22 December 2008

Yes Man



Maybe, Man. Maybe

I received two free passes for the press screening of this film. I went in with expectations on par with Fun with Dick and Jane. I was expecting neither the next Dumb & Dumber nor the next Number 23. Well, Yes Man fit in the middle, but fell short of Dick and Jane. Yes Man suffered from a common problem that has begun to plague the comedy genre: a funny joke going on for too long to the point it is no longer funny.

The film opens with Carl Allen, played by Jim Carrey, being a negative person who never tries anything new. He is happy in his boring mundane life. He is also a loan advisor at a bank. An old friend comes across him and tells him about this YES seminar that he attended and tells Carl to do the same. So, Carl makes his way to the seminar. This is the first time a joke goes on too long. Terrence Stamp plays the founder of the YES seminar, named Terrence. Anyway, Terrence makes Carl make a covenant to say “Yes” to everything. This leads to some fun. He meets a homeless guy, then Allison, played by funny Zooey Deschanel. She is a free spirit, and like Carl’s yes attitude. Things start to look up for Carl.

Then he says “No” for the first time after this covenant. This leads to another joke that goes on too long. It involves his elderly neighbor Tillie and her payment for his help hanging shelves. Now, afraid to say “No,” things start to get a little crazy and out of hand. He helps a would-be jumper in yet another joke that goes on past its funniness.

In the end, Carl sees that it is okay to say no sometimes. His life is changed, he has changed people around him, and all is well. There was nothing spectacular to see here. It was based on a book by Danny Wallace, that I am sure is better. Some books are just not meant to be translated into film. Yes Man was the directed by the lackluster director of The Break-Up and Bring It On. If you feel like you have to see this film, look for bit roles by Alias’ Bradley Cooper, That 70’s Show’s Danny Masterson, Las Vegas’ Molly Simms, and Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby. Verdict: Yes Man was not as good as I thought it would be, but it was not as bad as it could have been. I wouldn’t waste the time or money in the theaters, but it might be worth the rent. Or if you need a break from family this holiday season, this could work for you.

30 November 2008

MILK



I went to see Milk because the wife and members of her family we going to see it. I really did not know what to expect. I have read only good things about this film and Sean Penn’s acting, so I was a bit curious to see it. I was hesitant to see it because I tend to find bio-pics about people that I do not know boring. I knew the basics, Harvey Milk was an openly gay man who was elected to public office and was murdered. That was it. So, with a running time a hair over the two hour mark, I was worried I would keep looking at my watch.

Now, I consider myself an educated person, but I was completely in the dark about the whole gay-rights fight of the 1970’s. The beginning of the film shows archive footage of police raids on gay bars and nightclubs; something I knew nothing about. Then we get our first glimpse of Sean Penn’s portrayal of Harvey Milk. He is recording a tape only to be played in the event of his assassination. He starts telling his story from the beginning with his meeting of Scott Smith, played by James Franco. Milk confesses that he has done nothing significant with his life. So, Scott and Harvey travel together and end up in San Francisco, California. Here, they set up shop in an area known as the Castro.

From this point, Harvey and Scott help the gay movement in the area and people from all over the country come to this San Francisco haven. Harvey is then convinced to run for public office to get one of their own in power. He is not successful his first outing, or second, or even third for that matter. His adamant mindset keeps him going, but costs him the love of his life. Later, Jack, played by Diego Luna, enters Harvey’s life. Also along the campaign trail, he meets many people that help him finally succeed, including Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg, played by Emile Hirsch and Amanda Pill. Harvey finally figures out how politics work, and that helps his political career.

Newly elected, Harvey then meets his other elected city supervisors. Dan White, played by the busy Josh Brolin, is not fond of Milk or the company he keeps. They start an alliance that is quickly dissolved, and a feud starts instead.

When gay rights are being taken away throughout the country, Milk wants to bring it to California, to his territory. Prop 6 is formed to have all homosexual teachers and those who support them removed from their jobs. It would also repeal their protection from prosecution at work based on sexual orientation, among other things. State Senator Briggs for the state of California is the supporter in the state. Harvey, Mayor Moscone, played by Victor Garber, and their supporters go to war with Briggs on this topic.

One of the movie’s apexes is the vote on this proposition. The other is Dan White not being able to handle his humiliation as a supervisor. The sad ending is already told to you at the beginning with the actual footage of the news report.

Gus Van Zant uses archive footage of actual news reports to heighten the realness of his film. His direction is amazing in the fact that all the major actors are at the top of their games. Penn, Hirsch, and Scott could easily be nominated for their roles in this film, along with Van Zant himself. I also really enjoyed and appreciated the footage before the credits of the actual people and what happened to them.

This is only the second film this year that I feel has any chance at Oscar buzz, the other being The Dark Knight. There are only two other films I am looking forward to seeing this year that have Oscar Buzz. Mickey Rourke’s The Wrestler and Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino. Verdict: When I left the theater, I was shocked at how much I not only enjoyed the film, but also by the amount I learned. I would recommend this movie to anyone who was on the fence about seeing it. This was a great movie going experience, and worth the full $9.00 price of admission.

20 November 2008

Role Models

I Wish They were My Big's



Well, once again, I waited until the last possible day to use my free ticket from the AMC Movie Watcher card. So, I had to decide what to see on short notice. I went with the crude humor comedy Role Models. I thought I knew what to expect, and well, I was right. While the movie had little to offer in the way of originality, it was still quite hilarious.

Role Models opens with Danny Donahue, played by Paul Rudd, waiting on Wheeler, played by Stiffler, or Sean William Scott if you are not familiar with American Pie. Danny is a motivational speaker for Minotaur, an energy drink similar to Red Bull. Wheeler is his motivational mascot. We see them going from school to school. Finally, they return to the office, and there is a surprise party for Danny’s 10 years with the company. At this moment, he realizes that he is not happy with his boring mundane lifestyle. The next day, everything goes wrong for him, and he brings Wheeler down with him. They end up arrested, but luckily, Danny’s (ex) girlfriend Beth is a lawyer. Elizabeth banks puts in here typical role as Beth. Elizabeth Banks is quite possibly the busiest actress in Hollywood. She has been in 22 movies since being in Spider-Man, plus had a recurring role on TV’s Scrubs.

Anyway, Beth swings them 150 hours of community service instead of 30 days in jail. They are then sent to Sturdy Wings, a Big Brothers Big Sisters-esque program. The founder of the organization is Gayle Sweeny, played by always funny Jane Lynch. She gives them two kids that are not the typical kid because they do not want to go to jail.

Danny is partnered with Augie, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse better known as Superbad’s McLovin. He is a fantasy role player in a live action world called L.A.I.R.E. Wheeler is given Ronnie. He is a stereotypical gangster wannabe. From their meeting, it is obvious that some cliché situations will arise.

As the movie progresses, Danny and Wheeler find the errors of their ways and try to make things right. Along the way, they create a bond with the little kids that at first they cannot wait to get away from. It culminates in the final battle of the L.A.I.R.E. players. Augie is determined to kill King Argotron to be ruler of the game and impress fellow player Esplen. A joke comes full circle at the beginning of the Battle Royale.

So, ninety-five minutes later, Role Models is over. I enjoyed myself, and I kind of wish that it was a bit longer. I found many of the situations funny, but sadly, my wife did not. So, I was quickly reminded of the horrendous decision I made to see Hot Rod. Apparently, I have not served my two movie sentence, yet. Verdict: If you are a fan of crude humor, this is a movie for you. I loved it, but I am a fan of said humor. If you are easily offended, then this is not for you.

17 November 2008

Quantum of Solace

Bond's Chase Movie

After the huge success of 2006’s reboot Casino Royale, the next movie really has a big pair of shoes to fill. Does Quantum of Solace fill those shoes? Let me get it out of the way now. No, it falls short. But, was it a fun, entertaining movie worth the price of admission? Without a doubt. Daniel Craig returns as the MI-6 agent James Bond for his second go around. That puts him tied with Timothy Dalton for fourth for most time portraying the suave secret agent. He will need one more to take fourth and two more to tie Brosnan for third.

