Real Steel

by Cesar Gonzalez

51ulq+I7vHLIn the year 2011 there were plenty of films to go around, both new ideas and adapted ones.  It was a rather big year, you had the Marvel Cinematic Universe already hitting the fast track with Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor.  From the biggest film adaptation of that year, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, to reboots, such as X-Men: First Class.  Yes it was a rather big year, and yet 2011 harbored some potentially great films that either passed under the radar or were just born too early for their time.  One of those films was Real Steel, a movie that had the potential to bring in a bit more originality into the movies.

Real-Steel-featurette-with-Hugh-JackmanReal Steel, directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Cheaper by the Dozen) is set in the not so distant future were human boxers are replaced by Robots.  It follows leading man, Hugh Jackman ( X-Men, Prisoners) as he pits his robot against some of the toughest in the league.  Accompanying him is his estranged son played by Dakota Goyo (Rise of the Guardians).  Also starring in the film is Evangeline Lily (Ant-Man, White Chicks) and Kevin Durand (3:10 to Yuma, Winter’s Tale).  The film has received mixed reviews all of which had something in common, stating that the story was not the best.  The story of the film is lazily put together and it is a bit obvious that the direction is poor.  It’s a rather cliché story: father finds out he has a son, he is forced to spend time within before he is taken away, the two bond and grow close, there is an issue with who keeps him, the two live together as a happy family.  While the direction of the story did not go so well the direction and performances of the actors is one of the better aspects of this film.   

real-steel-2-movie-hugh-jackmanThe actors manage to work with the subpar story well and give a decent performance with what they were given.  Hugh Jackman is the best performer out of everyone in the film, although this film is not one of his stronger roles.  His character goes through the most development in the film and is actually one of the only likable characters.  At first Jackman’s character only cares about the fighting and making as much money as he can to pay off his debts, and when his son is introduced in the film he initially wants nothing to do with him.  But as the film progresses Jackman’s character grows closer with his son and they eventually form a close bond with one another as they both share a goal of having their robot beat the best on the league.  Jackman manages to deliver a great performance even when it is a bit obvious that the script is either bouncing all over the place or a line does not make sense.

18lpupizxwciojpgJackman’s co-stars, however, are another story.  Evangeline Lily is likable in the film but her role is rather small.  She is regulated to the love interest to Jackman’s character and has little screen time.  She still manages to deliver a good role on her part but the film actually would have played out the same if her character wasn’t in it ay all.  She had no impact on the story other than the fact that she owns the gym were Jackman’s character trains.  While Lily and Jackman’s roles are the best in the film, the other two did not really deliver the best they could.  Dakota Goyo is a new face to film and his performance in this is below average to say the least.  The film revolves around his and Jackman’s character, so some pressure is clearly present and that may have been the cause for his weak performance.  Although he has good chemistry with Jackman and the two bounce off each other as if they really are father and son, Goyo certainly has room to improve.  Kevin Durand’s character is the weakest in this film, playing the role of the ‘antagonist’.  I put that in quotations because Durand’s character really does not do much other than steal money from Jackman’s character and then disappears for more than half the film. His character is utterly useless and provides nothing to the overall plot of the film, if anything the only thing you get from his character is a strong urge to punch him as his performance is so bad that you can’t stand to look at or hear him when he has his few moments of screen time.  The thing that saves and is the main selling point is the robots themselves.

atom_in_real_steel-wideThis film has some of the best visual effects in film and some of the best sound design as well.  It was obvious from the very start that seeing these boxer robots fighting it out in the ring was the main reason to see this film and there is actually a good chunk of film that has robot fight scenes.  Unlike the Transformer series, in this film you actually get to see the robots plenty of times throughout the film and it is very pleasing to the eyes.  The sound design of this film is also very well done.  The sounds of metal scraping together and crunching is rather satisfying to hear as you see it unfold on the big screen.  Truly one of the best aspects of this film.

