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Green Lantern (2011)
Ryan Reynolds- he really did give it his all and sold it as best he could. His sincerity was undeniable and he deserves most of the credit for what works in the movie. He succeeded were plenty of others would've fallen flat on their faces.
Peter Sarsgaard- not a great performance, but he was chewing the hell out of the scenery and having a blast doing it. I love that piercing scream he does.
The creature and Corp design work- The suits look great. They don't look phony at all on Reynolds. I love the bright colors. I was surprised how much I liked the look and presence of Parallax. Especially good sound work on him. There were some neat looking aliens tucked away in the corners.
The script- lazy, lazy, lazy. It's boiling over with clunky exposition. Who these characters were was shoehorned in in a very shoddy manner. Hal's flashback at the beginning to his father's death was the height of plot convenience. Hal and Hector having a past is pretty much non existent. They don't share any scenes together until what seemed like an hour in and their interaction basically amounts to them bumping into each other and going "Oh, hey. What's up?" And speaking of Hector, I have no idea who this guy was. He's infected pretty much immediately after we meet. Am I supposed to like him? see his flaws? see how he could be susceptible to fear? I don't know! Near the end, Sinestro describes Hal as brash and opinionated "just like Abin-Sur." Would have been nice to have actually see that quality in Abin instead of just being told at the end.
Actors in nothing roles- Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett do nothing of note playing cardboard characters with nothing to do but further the plot and add some cred to the cast. I'm not overly familiar with Blake Lively and I left with basically no impression of her. I won't blame her as she had essentially nothing to work with.
The Corp- Speaking of doing nothing, the Corp and the Guardians do nothing either. This is all tell and no show. Tomar-Re is Basil Exposition, Kilowag trains Hal for what seemed like 2 minutes and then more or less vanished, the Guardians sit on their thrones making bizarre, head scratching decisions and they have a serious case of the CG rubber lips. I started to perk up when Sinestro led a small regiment of Lanterns to fight Parallax, but it's a 30 second non- fight with one projection, 5 seconds of zipping around, and then Sinestro looking shocked after characters we "met" in 2 second cut-aways are dispatched with ridiculous ease by Parallax.
Oa- one of the biggest let downs for me. If you've seen the trailers, you've pretty much seen all this movie has to offer with this world. Some rocks, a purple sky, and Lanterns standing around doing, you guessed it, nothing. Asgard was a far more visually interesting place and forget about it even coming near Pandora.
The rest of the people on Earth- After Green Lantern makes his first appearance, there's a shocking lack of attention. There's a news report in the background of one scene "going who was this hero who saved the day?" as if that's the big story, and not a mention of, gee, I don't know, all the crazy energy constructs he created!
The credit cookie- Not earned in the slightest. The reason Sinestro puts on that yellow ring had zero to do with what was established throughout the entire rest of the movie (and for what it's worth, Sinestro works well with his small amount of screen time and Mark Strong brings as much gravity as his humanely possible to the role). This was nothing but cheap fan service and teeth grating plot contrivance.
Thor was a much more entertaining ride, and I thought Thor was merely good. Forget about it even coming close to Iron Man, Superman, Watchmen, or Nolan's Batmans. But, is it terrible? No. I'll watch this again before I go near Wolverine, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, or Kick-Ass again. By a long shot. It didn't suck, but I just can't say I liked it either and I wanted to so bad. Big disappointment.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
The Sign of the Bore
I've finally figured out Guy Ritchie's fatal weakness as a filmmaker. He doesn't actually care about character, theme, or even storytelling. He just wants to be cool. He only wants characters that quirky, badasses, or sex godesses. Because they're cool. He employs flashy cutting, hyper-stylized cinematography, and fractured time lines. Because, they're cool!
This worked for the bonkers Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch. Those movies were cool and it felt natural, easy. Things took a turn for the ugly with Swept Away, this decade's Isthar. Revolver was dreadful, and RocknRolla dances in your faces practically screaming "look how cool I am" and is then forgotten before you've even unlocked the car to leave the theater.
