17 December 2010

The Fighter

Fighting For Everything

I love boxing movies. I love Christian Bale movies. I liked The Fighter. When a movie gets four acting nominations from the Golden Globes, along with Best Picture and Director, I expected a great film. The Fighter was a really good movie, but something just seemed off to make it great. I really can’t put my finger on it. My only thought was that it struggled with what story they were trying to tell. Dicky’s? Micky’s? Lowell’s?

The Fighter, directed by David O. Russell, follows Dicky Eklund and his younger brother Micky Ward. Christian Bale’s performance as the crack addicted, once promising boxer, Dicky, was something to see. It was his best role since The Machinist. Bale just immerses himself in his roles, and it shows. Wahlberg plays Micky Ward. He was not as electrifying as he was in The Departed, but he was still great. The movie opens with a documentary crew following Dicky as he is on his road to a comeback, or so Dicky thinks. They are really there to show the effects of crack.

Dicky is the corner man and trainer for Micky. But, due to the crack addiction, Dicky is very unreliable. The other corner man and trainer is Mickey O’Keefe, the sheriff, who was played by O’Keefe himself. The movie opens with Dicky leading the documentary crew through the streets of Lowell, Pennsylvania. He is the local legend for knocking Sugar Ray Leonard down in boxing match. He is preparing for his supposed comeback. He is also training Micky for his next fight.

Before leaving for Las Vegas for the fight, Micky meets Charlene Fleming, played by the always beautiful Amy Adams. She is a bartender at the local tavern. Once in Vegas, Micky and Dicky are informed that the fighter they were preparing for had to pull out due to the flu. So, Alice and Dicky make the decision that Dicky will fight a replacement that is 20 pounds bigger. The fight is a disaster.

Upon his return, Micky and Charlene become a pair, and this drives a wedge into the awkward family dynamic. Charlene makes Micky question whether his brother and mother have his best interest in mind. His father, George, gets his a real manager after Dicky gets arrested. There are a few stipulations, no more Alice and no more Dicky.

With his new manager, Micky gets his boxing career back on track. He picks up a few wins, and then gets a real shot at a real fighter. Dicky gives advice that proves crucial to winning the fight. With that win, Dicky gets a title shot.


Now, we are over halfway through this movie, and there has been conflict throughout. Dicky and Micky have five sisters, all who hate Charlene. Alice hates the new manager since she was his old manager. George going against the family causes more strife. Dicky gets clean and finds out what the documentary crew was really filming while in jail. With the big title shot on the horizon, family and friends are torn and fighting. The final conflict becomes can Micky survive all this and still focus on the fight.

The Fighter’s climactic fight was for the title. What I found interesting was, “Irish” Micky is best remembered for his trilogy of fights against Arturo Gatti, two of which won Ring magazine’s fight of the year honor. These are not mentioned at all. I found that odd. Oh well, you can only tell so much. A similar thing was done with Michael Mann’s Ali.

One of the biggest problems this movie had was the feel and tone. Each actor was great in their respective role, but none of them really had any chemistry. Melissa Leo was amazing as Alice Ward, but she didn’t have a lot of chemistry with Christian Bale or Mark Wahlberg. Mark and Christian had enough to make it work. Amy Adams was good. She shined in her scenes where she was feuding with the sisters.

The writing was good. The direction was good. There was just something off. Like I said, I love boxing movies. Maybe I had too high expectations. I wanted to love The Fighter. The reviews are great. I would still give this a solid 8/10. But I was really hoping for a 10. Verdict: While it wasn’t what I was wanting it to be, it was still a solid movie with solid acting, directing, and writing. Worth the money, especially a matinee showing.

16 December 2010

True Grit

True to Grit

Well, after almost a two-week break, I made it to another movie. When I first heard that the Coen Brothers were going to be making a version of Charles Portis’s novel, True Grit, I went out and rented the book from the library. That was April of last year. I did not get around to watching Henry Hathaway’s 1969 version of the film starring none other than John Wayne in his only Oscar winning role until July of this year. So, I was prepared to go see this version. The Coens kept saying that they were going to be more faithful to the source material. I thought Hathaway’s as pretty faithful, other than Kim Darby (22) being a little too old to be Mattie (14).

When the first official press shot was released, I got excited. Then, the teaser hit. I was more excited. Following that, the full feature trailer premiered. You cannot go wrong with a Johnny Cash song in a trailer. The trailer looked amazing. So, off I went with high expectations. I took my co-worker with me. The last movie he saw in theaters was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves from 1991. So, it had been a while. We saw it at a recently built theater. It was finished about 2 years ago. The poor guy had no idea what theaters are like now.

Anyway, True Grit opens with a voice over by Mattie, played by Hailee Steinfeld, telling what started her adventures that led her to meeting U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn, played by Jeff Bridges and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, played by Matt Damon. Mattie, being only fourteen years old, has quite a head on her shoulders. She is shrewd businesswoman, hard negotiator, and will not take “no” for an answer. Mattie Ross finally convinces the drunken Marshall to let her accompany him and the Ranger. The trio head off into the Chickasaw Indian country in pursuit of Chaney, played by Josh Brolin. Chaney, who they find out has taken in with Luck Ned Pepper’s gang, killed Mattie’s father in cold blood.

True Grit follows the original movie and book like you would expect. I enjoyed the movie. I loved it, actually. I tried very hard to not compare this to the original. I did a good job until the ending. Once the trio catches up with Ned and his gang, all I could see and hear was the original. Barry Pepper plays Ned Pepper, but it was more like Barry Pepper playing Robert Duvall playing Ned. The famous standoff scene just seemed a bit off in this “revisioning.” Jeff Bridges did a great job making Rooster his own, and not stepping on The Duke’s portrayal. But the “Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!” line just did not sound right. That one spot is the only one thing that grated on me for the entire film.

The western genre is a dying one. Over the last few years, the ones that have come out have been amazing. I just wish that the new generation of moviegoers would support them. Appaloosa was based on a series of books, but it did not set the box office on fire enough for its three sequels to get the coveted greenlight. 3:10 to Yuma was another remake of an old western. It just did not have John Wayne in it.

