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An Avatar of Woe
A lot of times while chatting at the club, my friends and I will engage in the Ye Old Drinking Game of "Who would you switch for?" The implication is that perhaps there might be an actress we'd dump our Kinsey scale of homosexuality, and could see ourselves jumping into the sack with. It's a lot of fun, completely meaningless, and usually ends with Anderson Cooper style giggle-fits. Well, Zoe Saldana (Avatar) is one of those lovely ladies for me. Though, I completely recognized once watching her film Colombiana, she's not quite good enough for leading lady status.
A lot of weight is placed on her caramel-toned, often bared shoulders in this movie. Not unlike the completely pale white ones of Saoirse Ronan from Hanna, she's portraying a beautiful but deadly assassin. But whereas Hanna was directed as a pseudo-Euro art piece, Colombiana decides it would rather go in your face with its down and dirty action style. This is most evident right from the start, as director Oliver Megaton (Transporter 3) provides a jarring intercut between stock footage of gang activities with aerial shots of the a jam packed city in Colombia. Requiring a justifiable reason to make Zoe Saldana's character into a lethal killer, it is this entire first act that nearly swamps the movie from the start. Little girl version of Cataleya is poorly acted and feels hardly real as she's already an expert in eluding hooligans who murder her parents in front of her. (As described in the trailer, so not a spoiler.) Once in the US, she's connected with other family members and is already intensely determined about her future goal to get revenge. But not only is there no real emotion given us here, the whole section drags on.
Finally, we get to see our lone star heroine as she rams her car into a parked police cruiser ensuring she'll be right where she needs to be to kill her nearly two dozenth target. From there the movie starts to expand a little into a rather clever bit of cat and mouse as Cataleya continues to pick off people while being sought out by an FBI agent played strongly by Lennie James (mostly TV roles). There is a romance as well, just so you can be assured to see the sexier side of Zoe, and interestingly enough its during these exchanges she finally shows some dimension to her character.
See, the problem with this film is that its comprised mostly of how withdrawn Cataleya has become, layered with the 'will she or won't she' get caught while engaging in her conquest for vengeance. So because of that, we're not as engaged as I'd like to have been with the movie. Merely speculating as she stealthily slinks around in skin-tight outfits in between far too rare occasions where her character finally really interacts with others on screen.
To be fair, it gets better as it goes along. It's as if the script starts to become more comfortable about itself. The uneven drama and action eventually gains humor and better action as we move toward the ending. Though even when things do start really moving, and you're starting to lean forward in your seat with eager anticipation, you have to start to realize Colombiana has given you the slow-burn without any real substantive meat behind the promise it had made. It turns out just to be a rather hallow revenge flick that's marginally better than mediocre, if only because it stars that one hot girl you playfully suggested you'd switch for.
Maybe I should only stick to her as a Na'vi.
A long awaited and actually rather welcome end.
When we last left The Boy Who Lived, I was all in a bitchy uproar that they decided to split the final film. Warner Brothers claimed it was because there just was so much good stuff, it'd be improper for them to do otherwise. I said that was b.s. and it was all about the money. Now having seen the completed portion of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, I can further confirm that I was the one who was right, not that it really matters now.
What I can't believe is that even in the second half of the film, it seemed like they simply didn't not know how to pace themselves correctly. Maybe they feel other things were just more important, I dunno. I could spend all the rest of this night and probably a full week trying to tell you how I would have done it differently. But to do so would give too many spoilers than I'm comfortable with. However, as one example, I would have excised so much of the mindless forest hiding out in Part One and put the sequence from Gringots from Part Two in its place. That would have given that first movie a bit more excitement -and- gave them more time to focus on the hurried events towards the end of this concluding piece of cinematic history.
Most reviewers are taking this opportunity to gush about how amazing everything's turned out with this series. They love how the whole lot of films got produced with the same cast, spanning many years with different directors, and now that all the cards have been shown, we simply have one long 8 film epic fantasy film that should be given the highest accolades and honors. But, I protest that movie critiquing doesn't work that way. No matter that this is the conclusion of a two-part film that shouldn't have been separated in the first place still stands in my book.
Yes, the battle over Hogwarts involving so many of our beloved characters is pretty darn close to perfect. With so much kinetic energy sown into this one moment, it really had to deliver and it so very much did. I felt peril. I felt a strong lurching in my chest that I was being pulled along at a rapid clip. Perhaps it was because we'd been dilly dallying around for so long. Or maybe, like Harry, I was ready for the end to come. And yet, even in the midst of moving from one grandstanding moment to the next, director David Yates continues to fail me. Many heartfelt and powerful moments become more like blink-and-you'll-miss-them after thoughts in narrative. Major things are happening to people not named Harry Potter that fans of this series care desperately for, and we've been brought all this way, often spending far too much time repeating the same mantras: isolation, sense of purpose, fate/destiny. And yet we can't give these other moments just a bit longer to spend in the forefront? No. We have to rehash it all. And I mean everything from the very beginning as Harry spends some time in a scene very reminiscent of Neo visiting with The Architect in the much maligned Matrix Reloaded. Fortunately however, this incredibly lame scene where all is revealed to the most inept audience member is counterbalanced with a lengthy sequence giving the entire history from Severus Snape's point of view. While technically a flashback, it also ends up being one of the best parts of not only this Harry Potter film, but maybe of the last three. Also of note, it seems that Daniel Radcliffe's acting ability has started to far surpass everyone around him. While most are just chewing scenery, he seems, for what may be the first time, really coming across AS Harry Potter who has experienced all of these things.
