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It finally happened - a movie without any redeeming features whatsoever
I had not expected this movie to be one of the worst I saw this year. After all, it has a decent rating on IMDb, it's produced by Judd Apatow, and it was lauded as the "female hangover". What could go wrong here? As it turns out, pretty much everything. This movie managed to literally hit all, and I really mean all, the wrong buttons for me.
I guess that at least something could be said for the premise, which basically is combining a fart comedy with a romantic drama. Somehow, though, it manages to take the very worst aspects of a drama and the very worst part of a fart comedy.
First of all, save for one or two instances, the humor totally misses the mark. I think I smiled maybe twice during the entire two hour running time, which must be a new low on the jokes per minute scale. The jokes just don't work..the physical humor is just plain vulgar in a bad way, and the verbal humor, while probably supposed to be sharp, just comes across as pointless angry ranting. Also, just about every scene goes on for way too long, ruining any potential there might have been.
For a drama, it also fails badly. First of all, just about every character with the possible exception of the police officer love interest, is self-obsessed, unsympathetic, shallow and just plain boring. It's impossible to care about these characters as they go through the horribly overlong (the movie is slow to a fault, as well) motions and end up at the horribly predictable conclusion.
I suppose some will pass of this movie as "clever" or "original" but in the end it's just the same old romcom template which has been done hundreds of time before..only this time with no humor, no chemistry and a lot of poorly executed "serious" take on the subject.
The King's Speech (2010)
Mission accomplished: maximum number of Oscar acquired
Two years after the decent but unremarkable "Slumdog Millionaire" got an Oscar, and a year after the even more unremarkable "The Hurt Locker" also undeservedly received the coveted statue, the Academy performs an even worse atrocity by denying The Social Network and Black Swan (among others) the best picture award, instead opting for "The King's Speech", a movie so obviously engineered to win a lot of Oscars that it hurts.
Of course, this is not a BAD movie. It is just that every aspect of it is directed at raking in as much Oscars as possible: an "inspiring" story, based on "a true story", about an underdog who overcomes his difficulties and comes out triumphantly, all set to appropriate and beautiful classical music.
Granted, it's an expertly made movie. The acting by Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter is first-class and the cinematography is beautiful.
Unfortunately, a story about a man overcoming his stuttering is about as boring as it sounds, and the totally risk-less direction doesn't help things either. Historical accuracy is thrown out of the window in favor of creating sympathy and the result is a movie that lacks any kind of real drama or conflict. Instead it just moves along a predictable course in which the "protagonist" overcomes predicable problems (childhood trauma, anyone) and achieves a predictable triumph.
Along the way, it IS good for an occasional smile, a cozy warm feeling, and a little bit of historical insight. But inspiring cinema, this is not. Rather, it's an over-engineered piece aimed at pleasing the crowd in general and the academy in particular. It's not surprising it works, but it doesn't make the movie by itself any good
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
OK let me get this straight I've never been a big fan of the Resident Evil movies. But the third installment was actually pretty decent so I decided to give this movie a try. Big mistake.
Even when taken at face value, as mindless eye candy, this movie fails to deliver in nearly every way. I don't mind that there is next to no story or that the characters are flat as hell. I do mind that it's slow, ponderous, poorly made, and just plain dull.
One half of the movie seems to consist of slow and long shots of well..absolutely nothing. Empty rooms, empty ships, empty meadows full of planes..then a zombie pops up, eats somebody, and the whole thing starts all over. Even the death scenes, normally the highlights of this kind of movie, are so short and unremarkable that if you blink at the wrong time, you miss them.
In between there is some "action" which doesn't really live up to the name because it's nearly all in slow motion and so over-stylized that is takes away any kind of thrill or suspense. It looks good in stills but it's just not very interesting to watch and the effects are mediocre. All of this set to a the most generic industrial techno soundtrack in living history and all of it trying desperately hard to be "cool"..except that this kind of stuff stopped being cool even before the Matrix sequels.
My advice: stick to the trailer. It contains all the cool shots and good lines, and you will save yourself 80 minutes of nonsensical and boring wanna-be coolness.
Almost thirty years and they have learned nothing
About thirty years ago, a movie came out named Tron, which had revolutionary (for the time) special effects but failed in nearly every other aspect.
Nearly thirty years after this Disney has finally produced a sequel to its cult hit, but sadly have learned nothing about making a good movie. Once again, the special effects are pretty revolutionary, but the other aspects are probably even weaker than in the original.
To get the obligatory praise out of the way: yes, this is a very pretty movie to look at, and Daft Punk (which I normally don't care about) did a very good job with the soundtrack. It's also greatto see a 3D movie in which the 3D effects were actually nicely done and didn't give me a headache.
That being said, the rest of the movie DID give me a headache. "Tron Legacy" is a sad example of dumbed down generic PG-13 stuff for the masses.