Make no mistake, True Grit was a great film. It is award worthy. The Coen brothers are incredible directors and gifted writers. Yet, for them to say this is more true to the novel confuses me. The script is almost line for line from the original. The direction is better, but I don’t know if I would say the film was much different. They did, however, have a darker tone. The dialog was a bit comical at times, which differed from the original. The acting is superb, though Jeff Bridges is hard to understand at times, as is Josh Brolin. Hailee Steinfeld stole the show. She was incredible. I could not believe that is actually fourteen. I would love to see her pick up a nomination like Haley Joel Osment and Abigail Breslin. The Coens could easily get a well deserved direction nomination, and possibly a writing one, too. I would be surprised to see Matt Damon get anything for his role.

Verdict: True Grit may not be an original film. It may be a dying genre. But it still stands tall as a great film of 2010. I urge you to see this movie. It is worth the money for sure.

Here is the famous scene I mentioned above:

02 December 2010

Faster

A Fast Way to Waste $$

Faster has one of the weirdest group of actors. It is movie actors in key roles surrounded by TV actors. The actors are Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thorton, Carla Cugino and even Tom Berenger and Mike Epps make quick cameos. After that, CBS Films robbed their own sets and sets from other stations. Michael Irby from The Unit, Jennifer Carpenter from Dexter, Magie Grace and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje from Lost, Xander Berkley from 24 and Moon Bloodgood from Day Break are the ones I recognized. I am sure there are more. George Tillman, Jr., whose best movie to date is Men of Honor, directs a script from Joe and Tony Gayton. This was their first collaborative effort. Both have made decent scripts on their own. The character names look like the casting call.

Let’s begin there. The Rock plays a character known as Driver. Billy Bob is Cop. Newcommer Oliver Jackson-Cohen plays Killer. This is no joke. Those are the names. These are the three “main” characters of Faster. Everyone else has small roles; most only one scene. But, a lot of them have names. Cugino plays Cop’s partner, Cicero. Maggie Grace plays Killer’s lover, Lily. But poor Jennifer Carpenter plays the ex-love of Driver, Woman. Terrible character names. Brutal in fact.

Now that I got that out of the way, let’s look at the plot. At its core, Faster has a creative story. It was just told terribly. It opens with Driver being let out of prison after serving 10 years for a bank heist. He goes on a killing spree/revenge terror to get the guys that killed his brother and left him for dead. If you watch the trailer, he see the movie, for the most part. Along the way, we find out that Driver was shot in the back of the head, but the BULLET BOUNCED AROUND THE INSIDE OF HIS SKULL AND CAME OUT HIS CHEEK. That was verbatim from Cicero. Seriously!?!?!? If you pay attention through the first fifteen minutes, you are given everything you need to put together the rest of the film. Sadly, I paid attention.

The plot holes in Faster are large enough for Driver to broadside slide his car through. Possible spoiler here: He kills everyone, but drives off into the sunset. His face is seen on a security camera when he kills the first guy. His face is all over the news, but he still walks right into a night club to kill someone else, walks through a hospital to finish someone, and can rent a hotel room with no one notices who he is. Let alone, where is going to go after killing everyone? He is a wanted man. His face is everywhere. The other I will quickly mention is that a good cop covering up a bad cop makes the good cop bad. The other plot hole gives away too much. Suffice it to say that Woman mentions something about age that doesn’t add up with Driver’s dead brother and his girlfriend. Oh well.

This movie was rated 'R.' I expect a little blood in my R-rated action movies. I expect some action in my action movies, too. What self-respecting R-rated action film goes to a strip club, and has no gratuitous nudity? Answer: Faster.

One other thing that I just cannot understand about this movie is the time wasted on the back story of Killer. None of it matters. He had polio/crippled as a child? He made his riches in the stock market? Who cares? Not me. It had nothing to do with the story.

Verdict: Rent Faster for the few action scenes that are separated by bad story and execution. I have a script that I am working on that is better than this drivel. I just have to find a way to get it into the right hands. I was disappointed for sure. I am just glad that the local theater has the Rush Hour Shows. For $4.00.

29 November 2010

Rampage



And You Thought You Couldn't Take It Anymore...

You won’t believe me, but it is true. This movie was made by the same schlock that made House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, In the Name of the King, Bloodrayne, and countless other pieces of garbage films based on video games. Yet, Rampage, shows that Uwe Boll knows how to craft a story, film it, and bring it to life.

Brendan Fletcher plays Bill Williamson, a twenty something living in his parents’ basement. They tell him that he needs to get out and go live on his own. He gets mad. Next, he goes to work, where his boss gets mad at him for working on his own van on his lunch. He gets mad. He then goes to a coffee shop where the barista can’t make his order properly. He gets mad. Finally, Bill meets up with this best friend, Evan at a fast-food joint. The worker gets the order wrong, and spills their drinks. They both get mad.

So, they sit and discuss life, and how it sucks. A change needs to happen. The next day, Bill goes on a rampage. It is Falling Down meets Grand Theft Auto. The first twenty-five minutes are a bit slow, but they help set up the remaining sixty minute climax. It is a holy terror rampage. My favorite scene is in the bingo parlor. The twist at the end that end that everyone seems to not see coming, was not that hard to work out. But, it was awesome.

I don’t usually write about movies that I did not see in theaters, but I felt this was necessary. I have Netflix, and Rampage was an Instant Watch. I am glad that it was. A friend of a friend turned me on to this movie. I was hesitant at first, but I figured, it was only 80 some minutes. How bad could it be? Verdict: A must see if you like this kind of film. It was not as gory as you would think or hope it would or should be. It was, also, more political than I would have thought. I am usually not into the whole "political movie," but this one has attitude.

Love & Other Drugs


Perscription: Boring, but Nudity


So, when I wasn’t crying at the end, I thought, Once again, I am heartless. But, I turned to my wife, who cries at Undercover Boss and Hallmark commercials, and she wasn’t crying either. That is when I knew I wasn’t emotionally broken, just bored.

Love and Other Drugs tried too hard. From Edward Zwick, the director of The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond and Glory, this was lifeless. I spent the car ride home trying to figure out where this movie went wrong. I found the following reasons.

Love & Other Drugs opens in 1996 with Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal) is seen selling ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves, figuratively. He is smooth, suave, and says what the consumers need to hear to purchase whatever he is selling. After having relations with his boss’s girl, he is fired.