I guess what I'm saying is that Harry Potter's ending is much like a giant ship bobbing up and down on the ocean filled with many dangers, and I don't think that David Yates was the right tugboat for the job. He might of gotten us into harbor and home, but we've seriously wrecked most of the rigging, the franchise, and other boats in the process. Essentially, it's a satisfying end as the story is finally given its theatrical so long, but I think a better job could have been done and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 does little to improve on that. We haven't gone into outstanding territory again, more like, just marginally better than it was when we were back at Order of the Phoenix and it was his first try at the series.
The Help (2011)
Serves with Sass and Smiles
I'm trying not to let the fact that this is different from anything we've been reviewing lately get to me. I mean, a real meaty drama set at the tail end of the Summer Blockbuster Season? Who would have guessed? But it sure is mighty nice to be able to sit in the theatre and enjoy a nice glass of Coca-Cola, fan myself, while I watch a period piece set in the south. The fact that it turns out to be pretty damn good is just a bonus. And not a single person was wearing comic book tights.
The Help is a strong character driven movie about the interrelationships between those who work in the middle-class white houses in Mississippi in the late 60′s and the ones that have hired them. At least, that's the surface level you'll probably be drawn to first when seeing the film. After all, we start pretty quickly already involving ourselves in the rather troubling dual life of Aibileen Clark played by Viola Davis. She's the maid who does mind the house, but probably more importantly, the children. It's certainly obvious to me it is what keeps her at her work. That and the concept that there really is nothing else for her, save for 'fool's dreams'.
But what this movie also ends up being about is the various tiers the white women who dominate the town, and who is on who's level. Hilly Holbrook, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is the one who holds court. Everyone is subjugated to her, not just the hired help. And it takes quite some time before Skeeter Phelan, played by Emma Stone in her first juicy role, gets enough courage to bring about the change required of the Civil Rights Movement. Skeeter sees the cruelty of Hilly and wants desperately to do something about it, but it takes an army of interviewing maids to set the wheels into motion.
And that's pretty much my only dislike of the movie. The drama is great, with characters really fleshed out and are telling you a real story about how things were. (And to some degree still are, only with Hispanics filling the roles rather than Blacks.) There is comedy too. Some of which gets harped on far too much for my taste, when I'm more interested in moving forward. They say that it takes time to change the path of the future, to get past some of the wounds caused by this time period in America. And unfortunately it felt that way in the movie too. Overly long, drawn out, and missing an emphatic climax, The Help essentially whips up a great moving drama and sort of walks off on down the road suggesting its work here is done. I wanted it to do just a little bit better, be a little more tighter, so it could achieve the ambitious goal it set out for itself.
Yes, it's asking a lot for a movie. Especially at this time of year. But when you have such amazing roles like Minny Jackson (Octavia Spenser) and Skeeter's mother Charlotte (Allison Janney) and even the villain racism embodied almost completely One can't help but want the very best. And while extremely good and worth seeing, it just missed that mark.
Absolutely perfection from the acting, setting, and score!
I can just imagine American audiences will describe the film as follows: You know that woman from TNT's 'The Closer?' Well she's after this albino girl and her father who was The Incredible Hulk who are these ex-spy assassin types.
And while that is a valid way to give the synopsis of what this movie is about, it completely missed what Hanna is. It's a super-rare wide release of a Euro-thriller that places its entire weight on the acting talents of a young Saoirse Ronan. She's already not been seen in films such as City of Ember and Lovely Bones (Both of those films bombed). But here, given such a juicy role, I'm completely and utterly blown away by this girl. While we've been closely following another vicious girl, Chloë Grace Moretz, Let Me In was an unnecessary remake and Kick-Ass was gimmicky, though pretty good. Ronan's Hanna is the real deal bringing a stunning combination of innocence and superhuman skill to her ballet between discovery and demolition.
This movie, where Hanna is raised to be a stone cold killer in the snowy tundra, eventually turns into largely one long chase. And it's on this basic level I find the only faults with how this all unfolds. Fortunately, along the way we're treated to Hanna's attempts to make friends and enjoy things she was denied in her remote tutelage. These scenes bring so much passion for life and character, they are not to be missed simply because they lack the action promised in the trailer. One in particular where Hanna and another young girl share an evening flirting with some Spanish boys is filmed with such admiration for the moment, I was almost giddy at such earnest passion for the story.
While I absolutely cannot believe this thing is getting a wide release, what with its non-American focus, a plethora of subtitles, and largely bloodless PG-13 rating, I couldn't be more pleased. Yes, there is a LOT of plot, and sometimes the chase does get tiresome. But just when I think I'm starting to fall behind, there Hanna is again filling most of the screen with her presence. Or a particularly disturbing German bounty-hunter. Or Kyra Sedgwick lookalike Cate Blanchett barking out something sarcastic in a lovely southern-drawl.