It starts with the story. First of all, it has next to nothing to do with being stuck inside a computer or virtual world. The only difference between humans and the programs in Tron Legacy is that they don't bleed but fall apart into pixels. Everything else is just a generic dystopian future that borrows (read "steals") heavily from better movies like The Matrix and Star Wars (including Jeff Bridges playing Obi Dude Kenobi) On top of that, the movie takes itself far too serious and is full of supposedly deep and meaningful talk about Relevant Themes. Which is fine by itself, except that the dialogs and the acting are so dramatically poor that it all devolves into a steaming pile of dung that alternates between unintentionally funny and yawn-inducingly boring. Especially the middle part just drags on and on and on.
The number of intentional jokes, on the other hand, can be counted on one hand. They seem to try really hard to be funny on a number of occasions, but nearly every attempt at humor falls totally flat, and there is not nearly enough of it.
This movie could have been nice as just 90 minutes of mindless action, and could have been superb with script writers and a director who actually have something to say. As it is, it's some nice action set pieces buried between a recycled plot and failed attempts at adding depth.
The American (2010)
I know I should be proud...
Seeing that I am Dutch, I should be at least a bit proud that year after Paul Verhoeven, we finally have a Dutchman that gets to make a high profile movie starring no less than George Clooney. But after seeing "The American", two entirely other emotions come to mind: boredom and shame.
Boredom because, quite frankly, this is one of the most boring movies of the century. I've seen my share of slow/artsy movies and I am generally OK with them, but they should offer something other than just pretty pictures, and that just isn't the case here.
Basically, "The American" is one and a half hours (although it feels like three) of nicely shot nothingness. It's full of beautiful nature and beautiful people, and beautiful nature shots of beautiful people, but all they seem to do is drive around, sit in bars, and stare. The dialog is very minimal and totally uninteresting, and the characters are dull and lifeless.
The minimal plot there is (assassin goes into hiding) is painfully clichéd and predictable, and at the same time manages to be silly to a fault and filled with subplots that are dead on arrival.
For example: half the movie revolves around George Clooney taking months of time to create a very basic rifle for the woman who is gonna shoot him with it...she is with him in remote locations all the time, yet she chooses to shoot him in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded street? Right.
I really wanted to like this movie but it's a perfect example of the Emperor's New Clothes...beautiful packaged nonsense that goes nowhere, conveys nothing, and evokes only boredom.
Piranha 3D (2010)
Third rate torture porn that wouldn't have even made it to the cinema without 3D hype
Oh my, where to begin? When you go to a movie like this, you know you aren't gonna get anything Oscar-worthy, but at least creature movies like this can contain funny characters, great one-liners, a lot of gore, some good scares, and amusing deaths.
Piranha 3D delivers on exactly one of these aspects: it contains tons and tons of gore. But in all honesty, its not very original gore (nearly everything has been done before) and most of its crosses the line into plain tasteless nastiness.
What's even worse is that the director didn't even try to come up with a story or characters to tie the gore together. Piranha 3D is clearly the laziest execution of this kind of movie to date: there are literally no characters, no story, no memorably quotes, no good jokes, nothing. It's just gore interleaved with nudity.
And then there's the 3D, which is yet again a shoddy 2.5D post-production job, which alternates between looking like a big blurry mess and a freak show of wrong proportions, lack of depth, and people and structures that look like miniatures. James Cameron was right, 3D when done like this doesn't add anything and I hope they stop making stuff like this and do 3D properly, if at all.
It boggles the mind that this movie has garnered so much positive press. There is nothing wrong with this kind of movie, in fact I enjoy most of the movies in this genre, but this is easily one of the most lazy and just plain awful executions of the campy horror template in recent history.
True Blood (2008)
Interesting premise quickly drained of potential.
(Based on season one only; can't be bothered to watch the rest) The clash of two (sub)cultures is always a good basis for a movie or TV series. The misunderstandings, cultural differences and mutual mistrust that ensue can lead to interesting things to watch.
Thanks to True Blood, we now know what happens if vampire and human culture come into collision: a giant orgy ensues. Apart from a couple of nice touches, the series barely touches upon what could happen when vampires and humans have to live together. In fact, the vampires mostly stick to their old lifestyle, barely drink True Blood, and treat the humans with utter contempt. The only area in which humans and vampires come to an understanding is in the bedroom.
What follows is a big soap opera in which everybody sleeps around with everybody. This seems great fun at first but it gets old very quickly, and there is so much sex that it detracts from the other aspect like character development and plot.
What little plot there is, is not very interesting. There is some kind of serial killer on the loose but it doesn't seem to have much bearing on the characters, who are all way too busy feeling sorry for themselves or letting their hormones get the best of them.