Which brings us to Ritchie's desperate-to-please, big-Hollywood style stab at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's timeless icon. The production values are excellent. Period-appropriate London is completely convincing. Downey's Holmes captures the mad intensity of Doyle's character, withdrawn, depressed, and self destructive when he's has nothing to occupy is never ceasing ming, burning life and frantic energy when the case does arrive. He does however, straight up mumble for half the picture, rendering what might of been neat instances of observation/deduction/knowledge, but I couldn't tell. Couldn't understand him.
Ah, the case. When it comes to adaptations, remakes, re-imaginings, etc, I'm a pretty forgiving fellow, as long as the soul is intact. Change the race, change the gender, change the setting, but don't lose the essence. The mystery, the case, is the soul of a Sherlock Holmes tale and I'm afraid this is where Ritchie's film falls flat. Sure, there's something dastardly afoot, but solving the puzzle is beyond the audience to predict. We're not made a part of the unraveling. Stuff goes on that we don't understand, and it's all explained in the end in smash cut flash backs, filling us in with details that were never foreshadowed, many of them feeling like afterthoughts to dig the screenplay out of the hole it dug for itself. Doyle's stories invite us to narrow our brows and read carefully. One feels include in the unraveling. We're right there with Watson (who in this movie, is quite spry for a man with a permanent war injury) Here, Ritchie holds out on us, keeping the mechanics of the mystery entirely to himself. The larger mystery afoot exists for no other purpose than to make a sequel.
Why such failure in maintaining the soul of Holmes? Because Ritchie doesn't care about the mystery. He drowns the film in cool, in showy camera angles, manically (and confusingly cut) action and the whole affair is drummed up with buddy-movie comedic angle that falls flat. It's just not funny. The shifts in tone from funny, to mysterious, to thrilling, to dramatic, are jarring, barely held together at the seams. It's ultimately a crushing bore, lacking any sort of narrative momentum.
Guy Ritchie has undeniable talent as stylist. He'll can make a worthwhile movie. No one who works that hard with that much raw talent will just fade away. He needs to another round at bat to prove that too us again.
Anyone whose a regular on sites like Ain't It Cool News has no doubt caught the massive hype campaign for Adam Green's Hatchet. Well, to get straight to the point, don't buy into it. Certain people would have you believe that this is the second coming of the horror genre (just like Hostel part II right?). What movie did they see? I saw a very by the book slasher flick with no surprises or real twists on the genre.
The plot concerns a tour group in the NOLA swamps that begin to be picked off one by one by the deformed Victor Crowley (wow what an original name). Crowley looks like the Elephant Man on steroids and of course, possesses super human strength. For a character whose been called the next horror icon, I just can't help but be underwhelmed. The big reveal of the grown up Crowley is so ineptly handled I actually said "that's it?" to myself. He sorta of just strolls onto screen. Movies like The Descent and Feast handled these kinds of reveals so much more memorably.
I'll give credit were credit is due though. The kills in this movie are delightfully over the top and gory. They're definitely the highlight of the movie. But, it's at odds with the acting, which for once is actually pretty good. The actors in this movie for the most part play it straight and do a convincing job. I really liked Joel Moore, who I'm eager to see more of. But it's too real. I know that's an odd complaint but bear with me here. The actors are so convincing in places and seem to behave like real people probably would in this situation, but then Crowley rips someone's arms off or appears, literally, from out of nowhere. This disparity hurts the film in the long run. Either it really should have gone for all out splatstick zaniness, or it should have toned down on the sillier moments and played it more for real scares.
The score isn't doing anyone any favors either. It's the all too typical, crappy sounding MIDI highlighting and underlining every cheap scare with a big sting. I am so sick to death of this type of horror score. If you don't have a budget, forget the MIDI and go for creepy minimalism.
I wish Adam Green the best in his career because there is potential here, but he's still green. Maybe next time Adam.
Hostel: Part II (2007)
Truly a let down.
Oh, Eli. What happened? Cabin Fever was a fun horror flick and the first Hostel had its moments, but this? My excitement over a Roth helmed Cell has just dropped dramatically.
