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One has to wonder what the point of making a movie based on a nearly twenty year old video game is, especially in light of the fact that this movie doesn't seem to have anything to do with the video game excepting the names of a few characters. Is this a video game franchise that even has any real fans anymore?
I'm old enough to remember spending time playing Street Fighter and the various sequels at the local arcade, playing in tournaments, etc. There wasn't any plot in these games, just stylish characters and a fight tournament. Perhaps a dull premise that has been done, but it seems if the cartoonish style were translated into a campy action film, it could have been somewhat entertaining.
Instead, we have a movie with a serious yet dull plot, horrible overacting, no real mythology, embarrassingly inappropriate music, visible boom mics, bad makeup and a terrible script. Even the fight scenes and choreography are bad, making this movie pointless and unwatchable. Really, there isn't anything very good to say about this movie and I really wonder what inspires someone to make a film like this. This is definitely not recommended.
I write this review as a guy that was a kid during the Star Wars hype in the late 70's and early 80's. I can quote all of the Star Wars movies and understood all of the references to them in Fanboys. The bottom line is that, while this movie has some fun moments, overall it is pretty boring. This is largely because the humor isn't inventive, and outside of some cameo appearances, the performances are entirely uninspired.
The main approach to humor here is essentially showing a group of awkward nerds injecting uncomfortable displays of Star Wars fandom into nearly any social situation imaginable. This bit has been achieved to greater effect with many other movies in the past, the only new thing in this movie is the All Star Wars, All The Time bit. Sure, they got in a lot of obscure original trilogy references, but citing pop culture for its own sake is only so funny. Note the miserable failure of movies like Epic Movie. You just require more than these references.
The various plot points are completely uninspired and unoriginal. We've seen the awkward internet girlfriend meet-up before, but it was funnier in Napoleon Dynamite. We've seen the nerd that is too dense to notice the girl right in front of him, but is blowing it, but it was funnier in Sex Drive. And not only are all these plot conventions unoriginal, but they are executed so poorly in this movie, they hard seemed worth including in the script.
The best parts of the movie are some of the clever cameos. William Shatner steals the stage with his 2 minutes of screen time, though the funniest moment in the whole movie is a super brief appearance of Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes (and the punch line had nothing to do with Star Wars, incidentally). A notable appearance by Seth Rogen is also amusing, mostly because he gives his little cameo everything he has, and seems to have a lot of fun with it. But the cameo appearances aren't frequent enough to float the movie and leaves a lot of dry periods where the film simply crawls.
And perhaps another small grievance is that the only nerd girl in the movie happens to be super hot, while all the guys are doofs. Why couldn't the nerd girl be a doof too? What do they really achieve making this super hot girl fall for Poindexter just because he's a nerd? It just seems like an awkward casting decision in the middle of a movie full of awkward direction choices.
I guess if you identify with Star Wars nerds, you will at least enjoy parts of this movie. If you just want to see an awkward comedy about nerds making fools of themselves, you can do a whole lot better than this.
Yip Man (2008)
Great martial arts film show casing Wing Chun in high detail
I cannot claim to be any sort of serious historian when it comes to Yip Man's life, but all evidence leads me to believe the story of his life in the new biopic from China, "Ip Man", is largely fabricated or romanticized. Never the less, the end result is an entertaining film with some serious Wing Chun fight scenes, a martial art that gets far too little screen time considering the copious amount of martial arts films that are produced. This is significant to me, since I study Wing Chun in a lineage that comes directly from Yip Man.
This film is sort of in the style of biopic similar to Jet Li's "Fearless", a movie about a Chinese folk hero, Huo Yuanjia. I think it is more important for a film like this to be entertaining than it is for it to be historically accurate, and "Ip Man" does succeed in this regard. My main point of criticism, particularly in regards to "Ip Man", is how events are twisted in a way to rally national pride in China. It always reminds me of a sort of Mel Gibson type of thing to do, and puts me off a little. "Ip Man" is not as obnoxious in this regard as Zhang Yimou's "Hero" or "Curse of the Golden Flower", however. Those movies seem to have a message of obedience. You know, "Trust your ruler even though they do terrible things to you sometimes. In the end, they know what's best for you". In the case of "Ip Man", the title character is plunged into the middle of the Japanese-Chinese conflicts of World war II, probably playing a much larger roll than he did in real life, and they show him as a sort of folk hero along the lines of Huo Yuanjie or Wong Fei Hong.