I don't even mind that the characters are all very exaggerated stereotypes, in fact the main reason the show is somewhat enjoyable is because of the campy and over the top characters and acting. But most of them are so selfish and stupid that it's hard to care very much for them.
"True Blood" eschews doing anything worthwhile with its premise in favor of lots of explicit content and cheap soap opera nonsense. It's not a total loss but there just isn't enough interesting stuff going on in between all the sex
Interesting ideas deserve much better movie
How far is one allowed to when millions of lives are at stake? Should one subscribe to the "anything goes" school of thought, or should one take the moral high ground no matter what? Valid questions that "Unthinkable" touches upon, and even tries to answer, but in the end it doesn't do so in a very intelligent way.
A movie about serious issues like this can definitely work, but it does need a lot more credibility than what is displayed here. For one, it would help if the lead interrogator (Samuel L Jackson in a typical bad-ass role) wouldn't be a totally insane, arrogant know-it-all type. He constantly does the most crazy things without any kind of deliberation, he is clearly emotional unstable, and he withholds vital information for the rest of the team. And somehow we are supposed to believe this man is our last best hope against terrorists? No thank you.
There are numerous other problems as well, e.g if the terrorist only wanted to buy time instead of making a statement, why allow himself to get captured? And why not make sure the wife and kids are well out of the country? And why tell the feds exactly how much uranium is in every bomb so they can figure out there is a fourth bomb? The list goes on and on.
There is also a very strong "been there, done that" feeling to this movie for everybody who has ever watched the series "24". In that series, the protagonist Jack Bauer also constantly has to do the unthinkable. The difference is that in "24", most of the stuff Bauer does actually makes sense given the context, whereas "Unthinkable" feels very doctored just to get a point across.
It's a shame really, the cast for this movie is very fine and some of the acting is pretty good. But in the end it just another suspense thriller disguised as something meaningful that fails because of the rather weak plot and the fact that it's just not very suspenseful.
Knight and Day (2010)
Was expecting a bit more
After the generally fairly positive reviews for this movie, I was hoping for a bit more than what I got. It's not a bad movie per se, but it heavily leans on the star power of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, and doesn't do anything that hasn't been done a dozen times before, and often better.
The movie does get off to a strong start though. The initial half hour with the aircraft fight and the highway chase are very funny and fluent action sequences. But the movie runs out of steam very fast, becoming a fairly generic series of half-finished action sequences.
Which is a shame, since more could have been done with this. But it seems that almost every time that an action sequences starts to become interesting, it just abruptly ends, and we end up in a totally different location, usually after one of the characters has been knocked out. I don't mind that the action is over the top, but I do mind this kind of lazy story telling. It is needlessly confusing, it kills the suspense, and it just feels like half the movie is missing.
Cruise and Diaz, meanwhile, do their utmost best and do actually manage to produce some funny lines and situations. But their characters remain shallow and rather boring, and the supporting cast is wholly unremarkable.
In the end, this movie is still mildly entertaining. It's an uncomplicated over the top action movie with some big names in it and a couple of novel action sequences. But I can't help but feel that it could and should have been a lot better.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
It's decent entertainment but also a bit of a lazy sequel
I absolutely loved the first Iron Man. It looked silly in the previews, but it turned out to an almost perfect mix of comedy, action and story/character development. With great anticipation I awaited this second installment..only to be mildly disappointed.
Iron Man 2 doesn't stray too far from the successful formula of its predecessor, but for some reason it doesn't really add up.
At least I am sure that the action is not to blame; there is a lot more of it this time around, and for the most part it is spectacular.
There is still plenty of humor around as well, but Iron Man 2's track record isn't flawless here. While most of the jokes are pretty good, a significant portion does fall flat. Robert Downey still does a brilliant job, but Sam Rockwell's character, while well-acted, is annoying in a very non-funny way.
But the biggest problem this time around is that all the jokes and the action don't really add up til a memorable tale. You never really get the idea that there is much at stake or that the narrative is going anywhere. The plot jumps through all the familiar hoops but nothing is really fleshed out. As a case in point, Mickey Rourke is totally wasted as the bad guy.
Also, I am getting really tired of the phenomenon that a movie seems to exist solely as a commercial for the next installment in the series....half of the running time of Iron Man seems to be a commercial for the upcoming Avengers movie.
Iron Man 2 offers enough action and jokes to provide two hours of fairly solid entertainment..but unlike the first part, it's not more than the sum of its parts. Not all of the humor works, and in terms of characters and story it feels lazy.
Brave attempt at something different horribly misfires
If not for the superficially similar, and wholly awesome Kick-Ass, this movie would have probably been totally forgotten. In my opinion it probably should be.
Marketed as a goofy superhero comedy, "Defendor" is instead more of a cross between a dark comedy and an earnest drama..that unfortunately doesn't work as either.