Quantum of Solace opens with a car chase that ends in a quarry, and the destruction of yet another Aston Martin and an Alfa Romero. This is the first of many chases in the film. We then see Jesper Christensen’s Mr. White return and mention that he is a member of a secret society that is so large they were afraid the CIA and MI-6 were looking over their shoulders, but it turns out they do not even know the society exists. This scene ends with another chase, but this time on foot. Bond chases a suspect on foot over roof tops similar to the opening foot chase in Casino Royale, but not to that caliber. It ends with a fight on ropes hanging from scaffolding. That was a unique touch. Bond then travels across the globe following a lead. This ends with another fight and then leads to another chase, followed by another chase, this last one on boats. So, we have had a car, foot, motorcycle, and boat chase. Along the way we meet Camille, played by Olga Kurylenko from Hitman. She plays a Bolivian agent on a revenge mission of her own. She is in bed with villain Dominic Greene, portrayed by French actor Mathieu Amalric.

From here, pieces of the puzzle are slowly put together between scenes of action and more chases. Dominic Greene and Mr. White, I do not know why they are all colors, are members of this secret society called “Quantum.” This seems to be the new SPECTRE or SMERSH. Greene’s sinister plot is to overthrow governments not willing to pay his company for services and replace them with ones that are. His final one is to hold the Bolivian water supply hostage. We discover this after a plane chase/dogfight.

Quantum of Solace shows Bond is still a reckless killing machine that needs much more refining. He still makes mistakes that require M, played again by Judi Dench, to cover for him. She is also put in places that require her to make decisions that Bond might not like. She sends Miss Fields out to bring him in, but she is disposed of in homage to Goldfinger. Gemma Arterton had the honor of playing the short-lived character. According to IMDB, she name was Strawberry Fields, but I do not recall her full name being used.

The climax takes place in a desert in Bolivia in a hotel that I am not sure exists or not. But, it looked amazing. First time action director Marc Forster did an amazing job with the action. That is why I was disappointed with the plot being so erratically dispersed. The movie seemed to focus on the action and the plot was second fiddle. With Jeffery Wright returning as Felix Leiter and Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis, I expected to have a better plot. Haggis and Purvis wrote the screenplay. They were the ones that wrote Casino Royale. Again, another reason the movie should have had a better plot. It was not like they were under any time restriction. Casino Royale is the longest movie in the franchise ad 144 minutes. Quantum of Solace is now the shortest in the franchise at 106 minutes.

Verdict: Well, I hope that this is the film that finally allows Bond to become Bond. I would also like to see some of the classic characters brought back. I miss Q and Moneypenny. I do not think that they need to have all the crazy gadgets, but Q was just the head of the armory. Monneypenny could easily be written in after the events of this film. M could use the secretary. Should you see it? OF COURSE! Why not? I am thinking 2 or 3 viewings of this should do me fine. Enjoy!

10 November 2008

Pride & Glory

Short on Both

Well, when it comes to Pride & Glory, I should have known it was going to be bad when I first saw a preview for it over a year maybe a year and a half ago. This is one of those movies that I am sure sounded good on paper, but just became more ridiculous as the filming went on. From the director of Miracle and the writer of Narc and Smokin’ Aces, I did expect more, a lot more.

The movie opens with a football game between the police department and fire department. It reminded me of the hockey games in Rescue Me. We first meet Colin Farrell’s Jimmy Egan in football gear rallying his troops to make the defensive stop to save the game. We are also introduced to Edward Norton’s Ray Tierney and his older brother Francis, Jr., played by Noah Emmerich. From here, we go right into the story of cops killed in the line of duty. The Chief of Police is Jon Voight as Francis Tierney, Sr. He talks Ray into heading up a task force to look into the circumstances of the cop killings.

There is really not much more to say. If you have seen the preview, then you know what happens. Jimmy Egan is a dirty cop and Ray is a clean cop. They have a showdown while all the other dirty cops are being taken care of in various ways. There are multiple subplots that just did not need to be there. Ray is getting a divorce. Does that matter? No. Francis, Jr.’s wife is dying of cancer. Does that ever come into play? No. Francis, Sr. is an alcoholic. Again, does that make a lick of difference in the movie? No. This movie was 130 minutes and every bit of 50 minutes too long.

The climax was a let down. There is a good fist fight between Jimmy and Ray, but that is about it. The direction was bad. All these great actors, and the director was unable to get anything out of any of them. This reminded me a lot of James Grey and his two movies The Yards and We Own the Night. There is a lot of potential that is just never tapped or played out. Verdict: I do not advise wasting the over two hours it would take to watch this atrocious waste of talent. There are plenty movies that have done the dirty cop theme better.

27 October 2008

Eagle Eye

Eagle Eye is Bull's Eye for Entertainment

Well, Eagle Eye was not what I was expecting at all. I did not realize that there was actually a terrorist subplot. I have not seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I am told that many elements of this film came from Kibrick’s classic. That makes sense though. D.J Caruso’s last film, Disturbia, took many, if not all, elements from Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

Eagle Eye opens with a cameo I never would have guessed. Michael Chiklis shows up on screen as Defense Secretary George Callister. As an avid watcher of the FX show The Shield, I was happy to see Chiklis taking roles in films due the this beng the last season of the show. A suspected terrorist is allegedly spotted in the Middle East and a decision is made against Callister’s advisement. After that, we see "Turtle" from HBO’s Entourage losing a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em to Shia’s Jerry Shaw. We are then introduced the fact that he is poor. After the funeral of his twin brother who was in the Air Force, he gets loads of cash, weapons, and bomb making materials in his apartment anonymously. This puts Agent Thomas Morgan, played by Billy Bob Thorton, on his case along with Air Force Agent Zoe Perez, played by Rosario Dawson. In the meantime, Rachel Holloman, played by Michelle Monoghan, is seen sending her son off on a train from Chicago to D.C. for a children’s band concert. She is then informed that he can be intercepted if she does not comply with a mysterious voice on the phone. The same voice contacts Jerry and helps him to escape his Agency captors.

The rest of the film involves awesome car chases, foot chases, and a chase scene through an airport luggage room. The story slowly starts to unfold and pieces start falling into place. Along the way, I noticed that my sister, friend, and I were laughing at the movie at times that we deemed were appropriate. Billy Bob and Shia share some great dialogue, and have great liners apart, too. We thought it was funny, but we seemed to be the only ones laughing. Maybe we weren’t meant to laugh. I don’t know.

In the end, I found Eagle Eye to be extremely entertaining and refreshing. It was a great action/adventure film. It did remind me a lot of the star and director’s first team-up Disturbia. Verdict: If you are looking for a good thrilling ride, this is it. I have not seen a movie this fun in a while. Even the little Sci-Fi ending they get into didn’t bother me as I had suspended belief by the time I got there. Let your mind go and be entertained, it was worth it. As a side note, it is now $5 instead of $4! I was not happy about that change, but it will not shake me.

20 October 2008

Body of Lies

Body of Boredom

Body of Lies is the younger, not so smart step-brother to Traitor. I was semi-impressed, semi- bored with Traitor, but I was not extremely unimpressed and bored with Ridley Scott’s latest film. After seeing the previews a long time back, I decided that I would read the book. I only got 1/3 of the way into it, not because it was bad, but I have a tendency to get into a book and forget to finish them. But apparently, that is what they did, too. What little bit I did read was nothing like what was going on in front of me. They only kept the names the same. Russell Crowe could have passed for Ed Hoffman as described by David Ignatius. Leonardo DiCaprio was so far from Ignatius’s description of Roger Ferris.

As the movie opens, we see an Islamic extremist group blow themselves up so they are not captured. This was assumed to have been the work of the terrorist Al-Saleem, which is not even the same name as the terrorist in the book. From there, we see Ferris and his crony trying to gather information on this Al-Saleem when Ferris is severely injured and his crony killed. He is then given a desk job and assigned to help an agency friend Hani in the Middle East to gather information and set a trap for Al-Saleem.

There was so much right with Body of Lies that it was a frustrating movie to watch. Ridley Scott turned in his usual great direction. Crowe and DiCaprio were both brought their A games. The problem was the story. Not the script, but the story. The story was bland, boring, and seemed half thought out. You cannot fix a bad story. Righteous Kill had a bad script that could have been fixed. But this, this had a bad story. I did not care about the characters or the storylines. Verdict: I think that if you avoid this movie altogether, you will be better off. This was a huge disappointment, not only to me, but the distributors really had some hope that this would be an
Oscar contender. They could not have been more wrong.

12 October 2008

Appaloosa

Appaloosa Filled My Need of a Western

Appaloosa is the only western to grace the screen this year in wide release. So, as usual, I got excited and went to see it. As most westerns of late, this was an outlaw story. Apparently, after the 70’s, western can no longer show Indians, or so it seems. This western was a story of friendship. It revolved around History of Violence co-stars Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris. They play Law Enforcing duo Everett Hitch and Virgil Cole respectfully. Hitch plays second fiddle to Cole in the towns. They travel from one town to another as required to make towns safe from whatever the problem may be.