Opening where the first film left off, things get off to a bad start as we meet back up with Paxton, with Jay Hernandez phoning in a curiously wooden performance. The first "scares" are very poorly handled and obvious.
After the pointless prologue, we meet our new gender swapped protagonists. Bijou Phillips's is the obnoxious, one-dimensional slut who just wants to sleep with Viktor Krum. Heather Matarazzo's Lorna should have been a good character. Matarazzo is a talented actress, but here she hams it up too much and Roth piles on the "she's an introverted nerd!" touches far too heavily. She's sorta the Josh of Hostel II, only Lorna is a cartoon where as Josh actually seemed like a guy you could meet in a college algebra class. Lauren Graham turns in a pretty good performance and Beth is the only one of these females who actually feels somewhat like a real person.
The new twist on the formula lies in Roger Bart and Richard Burgi's prospective killers. Here's where Roth could have gotten really dark and interesting. Everyone who saw the first Hostetl remembers Rick Hoffman's whacked out, creepy performance as the American Client. Bart and Burgi's characters could have been used to expand on that creepiness as well as bring in some genuine interest in Bart's character's reluctance, amping up the suspense. But no! Instead these characters are shallow, barely explored personalities and Roth uses them for some cheap plot contrivances in the third act.
For a horror flick, the movie has surprisingly little scares. Scratch that, it has no scares. There was not a moment in this movie where I didn't see the jumps coming and there is little in the way of suspense. The first Hostel had some genuinely suspenseful moments and Cabin Fever even had a few "don't do that!" moments. This film has gruesome moments for sure (that this movie got an R rating is the final nail in the coffin for the MPAA's credibility. If Shakespeare in Love and Hostel II share the same rating, something is seriously wrong). The first kill is undeniably effective in being unnerving, but it lacks suspense, which is the secret when a film is toeing the line of bad taste. This was simply inescapable murder on display.
Interestingly, the rest of the gruesomeness that ensues is much different in tone. Much of the third act has an almost slapstick vibe, but Roth lacks the grace and timing of splatstick alumni like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson to truly pull it off. There is also a completely superfluous scene involving a man with a gun and some children that literally served no purpose. Roth was trying so hard to be shocking in that scene that it had the opposite affect on me: I just stared blankly at the screen. I couldn't care less about this completely pointless detour featuring Roth going "look! Aren't I shocking!"
One last complaint and boy is it a big one: Nathan Barr's score. This movie had one of the worst scores I've heard in years. Barr's music sounds like something someone would write if they were making fun of all the clichés of the horror score. That worked for the campy tone of Cabin Fever, but it completely destroys any opportunity for suspense in this film.
I know Eli Roth has a really good film in him. After Hostel II, I fear the wait for that movie will be longer than I was expecting. I hope he's finally scratched that itch for paying homage to his favorite horror flicks and his shock for shock's sake fetish. If that makes its way into his adaption of Stephen King's Cell, we'll have lost a great story ripe for screen translation to a promising young filmmaker whose head got too big too fast.
I really wanted to like this movie. Really, I did. I thought the first two Pirates films were fun but very flawed movies. I was hoping that this would be the film to really rap it all up and give new life to those first two films. Sadly, it just didn't do that for me.
Personally, Jack Sparrow has never been more interesting than as he was in Curse of the Black Pearl. Depp's performance made that movie and he deserved his Oscar nomination. But in these sequels, something's missing from Jack and I'm having real trouble figuring out what it is. Depp plays him well enough in At World's End and they take the character to some bizarre new places, but I actually found myself not rooting for Jack in this film. I was rooting for Davey Jones.
Speaking of Davey Jones, there is just not enough of him in this movie. He and his crew were by far the highlight of Dead Man's Chest. The rap up to his story is very disappointing. He has abilities in this movie that seem inconsistent, and the way he gets around not being able to set foot on land in one particular scene is quite honestly just lame. More of his history is explained, but it goes absolutely nowhere and amounts to nothing, as does a subplot involving Calisto that is truly and aggravatingly underwhelming.
Some of the recurring characters just feel tacked on. The bumbling pair of British soldiers really didn't need to be here and they provide for a very weak plot resolution in the film's third act.