Woody Harrelson does an apt job at playing the titular Defendor, an emotionally damaged simpleton who dresses up as the super hero "Defendor" to fight an imaginary bad guy named Captain Industry, with low-tech gadgets like insect swarms and marbles...which is exactly as ineffective as it sounds.
This sounds like a great idea for a comedy, but it fails for one simple reason..the execution just isn't very funny. While Harrelson's fine performance is good for a couple of smiles, everything else just isn't as funny as it was probably intended.
That being said, the movie fails even worse as a drama. It tries really hard to be a touching, heart-felt movie about big themes..but the characters and the plot are so absurd, and the dialog and music are so overdone that it falls completely flat...I can't take this seriously, let alone feel anything. I am sorry to say that Defendor regularly goes into the realm of "unintentionally funny". It doesn't help that the bad guys and the basic plot are totally forgettable.
In the end this is a somewhat decent idea for a movie, totally ruined by a horrible execution. Woody Harrelson does the best he can, but he cannot save this movie from becoming a wholly unremarkable mess that switches between boring, unintentionally funny, and cringe-inducingly bad.
*1/2 out of ****
The Book of Eli (2010)
Deliver us from drivel
The one nice thing that can be said about this movie is that it is nicely shot (even though the repetitive shots of people against a sky of moving clouds get old fast). Everything else is pure drivel.
If you want to watch to watch this for the action, you'll probably end up feeling cheated. There are only a couple of action sequences and they are all a dime a dozen. If you want some postapocalyptic action, check out Mad Max, Doomsday, or, god forbid, Waterworld. All are a lot more enjoyable.
If we strip away the meager action, then we are left with an overly dramatic and rather nonsensic story. The movie takes itself Very Seriously but nobody bothered to actually check if it makes any sense. It doesn't. It's very poorly veiled religious propaganda full op plot holes (e.g. where does he find all those weapons) that ends up disproving its own points.
The movie makes a big point about the mysterious book our hero is carrying, but it's painfully obvious within 5 minutes that it's a Bible. What's worse is that the hero is presented as well, a hero, even though he's semi-invulnerable and stands idly by as a woman is raped, because he "is on a mission". Nice message. Next, the movie claims that you pretty much need a Bible to become civlized; he passes by all kinds of people that could have actually benefited from it and takes it to the one place that has done perfectly well without a Bible for all these years. Nice way to shoot yourself in the foot...
I could go on and on about this, but the case in point is that it doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
The Bible is a nice book that contains a lot of very useful things, but as long as you don't practice what you preach it's useless. This movie does exactly the opposite, elevating a bunch of words to something semi-magically (dare I say an idol?) instead of focusing what religion should be about: helping people.
3 out of 10.
Che: Part One (2008)
Boring biopic that is almost a total fail
If you want to see a good movie about Che Guevara, go see "The Motorcycle Diaries" instead. If you suffer from insomnia, stick to this one. It's a guaranteed cure.
Steven Soderbergh takes a potentially very interesting story and strips it down to basically a number of pretty pictures that fails in almost every aspect.
First of all, it fails as a history lesson because it fails to provide any kind of historical context as to what is going on. The movie jumps all over the place from battle to battle and training camp to training camp without ever bothering to explain anything.
This would be OK if the individual scenes were actually memorable, or provided any kind of insight into who Che Guevara really was. Alas, neither condition is met. while some scenes provide a glimpse into the real Che, most of them stay very much on the surface, and just when some scenes are getting interesting, the movie already cuts to the next one.
And even the scenes that are supposed to be tense and exciting really aren't. There is a lot of battle scenes, but they're all short, small-scale, sanitized, and interchangeable.
I wish I could find something good to see about this movie, but I'm really hard pressed. It's basically a very long collection incoherent, shallow and unexciting scenes.
Bit more script would be nice
I am gonna admit it..I actually saw Transformers 2 AND this movie in one week. I probably never saw so much CGI in one week. And if these two movies prove one thing it's that pretty much anything can be done, and can be done believably, with CGI and enough money.
These movies also prove that no matter how much money you spend on CGI, the movie is still not gonna amount to much if the money to pay for the CGI comes out of the script budget. While the effects are spectacular, once again the script is anything but.
I do have to give the writers some credits though, since unlike the abysmal Transformers, at least this movie has some amusing characters (mostly Woody Harrelson) and some OK jokes.
Sadly, everything else comes directly from the Big Book of Disaster Movie clichés. Relations get repaired, annoying characters get killed off in amusing ways, cute animals are spared since killing them would be too much for the audience, whereas millions of people die horribly for the sake of entertainment. And of course there are plenty of emotional scenes with bombastic music in the background that are so overdone, so badly written and so pointless that they become unintentionally funny.