The town of Appaloosa had a problem when their last sheriff turned up dead. Randall Bragg kills him in the opening scene and tells his crew that no one saw this. Jeremy Irons puts in great acting as the villainous rancher. The town council tires of Bragg’s men running amok in the town, so, they hire Cole and Hitch to make it safe once again.

Through out the film, we are shown how Hitch and Cole are friends and have been for a while, but keep to themselves. When Allison French shows up in town and takes a liking to Cole, she adds a new layer to the plot. Renee Zellweger is by far the weakest link in the casting of this film.

One of Bragg’s men finally comes forward to Cole and Hitch about the killing of the sheriff. Bragg is convicted and sent to another town for his hanging. On the train ride to the other town, they are stopped by two of Cole’s old acquaintances and blackmailed into giving up Bragg because they have Ms. French. This sends Cole and Hitch on a journey to recover Ms. French and Bragg. Upon catching up to them, we see the real Ms. French. They make it to the next town and a shoot out for Bragg leaves some dead and some injured, but Bragg on the loose.

The end of the film has Bragg return to Appaloosa with a Presidential pardon and loads of money. This causes Ms. French to do her thing again. I am not going to mention it here, but it is an interesting flaw in her character. So, Hitch makes a decision to end this once and for all, for Cole and Ms. French.

The film was great, down to the directing. Ed Harris and Robert Knott adapted Robert B. Parker’s novel. They did a decent job. Most of the story is exactly the same. Ed Harris’ directing was a bit off. Some scenes just went long for no reason. Well, a lot of scenes went on too long. There was just not a lot of directional adventure. It was all fairly bland. Other than that, the film was most enjoyable. Verdict: I would recommend seeing this if you are a fan of the genre. There are not a lot of these films being made anymore, so you have to see them when you can. 3:10 to Yuma was a better film, but this was not bad. I hope that there is another western next year. I am a fan of this forgotten genre.

17 September 2008

Righteous Kill

Righteously Boring

Well, it has been 13 years since De Niro and Pacino shared screen time in Michael Mann’s heist classic Heat. So, I was excited to see that there were teaming up again in this cop drama. That was until I saw the trailer. After seeing the final product, my fears were a reality. Righteous Kill was a bad movie. You know it is a bad movie when these two legendary actors cannot save it. They both were decent in their roles of Turk and Rooster, two detectives on their way out. The problem lies at the base of the film. It was a half-assed story with a script that sounded like it could have been written by a 12 year-old.

From the first scene, I had the ending figured out. We follow Turk and Rooster on their quest to find a killer that is killing bad guys that escape justice. This could have been a good concept if Showtime’s Dexter had not already used that idea, and did a hell of a lot better job with it. Two younger detectives played by John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg are also on the case. They finger Turk, De Niro, as the killer. Rooster swears it is not his partner. At this point, I am so convinced that I have the twist ending figured, that I become bored. Carla Cugino appears in a throw away role as does Brian Denehey. 50 Cent appears as well in the climactic scene that I have seen coming since the beginning.

Righteous Kill fails on so many levels that my disappointment was overwhelming. The directing was average, the script was atrocious, and the supporting cast could have phoned in their performances. When the final showdown happens, the bad guy takes about 10 minutes, after being shot, to finally die which is a great analogy for the film. I would take the few scenes in Heat to the entire film of Righteous Kill anyday. Verdict: This is a waste of time and not original thriller that should have been straight to dvd to save people the money. A rental is fine if you have to see this, but I am telling you that you really don’t.

15 September 2008

Burn After Reading

There are filmmakers and actors who struggle after winning Oscar. Then there are some that everything they do is recognized by the Academy. The Coen Brothers just won multiple awards for their film No Country for Old Men last year. A lot was riding on their newest film Burn After Reading. I am happy to say that they made yet another great film. For this film, the brothers go back to a Fargo-esque, Big Lebowski style dark comedy. It just won the brothers their first number one debut spot for any of their films. A lot of that has to be attributed to the star power in this film with three Academy Award winners and two nominees, plus J.K. Simmons. I went with my wife and sister on my birthday. I felt bad for my sister because the group of girls sitting next to her had no idea what kind of film they were getting into. They were there for Brad Pitt. It reminded me a bit of the crowd that I saw Stranger Than Fiction with. They did not know it was not a typical Will Ferrell. These girls were not privy to the Coen Brothers style of movie.

The opening scene takes place in CIA HQ. We see John Malkovich getting let go from the CIA by CIA Officer, played by David Rasche. Osborne Cox, Malkovich, makes a scene and the laughs begin. From here, we meet the rest of this ensemble cast of misfits. Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand play trainers at Hardbodies, Chad and Linda. Linda is convinced she needs to have multiple cosmetic surgeries in order to look the part. Chad is just a dimwitted athletic trainer. After the custodian of the gym finds a disc of secret CIA files, Chad and Linda try to blackmail Osborne, Osborne Cox. At this time, Cox’s wife Katie, played by Tilda Swinton, is having an affair with George Clooney’s ex-bodyguard character Harry Pfarrer. After Osborne refuses to pay for the disc, Linda and Chad go to the Russian embassy. This gets back to the CIA and J.K. Simmons plays the Superior to Rasche’s Officer. The banter between these two characters had me in stitches. Now the CIA is watching them all, but they have no idea what is going on.

In the same vein as Fargo and The Big Lebowski, the characters get involved in more than they know. The storylines get crossed, the characters confused. As the story continues and unfolds, more and more hilarious misfortunes and turns ensue. Burn After Reading has many quotable lines as do the other two mentioned above. In the end, we are left with a great scene in CIA HQ between JK and Rasche. It is my favorite scene of the film. This was a fantastic film on all accounts. All the acting, writing and directing were top notch. Does it stand a chance to make it to the big show in February? Probably not. Verdict: It is totally worth seeing if you like the Coen’s films. If you don’t, then you need to see this one anyway. Why not? Give them another chance. Burn After Reading only puts pressure on the brothers next venture. We can only hope for another great piece of film work from these two.

08 September 2008

Traitor

I Felt Betrayed

Traitor is a spy-thriller from the mind of Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin. The preview made this movie look like a cross of The Departed and The Bourne Ultimatum. It was neither. It was not bad, but it was not that original. It could have been better. It should have been better. It just wasn’t. It’s not that it was happy in its mediocrity; it just did not have what it takes to make it to the next level.

Traitor opens with a little boy witnessing the murder of his father in a car bomb. This little boy grows up to be Don Cheadle’s character Samir Horn. He becomes the target of to agents, Roy Clayton and Max Arden, played by Guy Pierce and Neil McDonough. As they try to catch him, he joins/infiltrates a terrorist cell bent on setting off multiple car bombs in the heartland of America. This is where everything goes awry. Samir meets with an Agent Carter, played by Jeff Daniels. He was trying to hard to be Martin Sheen from The Departed. He is the only person who knows that Samir is not a bad guy, but a good guy. So, when he winds up dead, similar story lines appear. The culmination of the car bombers was reminiscent of The Interpreter. So, it wasn’t as effective the second time around. The climax took place on a freight liner, but it was sadly predictable. They only surprise was the actual ending.

As the movie moved at a snail’s pace, it did have a great script. Some of the lines of dialogue caught me off guard. The movie delved into racial and religious issues. It made interesting points. Some were sad because they were true. The only ineffective thing done with these lines were that they made one agent a bigot and one so open-mined. The Ying and Yang approach got old. Sadly, even good points and good acting could not make this movie stand out in my mind. Even the music seemed over used as parts sounded taken directly from Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator score, and then parts sounded like the Dexter music. Verdict: A rental would be worth the time, but to see it in theaters is not a necessity.

15 August 2008

Beer For My Horses

And Much More Needed For Me!

What can really be said about a movie written by Toby Keith and Rodney Carrington based on a song written by Toby Keith that has not already been said or at least thought? Exactly! Nothing! Now, I have to admit that I could not help myself, I wanted, almost needed, to see this film. In the spirit of Billy Ray Cyrus’ Radical Jack, I wanted to see this film because someone green lit it and thought it was a good idea for a movie. There are very few singers turned actors who do not stink up the screen. Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg lead this short list. It is also worth mentioning that the director, Michael Solomon, chose to make this his big-screen directorial debut. He only had a few music videos to his credit according to IMDB before making this. So, this movie did not disappoint because I had zero expectations for this movie, as did most of America since I was all alone in the Thursday night showing. I had to catch it Thursday because it was leaving that night after a total of 7 days in theaters.