Next comes the most worthless scene in the entire film. For some reason, we are thrown into the middle of an argument/discussion about the medical industry in the Randall household. I am not sure what the point was supposed to be, but it failed. Apparently, Jamie has a brother, Josh, who did something on the internet instead of finishing med school. The patriarch is a doctor. He has a sister, who was a completely wasted character. She only appears in this waste of 5 minutes. She has no purpose. The matriarch just tells everyone to be good, or they get no chocolate cake. No joke. In the end, Josh says that he will make a call to his contact at Pfizer to see if he can get his brother a job as a drug rep.

Off to training, and a reminder of the mid-nineties. We see Jamie going through a bombardment of drug information. Finally, he is seen as fit to hit the streets of the Midwest, but not until after having relations with his trainer.

So, now we are introduced to Bruce Winston, a senior drug rep played by Oliver Platt. He tells of the promise land of Chicago. That is where the best of the best rep for Pfizer. We also meet Trey Hannigan, played by Gabriel Macht. He is the “evil” drug rep that has the ear of hank Azaria’s Dr. Stan. He stands in the way of Jamie and Bruce’s dream of Chicago. Lastly, we are humorously introduced to Anne Hathaway’s Maggie Murdock. In the trailer, she seems funny, witty, hot, and sex-addicted. In the movie, they give her an incurable disease, and she becomes annoying.

For the first hour of the movie, I was into it. It was fast paced and funny. The dialog was quick witted. The acting was decent enough. Then, right around the hour mark, the movie stalled. It slowed to a crawl. Then, it flat stopped and changed directions. The movie changed gears from the romantic comedy that it was to a melodrama. His brother, Josh, just won’t go away. He becomes too much and goes too far and flat out become a complete annoyance. He was supposed to be comedic relief, but just turned out to be a nuisance.

By the end, I did not care about the characters. The movie just dragged out for no reason. The confrontation with Trey never came to a head. The build-up to taking Chicago was a letdown. The whole movie became a letdown. When the lights came up, all the people around us were drying their eyes. I was trying not to groan. Verdict: Love and Other Drugs walks the fine line between being a movie and soft-core porn. Yet, somehow, what started off with such promise just sputtered out and finished bland. I would wait to rent this one if you feel you must see this movie.

Megamind


Mega-Better than Despicable Me


Not that it takes a lot to get me to go to the theater, but an animated superhero movie voiced by Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill, was an easy sell. As I was reading reviews and predictions for Megamind, I kept seeing the same comparison. Everyone was comparing it to Despicable Me, saying they have similar storylines of the bad guy turning into the good guy. I saw Despicable Me, and I thought it was decent, but nothing special. I, however, found Megamind much more entertaining and enjoyable. There were similarities, but there were more differences.

The story opens with the overdone ending first, middle of the action, how did-I-get-here beginning. I find this type of opening unoriginal, over used, and boring. Anyway, Megamind, voiced by Ferrell, himself narrates the opening. It is basically the story of Kal-El, or Superman for those “non-geeks” that might be reading this: planet is being destroyed; his parents put him in a shuttle and send him to Earth to save him. Along the way, another planet sends its last survivor to Earth. He becomes Metroman, voiced by Brad Pitt. Metroman lands in a rich family’s home, Megamind, a prison.

They have epic battles over the years. In a final battle, Megamind kidnaps TV reporter Roxanne Ritchi, voiced by Fey. Roxanne is seen as Metroman’s Lois Lane. Metroman comes to rescue her. With the help of Minion, voiced by David Cross, Megamind finally defeats Metroman.

Now, with no one to challenge him, Megamind does whatever he wants, whenever he wants. But this soon becomes tiresome for him. He and Roxanne both go to the memorial to Metroman to look for guidance. Before they run into eace other, Megamind assumes the identity of one of the workers at the memorial, Bernard.

After assuming Bernard’s appearance, Megamind starts a relationship with Roxanne, and they figure out that Megamind needs someone “good” to beat him or challenge him. So, Megamind finds a way to make a new superhero to battle his supervillian. Poor Hal, voiced by Jonah Hill, becomes Titan, or “Tighten” as he spells it. Megamind assumes another appearance, reminiscent of Brando’s Jor-El, to train Titan to be a superhero. As usual, Megamind’s plans do not quite go as planned.

This is as far as I am going to go with the plot. I loved the obvious twists. I loved the action. I loved the animation. If it weren’t for Toy Story 3, Megamind would be my pick as best animated movie for the year. But, Toy Story 3 owns that title, and I can’t see any animated movie topping that.

Verdict: If you haven’t seen it already, go. It is worth the time and money. I would recommend this to anyone who liked Despicable Me and The Incredibles. Oh, and listen for J.K. Simmons.

24 November 2010

127 Hours

Why I don't Rock Climb

After viewing the trailer for Danny Boyle’s follow up to his Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, I knew two things for certain. First, the shaky-cam will keep the wife out. Second, I want to see this, bad. So, off I went. When the opening credits start, my first thought was, this music is composed by A.R. Rahman, the Academy Award winning composer for Slumdog Millionaire. So, it seems pointless to say this, but I loved the music, for about 90% of the film. The other 10% seemed a little but too much Slumdog. This does not take place in India, but Utah.

127 Hours follows the true story of Aron Ralston’s struggle to survive after being pinned by a boulder while exploring the Blue John Canyon in Utah. The movie opens with Aron, played by James Franco, packing his gear for his weekend expedition. There is lot of emphasis on his water canteen, and the fact that he doesn’t take his Swiss Army knife.

He wakes up the next morning and begins his journey. Aron documents his adventure with is digital camera and his video camera. On his way to Blue John Canyon, he comes across two young ladies that are lost. They are simply named, Kristi and Megan, played by Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn. They enjoy themselves before going their separate ways. Shortly after, disaster strikes Aron.

Once he is trapped, Aron keeps his cool. Over the next 127 hours, he tries many ideas on how to free himself from his predicament. He rations his food and water. He uses his climbing ropes to keep himself warm. He documents his progression on his camera each day. He slowly starts to lose it. His mind wanders. He remembers his past. He hallucinates. He sees family, friends, and lovers. In the end, the inevitable solution becomes his last hope.