Bloom does the best he can I suppose, but let's face it, Will Turner is just not a very interesting character. Kiera Knightley has improved, though I still don't completely like the way she plays angry, what with all the jutting out of the lower jaw. The return of Geoffrey Rush is glorious however. I found Captain Barbossa to be a much more compelling character than Sparrow in this film. Playing a pirate is a role that can easily lead to overacting, and Rush masterfully knows when to go full throttle or apply the breaks a bit. Stellan Skarsgard's role is so small it's barely worth mentioning. Chow Yun-Fat was good, but I wanted more. the real revelation here however is Keith Richard's small role. I was dreading his cameo, but his character completely steals the show and his line delivery is wonderful.
The special effects are amazing, despite a few unconvincing shots of multiple Sparrows in act II (it's too complicated to explain). The final action scene is an absolute marvel of technical wizardry. I'm gonna go ahead and call this as next year's Academy Award winner for Best Visual Effects. The only problem is, the final battle is underwhelming. Without getting into spoilers, this scene could have been far more epic. While I was amazed with the visuals, I just couldn't bring myself to get excited as I did in say the Mumakil stampede in Return of the King.
I'm sure this film will make gobs of money, and many people might still love it. I never understood what people found so great about the other two, so I'm not going to try to predict how die hard fan's of the series will react. All I can say it left me empty and longing for the great adventure epic it could have been.
Symphonies of Sickness
Dead Alive (or Braindead if you like) is bar none one of the most balls out, over the top, will-do-anything to get a reaction, blood and innards splattered movies ever made. In fact, this might just take the cake for being the most gloriously ridiculous Zombie film that at least these eyes have ever scene. This movie is like Evil Dead II on angel dust.
When a bizarre rat monkey (anyone else thing that "world's ugliest dog" winner is a dead ringer for this thing?) infects poor momma's boy Loinel's overbearing mother, all sorts of hell breaks loose with Lionel trying to keep a basement full of zombies under control.
There is no way to be indifferent to this movie. You will most assuredly be repulsed. I pride myself on having seen some pretty intense films that have drastically raised my tolerance for this sort of thing, but yet I still cannot bring myself to watch a scene involving a bowl of pudding featuring an extra ingredient. Those who only know Peter Jackson via his excellent Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong remake are in for a shock.
The climax of this movie contains unheard of amounts of blood. Faces are peeled off, intestines have a serpentine life of their own, and there's a lawnmower as weapon scene clearly invoked to one up a certain chainsaw wielding deadite slayer. These scenes are so over the top that you have two choices: vomit or laugh hysterically. Hell, you might even vomit and laugh at the same time and wouldn't that be something? You'd be telling people about that for years!
Demolition Man (1993)
A delightfully successful action/comedy
Demolition Man was a childhood favorite of mine. In fact, I distinctly remember seeing this in the theater at 9 years old, my first theater going R-rated film experience. I loved it then, and like too few childhood favorites, I've just kept on loving it.
I appreciate Demolition Man for different reasons now. As a child, I loved the action and it's still great today. The action of this film actually feels very fresh now as this was made before CG became the industry standard. I love CG as much as anybody, but I'll always have a soft spot for just plain old gritty stunt work and this film has top notch stunt work.
One of the aspects that's continued to amuse me (and reveal itself to me as I've grown old enough to comprehend) is the humor and the sharp satirical edge. This is an action film that actually has a brain in its head and has something to say. The satirical element doesn't feel like a tacked on hanger for action scenes, and the two aesthetics are pretty affectively blended into one another such as in the museum scene.
Despite some small nit picky elements (like the 1996 LA in the opening) this film does not feel dated at all. Its take on censorship and free will feels as relevant now as it did 13 years ago (honestly, that's not that long, of course). Popular music seems to be inching closer and closer to the 30 second commercial sound bites of this film's future.