Beer for My Horses opens with a trailer park domestic dispute. Classy. Rack and his partner Lonnie, Toby Keith and Rodney Carrington, are called to the scene. Of course, some “hilarity” ensues. From there, we see Gina Gershon, in her only scene, leaving Rack because he is a bad boyfriend. Next, we meet Sheriff Landry, played by once respected Tom Skerritt. He puts his B-Team of Rack, Lonnie and Skunk, played by silent Ted Nugent, on a mission to stop a group from stealing fertilizer in their efforts to make methamphetamine. While busting them, they arrest a Mexican drug lord’s brother. Then, right on cue, old flame Annie, cardboard actress Claire “I was in Meet Joe Black please remember me” Forlaini, returns to the small town to give Rack someone to care about. And, as no surprise, she is kidnapped by said drug lord and held as collateral for the arrested Mexican. This incites Rack to go to Mexico with his band of misfits to thwart the drug lord’s plans and rescue the damsel in distress.

Why go into this any further? It was a formulaic as it gets. This movie offered nothing I haven’t already seen in my obsession with 80’s B-Action movies. The real problem this movie had, other than the obvious acting, was that the script sounded like it was written by a 6 year-old in crayon. I might also add that the movie had nothing to do with the song itself. As far as movies go, this should have been a direct to DVD release and spared the humiliation of the theaters. With a box office of just over $250,000, I am proud to say I saw it in theaters. I just wanted to be able to say that. Verdict: Unless you are a glutton for punishment like me, a severe passing on this is recommended.

06 August 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The Mummy Didn't Return

Well, I had a free ticket good for Wanted, Incredible Hulk, Hellboy II: The Golden Army or The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Since I had already seen the first three options, I decided I would go see the fourth and final option. Ten minutes in, I regretted not seeing one of the other three movies for a second time. I cannot remember the last time a movie was this underwhelming. The entire movie seemed as though it was making fun of the fact that this was an embarrassing attempt at reviving this franchise. They should have left it alone after the spin-off Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, The Scorpion King.

It opens with a familiar tone of a voice over telling the tale of Emperor Han, played by Jet Li, and his rise to power. It makes sure you understand that he was a terrible person. He sent his trusted friend and right-hand-man General Ming to find the secret to eternal life. Michelle Yeoh plays Zi Juan, who is beautiful and lusted after by Emperor Han. She also has the secret to eternal life. Unfortunately, she falls for General Ming and he is killed for it. She curses Han and his army, turning them all into terra cotta statues for eternity. Not too bad. This was the end of the opening ten minutes.

Cut to modern times, 1947, and we see that Rick O’Connell, reprised by Brendan Fraiser, is trying to learn to fly fish, but he is terrible at it. There were a few sad attempts at slapstick humor that missed, horribly. Next up, we see Evelyn O’Connell, played by Maria Bello taking over for Rachel Weisz, at a book reading of her second bestseller mummy novel. We then see them together talking about how bored their lives are now that they are retired from the adventuring business.

Finally, we see that Alex, played by newcomer Luke Ford, on a dig in China in search of the opening to the Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. When he finds it, he is attacked by a mysterious Chinese lady. We then see that the parental O’Connell’s are propositioned to return the Eye of Shangri-La to China. The meet up with Evelyn’s brother Jonathan who is living in China and opened a bar called Imhotep’s, the mummy from the first two films incase you forgot. They run into Alex who is there.

From here, it was all pretty formulaic. They raise the mummy. They have to stop the mummy. They travel to exotic locations in the process and have many adventures along the way. These include bad jokes about yaks yakking and Yetis kicking field goals to name a few. Sadly, the scene in the preview about no seatbelts and laughing about it was the only scene I laughed at. I saw it coming and tried not to laugh with all my might, but alas I still laughed. I am ashamed of myself.

The script was written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. They were the creators of Smallville. This explained a lot. That show has suffered for the last couple of seasons and so, the creators left. Now they are making terrible movies. It was directed by Rob Cohen, who had a few good shots in the movie, but nothing too memorable. Stephen Sommers wrote and directed the first two and split from this one. As did Rachel Weisz as I mentioned above, and Freddie Boath, who played young Alex in The Mummy Returns. This was a good career move for these three. Sadly, I just read that there are plans for a fourth. Hopefully, this will not happen. If it does, short of another free ticket, I will not be there. Verdict: DUH! Do not waste your time. Go see The Dark Knight again. I have been twice and I plan to see it again. Even my mom has seen it twice!

28 July 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Hellboy Returns, and Better than Before

Well, AMC does not honor Hollywood Movie Money, so I had to pay for my ticket. This leaves just The Mummy 3 for this free ticket. I went into Hellboy II: The Golden Army with some reservations. I was not over impressed with 2004’s Hellboy. I know that critics loved it, but I guess I just did not get why. I now have a deeper respect for the original, but I definitely enjoyed this second entry more.

It opens with a young Hellboy being told a bedtime story by returning actor John Hurt. It is the story of the Golden Army. It is almost the same story as the Lord of the Rings with all the truces and things being split up. We then cut to modern times and see that Prince Nuada is planning his revenge on the human race. With the assistance of another monster, they steal back the part of a mystical crown given to the humans in the truce. He then goes and tried to talk his father into giving him his piece, but he finds that he is not welcome. So, he is forced to kill his own father and claim the throne. Now, his twin sister, Princess Nuala, possesses the final piece to the crown to rule the Golden Army.

We then see Tom Manning trying to keep himself out of trouble, as head of the United States Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. He was played once again by Jeffrey Tambor from Arrested Development fame. He was joined by Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones all reprising their roles from the first film. They investigate the mysterious deaths at an auction house, where Nuada and his partner stole the piece of the crown. They are joined by a mystical colleague in the form of Johann Krauss, voiced by Family Guy creator, Seth MacFarlane.

For the remainder of the film, the team searches for the Prince and tries to stop him from raising the Golden Army. There is plenty of adventure along the way. Guillermo Del Toro is back behind the camera and wrote the script as well. He knows what he is doing when it comes to CGI and creatures. All of it looked so real. The characters are what really make this movie enjoyable. Ron Perlman is fantastic as Hellboy, and his interactions with Blair’s Liz Sherman are intense. Abe Sapien, Doug Jones, falls for Princess Nuala, making things more difficult. Where this one is better than the original is completely with the characters and their interactions with each other and the situations that they are forced into.

After much hesitation, I was asked by a co-worker if I wanted to join him in seeing this movie, so I obliged him and tagged along. I was not disappointed. Verdict: For fans of the first one, you have undoubtedly seen this already. Fence sitters, you should see this. Newcomers, I would recommend renting the first one before seeing this, but by all means, see it. Sadly, Hellboy II will barely match its budget domestically, so unless this makes a load internationally, there may not be a third. The way this one ended left me wanting more.

21 July 2008

The Dark Knight

Batman Returns For More

I do not even know where to begin. The Dark Knight was everything a sequel should be. It took what the original had laid out, and expanded on it in every aspect. I had the pleasure of seeing this film in an IMAX theater at midnight. I got the seat I wanted, and only had to kill 2 hours in the auditorium waiting for the show to begin. That was the hardest part, waiting. Luckily, I am a talkative guy and quickly found people to talk with until the movie started. After a two wait in the auditorium, we were treated to best use of 152 minutes.


From the get-go, Nolan proves he is a director to be respected, and a great writer to boot. The Dark Knight opens with a bank heist that Michael Mann could be proud of. This just sets the stage for everything else yet to come. The feel of The Dark Knight was unlike all the other comic book movies to date. This was what impressed me most. It was a crime drama featuring Batman, not a Batman film feature a crime. This helped set it apart from all others, as did the acting, story, and action. The crime story of the film was something that you would expect in a Scorsese film or DePalma movie, not a comic book movie. That was where this was excellent. The CGI was minimal, keeping the realistic flow there. There wasn’t a giant green “Hulk” running around, or a couple of “Iron Men” in a CGI fight. Everything seemed to actually be there in front of you.