127 Hours is truly no more than Cast Away, only an hour shorter, no Wilson, and James Franco instead of Tom Hanks. But I loved it. I found Cast Away a bit boring. Nothing against Tom Hanks or Wilson, but I just thought it was too long.

Like Cast Away, 127 Hours rests solely on the shoulders of its main character. James Franco’s acting is superb. His facial acting carries this film a long way. I could see his first Oscar nomination for sure. Danny Boyle’s direction is top-notch, and what you would expect from him. Rahman’s music helped set the pace and the mood. The script could see a nod for adapted screenplay. It could easily see a Best Picture nomination. It was one of the best movies I have seen all year. I have seen about 40 movies that have come out in theaters this year. Not all in theaters, though. I would have to say 127 Hours would make my top five. No secret that Inception and The Town are my two favorites. I would also include Toy Story 3 and The Social Network with 127 Hours to round it out.

Verdict: If you are not squeamish, because “the scene” is very graphic, and can handle the shaky cam approach, you should definitely see this movie. I have read that over a dozen people have passed out while watching. I did not pass out, or even come close. But, I could see why some people would. It was, however, a great way to spend 90 minutes. Along the way, look for quick appearances by Treat Williams, Lizzy Caplan, and Clémence Poésy.

15 November 2010

The Social Network


Adam "Likes This" Movie


I was late to the party on this movie. I have been attending so many screenings, that I haven’t paid to see a movie since Takers. But, the wife wanted to go, and we had some Groupons that had to be used. We both wanted to see The Social Network. So, it seemed like a perfect fit; as did the movie. David Fincher, one of the best directors working. Aaron Sorkin, one of the best writers. And a cast of young up and coming actors including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Rooney Mara to help bring it all together. I thought it pertinent to mention Rooney Mara since she is in Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The Social Network had high expectations for the studio. They thought it was going to make serious cash. I thought it would easily pass $100 million, but I did not think that it would break $200 million like some estimates. I just didn’t think that the people who used Facebook could get off of it long enough to go watch a movie about its creation. Yet, with a modest budget, it turned a profit easily; even if it isn’t as big as some had hoped.

The Social Network opens with a conversation between Mark Zuckerberg, brilliantly played by Eisenberg, having a heart to heart awkward conversation with his girlfriend Erica, played by Mara. Erica breaks up with Mark, and he goes back to his apartment/dorm on the Harvard campus and, in a drunken state, creates Facemash with the help of his later business partner, Eduardo Saverin , played by Garfield. It compares the women on the Harvard campus against each other based on hotness. After a run in with the campus board for invasion of privacy, he meets the Winklevoos twins who have an idea for a website called Harvard Connection. The idea is basically Facebook, but exclusive to Harvard.

We were then introduced to the fact that Zuckerberg was being sued by the Winklevoos’, or Winklevi as Zuckerberg refers to them, and his friend Garfield, simultaneously. In a series of flashbacks and depositions, the story of the creation and explosion of Facebook was told. It felt fresh. I am not usually a fan of the flashback, but what made this work was the fact that they did not feel like flashbacks. I give the credit there to Aaron Sorkin’s amazing screenplay and Fincher’s superb direction. The rest of the movie follows the creation and turmoil of Facebook. Justin Timberlake appears as Sean Parker, the creator of Napster. I had no idea that he had anything to do with Facebook.

Watching The Social Network reminded me of my college days. I remember when all this went down. Of course, at the time, we did not know about the controversy in its creation. I forgot that it was originally called, TheFacebook. I remember when Purdue was added, and it went through our campus like wildfire. I remember that my wife had to wait for her school, Butler University, to be added. Go Big Ten!

In the end, the movie was a very fast paced, well acted, two hours. I loved this movie. I would put it third best movie of the year. I would love to see Fincher get nominated for direction and Sorkin for writing. I would just like to see them both lose to Christopher Nolan. It would be great to see Jesse Eisenberg pick up a nomination for his acting. Without him, this movie could have failed. He really carried it well. Verdict: If it is still in theaters by you, see it. Stop playing Mafia Wars and Farmville. Stop “like this” clicking. Go out and see this movie.

12 November 2010

Unstoppable



LIARS!!

If it is called Unstoppable, I expect a tremendous crash. Okay, I had to get that out of my system. When it comes to either of the Scott brothers, you have to take into account many variables. Which one? Ridley? Tony? Then, you have to look at who they have in it. Denzel? Crowe? Look into the track record with that combination. Finally, you have to look at the running time. 90? 120? 150? Are you making a flow chart? You should be. This is Tony with Denzel in their fifth movie together at 96 minutes. I love the 90 minute zone. By the time you realize that the movie is bad, it’s over.

During the opening credits, I noticed a lot of familiar names. Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Dunn, Kevin Corrigan and T.J. Miller. After the opening credits, the tension and action start, and it doesn’t let up. After a series of human errors, train 7-7-7 gets away and begins its journey.

The characters are simple. Old, soon to retire, experienced, hardened veteran engineer. New, school taught, rookie conductor. Smart government guy that is hated, but right. Mean, stupid, worried about money corporate guy. Smarter than corporate boss manager. There is nothing new in this film. But, unlike many of Tony Scott’s more recent movies, this was paced great, and a real joy to watch.

Unstoppable was a great popcorn-flick with plenty of action, but low on brains. I couldn’t stand how stupid people were portrayed. They talk about how explosive the phenol is in the cars, and the casualties it would cause. So, everyone comes right up to the track to take videos and pictures. Why wouldn’t a Hazmat crew keep them at a safe distance? Why wouldn’t people want to be at a safe distance? At one point, the plan is to derail the train. Everyone is waiting on the side to watch the derailment. Ridiculous. The plot holes are large enough to drive the runaway train through. Maybe that was the point? One thing that did get annoying was all the news reporter voiceovers. They narrated the story way too much.

