dastardly, and determined to see his evil plans through. His whole performance reminded me of an over the top Bond villain. Throwing out great one liners and being a little over the top sometimes.

I also particularly like Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Superman`s biological father. Brando is always fun to watch in any film and Superman is of no exception. Just hearing speak exposition can be satisfying to any viewer.

The relationships between Clark, Superman, and Lois Lane are one of the best aspects about the movie. Seeing Clark interact with other people in his environment is fun as he contrasts greatly from his character of Superman. He is always stuttering, not very confident, and apologizes for everything. Watching Lois and Clark together on screen is great as well, as she often brushes him to the side.

The special effects compared to today`s standards may come off as cheesy, particularly the flying sequences. The viewer will still enjoy all the effects even though lots of the flying is green screened and a little dated. Perhaps because they still feel real in the sense that everything is really there and not computer imagery.

The soundtrack for Superman was done by John Williams and it definitely shows. There is just as much emotion and creativity in the Superman soundtrack as there was in Star Wars or any other John Williams work. The music properly reflects the scenes taking place in the film and emphasizes the film in all the right ways. Superman may have felt like a completely different film without the John Williams soundtrack.

Superman has made its way as a classic American film. It will continue to charm audiences with its clever writing and interesting characters. Superman is a legendary film worth seeing time and time again.

Zachary Flint