The Joker, brilliantly portrayed by the late Heath Ledger, tried to make a deal with the local mob bosses to kill the Batman and get them back on top of their games without the fear Batman brings. This was met with some mixed reactions, but it set up his character for the remainder of the film. Batman, played by returning Christian Bale, is first seen stopping Scarecrow, played again by Cillian Murphy, and his henchmen. This is our first look at the Batmen wannabes. They are vigilantes dressed as Batman wanting to be him and help him. They believed in what he was doing and decided that with some hockey pads and guns, they too would go fight crime. Also reprising their roles from Begins were Gary Oldman as Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. We get our first look at Harvey Dent as he enters a courtroom to join assistant DA Rachel Dawes, played newcomers by Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Maggie took over the role from Batman Begins’ Katie Holmes. I was excited about her replacement, but found Maggie to be lacking. She did not seem to bring anything new to the role. Eckhart, however, started out weak but grew into his character more as the film progressed. My only other complaint other than Maggie, has to be that Harvey Dent and his duality are not explored as much as I had hoped. It is no secret that he becomes Two-Face, but I just wish they would have hashed that out a little more.


The film progresses like a crime drama. There are stings, hits, body counts, and the like. We follow Batman as he tries to put and end to Joker’s reign of chaos. We also see Joker’s love for chaos and how he exploits humanity’s love for greed and money. Since The Dark Knight takes place right after the events of Batman Begins, some things seem a bit out of whack, and that was another interesting point. At the end of Begins, Wayne Manor burns to the ground. So, in this movie, Bruce is living out of a loft in downtown Gotham City. The Batcave is gone also due to the fire, so it has been moved to a dockyard. At the end of the first movie, Jim Gordon was promoted. Here, he has his own division MCU, Major Crimes Unit. This storyline was explained in more detail in the gap filling direct-to-DVD release Batman: Gotham Knights. I will review that following this. There is still some hate inside the GCPD as to who was and still might be dirty. The movie centers on District Attorney Harvey Dent and his campaign against the mobs. Aided by Bruce’s support, and Batman’s, Dent leads the charge to lock up all the mobsters that run the streets of Gotham City, and to make it a better, safer place. Of course, he runs into a few speed bumps along the way. It is how the characters interact with each other and these bumps that fuel the film. There were plenty of plot twists to keep you entertained. The action was intense and plentiful. As I mentioned before, the CGI was kept to a minimum, so the action was much more believable.


I could keep going on and on about how great this movie is. I waited until Monday to type this because I wanted to see where the box office numbers fell for its 3 day opening. They fell BIG. Top midnight gross, top one day gross, top three day weekend gross, top opening of 2008, the list goes on and on. If that is not enough to make you want to see it, then read all the hype about Ledger’s performance as The Joker. It is riveting to say the least. All his ticks, licking of his lips and wounds/scars, and jerky movements only help enhance the creepiness that is his Joker. I can only hope that he gets a posthumous nomination. I feel that it would be a big step for comic book movies as a whole to finally get an acting nomination. I feel that Jack Nicholson was snubbed back in 1989 for his portrayal of The Joker. As I was watching Ledger’s last full performance, it made me sad to realize what he had to offer as an actor and what we would not be able to enjoy.


I would also not be surprised if The Dark Knight gets a Best Picture nod. Why not? The top 5 reviewed movies of the year so far are 3 comic book movies and 2 animated ones. What does that say? If it, or Iron Man, could snag that, they could do for comic book movies what LOTR did for fantasy films. Verdict: Need I say? I am planning my second and possible third viewing. I advise an IMAX viewing if possible. The scenes shot in IMAX by Nolan are worth the extra money. I just cannot afford the $12 ticket to continue watching it on the IMAX myself. As a guy said on the way out, "I don't think I can watch any other comic book movie ever again." The Dark Knight has set the bar high for the next batch of superhero movies.

06 July 2008

Hancock

Hancock Fails to Save My Expectations

For what it was, Hancock was a superhero movie meant for the followers of Will Smith. Hancock may not be for the comic book masses, but for the general crowd, it will do the trick. Will Smith took the role of Hancock and made it his own. Or you can look at it as he took the role and made it fit him and his acting. Hancock was an enjoyable ninety minute ride, but that is where it disappoints. With a running time just over the 90 minute mark, I was left wanting more that I knew the movie had to offer. There was one scene in the middle of the movie, after the “plot twist” that I saw coming right away, that just made no sense. It was not explained, it was just there. This movie had plenty of potential to be a great film, but it just failed to reach that mark. It wasn’t that it was satisfied with meritocracy, it just did not have what it needed to cross that threshold into greatness. But with Will Smith, you can safely bet that Mr. 4th of July will deliver the money.

Hancock started out with a group of bad guys leading a high speed chase with the cops down the interstate. Hancock is awakened by a little kid and told to do something. He then remedies the situation in a not-so-normal way. He puts the car through an antenna on a building. We then see that the public does not like or appreciate Hancock and his heroics. He then helps a Public Relations representative Ray Embrey, played by Arrested Development’s and director Peter Berg’s alum Jason Bateman. This then leads to another public outcry. While dropping Ray off at home, we meet his son and his wife Mary, played by Charlize Theron. From this moment, I saw the plot twist that does not happen for another 45 minutes. The next day, the DA wants Hancock to turn himself in, and he does on the advice from his PR rep Ray. The plan is to make the public need and want Hancocks help. We also discover along the way that Hancock is not sure who he is or anything before the 1930s.

The rest of the film deals with the plot twist and the public’s view on Hancock. I do not want to give away the twist, so, I will just wrap things up. Peter Berg delivers another great action movie. His direction can apparently cause motion sickness, but since I seem to be immune to that, I thoroughly love his direction. He has a tendency to put you in the middle of the action, maybe a little bit too much for some people. Will Smith’s acting was nothing to write home about, and the rest of the cast followed suit. Batemen was the same character he was in Arrested Development and Theron was enjoying her role, but not on par with what she is capable of. Verdict: I enjoyed this, but I am hoping for an extended cut that explains that one scene that does not fit in. If you are a fan of superhero movies, comic book movies, Will Smith, or just love action movies, this is worth the 90 minutes. You know I say, “Yes!” to all those.

30 June 2008

Get Smart

With Get Smart, Steve Carell was given one more chance to prove to me, and maybe Hollywood, that he can carry a movie. He was a great supporting actor in so many movies, and had a break out hit with The 40 Year-Old Virgin. But since then, Seth Rogen has had more hits than Steve has, and nobody knew who Seth was. Steve has had one flop after another. This was it. When I think about who could have played Maxwell Smart, I was hard pressed to come up with anybody other than Steve Carell. So, I went in with high expectations.

Get Smart opens with Maxwell going into the, thought to be extinct, office of C.O.N.T.R.O.L. The opening does a great job of explaining what happened to CONTROL and the nemesis KAOS. It helped bridge the gap of the sixties television show and the 2008 take on the same story. Also in the opening, we see that Max has taken the field agent test, again, and the results come in this day. Once in the headquarters, we meet the Chief, played by Alan Arkin. Arkin was great for this role with his comedy. We also meet Agent 23, played by Dwayne “Not The Rock:” Johnson. He is the stud field agent that everyone wants to be like. David Koechner plays another field agent. He is one of my favorite character actors out there. We also meet Bruce and Lloyd, the Q Branch of CONTROL. They are, however, not funny enough for me to want to see the spin-off direct to DVD movie.

Well, Max passes his field agent tests, but The Chief wants to keep him as an analyst because he is the best they have. But after CONTROL is infiltrated and compromised, Max is granted field agent status. He is partnered with Agent 99, who recently had her face changed and so was not compromised by the infiltration. Here is another great casting. Anne Hathaway was beyond perfect for this role.

So, Max and Agent 99 go out on their first mission together. They are after Siegfried, played by Terrence Stamp. He is collecting nuclear munitions to hold the Earth ransom. He makes a threat against the U.S. that the Vice-President, played by 24 “President” Geoff Pierson, ignores because they get them all the time. The President is a cameo appearance by James Caan. He has the worst fake Texan accent ever.

Anyway, along the way, Carell spits out a few classics lines such as “missed it by that much,” “would you believe…,” and “the old….trick.” They all seemed forced to me. It seemed like they knew they needed them in the script, but just not sure where to put them, and Carell did not know how to deliver them. They also have the old Studebaker and shoe phone. In the end, it boiled down to a mole in the agency. Really?!?!? Is there no other idea out there in Hollywood for a spy film? A double agent? Come on! This has been played out since 1995 when Goldeneye re-introduced it. It has been the basis for all three Mission: Impossible films, the first three or more seasons of 24, Die Another Day, and The Sentinel just to name a few. It is time that we come up with a new spy idea.