I'd say this is easily one of Stallone's best performances (though Rocky will probably always be his crowning achievement). Comedy is a tough and a frequently under appreciated acting talent and Stallone pulls it off here. He doesn't play it like he's in on the joke which makes it all the more effective. Snipes obviously had a blast as Simon Pheonix, chewing the scenery, and busting out some very impressive kung-fu. If there's a character who's in on the joke it's this one. Bullock is endearing in her awkward attempts at impressing Sparton with her shaky hold on action movie lingo.
Demolition Man is a real comfort movie. I can put this film on any time, no matter what my mood is, and it puts a big smile on my face and sometimes, that's exactly what everyone needs from time to time.
Apt Pupil (1998)
Ultimately not worthy of its subject matter.
There was a lot of potential here: a bright young man discovers a Nazi in hiding and through blackmail starts an unlikely relationship with him. A film with that subject matter could have been truly intriguing and thought provoking, but instead, Apt Pupil ultimately treads the path of many a thriller before it. When the film could be dealing more with issues of guilt or our fascination with and capacity to commit violence, it uses the subject as a thriller, with all the trappings of your standard thriller complete with knives, murder, lies, and a twisting, turning plot.
On the subject of the characters I never quite believed Brad Renfro's character, Todd Bowen. There was never any real motivation given or much of a hint of one other than morbid curiosity, and I'm sorry, I just don't buy that morbid curiosity could compel someone to rent a Nazi uniform and make an old man march around in it. I'm not sure if the problem ultimately lies with Renfro, Singer, the source material (which I have not read), or a combination of any number of things.
Ian McKellan is quite good, as usual, but Dussander as a character went far too over the top. I like that the film doesn't make him a completely repentant person, but I don't like that they made him a complete monster who likes to throw cats in his oven for fun either. There was an opportunity to make a truly great villain here in the tradition of Hannibal Lector who both enthralls and repels us, but all Dussander does is repel.
There is one scene in the film that is truly compelling, despite how implausible it is, involving a hospital roommate. The scene is so well acted by Michael Byrne, and it is truly chilling and heartbreaking. That one scene was more frightening than any of the more conventional thriller scenes throughout the rest of the movie.
Had the rest of the movie been played at the same emotional intensity as that one scene, then we might have had something. But instead we're left with a film that uses the holocaust as a clothes line for cheap thriller tactics. The result is ultimately a film that crosses the line into just plain bad taste.
An American Haunting (2005)
Having been attending school in Tennessee for a couple of semesters and hearing about the Bell Witch but not getting many details about it I was excited to see this movie. I thought this was gonna be a good horror flick but it's absolutely atrocious. It starts off on a very bad foot with some truly cringe inducing CG work that reprises itself a few times later in the film, just as cringe inducing.
This uses every cliché of the modern horror movie repeatedly. It's also one of the most absurdly loud movies I've ever seen. Every single little camera move is accompanied by a loud sound effect and it grows tedious before the first act is even over. I wish more filmmakers in the horror genre could understand the power of silence. A film like "Halloween" or "Signs" understands and uses silence so effectively. Those are the kind of movies that still creep you out even if you've memorized all the "stings".
The acting is sub par and even laughable in places. Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek are completely wasted. Many of the more "intense" moments are just as laughable.
The modern day bookends really don't work at all and add nothing of value to the movie. The twist could have provided something of interest, something to dig deeper into but it really felt gimmicky. It's obvious the filmmakers where not interested in the issues the twist brought up, they were only interested in it as a superficial shock. Really just a complete and utter failure of a movie.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
I'll keep it short because that's all this film deserves
This is one of the most vile and disgusting films I've ever seen. Geek show violence coupled with an infuriatingly half baked sense of self righteousness. The film lingers on acts of violence and cruelty and then has the nerve to step back and try to tack on morals and social commentary, so not only is the film reprehensible, it is also extremely hypocritical. A truly thought provoking film could have been made with similarly taboo subject matter. Apocalypse Now and Aguire, the Wrath of God spring to mind. Both of those films featured shocking acts of violence and real animal killings, but they had a purpose other than simply shocking the viewer. They had moments of true beauty and introspection, great acting and cinematography, and they didn't exploit their subject matter and then add some phony morals to make it all okay.