So, the one thing I had a beef with was the budget. I have read that it could be as high as $100 million dollars. That is nuts. When was the last time Denzel had a movie make more than that? American Gangster (2007). Before that? Remember the Titans (2000). Before that? The Pelican Brief (1993). He is just not as big of a draw as people think he is. How about Tony Scott? His only movies to break the nine figure mark are Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, and Enemy of the State. I just don’t understand Hollywood. There was no reason for this movie to cost that much. Most of it is spent in a railway control room with Rosario and the engine 1206 with Denzel and Chris Pine. The exterior shots were just a train shooting by. If Hollywood has this much money to blow on a movie, I have a script I would love for them to read.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was a nonstop action adventure. I have to admit, I dug a little into the actual story that this was based on. It was far less dramatic. But, that is Hollywood. Verdict: See this over the atrocity that is Skyline. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, pardon the pun.

Real Story

Skyline



Great Movie, or Greatest Movie Ever?

As sure as I sit here writing this, this was a direct quote from a guy in front of me as I walked out of the theater after viewing Skyline. I looked at my friend that had the displeasure of accompanying me to this atrocity. We both tried not to laugh.

Skyline was the worst movie I have ever seen in theaters. And that is saying a lot. I would rather sit and watch Sy-Fy Network movies than sit through this dribble again. There is nothing redeeming about this movie. The least glib thing would be the special effects achieved for such a low budget. The budget is estimated below $20 million. Some sources say even as low as $10 million. I can tell you right now, none of that budget was spent on actors, writers or directors. The only full length movie The Brothers Strause had directed before this was Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. On a plus, they directed a Nickelback music video.

Skyline had a feel like it was conceived over heavy pot smoking. It was all disjointed, and it kept ripping off of one movie, then another, then another, then yet another. The tone was another conundrum. The actors and directors took it very seriously. But the audience, well, we laughed at it. I almost cried I was laughing so hard at the crown laughing. The lines of dialog were bad, but delivered even worse. This made matter worse.

Skyline started off ripping off Independence Day, my personal favorite alien invasion movie. Then it moved to Cloverfield. After that, it was off to The Matrix. It ended with a Matrix-meets-Transformers finale.

I cannot devote more time to this waste of time. I had free tickets to the St. Louis screening last night at 11:00 pm. I should have just gone home and went to bed. Verdict: Terrible. According to IMDB, there are two sequels planned. Let’s do our part to stop that. Do not watch this movie. It has such a low budget, that it could easily make a strong profit. So, I did not pay to see this, neither should you.

02 November 2010

Due Date



Like an Ultrasound, We Already Knew
Due Date has expectations that cannot be met.  I try to keep my expectations in check, but sometimes it is just plain too hard to accomplish.  I went into this movie expecting it to surpass The Hangover.  The trailer was hilarious.  The director, writer, producer and one “star” from The Hangover are involved.  They added Robert Downey, Jr. who is box office gold right now.  There was just too much going for this.  It might have survived better if all the funny parts were not in the trailer.  There was only one gut-busting scene not in the trailer, and, boy, was it hilarious.  I almost cried.  I won’t give it away.

The trailer also gave away a few of the cameos that would have been better to not know about.  I just really hated the fact that the trailers ruined most of what would have been hilarious.  Anyway, the movie itself…

Don’t get me wrong.  Due Date is hilarious, just not as hilarious as it should have and could have been.  It opens with a monologue that seems odd, but it works.  Robert Downey plays Peter Highman, no joke - that is the character name, who is simply trying to get home to Los Angeles to be with his wife, Michelle Monaghan, when she gives birth to their first child.  He runs across Zach Galifianakis’s Ethan Tremblay.  He is going to Hollywood to be an actor.  Ethan really is no different than Galifianakis’s Alan from The Hangover which is too bad.  I am afraid that he is going to not only get typecast, but also that he is going to get over exposed.

After our two protagonists cross paths, they are forever intertwined.  Peter is put on the “No-Fly” list, and is forced to travel with the bane of his existence, Ethan from Atlanta to Los Angeles.  Along the road trip, both characters are expertly rounded out.  I love good character development, and Due Date was full of it.  With only two main characters, the writers were able to really make those characters come to life.  Both actors excelled in their roles.  As they make their trek across the south, obstacles threaten to keep Peter from the birth of his child.  These obstacles are people, situations, environmental and anything else you can think of.  I don’t want to rehash the trailer, you can watch it above.

I did enjoy Due Date, but is pales in comparison to The Godfather of road-trip films, Planes, Trains & Automobiles.    There are times in Due Date that scream Planes, Trains & Automobiles that it actually detracts from the viewing experience.  I was also hoping for it to go beyond The Hangover, but it did not.  My thoughts keep coming back to the fact that the trailer was too good, and too exposing.  But, that one scene not in the trailer still puts a smile on my face when I think about it.  It is funny and entertaining, just not groundbreaking or good.

RATING: 4/10

20 October 2010

Hereafter

Thought My Life was Going to Meet the Hereafter Before this Ended


I look forward to every Clint Eastwood movie. Whether he is directing or acting, or even better, both in the same movie, I look forward to his films. I have missed a few over the past few years, but I try to see them all in theaters. I love the way he directs and crafts his films. He has a very old school look and approach to his films. When I first saw this trailer to Hereafter, I was excited. Clint was going supernatural. Matt Damon is a solid actor. I have not seen Invictus, but, Matt was nominated for his role in it. So, the two of them working together again seemed like a good idea. The running time of just over two hours didn’t scare me. Most of Eastwood’s movies clear the 120 minute mark. Peter Morgan, writer of Academy Award winning films The Queen, Frost/Nixon, and The Last King of Scotland, wrote this, adding another perk.

Hereafter opens with an incredible scene of a tsunami wave crashing through a small coastal town. One of the main characters, Marie LaLay, a French investigative reporter, is killed by the wave, but is revived. She is played by Cecile De France, from one of my all-time favorite horror movies High Tension. Marie gets a glimpse of the afterlife before she is saved. This vision consumes her throughout the film. This scene of destruction was amazingly filmed. The sound, the movement, the visuals, all gelled together to give a final product of greatness.

From there, the movie goes straight into the crapper. We are next introduced to Marcus and Jason, twin brothers played by real life twins Frankie and George McLaren. They live in England with their junky of a mother. One is tragically killed. The survivor is left in the hands of child services. He goes on a search to find out what happens after death and to see if he can communicate with his deceased twin. There is one other scene that is a stroke of genius in a subway station.

Finally, we meet Matt Damon’s character of George Lonegan. He is a real-life psychic. He can communicate with the dead through physical touch. His brother, Jay Mohr, tries to get him to re-open as a psychic for money.