Hanna works on so many levels, a study on parenting, a portrait of a wild child in civilization, or a straight-up action flick, it would narrowly miss perfection. But then I'm reminded of The Chemical Brothers driving the whole thing via their soundtrack. (Did they get jealous of Daft Punk's Tron accolades?) So, yeah, I think I'm going there.
Fast Five (2011)
Still drifting away from car porn, still provides a nice heist.
I fully admit that I have a love affair with this series of misadventures that focus heavily on the beauty of fast cars. While it's only the original The Fast and The Furious that is the lone solid entry in the franchise, that doesn't lessen much how giddy I got enjoying just how silly things got in the ridiculously titled 2 Fast 2 Furious. Then, a detour to Japan for the third film Tokyo Drift. Most don't think very much of that one, where Dom only is featured for a moment and the kind of racing is more than a little queer.
It really wasn't until Fast and Furious, the sadly subtitle or numberless flick from 2009 I found myself not as pleased with what was being done with these various collection of meat heads and grease monkeys. Slowly the movies were focusing less on the culture of street racing and more toward generic chase action films.
Sadly that degeneration has come to a full head here in Fast Five. Call it Oceans Eleven with a hotter, if less talented, cast of actors. Yes, the gang is all here. Even Han who was introduced and killed in Tokyo Drift which apparently hasn't happened yet in the timeline of the films. Yeah, bitches technically 4 and 5 are prequels to 3 and yet sequels to 1 and 2. And if that isn't redonkulous enough, we now have intertwined The Rock into these things. He steals the show here, with the action heating up in Rio where there are not only plenty of angry birds, but plenty of cops and robbers heisting to be done by Dom and his crew that also includes Luda, Tyrese, a nameless woman, and a pair of unique locals that I'm fairly certain are life partners.
Replacing the street racing culture quite literally, since just when the film's scattershot script decides to go there, the scene is cut there is a boring idea of ganking a drug lord's bank vault. The fact it's hidden by the corrupt police is just a great excuse to have all the confusion action as white-knuckle a thrill ride as possible.
Most of the acting is worse than ever, but there are several set pieces that work really bigger and better than ever. And as much as I'd totally would love to slag on just how bad a Fast Five should be, it's just a lot of hyperactive FUN! FUN! FUN! So basically even though I'm not fond of the choice to change the core of what these films are about, they still bring a lot of what I want: Over the top stunts with easy-going characters that say dumb things like: "Give me the veggies." and "You know what this is? I'll tell you what this is." Along with overheated testosterone fights.
Drive Angry (2011)
Made me driven to be quite angry.
While they say that fifteen minutes can save you fifteen percent on your auto insurance, by not wasting 104 minutes by watching Drive Angry, you might very well save your actual life. Nothing in this world makes me hurt more, dare I say, than a Nicolas Cage movie, which is probably why The Fat Man is so obviously in love with the man. Cage apparently shows up to the set of every single film he's in with this 'fuck it' kind of attitude to start and then works in 'the crazy' as the movie goes along. This time: It's all crazy! Drive Angry, which was released earlier this year, sported the fact it was filmed in 3D. While it might have been a marketing bullet point at one time, it doesn't seem like anyone is really enjoying anything in 3D these days. And I can hardly imagine it added any depth to this over the top, in your face, desolation game of cat and mouse between Ghost Rider and the leader of a satanic cult who killed his baby.
The dialog includes such gems as: "What kind of gun is that?" "The kind of gun you need to kill people like him." "And by shoot the tires, I mean aim for their heads." And my personal favorite, "My whole life has been about waiting. Waiting tables. Waiting for things to get better. Now it means something. I'm with you until the end." Of course all of these lines are spoken with absolutely no acting skills supporting them whatsoever. Cage is a complete hack and everyone knows it. The only roles he's ever "good" in are ones that utilize this without calling so much attention to it like a blazing neon sign of a bull being yanked by the balls. (Also in the movie.) Unsurprisingly, Amber Heard is completely useless except for maybe the chick fight aboard a Winnebago. And the only thing menacing about Billy Burke are questions about why he is wearing what appears to be red velvet in the middle of summer in the mid-west.
Yes there are explosions. Yes there is plenty of female nudity. In fact one scene that might have started to threaten to be cool is where Nicolas' character is having acrobatic sex with this bimbo and manages to kill multiple assailants. Unfortunately, instead of continuing to play it up for laughs, they decide to have her become traumatized by the event.
And that generally is where the movie fails completely. If you want to sell me on your undead vengeful father in pursuit of redneck cultists, I'm fine with that. But you have to stick with the tone you set. I mean what the hell was up with The Accountant anyway? And, you know, it wouldn't hurt to actually give your characters more personality than the cars they're driving.
Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Generically Generic in Every Way
Nostalgia is a very dangerous weapon. If wielded in the right hands, it can propel a project to unbelievably strong heights. No one really wanted a Smurfs movie. But because the market was seriously dry in the kid's wing of the multiplex, and the formula that was most recently successfully used by Alvin and The Chipmunks was followed to the letter, the thing make big bucks. On the other hand, no one really NEEDED a remake of the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger film Conan the Barbarian. But, I think there was a group of us who thought maybe we'll find it worth checking out. With advances in technology and of course that omnipresent 3D forced upon us every weekend, perhaps something would be decent here. Hell, I was just looking forward to seeing some hunky man meat gallivanting around in a loincloth.
Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) is certainly easy on the eyes. And I'm happy to report that he is included in the MPAA's warning of nudity within the film. But while he is similarly as terrible of an actor as our lovable Govenator, he does absolutely nothing extra to make this role his own. He's simply hunky man meat gallivanting around in a loincloth in hot pursuit of the guy from Avatar (Stephen Lang) who has, as usual, murdered Conan's father and decimated his village. Yes, even the plot is generic.
Slightly more interesting is Rose McGowan (Charmed) who vamps it up not unlike how Mary-Kate Olsen did in Beastly. Yes, it's a completely laughable role, but considering how cut-and-dry the rest of the movie is, I was kind of grasping at straws at what to like. So completely over the top is everything from her wardrobe and hair to her near incestuous desires to replace her mother. While I wasn't exactly loving her she was at least something interesting.
So we have a pretty boring story, where Conan travels from location to yet again Bejeweled inspired location, not containing any charm or charisma nor adding anything of significance to the concept of the legendary Barbarian. He slays lots of WETA cast-offs, including a horde of silly looking sand zombies. Also problematic right from the beginning is the rubbery looking infant Conan who is held up to the camera as if daring us not to giggle from the word 'Go.' At least almost immediately following that, we're re-introduced to our title character as a young boy who, for a while, kicks almost as much ass as Hannah in the snowy forests.
I guess if the multitude of Russians who made this film (seriously, check the credits) wanted to strictly remake a generic 80′s fantasy film with lots of gore, action, and nudity, they pretty much succeeded. But to call it Conan the Barbarian is really audacious since it doesn't really feel like the icon we know so well. So it basically boils down to what's the point? While the motion picture is indeed constantly in motion with action sequences piling up right up against one another, it's not really all that engaging.
(Note: I didn't see this film in 3D as thankfully I still have a choice at my theater.)
Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)
I'm breaking up with it because I think I can do better.
I've been looking forward to Crazy, Stupid, Love for a couple of months now. While the TV Spots haven't been very good, the extended trailers seemed to promise a real visceral and gut busting romantic comedy that was full of heart and laughs. I've been yearning for a nice drama I could rally behind in the midst of the Summer Movie Experience but unfortunately that's not quite what I got here.
Steve Carell plays Cal, the sort of hub which all the other players revolve around. There's Julianne Moore who's divorcing him, Ryan Gosling who mentors him, Kevin Bacon who replaces him, Jonah Bobo who's his son and looks up to him (but is obviously not important enough to be included on the poster in spite of being about 1/3 of the movie's focus) and then there is Emma Stone who plays a role along side Ryan's character and more, but that'll be kept secret for spoiler concerns.
It's a stacked cast, to be sure. It's too bad that most of them aren't very funny. Carell tries his improvisational routine which often really only means he keeps repeating the same phrase over and over using different weird voices. It's clearly one of the only comedy tools he knows and was best used during the superior film 40 Year Old Virgin. The fact he's pared with Ryan Gosling makes little since, but what's even more shocking is just how much funnier Gosling ends up being in comparison. Even Emma Stone seems to miss her funny mark in this near disaster which eventually pulls out madcap hijinks when the whole time it's been more of a mental comedy. And then when it comes to the sincere moments none of the actors except for Julianne More really pull it off. I guess they all just wanted to do what they're known for and not really that well.
The whole thing is overloaded. There is bloated and disjointed plot everywhere. Too many characters who have too much that needs to be done so they can wrap it all up in a neat bow a number of times in the overextended denouncement. Kevin Bacon is a good example of this. There is no real good reason he's in this picture. His character could have been just referenced and left off camera since he adds nothing to the show. Simiarily, Marisa Tomei's crazed school teacher role seems like it belongs in another movie entirely. She provides such a jarring clash of misfit comedy that doesn't work here. And after those parts are cut, a general overall snippy snip snip would have helped tighten things up as well.
So really what we have here is a romantic comedy that is not nearly as romantic or funny enough. It's too long. It's too populated. And doesn't seem to know just how crazy or stupid or lovely it wants to be. To be honest, other than some nice scenes here and there (Ryan giving Steve a manly make over was in the trailer) the only real satisfying storyline is that of Hal's son and his crush on his babysitter. But even that gets a kind of disturbing conclusion.
Cars 2 (2011)
Something went wrong at Pixar
It's a challenge to critique movies for which you are squarely not within the intended audience. It's part of the reason why I skipped Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer. While I'm sure we would have done well to get in touch with our inner Heather Graham, we just didn't think it fair to toss a pair of bad grades at a movie aimed at little girls. We'd much prefer tugging on their pig-tails and saying they have cooties. That being said, Pixar has always presented itself as not only the superior animated movie product to beat, it typically produces films that are creatively accessible on multiple levels. In fact within Wall-E and Up there are segments of pretty high end pieces of cinema. So for that reason, we're reviewing Cars 2.