Verdict: Well, it tried to be new and tried to be old both, and sadly missed on both accounts. All in all, it was a good movie. I had a good time watching it. I think that now that they got the origin story out of the way, the sequel, if it is made, could be a lot better. Only time will tell. It is worth the watch in cinemas, especially if you are a fan of the series, or Steve Carell. He finally proved to me that he can carry a movie, but his support in this film may have had a lot to do with it, too. He has bought himself one more lead movie chance from me. Also, look for cameos by Bill Murray and character actor Patrick Warburton.

Wanted

What The Matrix sequels were trying to be.

Well, after reading all the hype, I was expecting to go in and see a movie on par with The Matrix. I mean, the two sequels were not on par with the original. Sadly, Wanted was not on par with it either. For people to say that the visual effects are the best since, I challenge them to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even for an action movie, Wanted did noting new other than slow things down to “bullet time” and make bullets smash into each other. Nothing that I would say is on par with The Matrix. With all that said, I did love the movie.

It opens with a Fight Club-esque narration by the main character, Wesley Gibson played by John McAvoy. He was tremendous in this role. Though there were aspects of his character I was not fond of, he was great in the role. He is basically in a place in his life where he hates his job, life, girlfriend, etc. He then discovers he is the son of an assassin who is part of a secret fraternity of assassins. This is done in the first of many action sequences. Angelina Jolie, the sexy assassin Fox meets up with our main character in a drugstore and has it out with the fraternity rogue who killed Wesley’s father. He then meets Sloan, played by Morgan Freeman, who is in charge of the fraternity. After some thought and consideration, he decides to go into training and join the ranks of the fraternity.

During this training montage, Wes is beaten, cut, shot, bones broken, and everything else you would expect from an “initiation” into a Greek Fraternity, but it is all done in style. We also learn, from Sloan, that they are guided by a loom, since they are a textile mill. The loom spins irregularities into the cloth and it spells out the names of who needs to be killed in a binary code. Yes, that is a stretch, but it is original, so I will allow it. After he is ready, he performs his first few orders. These are done with artistic shots that include taking a shot off the roof of the elevated train in Chicago and flipping a car over another to shoot through a sunroof.

After we get through all that is necessary, we then get into the meat of the story and the twists. We continue to follow Wes on his quest for vengeance. Finally, he is sent on a mission to kill Cross, his father’s murderer. This scene is on a train as well, and is a lot of fun. As soon as the first twist is revealed, I figured out the rest of them. It was intricate, but not that intricate. Verdict: Absolutely worth the watch. Just remember that is not The Matrix. Wanted was a great escape movie. I will buy it and watch it again and again. I was disappointed it was not The Matrix, but it was great in its own right. Enjoy.

26 June 2008

The Foot Fist Way

Well, this is the first time since Hot Rod that I have been fooled. I do not know what to think of this film. The trailer was hilarious. The movie, well, it just missed being hilarious. It was funny. It just wasn’t hilarious. I was expecting to be in my chair curled up in a ball crying from laughing so hard. But….no.

The Foot Fist Way tells the story of Tae-Kwan-Do/karate instructor Fred Simmons, played by Danny McBride. His character is very reminiscent of Steve Carell’s Michael Scott from The Office. The only difference being, Carell is funny at it. It follows Fred through his mid-life crisis and cheating wife Suzie. It opens with him doing a recruiting seminar in a parking lot. This was particularly funny, but was not as funny as it should have and could have been. This set the standard for the entire movie.

As I sat down to write this, I did my usual research of character names and actors that I might have forgotten. Upon opening the link on www.imdb.com for this movie, I realized why no one looked familiar, they aren’t. I mean, Danny McBride was in that atrocity of a film Hot Rod. The only other person to do anything was Ben Best. Ben is also one of the writers, which I find odd based on his character in the film. That brings me to the only stroke of genius in this film. It is the only bit that shows that the writer was trying for a sophisticated comedic movie. Chuck “The Truck” Wallace. He is an action star and karate extraordinaire. The name is a mix of Chuck Norris and Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, both of martial arts fame. Other than that, the rest of the film is kind of flat.

When watching this film, you can see how they made this movie with a second rate cast. Many of the characters were meant for other actors. This is another case of, “if you wanted XXX, you should have paid the money for XXX.” Will Ferrell would have been a good choice for Fred Simmons, but that was not the only one.

As I reflect on this film, however, I would not say that I did not enjoy it. I was just expecting more. It has so many funny things that just did not make it to the hilarious level. Fred meets his karate idol, Chuck Wallace. He gets to party with Chuck. Then, he gets into a fight with him. The finale shows that writer/director Jody Hill has some directional vision. Verdict: Well, like with Redbelt, this film was not released wide. So, should you rent it? Sure, why not? It is funny, but the editing on the trailer was top notch. I think that I will rent it and give it another try. PS-I was the only one in my theater on a Saturday afternoon.

16 June 2008

Incredible Hulk

Third Time could be the Charm

Well, The Incredible Hulk was better than Hulk. That is a start. The problem with the first was that there was not enough action and a crappy story. So, this time around, they had more action, but still a stupid story. With a running time just shy of 2 hours, this revisit to the Incredible Hulk franchise was still flat. Louis Leterrier directed a better cast than Ang Lee had, but still managed to get nothing out of them. Leterrier had a lot of talent go wasted on this film. Edward Norton was a better Banner than Eric Bana. Liv Tyler was a better Betty Ross than Jennifer Connelly. William Hurt and Sam Elliot were about the same as Gen. Thunderbolt Ross. What was sad was the fact that the better acting still did not help this film. The preview had a few scenes not in the movie, which is not uncommon. But to have heard just before the release that the Blu-Ray release was going to have 70 minutes of deleted footage was disheartening. I feel that if they had 70 extra minutes, some of it was probably relevant for the movie. Also before the film, it was made public that Norton was not satisfied with the final cut of the film. This was not unusual either, as I have read that he is rarely happy with the cuts of his films. If this is the case, why does he not direct more films himself? So, going into this movie, I am aware that there is a whole other chapter missing from the movie, and the star hates this cut. These factors will weigh in on its box office performance.


Onward now to the movie itself. It opens with Banner on the run and on the down-low in Latin America working in a bottling plant. He fled to Brazil at the end of Hulk. Is this a sequel or not? During the opening credits we see a slightly different sequence of events that puts Banner on the run from Gen. Ross and the American government. To sum that up, he gets exposed to Gamma radiation and tears up the lab that he worked in, hurt Betty and Gen. Ross, and then fled. Anyway, the government tracks him down. They send in a platoon of soldiers who are to capture Banner. The platoon is lead by Emil Blonsky, played by Tim Roth. This character is from the comics and does become Abomination there, too. After some action, Banner transforms into Hulk and escapes. Blonsky then volunteers for an experimental drug to help even the playing field with Hulk. More action and we see Blonsky go toe to toe with Hulk in America. Banner returns to the U.S. to seek help from Prof. Samuel Sterns, played by Tim Blake Nelson. His role here is reminiscent of Terrence Howard in Iron Man. They both took small roles here in hopes of a sequel. Prof. Stern becomes the supervillian The Leader in the Marvel Universe. Anyway, Blonsky gets greedy and ends up with an overdose of the serum, and turns into the villain known as Abomination. Now, the government hast two super huge uncontrollable monsters on the loose.


Throughout the movie, Betty and Bruce try to rekindle their old relationship. This of course requires her to lie to her father, who is tipped off by her new boyfriend, who had at least one scene cut from the film. From the beginning, Bruce is trying to find ways of controlling the rage and power of the Hulk. Betty’s boyfriend is a psychologist, who, in the preview, tries to help Bruce. Bruce is also seen in the beginning learning to fight without letting his heart rate increase. This is a part of the story that I feel should have happened in full. This storyline could have allowed this movie to separate itself from the original. Anyway, Betty tries to help Bruce in finding Stern who thinks he can help cure Bruce. Ironically, while trying to help Bruce, Stern is exposed to some gamma infected blood in an open wound in his head, leading to the future transformation in the aforementioned villain The Leader. This also occurs at the same time Blonsky is overdosed turning into Abomination. Stern is then forgotten and left behind as we proceed to the CGI finale battle between CGI Hulk and CGI Abomination. It reminded me a lot of the non-epic battle at the end of Hulk between Hulk and the Nick Nolte-villain. The battle was what you would expect of two CGI characters fighting. In the end, Hulk triumphs and then flees. The last scene, we see Bruce meditating to try and keep the beast at bay. Or do we? Verdict: A must-see for all comic book fans, but a rental for anyone else. Sadly, I doubt this film will match its $135 million budget or even reach its predecessor’s dismal $132 million take back in 2004 despite better reviews due the two reasons mentioned earlier. So, will it earn a sequel? Who knows? The cameo from Robert Downey, Jr. at the end should help. They keep adding these references to a movie for The Avengers. I am game, but Thor will be the hard buy on that film.