Now that we know all three of players, nothing happens for another hour. We see Marie lose her career and boyfriend. We see young Marcus fail at communicating with Jason. George loses his job and fails in love. Then, for a forced reason, they all wind up in London at a book fair where they finally cross paths and end this tragically long film. As we reached this apex, it felt like a bad M. Night Shyamalan film.

In the finale, I felt that I should feel happy for the trio, and should have had some emotional connection to them, and cried. People around me did. All I felt was elation that this was coming to an end. Or was it? It didn’t really end. It was just kind of over. The ending was rushed, but it took too long to get there. When it was over, I checked my watch to make sure it was still Monday. I was afraid that I lost a day or two in there. Along the way, look for appearances by Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Kind and Sopranos’ own Steve Schirripa. Verdict: Boring, dry and unfulfilling, I do not recommend this movie. I just hope Eastwood’s Hoover biopic is better.

10 October 2010

RED


Red Does NOT Mean Stop!

Well, if Bruce Willis blowing stuff up with Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich wasn’t enough for you, they threw in Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine, Brian Cox and up-and-coming Karl Urban. Whew! That is a lot of people. It is second only to The Expendables.

R.E.D. was everything that The Expendables wanted to be; a bunch of over the hill people going out one last time. The story in this movie was vastly superior to that in The Expendables. The action scenes were about the same, but knowing that there were no strings or computer graphics does give The Expendables the advantage there. I think this is a better movie than The Expendables, which might sound sacrilegious, but it is true.

R.E.D. is simply the story of Frank Moses, played by Willis, who is a recent retiree from the C.I.A. He is marked Retired Extremely Dangerous, aka R.E.D., by the powers that be. Karl Urban’s William Cooper is sent on a mission to kill Moses. He asks no questions. We find later is basically Moses’ replacement.

Moses strikes up a phone relationship with Sarah Ross, played by Weeds’ Mary-Louise Parker, who works for Social Security. After a hit squad attacks his home, Moses goes to get Ross before she is killed. After that, we meet Freeman’s Joe Matheson in his retirement home. Next up is Marvin Boggs, played by John Malkovich, living in his below ground bomb shelter. His character was the best. Every scene he is in, he stole. Lastly, we meet Helen Mirren as Victoria in her stately home.

The crew go on a mission of their own to discover who has marked Moses RED, and why.
Along the way, Ernest Borgnine plays the elderly man who guards the archives. Richard Dreyfus is part of the conspiracy. Nip/Tuck’s Julian McMahon plays a Presidential candidate. And Brian Cox plays an old Russian from the Cold War who has history with the crew. All the acting was spot-on. A friend of mine thought that Brian Cox’s Russian accent didn’t suit him, but it didn’t bother me. The director’s inexperience did not show. His only real credentials are the pilot episode for Lie to Me, Flightplan, and The Time Traveler’s Wife. It’s not that impressive, but this was. His next movie is R.I.P.D., Another comic/graphic novel adaptation. The writers were the same that brought the graphic novel Whiteout to the screen. I didn’t see that, but judging by its box office take, neither did anyone else.

In the end, I loved the movie very much and found it very entertaining. I highly recommend this movie to any action movie junky like me. The story was solid, the acting superb and the action was explosive.

RATING: 8/10

20 September 2010

DEVIL

The Devil May Be Bad, but the Movie is Good

I have to admit, when I first heard of a movie based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan , I had a laugh. He has not been worth anything since Signs. He seems to be more of a punch line now more than anything. Yet, the concept seemed intriguing. I took a screenwriting class where one of our assignments was to write a scene in which three or more characters are stuck in an elevator. They all had to have a unique voice. So, when I saw this movie, at first, it looked like someone stole my idea. As it happens, my friend and co-writer that I met in said-class, called to see if I wanted to go see Devil. He had free tickets, so I figured, why not. It’s only 80 minutes. How bad can it be?

Devil opens with a voice over about how the devil likes to take human form and torture his victims in life before claiming them for eternal damnation. Later, the security guard refers to this as “the Devil’s meeting.” He narrates the story, telling of how it starts with a suicide, which happens. This allows the devil to take human form. Throughout the movie, the narrator gives insight as to what will happen next. The security guard I mentioned above does the narrating.

So, five strangers get into an elevator, which just so happens to be an express elevator, and head up. They are an older woman, a male security guard, a mattress salesman, a rich woman and a shady looking guy. I have to admit, the dialog was entertaining. Each character had their own feel and motivation.

When the elevator stops, two security guards notice and ask the maintenance guy to look into it. In classic horror movie fashion, the cameras work, but the two-way speaker only works one way. The security desk can talk to the elevator, but not vice versa. The narration warns that people that try to get in the way of the devil’s plan wind up paying for it. The maintenance guy finds this out. Meanwhile, the lights flicker, and go out. When they come one, one of the passengers meets their demise. This was a stroke of genius. It allows there to be violence, but not seen keeps it PG-13. Also, the pitch black with noise all around helps keep things eerie.

A detective looking into the jumper from the beginning answers the call of the stuck elevator after the first death. Of course, he has a backstory. While he tries to get to the trapped passengers, other dies. All things come full circle. The voice over, the detective’s backstory, and everything going on in the elevator cab get nicely wrapped up. I just wish that they would have pulled the final twist and tied in the jumper from the beginning.

Verdict: I am afraid people are not going to see Devil because of M. Night’s involvement. That is too bad. This was a very entertaining popcorn flick. I recommend this. I just hope people, and you, can look past M. Night. He really has nothing to do with this film.

16 September 2010

The Town



I was a big fan of Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. I though the story was compelling, and made you think. I thought the acting was overlooked by the Academy. But surprisingly, I thought the directing was phenomenal. Yes, Ben Affleck was Daredevil. Yes, he was in Paycheck. And yes, he is an Oscar winner. Ever since he married Jennifer Garner, he has been on a rampage to reinvent his career. He turned in an absolutely amazing performance in Hollywoodland, but was panned by the Academy. He was great in State of Play, but the entire film was not on the radar of award season. This could be Ben’s first nomination since his win in 1998.