Never the less, the film flows well. All of these elements make enough dramatic tension between the excellent combat sequences to keep the movie engaging. Some of the plot twists are extremely predictable, which doesn't interfere too much. This is a martial arts movie, after all. There is probably a bit too much dramatic tension, particularly towards the end of the film, with epic music pushing the mood of the movie, along with various camera effects. Besides, turning Yip Man into a legendary folk hero does make for an interesting dramatic character.
I couldn't complain about Donnie Yen's overall performance. His acting job was good enough to be convincing. His martial arts performance was visually striking. The choreographer, who I understand to be Sammo Hung, did a great job making Yip Man seem like an untouchable bad ass. In a lot of recent movies, particularly Jet Li films, a lot of the martial arts sequences show big, long, epic combat scenes where the hero narrowly overcomes and triumphs. In this movie, Donnie Yen gets to simply brutalize his opponents. I mean, he seriously comes out with the chain punches. This is not done without being poignant, but they definitely make a point of showing Yip Man as being somewhat untouchable and peerless. It seemed more Clint Eastwood than Jet Li, which I totally dig.
My other concern was whether this would be a sort of "Brucesploitation" film, since among Yip Man's other notable accomplishments, he was the teacher of Bruce Lee. It would seem natural to want to capitalize on this given Lee's popularity. Fortunately, there wasn't too much "Brucesploitation" going on, but it did seem there was a bit. There is one combat scene where Yip Man is facing off ten Japanese karate guys. The sequences are filmed in a very strikingly similar way to a famous scene in "Fist Of Fury", where Lee dispatches a whole dojo of Japanese karate students after they dishonored Lee's kung fu school. There is also a combat sequence in a factory that is strikingly similar to a scene in "The Big Boss" where Lee fights in an ice factory, protecting the workers. However, my guess is that these are nods of respect or tribute rather than exploitation, so seem harmless. There was some mention in the end titles of Lee, but the copy I watched did not have that translated, so I am not sure what was even mentioned.
All that said, if you enjoy martial arts movies, this is definitely a good film. I have my share of complaints, particularly in the department of historical accuracy. However, the overall production is top notch, and the martial arts performances are a nice change of pace. I'd recommend giving it a look if you are any sort of fan of martial arts movies.
Sex Drive (2008)
Reasonable Coming Of Age Comedy
I couldn't bash "Sex Drive" in good faith. For a comedy of its type, and all of you know what I mean by this coming of age sort of comedy, it had a lot of slow parts that weren't funny, and needless sentimentality that only served to slow the movie down. However, when it was funny, it was super funny.
The ongoing gags were pretty notable, and performances were top notch, notably by Seth Green as the sarcastic Amish guy. This may reign as best sarcastic performance in any movie, ever. The energy between the various performers was right and helped execute most of the gags effectively. As I mentioned, I have complaints, but they are trivial. If you want some goofy humor to eat popcorn to, give it a shot.
Too predictable, too many typical conventions used
**Possible Spoilers** OK, the bottom line with Quarantine is that it is ultimately entertaining. It is somewhat suspenseful, but I think the over usage of typical horror movie conventions makes the movie more comical than scary. I was pleased to note that when the movie ended, I wasn't the only person in the theater laughing out loud.
Look, I love doomsday movies. I love zombie movies and horror movies in general. I loved Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project. This movie follows in those, uhh, proud traditions but is filled with a ton of camp that I personally do not feel was intentional. The way the mysteries unfold is intriguing and somewhat seat gripping, but every time the scare was delivered, honestly, I burst out laughing.
I also had a problem with the fact that the very last scene in the film was shown in the trailer. I had picked this out early in the movie, and it sort of ruined the surprise. Although I was amused by the last sequences and the similarities of the last creature to Gollum from Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. It just cranked up the camp value to 11.
The movie is good for cheap entertainment, but keep your expectations low.
Epic Movie (2007)
I won't be the first to crap on this movie
Obviously, I am not going to be the first person to crap on Epic Movie. It is a sweltering turd, and you absolutely should not watch it. Now, it is worth point out that I am a giant fan of kitsch and camp, and love gems like "Troll 2" and "Freddy Got Fingered". Sometimes, if a movie can stretch itself too being ridiculously absurd, it can actually manage to develop its own sense of charm. This simply is not the case with Epic Movie.
And honestly, I expected it to be a bit more likable as camp. After all, cult favorites David Carradine and Crispin Glover appear in it. However, their appearances are little more than cameos, and neither are given an opportunity to camp things up appropriately.