Yes, it's all very spectacular, it truly is. Never before have I seen destruction on this scale. It's a shame that the movie tries so hard to be spectacular that all plausibility is thrown out of the window. The amount of close calls, near escapes and utterly silly situations is so high that it becomes very hard to suspend disbelief. I can buy tidal waves that flood the entire world..I don't buy a group of misfits taking off in an airplane just in time no less than three times.
"2012" does have its moments, but it has a script that is so plagued with clichés, fake sentiments and overall goofiness that it becomes a bit of a chore to sit through, especially given the very long running time and the endless repetitions.
Crank: High Voltage (2009)
Sets a new low for the "soulless action movie" genre
I have to admit I actually liked the first "Crank" movie. Sure, it was silly and cheap, but it was also fresh and a lot of fun. "Crank: High Voltage" (CHV) however, shows that more is not always better.
Everything in CHV is several steps up from the original, which is hard to imagine given how insane that movie already was. But somehow they managed and the result in now and utterly hollow and tasteless experience.
"Crank High Voltage" is basically 90 minutes (barely) of extremely gratuitous sex and violence with literally no story or characters to tie the action together. Now I really don't mind violence in movies and I'm not easily offended, but everything that goes on in Crank is so tasteless and nasty that it makes your eyes roll.
First of all there's the characters. Even the "good" guys are totally nihilistic and sadistic, all the women are drooling prostitutes, and all the bad guys are extremely offensive racial stereotypes. Just about every line is either a misplaced curse or an insult of some minority group. Even the one-liners are horrible.
Then there's the action..which is just as soulless and trite as the dialogue and the characters. At least in the first movie there was a sense of urgency since the main character was in real danger. Here, he's completely indestructible, which drains out any suspense. Several times, the movie even goes into complete surrealism just for the sake of it. Please. Too much.
But perhaps most importantly..this is just not fun any more. The majority of things in this movie are supposed to be cool but are so tasteless that you can't really do anything but gasp in disbelief. Among the "highlights" are the protagonist inserting a tar-covered shotgun up somebody's anus and humping an elderly lady. Not funny. Not cool. Just sick.
Mindless action can be hugely enjoyable but there is a limit, and Crank High Voltage goes miles beyond that limit. It's a nasty, soulless, and witless mess that reaches a new low for an already pretty low genre.
Battlestar Galactica (2004)
Starts very good but jumps the shark pretty fast
Good science fiction series are very rare, and a such Battlestar Galactica started out as a godsend. It initially offered just about everything you could wish for. But gradually it lost its credibility and its momentum.
Let's start with the good though, of which there is plenty. First of all, this is finally an SF series that makes space combat spectacular. Granted, there is not that much space combat, and there is some annoying reuse of footage every now and again..but the effects look great, the dogfights are appropriately frantic, and there is real tension.
Next, there are the excellent characters. The entire cast does a great job at portraying real, complex and (deeply) flawed characters. The Gaius Baltar character is absolutely brilliant.
Also, this is a show that is not afraid to shock, take chances, and deal with controversial subjects. This is not one of those old series in which only the extras are killed. Apart from the main characters, very little is safe and the show will kill off your favourites time and again. It also deals with quite relevant and tricky moral dilemma's in mostly intelligent ways. This is SF as SF is meant to be, with more focus on ideas than on technology.
However, all is not well. Pretty soon it becomes clear that the main plot line feels very doctored just to get to the point where the writers can introduce a new moral dilemma into the mix. People constantly end up doing unforgivable things to each other or to humanity or behave in very implausible ways just so they can get into another Interesting Situation. For example, the amount of things Gaius Baltar gets away with is very hard to swallow..but he's too interesting to kill off so he stays no matter what silliness he pulls off.
This is bearable up to a point since, granted, many of the individual episodes and the characters are still a lot of fun, but after a while they settle on New Caprica in season three it becomes a bit too much. Also, the show really starts to suffer once the Cylons more or less start to play nice. Firstly it doesn't make an awful lot of sense and secondly it kills of a lot of the tension.
Ultimately this is still a good show, since at least at the start it does almost everything right. It has spectacular combat and nice characters, is appropriately dark, and deals with mature issues. But as the show continues, the main storyline isn't very fulfilling and the whole thing just becomes a bit too hard to swallow
It really grows on you
I have to admit...it took me a while to grow to appreciate this movie. I knew next to nothing about it before I went to see it, except that it was "a superhero movie". I was very tired when I saw it in the cinema, semi-slept through a part of it, and the projector broke down to even further disturb my viewing. As such, I really didn't know what to think about it, except that I liked the general idea well enough to try reading the graphic novel (which is an absolute masterpiece) that it is based on.
Some months later I saw the director's cut, and now I can say with certainty that this is an excellent movie, both as an adaptation and on its own right.
The Watchmen graphic novel is extremely complex, and of course some things had to be altered and left out to even turn it into a very long movie. The good news is that, for once, that very little essential things are left out, and the alterations (i.e. the ending) are mostly for the better. It still does justice to the source material, and it works as a movie. A rare combination.