After I first saw the trailer to this film, I was determined to see it. So, when I got the chance to see the St. Louis screening on Monday, I jumped out of my chair, printed my tickets and texted my friend to see if he was interested. Of course, he was.

The Town is based on an award winning novel by Chuck Hogan, Prince of Thieves. I am in the middle of it, but have not finished it, yet. The cast is full of great actors in great roles, and Blake Lively. Jon Hamm, Golden Globe winner for Mad Men, plays FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley who is given the task of tracking down a group of bank robbers. Jeremy Renner, Academy Award nominee for The Hurt Locker, plays Ben Affleck’s best friend and group co-leader Jem. Chris Cooper, Academy Award winner for Adaptation, plays Ben’s father. So, with this cast, an award winning novel, and a great director, this movie was just too good to be true.

Well, The Town was awesome. It is the second best movie I have seen all year, with Inception being the only one better. I was a bit worried when the first action scene came on screen. It was great. The action was great. The shootouts were great. It shows that Ben Affleck knows and loves Boston. All the acting was great. I will even say that Blake Lively was tolerable. The music was a bit hit or miss. The script was great.

The Town follows a group of friends who live in Charlestown in Boston, or more fondly referred to as The Town. This group of friends robs banks and armored cars. It opens with a robbery on a bank. While there, the silent alarm is tripped. This causes the crew to take a hostage, Claire Keesey. This marks the group’s first kidnapping. They let her go free, but they are afraid that she might have seen something that could give them away. The FBI is trying to solve the robbery, and they hope she can be of use. Doug falls in love with her. In the meantime, a mysterious florist, played by another Oscar nominee, gives them the goods on a final score. So, with the FBI close on their tail, the group goes for one more take.

When the movie was over, I was disappointed. I wanted it to go on. I wanted to see more. As I said above, I loved this movie. Jeremy Renner was amazing. Jon Hamm was great. The acting was so good. There were great actors in small roles. Chris Cooper was only in one scene, but he owned it. The dialog was compelling. I loved the scene between Affleck and Renner, when Affleck explains that he needs Renner’s help, but he cannot ask any questions, now or ever. But, they are going to hurt people. He asks him if he is okay with that. Renner’s response: “Who’s car we takin’?” Excellent. Verdict: See this movie. It is just over 2 hours, and I loved every minute of it. I highly recommend The Town. Let’s see if the award season with miss this one like they did Gone Baby Gone.

13 August 2010

The Expendables


I am paying for it right now, but, it was worth it. I went to the midnight show last of The Expendables. Surprisingly, it was not that full. The theater I was at had a midnight showing of all three wide releases. I have been stalking and waiting for this movie since the day I heard about it. I was all over the bootleg trailer when it hit the internet. I watched the official trailer more than anyone should. My excitement and anticipation was so high, the wife warned me that I was setting myself up for disappointment.


Well, I am happy to say, I was not let down. I loved Stallone’s latest film. Before I go much further, make no mistake, this is not a great movie. It will not be nominated for any Oscars or Golden Globes. But, it was everything I thought it could be, would be, but a little shy of what it should be.


The thought of Stallone, Statham, Li, Crews, Rourke, Lundgren, Austin, Roberts, Daniels, Schwarzenegger and Willis in the same movie is enough to make any man get giddy. I sat down and counted the total movies that I have seen with each of them, because I use my time wisely. The answer: 165, not counting this film.


Stallone wrote the screenplay. Stallone sat in the director’s chair. Stallone wrote and directed Rocky Balboa and Rambo. So, going in, there was some level of expectation. This is where the film falters. I found a bunch of the dialog a bit corny and forced. Unusual to Sly’s normal scripts, the characters were a bit under developed. Even in Rambo, the mercenaries were a bit more developed. Stallone tries to round out the characters, but the scenes just seem to serve as filler until the next action sequence. I also think that the film could have benefited from someone else directing. Stallone might have been a little too close to the project.


The plot is nothing spectacular, but that was to be expected. The Expendables centers on a group of mercenaries, called The Expendables, and their “missions.” After an opening mission worthy of a Bond film, they return to get their next job. Stallone meets with Willis and Schwarzenegger to discuss a possible job on the fictitious island of Vilena. If you Google the name, you get an interesting result. Anyway, Stallone and his team, Statham, Li, Couture and Crews take it.


The mission is simple. Kill the dictator of this island. The problem is he has backing from a rogue CIA agent, Roberts. Roberts has his own team, Austin and Daniels, along with an entire army under the dictator. Where does Lundgren fit in? He is an ex-Expendable. And Rourke? Ex-Expendables, too.


Well, this wonderfully simple plot leads to an epic battle that has plenty of blood, kicks, punches, explosions, gunshots, and everything else you can think of, to get your fill for the rest of the year. Some of it was so ridiculous; you couldn’t help but yell, “OOOOOOOOOH!” I read every article, every interview, and watched Stallone on every talk show. I knew what to expect, and I was still in awe. They actors used no wires for their fight scenes. Stallone talked about breaking his neck in the fight with Austin. He talks about how the stuntmen did not want to go another round with Couture. Stallone wanted it all to be “real,“ and it looked good. There are two scenes that utilize CGI, and they stick out. The opening boat scene and the palace at the end both look bad compared to the rest.


At only 103 minutes, I was sad to see The Expendables end. I could have watched it again, even though it was 2 am. Yes, it was ridiculous. Yes, the plot was thin. Yes, the acting was either over the top, or just plain bad. But, that is what I was expecting. The real drawback to me is this: The Expendables seemed like an eighties action movie made in the eighties. It does not have the updated quality that Rambo had. Rambo seemed to be an updated version o f an eighties film. Verdict: Probably my guiltiest pleasure in a very long time. Probably my guiltiest pleasure to be had for a very long time. If you like the kinds of movies that the actors are in, then this is a no-brainer must-see. Just do me a favor, if you are a male, see this while your better half sees Eat Pray Love, unless she hates it like my wife. See the trailer below:




And because I found it, and I couldn't help it:
Expendables Count
Via: Term Life Insurance

07 July 2010

End of June, Now July

Well, I missed Karate Kid and The A-Team this past month. Really, for no reason. I had a busy month, but no reason that I shouldn't have found time to see them. I did, however, go see Jonah Hex, and you can tell from my review, it was terrible. Toy Story 3 leads for best movie of the year, so far. I have already seen Despicable Me and Knight and Day this month, but that is only the start. For the rest of the month, I plan to see Predators, Inception, Salt and possibly The Sorcerer's Apprentice. I will be seeing The Girl Who Played with Fire with the book club members. Also on the Indie circuit, I hope to see Winter's Bone and Cyrus. Again, check back and see what I find time to watch.