 imagesYou won’t get any morals out of it and you won’t really remember it after a day or two, but all in all Real Steel is a good popcorn flick to watch with the family.  In my opinion the film missed out on what could have been the start to a new franchise.  Unfortunately, with poor direction and sub-par acting this film was destined to be a simple one off.  In the end I recommend this film to anyone who enjoyed the Transformer films and definitely those who like action films.  It’s a good film to watch on those nights when you cannot find anything else to watch.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is now Extended and on Blu-Ray in 3D

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by Carrie Specht

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second installment of the epic The Hobbit trilogy arrived on Blu-ray 3D and regular old Blu-ray in a new “Extended Edition” on November 4th courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The Extended Edition features a 25-minute longer cut and more than nine hours of new special features on two separate DVDs. That’s a whole lot of middle earth bang for the buck. The most ardent fan will be thrilled with this extremely thorough presentation package, and the less enthused admirer of the series (although I can’t imagine who these people are) will be impressed with the behind the scenes look into the production of the three most ambition films of our times. Now is the time to own it on Blu-Ray.

HBT1-fs-304358.DNGThe 25 minutes of extra film footage is spread out, extending individual scenes, adding coverage that was previously unseen through out the known movie. So, don’t expect a surprise ending or anything like that. But instead, enjoy the welcome extension of your favorite moments that now have a little some extra. For fans such embellishments make this the must-see, definitive version of the film. And that goes for both the 3D and the regular Blu-Ray presentations. The more than nine hours of new bonus features offer exactly what you would expect and more, truly enriching the experience of the Trilogy. All this comes at the perfect time as fans restlessly gear up for the December 17 theatrical release of the third and final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

gandalf-the-hobbit-dos-ee-620x330The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield. Their’s is an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. Having survived the beginning of their “unexpected journey”, the company travels east, encountering a skin-changer and a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. Their luck holds out as they escape capture by the dangerous Wood-elves as they journey to Lake-town. Finally the troop (for the most part) make it to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they face the greatest danger so far, a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship. This creature is of course the title character of the dragon, Smaug.

The-Hobbit-desolation-of-Smaug-dragon-photo-close-up Among the many new special features are an audio commentary with Peter Jackson, the film’s director/producer/screenwriter, and Philippa Boyens, co-producer/screenwriter. The two-disc “Appendices” are really a multi-part documentary focusing on various aspects of the film and the Trilogy showcasing an immersive multi-part history of the filming of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The scope of which includes pre-production in the various departments of the film in the months leading up to the start of principal photography, the extensive training required of the many actors, and the work done on set and in the world of digital effects. Of course, you can’t talk about the making of The Hobbit without giving due respect and attention to New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth. I’m telling you this is an all out effort to give the fans what they really want, and that’s to get as close to the action as possible, and this package delivers just that.

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Special note: Another bonus that comes along with the purchase of specially marked Blu-ray discs is the inclusion of Digital HD with UltraViolet . THis is pretty cool, because Digital HD with UltraViolet allows consumers to instantly stream and download movies and TV shows to TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones through UltraViolet retail services like CinemaNow, Flixster, Target Ticket, VUDU and more every day (this is a wonderful world we live in). For more information on compatible devices go to wb.com/ultravioletdevices. Consult an UltraViolet Retailer for details and requirements and for a list of HD-compatible devices. 

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUGAnd you can have all that goes with the purchase of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition on Blu-ray 3D for $54.98 and Blu-ray for just $35.99. That’s a pretty awesome price, especially when you consider that Warner Home Video Blu-ray Discs offer resolution six times higher than standard definition DVDs, as well as extraordinarily vibrant contrast and color and beautifully crisp sound. I watched this on an 80″ screen and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on it. No kidding. I know I sound like a print ad, but it’s true that the format also provides a higher level of interactivity, with instant access to extra features via a seamless menu bar where viewers can enjoy features without leaving or interrupting the film. Why hasn’t someone thought of this sooner!

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