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.