Except it appears that this time something went wrong.
Perhaps the creators were on a Hawaiian vacation much like Ken and Barbie enjoy during the throw-away Toy Story short that appears before the feature presentation. Yes, I know, I know. We should be so lucky to even get cartoons before our movies. But I remember when these things were completely original shorts that were almost as buzz worthy as the reason why we were in the theatre to begin with. Disappointment sets in early, though Woody and Buzz do try their best to remain relevant past the completion of their trilogy last summer.
When it comes to Cars 2, we're treated to what is essentially a James Bond film featuring Larry the Cable Guy's character Mater. Quickly I'm reminded of Arthur and how Russell Brand was in nearly every single scene. Except instead of a man-child out of control Brit, we instead get an even more grating redneck caricature that's more hijinks than ha-has. Mater has been misconstrued as a spy, and there's a whole caper involving alternative fuels. Yes, Pixar is all about the green technology, so you gotta have a bit of environmentalism with your fun as usual.
The only problem is there isn't much fun to be had. At least not for an adult. The kids will likely enjoy some of the antics, as Mater screws up things but by doing so manages to solve problems along the way. Lightning McQueen is hardly featured. And everyone should really pay attention to just how marvelously beautiful the scenery is in the three international cities the World Grand Prix takes place in. (An effort included to no doubt boost international box office.) But really the spy story is just kind of lame. Not to mention rather violent for a rated G movie. I mean, cars with guns, rocket launchers, and tasers? So, in conclusion, you probably can skip this movie unless you have little ones. Yes, the visuals are stunning and enhanced to some degree with 3D technology. And there is just a sliver of heart to be found in the midst of all the madcap espionage. But generally speaking, it's all about the annoyance of Mater and marketing so that following the film's conclusion you can buy lots of stuff featuring the Cars brand. After all, when I bought my ticket I was given a small pamphlet that let me know Target has 'everything Cars'.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Adjustment Bureau is based on a Phillip K. Dick short story, I knew I would be in very good company.
It's excused if you didn't see The Adjustment Bureau in theaters. After all, adult hard sci-fi thrillers aren't exactly everyone's cup of tea. Ones that feature plenty of men in fedoras though, thankfully, are right up my alley. And seeing as this particular Adjustment Bureau is based on a Phillip K. Dick short story, I knew I would be in very good company.
See, what those guys wearing great head gear do is they open up their little nifty CG booklets and when someone does something they're not supposed to, they use all manners of tricks to get them back on course. Like a traffic tie up to cause you miss an important meeting you would have been made to look foolish for, only so that later during a reschedule you end up nailing a promotion. Or maybe during a chase, you'll slip and fall and lose sight of the one you are making eyes for on the train only to never see them again. It's a destiny vs free choice type situation, and I'm pretty well tugged in by Matt Damon's charismatic character.
He does end up having one of those moments when this girl is exactly what he feels he must have in this world. And, of course, those pesky people in fedoras keep trying to remind him, subtlety and then more aggressively otherwise, that not only will he not continue on his path of political fame if he peruses her, she'll miss out on her opportunities as well. So the question becomes not necessarily destiny vs free choice, but what's more important, goals and ambition or love sweet love.
Things get a little ripe and over the top the further down the rabbit hole Mr. Damon travels. We're given more and more world building and rules as we go along. Sometimes it feels they're just making stuff up to satisfy a plot, and I suppose that's mostly what such fantasy flicks are required to do. But it seems to much at times and I'm still not quite sure how much I'm falling for the romance angle that progressively gets harder to root for.
Still, one shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Or a gift movie that's actually very entertaining throughout and provides more than its fair share of nail-biting suspenseful moments in the midst of good old fashioned adult storytelling. Characters are great, it's filmed well, and I'm so wanting to buy myself a fedora now.
Arthur is a study of excess.
Arthur is a study of excess. Well, I suppose it's also a study in access, and many people get those two homophones confused, so I guess everyone wins this time. But my original point is that everything in this movie, including the very filming of it, is extravagantly wasteful. See, we already had a film called Arthur. It was a long time ago, so I'm sure you could be forgiven for not knowing this is a remake. Alas, here we are, presenting a comedy featuring Russell Brand playing the role he was born to play. And play. And play.
Not content enough with simply being Alduous Snow in both Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek (the latter of which is insanely hilarious), here Brand plays the title-character man child with lots of money and no responsibility. Eventually, he gets to the point where he has to marry a horse played by Jennifer Gardner, not for love, but for business. Conveniently, he falls in love with the film's saving grace, Naomi. Greta Gerwig, along with Helen Mirren, but honestly, does that woman NEED any more accolades at this point, provided me much needed grounding in all the chaos created in Brand's wake.