23 May 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls

I have not seen the original Indiana Jones movies in quite some time. This makes it difficult for me to write an accurate review. I do not remember the original trilogy being so campy. That is my major complaint of the latest installment Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. Now, I am aware that the Kingdom is historical “fact.” It is an actual event in history. As was the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail from the first and third films. I, honestly, cannot remember what the second, or first if you look at it as it was a prequel, one was about or in search of. The Kingdom is my only other complaint though. (See SPOILER below, if you want to)

The movie opens with Indy and his buddy Mac being pulled out of a car and threatened to help the Russians lead by Irina Spalko. Harrison Ford is back in his iconic role and Ray Winstone portrays Mac. Cate Blanchette plays Spalko. The Russians are in search of a magnetized mummy. At this point, Mac is revealed as a double-agent and Indy loses a hard fought battle. After a campy survival from a nuclear blast, Indy’s loyalty is questioned and General Ross, not Thunderbolt Ross from the Hulk movies, comes to his aid. Alan Dale is in this throw away small role that never returns to the screen.

Meanwhile, the university that currently employs Indy as a Professor kicks him out and Jim Broadbent, playing the Dean, stands up for him. We then see Indy packing and learn that his father has passed. This is how they dealt with Sean Connery not returning to the role of Henry Jones, Sr.

Now, Indy is seen leaving on a train but Mutt Williams comes on the scene in search of Prof. Jones. He tells of how his mother and family friend Ox have been kidnapped and it has something to do with a Kingdom of Crystal Skulls. From here, there is plenty of campy adventure, campier adventure, and a scene of human eating ants. There is also a scene of Shia LeBeouf swinging through the trees Tarzan style. We also learn that his mother is Marion Ravenwood, played by the same actress Karen Allen.

Finally, the film winds up in the Mayan temple of the Crystal Skulls and, I warn there is a semi-spoiler here, aliens appear. That’s right, aliens. Then, there is a scene right out of The Mummy with the Earth sucking everything in, and the protagonists trying to escape. Then, I am not lying, there is an alien UFO! At this point, I was glad to see it was the end. This Sci-Fi finale really hurt the film for me. The final scene, however, wrapped up the movie as a stand-alone, but also left it wide open for another film.

I am now going to go back and watch the original trilogy again and see if I do not acquire more love for this “fourquel.” I do not see any reason why I would not go see a fifth if it were ever made. The acting was on par with what you would expect from these actors ad actresses. Shia LeBeouf was a good addition to the cast. Cate Blanchette was a fantastic villain. This movie definitely had the Spielberg feel. I did enjoy myself and this two hour fantasy adventure. Verdict: I highly recommend seeing this in theaters if you are a fan of the franchise, but if you aren’t the home market cannot be that long of a wait in today’s world. Yet, seeing it loud and large is always a good thing when it comes to action and adventure films.

17 May 2008

REDBELT

I was not aware of how many David Mamet films I have seen. I also was not aware that I have not been disappointed by any of them. Redbelt kept the streak alive. Where this was not as layered as The Spanish Prisoner or as twisting as Heist, Redbelt delivers plenty on both levels. It is also imperative to know that this film is not a martial arts film, but a film about martial arts.

Redbelt opens with Laura Black, played by Emily Mortimer, who is a lawyer, side-swiping a car. It turns out, it is the car owned by Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor Mike Terry, played by under appreciated Ejiofor Chiwetel. His whole persona and look on life is one of honor and acceptance. He is a character unlike any I have seen in film in a long time. When Laura comes into the dojo to admit and apologize for the accident, she misfires police officer and student of the gym Joe Collins’s gun shooting out the large window front. Max Martini plays Joe, and is from the tv show The Unit, which is produced by David Mamet. This event marks the start of everything else that goes on in the film.

That night, Terry goes to a bar owned by his brother-in-law Billy, played by 300’s Rodrigo Santoro. While in the bar, we meet fictional action star Chet Frank, portrayed by Tim Allen. This role is unlike any other that Tim Allen has played. It has no comedy to it whatsoever. Chet gets into a bar fight and Terry saves him. This scene sets up the rest of the film.

From here, we are introduced to many characters. All are important, but not important enough to report on here. Terry’s other brother-in-law is a mixed-martial-arts fighter. He uses Brazilian jiu-jitsu as his style. They were trained together when they were younger. Actual MMA fighter, Randy Couture, makes an appearance as a commentator for the fight. Ricky Jay has his usual Mamet cameo as the fights’ promoter, Marty Brown. After a shady deal with Marty Brown and Chet Frank, Terry’s teaching strategies are stolen and used in the fights’ promotion. This is where Terry ends up mixed up with the fights.

At this point, I am going to tell you a few other important facts that need to be known here and then end this review:

  • Joe is a loyal and honorable student testing for his black belt.
  • One of the codes that Terry’s dojo lives up to is never to bring dishonor to the dojo.
  • Another code is, there is always an escape.
  • Terry does not compete because he feels it weakens the fighters.
  • There is only one redbelt, and it goes to the “best.”

The ending of the film was abrupt. It was climactic for sure, but there was nothing past the apex of the journey. The ending was the top. Being a former martial artist, it inspired me to go back to the dojo myself. I found a local judo club and will be going back in the fall. Redbelt was what I was expecting, yet completely different at the same time. I know that makes no sense, but I knew what to expect from a David Mamet film and yet, was surprised. VERDICT: This is a must see for fans of Mamet’s work, martial artists, and anyone who just wants to watch a true film of martial arts not just the Jackie Chan-Jet Li type. I recommend a DVD rent since this film was on such a limited release. If you have the opportunity to see it in theaters, it is worth the matinee price.

09 May 2008

IRON MAN

Iron Man opened this summer season with a monstrous $100 + million weekend and rave reviews. I read reviews touting this film as the best comic book move EVER! That is a bold statement. Yet, I cannot remember the last time that a movie claimed such a high stature, and then had the reviews to back it up. I went in with the highest of expectations. I left a little empty. If I was not expecting the best comic book movie ever, I think that I would have been more than impressed.

Iron Man opens with AC/DC’s “Back in Black” playing and Tony Stark, brilliantly played by Robert Downey Jr, in a military convoy. As he is doing his typical billionaire playboy thing, his convoy is hit and we see him bleeding on the ground. We then go back to hours before the incident. This way of story telling is starting to get old. Why can’t we just tell the story in order? Why show something and then go back to the beginning? This is getting cliché. Anyway, we see Tony not attending an award ceremony. This is our first glimpse at Jim Rhodes, played by Terrence Howard, and Obadiah Stane, played by Jeff Bridges. Stark is busy partying and picking up the ladies in the casino. The next morning, we meet Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. She gets Stark on his plane out to the Middle East where he demonstrates the latest military weapon that he has developed. Shortly after, this is where his convoy is hit.

Now, he is taken prisoner by a radical Afghanistan group and forced to build the same missile that he just demonstrated. With the help of another captive, he is able to fix his wound in his heart and build a suit of armor to escape.

This is where the movie started to make me a little angry. Once Stark is back, he has a change of heart about making weapons, and decides to quit. Obadiah Stane takes over the company as Stark heals, and he continues production of the weapons. After seeing his own weapons hurting the people that he is trying to save, Stark develops a newer suit of armor to help him rid the world of his weapons. Now, this is the exact same story as the Shaquille O’Neil movie Steel used back in 1997. After a test run, more changes are made. Again, the same was done in Steel.

Finally, the suit is completed. Stark then uses it to fly over the Afghanistan and stop a massacre in progress. This catches the eyes of the USAF in the area, and they try to shoot him down. This is where Stark tells Rhodes it is him. As Stark digs to the bottom of the how his weapons are getting sold to the enemy, he discovers it is Obadiah. As Steel dug to the bottom, it turned out to be Burke, his old companion in the military. Weird!

In the end, Obadiah creates Iron Monger, who, after some research spurred by a conversation I had with a co-worker, did make a short appearance in the comic book series and was created by Obadiah Stane. There is a battle of the iron men, and one is victorious. The last line of the movie was a bit rough for me to swallow, but I will leave that up to you.

