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.