His style of comedy is best described as throwing as much insanity at the wall until something sticks. That works well with good writing, less so when recreating a character that was nominated for an Academy Award. Yes, I recognize that there is very little here that is carried over from the original, and that's not even really my point. My point is again excess. The storyline contains it: billionaire heir throwing gobs of money around in a failed attempt at making himself happy. And so does Brand's acting. It's funny up until the point when it just becomes too much.
While there are glimpses of heart: a truly charming relationship between Arthur and his help, or perhaps a few fleeting moments when romance wins over exuberance, the film is essentially in love with itself. And we're left just kind of trying to string together good memories brought about from selected funny bits. None of which include shots of Russell Brand in his underwear.
Embrace the suck.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is only skin deep. The beautiful people, the beautiful people, it's all relative to the size of your steeple. We've got plenty of clichés to fit our shallow concept of what is beautiful. But there is one thing that is undeniable, and that's what I applaud this CBS Films production on bringing to the forefront of everyone's attention: Embrace the suck.
No, seriously, the movie actually said that. It was early on, in the portion of the film where every line seemed like it was over thought and then over wrought by actors who don't really know how to act so they're over compensating. The dialog eventually gets a bit better as the storyline progresses from pretty ugly heart to ugly ugly heart. No, I don't believe for an instant that the romance that's featured is real. At all. Not even one bit. And then there is the fact that in the second and third acts we can't go five minutes without another montage. It doesn't help that it doesn't make a lick of sense that Mrs. Hudgens' character is unaware that the heinous beast of a hot boy in a cloak resembling Jace the Mindsculptor is not the dickhead she says she likes in the beginning of the movie.
So what keeps Beastly from just capsizing under its whole fakey fairy tale premise? You know, where a boy is made not-that-ugly since he's still frickin' ripped? Well, sagely Neal Patrick Harris is brought in to play a blind tutor, though his role is more importantly to show audiences it matters more who you are than what you look like since he can't see. While that'd normally be a huge offensive negative, NPH not only can act, he brings the wry humor probably no where in the script. He's just too funny for me to disapprove of! Oh! There's also Mary-Kate Olsen who's vamping it up as Kendra the witch who sets all of this nonsense into motion. No, she's NOT a good actress, but every moment she was on screen, I couldn't help but be captivated by just how gawd awful she was. Over the top and completely vain in her own way, it made even less sense why she would put the hex on Mr. Pettyfer.
Beastly is a bad movie. It's insipid, it's mind-crushingly offensive, and extremely inept when it comes to the bare bones basics of telling a story. But it's one of those so bad it's good type situations where if you're in the right setting with the right friends, booze, and mood, you'll actually have fun at its expense.
And isn't that the whole message anyway?
Bittersweet and Beautiful
Wait excels in the short form.
It gives you everything in a tight ball so you can unpack it later after watching. The cold landscape of Maine never looked more beautiful and yet less forgiving as a girl at a tender age waits for what we all guess early is inevitable.
But maybe next time we watch the short, it'll be different, right?
Also of note beyond the excellent camera work, is the sound. Taken completely from audio recorded post-shoot, it not only syncs up nicely, but is as crisp as the visuals and plot. An outstanding job done well.
I would highly recommend those running festivals or just general viewing gatherings pick this one up to show.
Meet the Spartans (2008)
Terrible in every way possible.
A dismal failure of a spoof with only the slightest bit of funny. This dreck breaks all the rules of good spoofing.
1. Be timely. A joke about Ellen in Mr Wrong? Really?
2. Be funny when offensive. Accident prone kid in Scary Movie 3, mildly funny. Assault on a kid by Spartian, not funny.
3. Be subtle sometimes. Not everything has to go to the extreme.
4. Be broad. Go everywhere for your spoofs, not just the same wells over and over.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY....
5. DON'T EXPLAIN EVERY RIFF AND SOURCE MATERIAL. If you have to tell your audience where it comes from, chances are it's not funny.
The fact that this film is only 60 odd minutes plus one of the longest credit sequences loaded with even more unfunny deleted scenes (seriously can't those wait for the DVD no one should buy either), that's just adding insult to injury.
8MM 2 (2005)
Nothing to do with original 8mm
Sure, this flick set in Eastern Europe is filled with sexy, but it absolutely has nothing to do with the Nicholas Cage flick "8mm" An ambassador's daughter and her fiancée mix it up with a local woman in a threesome that ends up being taped. The tape is used for blackmail and the stakes get higher and higher as the couple try to work it out themselves instead of going to authorities.
The sex comes and goes -- and would be the only reason for renting it, I suppose if you like this sorta thing -- and is quite gratuitous towards the middle when we cruise along the porn scene looking for the "other woman." I definitely question how it got into Blockbuster even with a Youth Restricted Sticker considering how just a hint over the edge of soft core it is. (Oh that's right, it's the double standard. Actual art-house flicks like "The Dreamers" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien" get castrated R versions, but Straight To DVD crap like this get the UNRATED banner proudly attached. Whatever.)
The acting is horrible, the plot is mind numbingly unoriginal, but really the worst offense is the idea that this is a sequel to 8mm. I'd give the flick a D for a grade and be nice, but considering they tried to trick me, it gets the F it frankly deserves.