As for the movie itself, Jon Favreau does a tremendous job in his direction. All the acting is superb. I agree with a few reviews that state that Terrence Howard took this role in order to have a larger one in the sequel. For those of you not familiar with the comic book lore, he becomes War Machine. The visual effects were awesome, but they were done by Industrial Light and Sound. They are the same ones that worked on the Star Wars films. The writers did an excellent job. The script is fast, witty, and hits well. The only real downer to this film is the easy comparisons one can make to the flop Steel. Yes, there is a scene after the credits, but I thought it was kind of stupid. It just helps set up where the franchise and Marvel are going. Verdict: A must see for all the comic book fans. It is a great film for all ages, too. I just do not think that it is the best comic book movie ever.

29 April 2008

There will be Blood

THERE WILL BE BOREDOM

The latest from Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis was a monstrous 158 minute epic about the oil boom of the 1800’s. The preview was misleading. I was not prepared for 158 minutes of awkwardly long scenes and long-drug out storylines.

The movie centers on Daniel Plainview, Day-Lewis, and his quest to be the biggest oil tycoon. He is a man that will do next to anything to be that person. Throughout the film, we are shown how ruthless and unscrupulous he can be when something or someone gets in the way of his dream. This is the only aspect of the film that I thought was well done and that I enjoyed.

It opens on Daniel searching for an ore-like rock in a hole signaling that oil is there. He then finds it and so starts his mission mentioned above. After an unfortunate accident killing his friend, Daniel takes in his baby boy and calls him his own, HW Plainview. They travel west to drill for oil. They proposition towns and villages offering cuts of the profits, jobs, and instant production. He makes his way out to a little village after a mysterious meeting with Eli Sunday, portrayed Paul Dano. Upon arrival in this village, Eli welcomes them, only his name is Paul. I am not quite sure what this was all about. My thoughts are that Eli/Paul has a multiple personality disorder. Paul is the pastor at the church and that is his motivation for everything that he does. Daniel is not a religious man, so this causes some conflict.

As for the rest of the film, Daniel’s son loses his hearing in an accident, sends him away, is found by his old lost brother, becomes rich, and then the ending occurs. The ending still baffles me to this day. I feel like I missed something, but at the same time, I feel like I just was not meant to get it. Paul comes back from a mission trip. H.W. leaves the family business to start his own company. Daniel is a crabby old man.

Verdict: If I hadn’t seen the SNL skit making fun of this and No Country for Old Men called “I Drink Your Milkshake,” some of the scenes might have been more powerful, but instead they were lost on me as I was trying not to laugh. If you are an avid Academy Award Nominee watcher like me, you will see this movie no matter what I say. But, I do not recommend this movie if you were a fence sitter. It is extremely long and loses focus in the end. There is no climax per se. It does not have any closure, but then again I feel that the movie had no need for any. It was weird. I did see this on an early dismissal from work due to snow instead of sitting in stopped traffic. But I do not think that affected my reaction. It did not grow on me in time. I’M FINISHED!

Juno

Best Feel Good Movie of the Year

Wow! That is an understatement. Juno has been the best movie going experience in a while. I don’t even know where to begin. This movie has it all. Acting, directing, script, characters, and music. There is nothing that this movie is missing. It will top Fox Searchlight’s highest grossing movie, last year’s surprise hit Little Miss Sunshine. So, I am not sure

Juno opens with the namesake, portrayed by Ellen Page, walking drinking Sunny D. She arrives at a convenience store and buys a pregnancy test. Of course, she is pregnant. Or in the words of the convenience store clerk, The Office’s Rainn Wilson, “Your egg-o is preggo.” Poor Juno, being high school student, she has to break the news to her father, played by JK Simmons, and mother, played by Allison Janney. The scene is comedic genius. The whole movie is comedic genius. Juno informs them that Paulie Bleaker, Arrested Development and Superbad's Michael Cera, fathered her baby, to which Mac, her father, replies, “I didn’t know he has it in him.” She tells them that she has decided to keep the baby and put it up for adoption. The only catch being she wants to pick the family. So, Juno and her friend search wanted ads for the perfect couple.

Enter the Lorimg family, Vanessa and Mark, played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. They seem to be the rich professional type that just cannot have kids. Juno then decides this is the family. But as with every family, the Lorings have their flaws. The remainder of the film follows Juno through her pregnancy, the Loring family in their preparation for the baby, and Juno’s relationship with Bleaker.

For a first time screenwriter, Diablo Cody captures the youth of this time and the dialogue proves that. After her win at the Academy Awards, she is going to have to overcome the sophomore-slump. This is unfortunate. Many Oscar winners have had trouble after winning the coveted statue. Jason Reitman captures everything that Cody’s script is intended to have. Verdict: This is the most feel good movie of the year. That fact alone dooms it on Award night. The Academy does not like a feel good flick. If it bleeds it leads seems to be the mentality. This is a must-see for anybody and everybody. If you can’t see it in theaters, this is definitely queue-worthy on your Netflix. Personally, I am going to buy the Blu-Ray if it is released in that format.

28 April 2008

Hot Rod

Hot Rod is not Cool Beans

In the preview when he asks if they reinforced the ramp and they say no, then he wrecks horribly made me laugh so hard. Sadly, that is all that is funny in the whole entire movie. Andy Samberg leads a cast of misfits in this horrific “movie.” It is basically a Jackass movie that is scripted. Well, more scripted.

Where to begin on this piece of trash is hard to tell. It is the story of Rod Kimble who thinks he is Evel Knievel style stuntman, who for some reason wrestles his stepfather to prove he is a man. When said stepfather, Deadwood’s Ian McShane, has heart problems, Rod decides to do a stunt for a fundraiser to buy his stepfather a new heart. So, his team of stupid friends set out to do just that. This movie is ridiculous. I can understand why Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Chris Parnell would do a movie like this. They have nothing better going on in their “careers” at this time. By why would Academy Award Winner Sissy Spaceck, Golden Globe Winner Ian McShane, and Isla Fisher do such a bland, stupid movie? I just don’t get it.

Akiva Schaffer and Pam Brady are to blame for directing and writing this piece of ninety minute hell. It got my movie choosing license revoked by the wife. I will never see another movie by these two lesser beings. I am cutting this review off now. Verdict: Do I even need to say?

Enchanted

Sadly, I was Enchanted

When it comes to movies about princesses and kingdoms, nobody does it better than Disney. So, when it comes to poke fun at the same genre, who better than to do the job? Disney took all their familiar storylines and formulas and pointed out ridiculous they are in real life. This was not my movie of choice, but I do owe my wife two movies after the atrocity that was Hot Rod. I went it wanting to hate this movie. I can sit here and rant on about how trite it was, how childish it was, how predictable it was, but that is what it was supposed to be. Instead, I will pay it the respect it deserves.

The film opens in cartoon form, narrated by Disney alum Julie Andrews. It is a fairy tale about a brave, strong, handsome prince and a tree loving, pretty princess. They are meant to find each other and fall in love. Prince Edward’s step-mother is of course evil and if he and the Giselle meet, fall in love, and get married, she will lose her throne. In her attempt to stop this from happening, she sends Giselle to the “real world” in the form of Amy Adams. Amy was amazing in this role. She portrayed a fish out of water better than I have seen in a very long time. To save her, Prince Edward falls into the “real world” in the form of James Marsters. Of course, Queen Narissa sends her goon, Timothy Spall playing Nathaniel, to prevent them from finding each other.

While trying to find the palace in modern day New York City, Giselle runs into Robert Phillip, Grey’s Anatomy’s Patrick Dempsey. He lends her a hand upon the request of his young daughter. The next morning, he attempts to send her home, but has to stop by his office. It turns out that he is a divorce lawyer, and Giselle accidentally keeps a couple together. The rest of the film follows Giselle trying to acclimate to the “real world” and Robert dealing with her. His daughter falls for her as a person. His girlfriend tries to come to terms with her. Phillip also tries to help her understand “real love” as opposed to her fairy tale love. The story starts to set up the star-crossed-lovers story that is familiar in so many fairy tales.

In true Disney fashion, the movie culminates at a costume ball. Here, Queen Narissa arrives in the form of Susan Sarandon. She has a poisoned apple, which Nathaniel has been unable to get Giselle to eat. Of course, Giselle bites, and falls into a slumber. Then, it of course takes her true-love’s kiss to break the spell. It is all fantastical and Disney. As much as I wanted to hate this movie, I found that I could not. The only negative I have is that the ending seemed a bit rushed. Verdict: Totally worth the time and money. I will be purchasing this one.