On its own right, Watchmen is a very dark, very dreary, but also occasionally very funny movie. Make no mistake, this is nothing like standard superhero movies, in fact it aims to deconstruct the super hero myth, by showing them as very flawed and/or outright evil, and poses interesting questions about how far people are allowed to go when taking matters into their own hand and how far one is allowed to go for "the greater good". Like "The Dark Knight", this is actually a superhero movie with depth and significance.
Also, this is a very violent and depressing movie, and this is one of my minor gripes. While the novel is also pretty violent, a lot of things that are implied in the novel are shown much more explicitly in the movie, which only detracts from the deeper themes and feels very gratuitous. It's not "300 Part 2", thank god, but it's still a bit too much.
Secondly, not all of the characters are that well played. While most of the actors do an OK job and while the Rorschachs character is an instant classic, there are some dud performances, most notably the Silk Spectre II (utterly clueless) and the Comedian (far too much over the top for his own good).
"Watchmen" will not be for everybody. It's one of the most mature mainstream movies in years, and it goes utterly against the stereotypes we expect of action movies. It's also sports some less than stellar performances and a bit too much gratuitous violence. But it's also a beautifully shot movie full of interesting ideas and characters, and a successful adaptation of an "unfilmable" classic
Public Enemies (2009)
Not even Depp and Bale can save an oddly disjointed and empty movie
Oh boy was I looking forward to this! I love gangster movies, I think Christian Bale is one of the best actors around, I think Johnny Depp is always decent, and I think Michael Mann is a great director. It seems a sure bet, a thing that could not go wrong.
Well. It did. Sort of. While "Public Enemies" is not a total disaster, it's not the new "Heat" that it should have been.
It seems that Micheal Mann has finally succumbed to the style over substance virus, turning Public Enemies into a movie that is almost entirely about atmosphere and fancy visuals. It worked in Collateral and Miami Vice, but this time Mann goes overboard and fails to provide a compelling narrative or characters to care about.
Instead, what we get is a fairly tiresome collection of one shoot-out and bank robbery after the other. A lot of people get shot, a lot of people die, but you very rarely have any idea who is being shot since none of the characters are introduced properly and they all look the same anyway. To make things worse, the editing is all over the place as well, with frequent jumps in time and space that are poorly explained, and whole sections of narrative apparently missing.
Depp and Bale are probably doing the best they can with what they are given, but they manage to be almost totally forgettable, a first for Depp and the second time for Bale (Terminator Salvation being the first). And Depp and Bale are the lucky ones, since the excellent supporting cast really has nothing of any interest to do, and the love story, which is given a prominent place in the marketing campaign, taking up a very minor part and being unconvincing to boot.
As much as I wanted to like this movie, I just couldn't. It's basically a collection of nicely choreographed and elaborate but very hard to follow gunfights after each other, with very little in terms of story or characters to tie them together. Worth seeing for the excellent production values, but not much more
District 9 (2009)
Don't believe the hype - starts nice but get consistently worse
Apparently audiences around the world are so starved for a movie that lives up or exceeds expectations that they are willing to take anything that is mildly interesting and proclaim it's an awesome movie. That's really the only explanation I have for the incredible overrating of "District 9".
This sci-fi movie starts out with a very interesting premise, of aliens being stranded on earth, forced to live in a slum, and constantly abuses and scammed by the humans. The first thirty minutes of the movie, shot in mock documentary style, are actually very refreshing, interesting, and poignant. There is even some social commentary, which, although very obvious (I don't even know if this still qualifies as an allegory for Apartheid, it's extremely thinly veiled) is very welcome in a blockbuster.
But the "secrets" hinted at in the (admittedly excellent) marketing campaign are never revealed. Instead, the movie soon evolves into a fairly standard action romp/buddy movie..and carries with it just about every cliché in the genre.
Granted, the action is decent and it seeing alien weaponry disintegrate stuff never really gets old. But when there is no disintegration going on, you can't help but cringe at the unbelievable sentimental moments, the incredibly predictability of the second half of the movie, and the vast amount of plot holes.
I kept hoping there would be some great twist that explained why the vastly superior aliens allowed themselves to be trapped on earth and treated like dirt, or why exactly one of them bothered to try to return home, or why on earth somebody would but surface-to-air missiles in a slum, or a dozen other things. The twist never comes though, and what we are left with is a very silly and very predictable second half of a movie.
Don't believe the hype. "District 9" has an excellent marketing campaign and an interesting premise, but it's little more than a below average action movie in the end
Satire, the Uwe Boll way
Uwe Boll has done the impossible: create a game adaptation that stays at least somewhat true to the game; he has turned a game full of antisocial and offensive content into a movie full of antisocial and offensive content. So, as an adaptation, it's a success.