Project: Kill (1976)
Modern MST3K anyone?
It's a pretty heinous film that features a man in a wicker wheelchair, Leslie Neilson's scarred chest, plenty of very ugly Filipinos, horribly set up karate sequences, and people who look like they are waiting for others to finish their lines so they can begin.
I think the plot is like this. Two guys, one being Leslie Neilson, are at odds since one wants out of this Project Control. Basically people are shooting up to become superstrong? Well Leslie Neilson gets mixed up with some Filipino gangs who don't like either one of the Americans. There is a side romance too. Makes little sense really.
I'm sure Leslie would love for you to forget that he was in this one, but sadly like the movie says: "The only way out is DEATH."
Watchability: 2 out of 10 MST3K quality: 7 out of 10
Best Tomie EVER!
This post may contain spoilers.
Well, okay that's not really saying that much considering this "horror" series from Japan is not even close to being a "head" above anything else. I don't quite get the whole "forbidden fruit" thing... but at least it was over really quickly.
There are a few scenes that are very nice and romantic between the Tomie characters that may be worth a look. Mmm, Tomie's dad is probably thinking Tomie Love Sandwich! And who doesn't like Tomie's head in a handbag? Especially when it's kind of more like a torso with odd appendages.
Basically it's crap and you know it so just enjoy that for what it is worth.
Tomie will never die and, yes, it will hurt.
Tomie grade: F+
God can have it back.
I can't decide if all of the actors decided to be wooden so that the kid could excel or were they just that pathetic one note characters? All Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and especially Greg Kinnear know how to do is cry and repeatedly look or ask Adam (Cameron Bright) if he's alright episode after episode. In fact, Kinnear was SO HORRIBLE, the next time I see a movie with him in it will be too soon.
Robert De Niro was great as always though.
Projecting every part of the story twenty minutes before it happens makes for a very loooong movie. And only a few of the jumps were not created by the Dolby Surround Sound. Basically if you've seen the trailer, you can pretty much guess what the shocking twist is about the kid and why there is a movie.
The concept could have been taken so many different ways and it seems like they chose the most simplistic one. Which is so unsatisfying considering the stellar marketing campaign with the real looking website.
Was I disappointed. Absolutely! Was I sorry that I saw it. No. I mean Creepy Kid Movies are a nice genre and I like even the dumbass ones.
Godsend Grade: C+
The Legend of Diablo (2003)
Some Movie Boxes Should Never Be Opened.
As a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fan, I can withstand ANY motion picture that can be foisted upon me, but there is absolutely no reason for this.
Rated "Super Action" in the Blockbuster Video section and given the dreaded "Restricted Viewing Sticker" I'm assuming these are the only methods that film maker (HA!) Robert Napton could use to get at least 4.50 from one unsuspecting person.
Shame on you Robert Napton! Shame on you for exploiting these poor Mexican actors who you probably promised hopes for making it big in American cinema. You are a disgrace!
There isn't one moment in this movie that holds the slightest bit of action. Did you use snot on these people? Oh, look, they're having a rave in a field! Like all 6 of them. And isn't that an Asian guy in the background? Why is it always daytime? Why did it take 1/2 of the movie to show anything.. and more importantly why did we watch the other 1/2?
PS: You owe me 4.50.
Re-invisioning of this kind should be outlawed.
"You plagurized every word from the internet site Dickens.com"
The above is mearly one of the utterly horrific lines in the new reinvisioning of The Neverending Story titled, "Tales from the Neverending Story." I asked for the flick unfortunately on my Amazon Wishlist and my friend Cody was unfortunate enough to buy it for my birthday. Unfortunately.
While Bastian has been replaced by a bemusing red headed Canadian, the entire story has been decimated. From the odd substitute teacher Mr. Blank, to the cringe inducing Atreyu, even the childlike empress was left untouched by a haphazard remake. Sure, there's the death of Artax -- Swamps of Sadness? Try some pond that turns the horse to a block of ice. Sure, there's a luck dragon -- Neither charming nor enchanting. But everything that you know and love from not only the original movie but also the book is skewed and wrong. Additions are built with equal parts cheese and crap crappity crap crap.
I watch alot of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It was a series that ran on both the Comedy Channel and Sci-Fi for 10 years. Bad bad movies were a staple of the show. I think they would have decided this motion picture was too bad to air. Even with their humor filled riffs shouted back to the screen.
Tales from the Neverending Story: F--
The Poke-saga marches on.
Ah yes. "Pokemon 3". Exactly how many adults really wanted to see another sequel be born out of this Japanese phenomenon? Well too bad. Kids still occasionally get to rule the box office and even though the second Pokemon movie didn't do close to what the first did, the animated pictures are easy and cheap to make.
And yeah, they sure look it.
Each of the Pokemon movie has thus far been preceded by a short cartoon. While these used to be standard fare for moviegoers decades ago, now they are really only gimmicks used to hype a movie. In Pokemon shorts they are used exclusively to stuff as many characters into the shortest amount of time. Children who are fans of the popular game each have favorites and producers of the movie wouldn't want to disappoint any of the youngsters by casually omitting "the best Pokemon EVER."
