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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Holy mackeral! Racially insulting! -SPOILERS-
First, my grade is based on what I viewed as a thin story, largely, inane dialogue, and there not being an unpredictable moment in the film. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against such things as pure entertainment, but this movie lacked any sort of smarts or cleverness(which it seemed to have potential for); dragged down by more clichés than any in recent memory. Most notably the one of white male supremacy. Before getting ticked off, take a look: the two "lead" characters are 'Duke'(white guy) and the comedically hip 'Ripcord'(black guy); when introduced in the first action set piece, Duke chases down the main villainess and (in an initial misunderstanding) arrogantly stands up to 4 armed G.I. Joes, Ripcord was earlier incapacitated by one knife-wielding Joe; it's Duke who was invited into this elite band 4 years earlier, Duke who now tests in the top 1/2% of recruits, Ripcord is only invited in because his score combined with Duke's allows him to pass; the black guy doesn't make it of his own accord, but as an attachment to his white counterpart(anti-affirmative action folks would have a field day with this). Duke is the only recruit who's ever "tagged" martial arts expert 'Snakeyes' in a training match; Snakeyes, himself being that oldest of clichés, the white male who rises to martial arts supremacy in the Orient. Let's continue; during the chase through Paris, it's Ripcord who neglected to read the instructions for his enhancement suit, stumbling to the ground at least twice, he fails to stop his villain from taking down the Eiffel Tower, leaving up to Duke who successfully prevents further damage to Paris itself. Shortly, when the team is confronted by Paris authorities, in a show of bravado mirroring Duke's earlier successful one against the Joes, Ripcord is "smacked down"; even following his triumph, in saving Washington D.C., this success in blunted by his arrest on the White House lawn. Tom Sawyer and Jim, Robinson Crusoe and Friday; admittedly not as bad as that, but running along the same vein. How did the producers get away with this? I do give them props for an on screen interracial kiss; America needs more of that, but it doesn't need this movie.
To say I was disappointed in 'Watchmen' would presume that there were certain expectations. Having read Alan Moore's literary work during its original release, and again very recently, I was never under the impression that the comic would make it to the screen significantly unchanged. So, I approached with an open mind and found Zack Snyder's interpretation sorely lacking. When adapting literature for the movies, what you leave out and/or rearrange determines the difference between acceptance or rejection. I'm afraid Snyder failed, and created a work of stilted, uneven narrative. While having some interesting moments, the Director misstepped at almost every level; In spite of having numerous political figures (in heavy, distracting make up) telling us of impending Armageddon, there is little real feeling of the "inevitable" worldwide destruction; instead of a city which should bring to mind Tim Burton's Gotham City, it looked more like '40's New York. Character development was often sketchy, as Snyder had to decide what should be left out and what shouldn't; this lack of development limited the impact of certain key moments throughout the picture; as when Rorschach reveals an uncharacteristic moment of appreciation to Nite Owl; their history's as former partners in arms is glossed over, and Nite Owl's tirade (which fails to mention their friendship), makes the Rorschach moment seem strained; Silver Specter's discovery has little shock value, since the relationship between two other important characters was not adequately explored, and key information revealed at the moment of discovery. The actor's don't seem to understand their parts, bringing little to the table, coming across as playing the characters rather than being them; Snyder shows us his weakness is character development (his previous efforts required little) and is unable to bring it out of his actors. However, if there is one big flaw, it's Snyder's failure to demonstrate how much the past informs the present, in Watchmen; the two, in effect, existing almost simultaneously; he seems to miss the small things that impact the larger events. Unable to completely free himself, the Director is most successful at the more straightforward moments of superhero action, demonstrating why these people were heroes to begin with. Much of 'Watchmen' comes across as mechanical and distant, rather than dark or ominous. The final reveal is so changed, explained by the most underdeveloped character, and so truncated that I barely understood the significance of the plan to this person; it was as if Snyder himself didn't understand what Moore had written at that point; his ending change was unimaginative, common. The final minute of the film punctuates its problems, when two characters (who existed throughout the comic, but nowhere in the film) hint that the story may be far from over. In the final analysis, I can give Zack Snyder no slack for this pedestrian work; he knew what he was getting into.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Reminded who was at fault.
Given the number of comments, it seems pretty much everything has been said. Moore's latest effort, while important, is not flawless. He occasionally fell into hyperbolic rhetoric and the amount of time lingered over Lila Lipscomb's grief bordered on exploitation. Still, there was no arguing many of the facts. The plight of the African-American Coalition was exasperating and amusing, pointing out just how many wealthy middle-aged white males consistently hold the reins of power. As I was leaving the theatre one of the patron made the point that the Bush Administration wasn't only at fault, the American people shared the blame. My initial response was the typical "Yeah, they voted him into office.";however, before the comment was finished it dawned on me that Al Gore received the popular vote! Our fault lies in not being more outraged. Why haven't the people called for the elimination of the outdated Electoral College? Why are we allowing the continuation of the Primaries, which in a matter of weeks give voters no real choices? Why do we keep putting these monied politicos in office; individuals who'll complain and bluster about an opposing party until it's time to do something meaningful(A-A Coalition, voting against the Patriot Act, putting there own children in the military)? We accept a mainstream media that is so afraid of losing access to the White House they'll refuse to report anything controversial, but parrot Administration rhetoric. We got plenty on Bill Clinton's sexual liaisons, even an impeachment, yet Bush Saudi connections, or the Bin Laden family exodus barely caused a blip on the radar screens. Moore's film and views are important; after all we have been constantly bombarded by the conservative opinions of the Drudges, Rush Limbaughs, and President Bush himself. Fahrenheit 9/11 starts to balance the scales with the facts.
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Entertaining, but nothing original. *MAY HAVE SPOILERS(not sure though)*
My 13 year old daughter and I just saw "The Day After Tomorrow"; even one of her youth and limited number of viewing experiences could pick out the similarities this movie had with others (The Core, Vertical Limit, The Poseidon Adventure, etc.). I've been around long enough to have enjoyed the 70's disaster movies period, which was far superior than the current one.
TDAT went down easy and the time passed quickly, but there wasn't a lick of originality to be found. Oh sure, the effects are bigger and better; however, you could predict almost everything that happened, from beginning to end, including the shmaltzy uplifting finale. Character development seemed to be sacrificed for unnecessary "plot points"(the wolves, a terminally ill child, the character who would die without medication, and the "love" story); consequently the movie had little emotional impact. Still, I found it far more enjoyable than the thoroughly unfortunate ID4.
I must disagree with an earlier writer who felt that Dennis Quaid's character wouldn't have gone after his son. Clearly the writer doesn't have children. If my daughter was stuck somewhere in life-threatening conditions and I knew how to cross the tundra, you can bet I would.
Much has been said of scientific believability or lack of it; my addition to this part of the discussion is more basic. With all the sophisticated effects in today's movies, how did the makers forget to add breath vapors to characters in these subzero temperatures? And there wasn't a single runny nose! :)
In my overall analysis, Roland Emmerich seems to make entertaining movies that start big(look, ideas, approach) but become small; they begin as epic motion pictures and shrink to the size of our TV screens by their end. TDAT struck me as the latest one of these.