Unfortunately, it's still Uwe Boll we are dealing with here, so don't expect the movie to be actually any good. while it does have it's moment, "Postal" wears out his welcome very fast and becomes a pain to sit through.
At its core, Postal is a satire on the United States, as done by a twelve year old kid. Boll seems to think that offensiveness is linearly proportional to comedic value: the more offensive, the funnier, and the more exaggerated the funnier. This results in a movie that sets new levels of tastelessness while being extremely hit and miss. Yes, some gags do work but it seems to be pure luck. High points include the director satirizing himself, and people getting hit very violently by trucks and other vehicles. Low points include..well pretty much everything else.
After the initial surprise wears off, Postal simply becomes a bore to watch. Yes there is a good joke every and good point ten minutes, but everything else consists of hordes of annoying characters shooting and chasing each other all over the place for what seems to be an eternity.
This probably would have worked as a short movie, but it's just not enough content for something that lasts over 90 minutes (although it feels twice as long). There are nice ideas and nice tries, but they get hopelessly lost in endless and pointless action scenes and content that is offensive just for the sake of it 4/10
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Quantum of Solace - Or How To Make A Complete Mess Out of Something Basically Very Simple
After the Bond franchise was successfully reinvented with the very watchable Casino Royale, it immediately kills itself off again in with the eminently UNwatchable Quantum of Solace, aka how to make a complete mess out of something basically very simple Let me be clear: I like most of the old Bond Stuff...sure it was cheesy and goofy, but it was good fun. Over time though, it got progressively worse with the also unwatchable Die Another Day as the low point. Then Casino Royale came along and although it was a lot more serious than previous outings, it still had style and class, and even had character development and a story.
Now, Quantum of Solace comes along, and not only does it throw out everything that made the old Bond movies fun (style, humor) it also throws out everything that made CR fun. What we are left with is a third rate Jason Bourne that seems to be played on double speed.
At the basis, the ingredients for a good Bond movie are here; the story is serviceable, the exotic locations and girls are there, and there are some essentially excellent action sequences.
Whatever potential there is, however, is totally spoiled by the fact that the entire movie from start to finish is incredibly rushed. The action sequences are edited in such a haphazard and frantic way that it's impossible to determine what on earth is going on.
The plot is rushed in a similar way; we jump from one location to the next with no explanation whatsoever, characters pop out of nowhere and are killed off before we even learn their names, and in general everything feels very random. If you try a bit you can still distill a decent story out of this mess, but frankly half of it seems to have gone missing on the editing room floor, along with basically all of the character development.
In the end this is simple a horrible movie to watch. It could have been decent but the horrible editing and incredibly poor storytelling drag it down to the "unwatchable mess" level.
Final note: I am undecided about whether this is the worse Bond yet, I think Die Another Day was a little bit worse. But at least this one takes over from that movie for having the worst title song..something I found almost impossible
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
OK, I admit, I never cared much for the first Hellboy much, but after the great job Del Toro did with Pan's Labyrinth, I was rather eager to see this movie. Now that I've seen it, I am left with mixed feelings.
To start with the good things: this is a lot more like Pan's Labyrinth than it is like the first Hellboy movie. In fact, this is more a fantasy movie set in modern times than it is a superhero movie. It's full of wonderfully imaginative scenery, wonderfully creative creatures..it's just full of wonder.
Unfortunately, the positive qualities of this movie stay almost entirely on the visual side.
Whereas Pan's Laybrinth did have a compelling story and characters you cared about, these aspects are sadly underdeveloped in Hellboy 2...the narrative is the same bare-bones stuff as in the first movie, the characters are interesting by themselves but not much is done with them (there are some hints at Hellboy falling to the Dark Side, so to speak, but they remain just hints), and also like in the first movie there is an overall lack of suspense since, well, the heroes get through every fight way too easy and never feel in any kind of real danger.
What I also found annoying was the overall tone of the movie...it goes from total silliness to deadly serious over and over again..one moment you're watching slapstick, the next moment you're stuck in an overly dramatic death or love scene. Of course there can be jokes in a seriously or epic movie too (see LOTR), but this much inconsistency hurts.
That being said, I do have to give the movie some credit. The action sequences are mostly nicely done (don't expect any epic battles though, in spite of the fact that there is 'Army' in the title; the army doesn't get to do much), the Krauss character is a very nice addition, and most of the jokes are mildly amusing.
In the end I did enjoy Hellboy 2. It's plagued by the flaws that the first movie also had, and it's got serious consistency and tone problems, but the stunning visuals and obvious creativity make up for a lot.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
While this is far from a terrible movie, I can't say that it's all that magnificent either. I watched this mainly to see how an American remake of The Seven Samurai would turn out. I have to say that Seven Samurai was a lot better. Normally, I'd say ripping off stuff is bad, but the Magnificent Seven would have been a whole lot better if it had stuck more closely to the original.