Unfortunately these shorts generally have very very VERY loose plots and hardly feature the children Pokemon trainers which keep the actual motion picture together. In other words, unless you're counting Pokemon or are a big fan of silent cartoons (well silent other than the more than 53 ways of saying Pikachu or various other nonsense) you're going to start your shared movie going experience with utter crap.
When the actual "Pokemon 3" movie does finally appear, the mythos begins. Parents and children alike are thrust deep into a largely sentimental tale of a girl who's mother is missing and father is often away studying legendary Pokemon. (Yes, even the adults in these films are Poke-fanatical.) Obviously the creators of this script wanted a more meaningful story and included quite touching and often equally troubling plot points concerning single and zero parent homes.
Ash and his friends (as well as his quasi-enemies Team Rocket) have to save the girl as well as Ash's mother from the out of control dreamworld the girl puts everyone in due largely to the help of some legendary Pokemon. (Appropriately titled The Unknowns.) Battles are fought, animation grows shoddy, and parents start checking watches. Kids, however, sway between exhilaration and near boredom as the movie uneasily shifts from over exaggerated meaningful drivel to over exaggerated meaningless drivel. Eventually things all turn out okay and children are bounding for the exits refreshed with the idea they "Gotta catch them all" and the coffers of some rich Japanese animators are refilled.
Parents may have sacrificed a few dozen brain cells, but there was at least one hour and twenty-eight minutes of peace and quality time spent with their children. (If they'd actually take up the game and played with their children, however, that would be remarkable.)
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Very middle of the road.
Without giving too much away, "The Legend of Bagger Vance" isn't really so much about the caddy played by comedian Will Smith. The film, which is a Robert Redford flick -- meaning go see it knowing he's going to tell you the whole story from start to finish -- is more about a boy who watches a golfer played by Matt Damon who's caddy is Bagger Vance, who's played by comedian Will Smith.
Have I mentioned that Will Smith is a comedian?
Ah, okay. Well, that's precisely my point, faithful readers. While I completely enjoyed Smith's laid back and confident approach to a character I've read was made for Morgan Freeman, I know for a fact that the part was altered, and in my opinion, made less effective because Will Smith was signed.
Oppositely, I don't like Matt Damon. I never have admired his "I'm-a-movie-star" kind of glitz he brings to every role. And while nothing's changed here, when he takes his role in this otherwise hokey fantasy about golf, I can't help but want to latch onto his character as if he was the only real element in the film. After all, Savannah, in all of it's old-classic wonder, seems so real and yet provides a quaint unreal setting for the piece. Viewers needed Damon to be there for them, and he comes through quite nicely.
So all that is really left to come together for "The Legend of Bagger Vance" is it's moving story about a golfer who's "lost his swing" who's feeling a little "in the bunker" and can't quite make "par for the course" on life. (And every other metaphor Bagger Vance uses in his trance inducing monologues.) If there wasn't so much love stuff, I'd say the film would have coasted into a solid B, but alas the movie decides it doesn't want to play it solo (like the game of golf) and introduces way too often Damon's love interest played by Charliez Theorn ("Men of Honor") who seems too rigid anyway to allow herself to be her character.
I liked "The Legend of Bagger Vance" but would have only watched it if I caught it on a lazy Saturday afternoon and had nothing else to do. Kind of like when I'd probably watch golf.
Legend of Bagger Vance Grade C
The Little Vampire (2000)
A throwback to quality fantasy films of the 80's.
Back in the 80's, making Childrens Films was eaiser. There was no need for hypnotic techno background beats. Directors didn't include glitzy light shows whenever good and evil fought, Pokemon-style. Some of the best fantasy films come from the 80s and featured bad acting, horrible continuity, and rather icky special effects and cinamatography as a whole.
"The Little Vampire" which stars mostly Jonathan Lipnicki, but also his little fanged friend Rollo Weeks, looks 10-20 years old but it actually a new release by New Line Cinema. And while for many this sounds like the ultimate rip of the dark children's fantasy based on some pretty famous books (at least in Europe), in actuality I think it's this that gives the film class.
I cringe every time Jonathan's character says "dude" and cringe harder when Rollo lays out the vampric lore dribble on why they don't bite humans. (They dine on cows.) But it becomes harder and harder to dislike someone so charming as either boy as the chase for the medallion continues.
The medallion is most of the time gaurded by Rookery who may be one of the most complete characters in the film. From the moment one sees his vampire hunting contraption looking like something from either "Mad Max" or "Tremors," those who are not children in the audience know this isn't going to be your typical kid's flick. The dark, creepyness continues throughout it's length, and someone in Oscar town might want to think on giving some nods for costume and art direction. Nothing beats the expressions on Rollo Weeks' face when he takes Lipnicki for their flights.
Alas, the film lags and is generally one big chase. The vampires want the amulet, the vampire hunter wants the vampires, and Jonathan's parents just want thier son to be normal. A tricky thing a dark movie appropriate for children is. If they had added more action, it wouldn't have worked. And in my opinion, even with the scares present, it probably only worked half way.
But the attempt looks sooo good.
The Little Vampire: B