So what makes this movie fail so detrimentally? For one, the writers spend too much time explaining their jokes. They should take notes from the Coen brothers on this one. They obviously feel the audience is completely retarded. But since this movie has an IMDb overall rating of 2, they apparently misjudged the audience. Second off, it would help if the jokes were funny. The typical joke for this movie is making a pop culture movie reference (may or may not be from an actual epic movie), point out where the reference came from, and turn it into a fart joke. I honestly laughed at no more than two of their jokes, and those laughs were more light chuckles. There simply isn't any sense of invention here.
It is clear there isn't any intent to make quality cinema here. I mean, there is NO intention of any kind. I'm not sure what the business model is, maybe they are making this on a low budget and getting a lot of sponsorship money and then making enough on ticket sales to come out in the green over all? I don't know, but the mind certainly boggles that these guys are able to continue making films. It is really surprising they are not getting financed the same way Uwe Boll does in Germany. However, the bottom line is: avoid this. Even if you think it might be funny to watch as a bad movie to make fun of MST3K style, don't do it. Because this isn't even unintentionally funny. It's just not funny, and it sucks. Stay away. Do not watch this movie. Seriously.
Overall fair presentation
"Traitor" works well for what it is trying to do, but is not breaking a lot of new ground in any one area. If you're looking for a thought provoking suspenseful thriller that covers some political controversy, well, it suits this need perfectly fine.
OK, so you can tell I am not super hyped about "Traitor", but I don't want to overemphasize that. In the areas where it excels, it does so marvelously. The cinematography, with the super low-depth of field close-ups and interesting bokeh, really helped create a unique mood for the movie. The pacing was decent and the acting all top notch. The musical score didn't interfere with the experience, and helped heighten the perspective of the film.
The movie does a fairly decent job of humanizing the U.S. agencies as well as the terrorists and their motivations. I see a lot of people feel the views of U.S. policy as presented in this movie as being controversial, I more feel they are pointedly obvious and find it sad people find this "alternative" perspective unusual or shocking. But, I guess if you can approach the film objectively, it does offer a very sympathetic and humanizing perspective to all of the characters, regardless of their malicious intentions.
Overall, I recommend the movie, but also feel there are a lot of other films in the theater now that should be seen first. I guess it depends on what sort of experience you're looking for.
Swing Vote (2008)
Dramatic Comedy that seems uninspired
I can't bash "Swing Vote" entirely and be honest about it. The movie was bad to mediocre. It sort of works as a comedy, it sorts of works as a drama. But it suffers from a number of flaws, notably its inability to make a non-partisan political movie. It's efforts to try to remain politically neutral only furthers to obscure what simple message it does have: that people should at least be somewhat aware of the issues and vote, because even one person can make a difference.
Most of the jokes are, of course, political in nature, and they tend to make fun of pandering politicians, and partisan ideas. Of course, the ultimate fault here is that they round up Republican and Democratic platforms to their lowest common denominator, which of course makes it seem like they are advocating a moderate position. Or are they? A few times I thought they might make universal health care a real issue, but they continued to avoid commitment. Basically what I am saying is that the neutral political balancing act they try to maintain makes the movie feel rather silly and causes their single punch line to fall a little flat.
I can't complain about the acting nor the plot, nor the statements it makes about the human condition. After all is said and done, the movie kept me engrossed for its duration. But, overall, the movie did not tie together well and fell a bit flat for me.
Pretty Good, if not a bit goofy
If you're looking for a good summer block buster type movie to watch, this isn't a bad place to start for 2008's season. The movie never takes itself too seriously, but is more of an action/thriller than a comedy. It sort of reminds me of The Matrix injected with heavy elements of Fight Club and Office Space, if that makes any sense. The action sequences are amazingly directed, the cast works and most of the jokes are funny. It speaks volumes that this film was directed by the same guy that did Night Watch and Day Watch, which are personal favorites. Wanted keeps up with that level of intensity. There are a few goofy, awkward moments, but overall, the film keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Beautifully Filmed Historical Epic.
While the plot contained some dubious twists and had rather strange and slow pacing, the overall effect of this movie is stellar. The cinematography rivals, while being similar to, movies such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". The score was amazing. The acting was, to my English speaking eyes and ears, convincing. The few combat scenes were filmed and choreographed to great effect. I am not sure how historically accurate this movie is, but it works as an enchanting piece of cinema. Highly recommended to anyone who likes art films and historical epics. Seriously, the locations make me want to take a vacation to the steppes immediately.