As long as the movie is faithful to the original, all is (mostly) well. But when it starts to deviate, things go horrible wrong. Logic is thrown out of the window and the second half of the movie is very unbelievable to a fault. First of all, both the Seven and the bandits allow themselves to constantly surprised by the other. Next, the super-evil bandit leader catches the Seven off-guard, but instead of simply killing them he lets them go and even gives them their guns back? Yeah right. The story sacrifices all plausibility just to get a rather clichéd and moralistic message across, and it hurts.
Apart from the weak plot, the rest of the movie feels rushed too. The cast is all-star, but several members seem to be phoning in their performances, and several others give simply horrible performances. Which is a shame, because most of the characters are really interesting and should have really been fleshed out a bit better.
Still, "The magnificent seven" is far from a horrible movie. The action sequences are fairly good, the score is great, and Eli Wallach is simply brilliant. But is not enough to really leverage this movie above anything more than "average". The weak plot in the second half really hurts it, as do the less-than-convincing performances. It's not nearly as good as the original, and a mere shadow of the truly great Sergi Leone westerns that would be made a little later.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The incredi-bore Hulk
OK let me get this straight, I absolutely hate the "Hulk" movie by Ang Lee. It was slow, melodramatic, poorly acted, and silly looking. It's no surprise that the studios decided to forget the first Hulk movie ever happened. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have learned from their errors, because after five years of waiting we get another Hulk movie that is almost as slow, melodramatic, poorly acted, and silly looking as the other one.
The one thing that is fairly decent is the action itself. It's by no means great, there are a lot of anti-climaxes and it's not very suspenseful to see nearly-invincible heroes in action, but it does have its moments.
Sadly, there isn't all that much action though, which would not be such a big problem if there was something else in lieu of the action. Whereas a similar movie like Iron Man had fun characters, a lot of humor, and a serviceable story, "The Incredible Hulk" has, well, nothing.
Seriously, this movie is virtually plot less. Hulk fights, hulk escapes, hulk gets found again, hulk fights. Rinse and repeat. The editing is all over the place, whole chunks of the movie seem to have gone missing, resulting in sloppiness like the Hulk being in Rio one moment, and thousands of miles away in Nicaragua the next. It's almost like they didn't have a script due to the screen writer's strike and just made something up on the spot, then added dramatic music to every scene to cover up the fact that nothing actually happens.
The actors are doing their best I suppose, but even Edward Norton cannot save the horribly dry and cliché dialog. The characters are all wooden, and miss any kind of motivation. Why on earth did the military guy, Blonksy, suddenly want to be the bad guy, it felt totally random just like about everything else in this movie, and I'm not even talking about the totally anticlimactic and nonsensical way the bad guy is defeated.
Maybe I'm expecting a bit too much from a "mindless" action movie, but "Hulk" obviously tries to be a bit more than just mindless action, and fails spectacularly in that aspect. It's not as cringe-inducingly bad as the Ang Lee version, it's just profoundly dull.
Utterly obnoxious from start to end
Let me get this straight I really don't mind dumb action movies. I've enjoyed nearly every super hero movie ever made, I liked Die Hard, Pirates of the Carribbean, Shoot Em Up and a whole lot more. But there is dumb and there is really dumb, and "Wanted" falls it the latter category.
Basically, it's the Matrix on speed, but without anything that made the Matrix such a great movie, i.e. cool characters, a really cool premise, and exciting action sequences. While "Wanted" sure does have its share of action sequences, I would not describe them as exciting. They are very stylized and there are a couple of nice parts, but for the most part you are shaking your head in disbelief at the over-the-top nonsense the creators want you to swallow.
And that's just the action. The story, if you can call it that, is even worse. Basically, the main character is recruited by a super-secret society of assassins, who get their targets by a magical loom that spits out binary code, to kill one of their rogue members. Somehow, he becomes the world's best assassin in a couple of weeks by being beaten up for weeks, an even obtains supernatural time-slowing and levitation powers, after which he proceeds to take out a veritable army of highly trained fellow assassins with no effort whatsoever. There are twists and turns everywhere, but none of it makes any sense.
Then, there's the very obnoxious message. Basically, this movie claims, all normal people are "losers" because they are not fulfilling their potential, which apparently adds up to killing your own father and assassinating random people because a magical machine tells you to.
In fact, not just the message is obnoxious. Everything else is too. There is not a likable character or good joke to be found anywhere in the movie. I like James McAvoy but here's he just annoying, and Angelina Jolie (as usual) is there for the looks only. And why Morgan Freeman resorts to crap like this we will probably never know.
I really don't mind nonsense as long as it's presented as nonsense. But a movie that goes this far over the top and then still tries to be a "serious" and "cool" movie, that's just too much.
Watch the action sequences, and fast forward through the rest.