As a side note, I am pondering adding movies that I catch on DVD. Thoughts?

Despicable Me

Knight & Day

21 June 2010

Jonah Hex



JONAH HEXED


When I first heard about this movie, I was excited. I love westerns. John Malkovich is a great villain. Megan Fox is hot. Josh Brolin is a solid actor. It is a comic book adaptation.

Well, it failed….epically. Jonah Hex might be one of the worst movies I have had the displeasure to have sat through in theaters, ever. Nothing worked. I should have been warned. I did not dig into this movie as I do normally. I would have found out a few things that could have sent up red flags. Would they have stopped me from seeing it? No. But, they would have at least lowered my expectations. Will Arnett is in this as a soldier, and the role is serious. The writers were the same guys that brought us Crank, Crank 2: High Voltage, and Gamer. I love Crank, refused to sit through the sequel, and was let down heavily by Gamer. I feel that they were a one trick-pony. Now, I hear that they are working on the Ghost Rider sequel. It sounded like they tried to write jokes every five or ten lines, and they went over like a lead balloon. And the last red flag, it was only listed at 80 minutes.

As I mentioned above, nothing worked. The story was hard to follow. It just jumped from scene to scene. I am still not sure why Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich) hates Jonah Hex (Brolin). There was something to do with Hex causing the death of his son, Jeb. Jeb was played by an uncredited Jeffery Dean Morgan marking his third comic book adaptation, all of which bombed at the box office. Then there is the character of Lila. Megan Fox looked so out of place in this movie it hurt. As a whore in the old west, I would never picture Megan Fox. Never. Will Arnett was a caricature of a soldier. I am not sure what his point was. He was a good guy that didn’t believe in hiring the bad guy, Hex, to hunt down the other bad guy Turnbull. Why? Who cares? I could write and entire 5 pages on why the story was bad and did not work, but why bother?

I love musical scores. I have not heard one as misplaced since the unfortunate Public Enemies score last summer. The duo of Marco Beltrami and John Powell gave us the old twang of guitars meets Godsmack. And it was down harshly and rough. Twang-twang-twang-BUMP-BUMP-BANG-BANG-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP! Awful.

And finally, what caused the biggest problem? The bad story and screenplay is one thing. The actors can only work with what they have. The music was terrible. But, this was supposed to be a western based on a comic book. I would have thought there would have been some awesome action. I was wrong. The director did not know what he was doing, and it showed. This was his first live action movie to direct, and only his second movie to direct. Before this, he did Horton Hears a Who and worked as an animator at Pixar. Who would have thought he could do this? Apparently, Warner Bros.

Verdict: I cannot stress this enough, do not waste your time. It was awful. If you don’t believe me, it was at a 12% on Rottentomatoes, and it opened with just over $5 million. The one thing I liked, Tom Wopat! Go Luke Duke!

04 June 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo



Well, this was my first outing to a movie with our book club. Last month, we read the novel by Stieg Larsson. It was amazing to say the least. The local art house theater still had the movie playing, so we set a date to go see it. As I usually do, I dug into the movie and its key players. Being a foreign film, I did not know anything that any of them had done. I did, however, learn that the film is the highest grossing Swedish film of all time. I am no stranger to foreign films, and I have no problem with subtitles. Some of the people in the book club were worried about it, but they all seemed to be fine with it in the end.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the more neutral translation. The book is actually titled, Men Who Hate Women. After reading the book and watching the movie, the original title fits perfectly. The movie follows the basic outline of the story very faithfully. The problem with a movie of a 590 page book is, they have to leave things out and change things enough to meet budget and time restraints. The basic story and plot are still intact.

The story focuses on Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced investigative journalist, and Lisbeth Salander, a computer hacker with autism. The movie doesn’t focus as much on her autism or Aspergers syndrome, yet the book does. It does focus on the relationship between her and her guardian, Nils Bjurman. That is a dark storyline.’

The story opens with Blomkvist being found guilty of libel, and having to leave his post at his newspaper, Millenium. Blomkvist is then hired by the elderly Henrik Vanger to look into the disappearance and murder of his granddaughter Harriet. The catch, she went missing 40 years ago, and the suspects are all part of the Vanger family. They all live on an island with one way on, and it is the same island where Harriet went missing. As the mystery unfolds, Blomkvist hires Salander to help in solving the crime. I do not want to give anything away, so I will leave it at that.

Being a foreign film, it is hard for me to rate the acting. I thought the casting was a bit odd. Noomi Rapace was an excellent choice for Libeth Salander. Bjurman was well cast. I would have chosen someone a little frailer for Henrik. The ladies from the book club thought that Blomkvist should have had more sex appeal. Anyway, the direction was solid. The score was neither good nor bad. The tension was palpable. I love it when all of the elements come together to make you feel uncomfortable.

As for the differences from the novel to the film, the only one I did not care for was the fact that the last 120-175 pages was condensed to about 10 minutes of screen. That part was very interesting and entertaining to me. They cut out a lot of the storyline of the magazine, the Vanger Group, and what really happened with Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Some of these elements bother me because the book is the first in a trilogy, but a planned ten book series until the untimely death of the author. I have only read the first book, but I cannot see how they are going to ignore these storylines in the future films. All three books have been filmed in Sweden. David Fincher has signed on to direct an American remake of all three films. The casting rumors are fun to read, but I do not understand the need for this remake.

In the end, I have to say, read the book. It is amazing. The movie is good. It did seem to have some overlap with the future books, which bothered me a little since I have not read them. But, oh well. I did enjoy it. As a warning, it is 148 minutes long. I kind of lied to the wife about that so she would accompany me. Oops!

01 June 2010

The Rest of May and the Start of June

Nothing else this month interested me enough to go see it in theaters. I will rent Robin Hood and Shrek Forever After, but the rest I will likely pass on. June does bring a few more interesting movies. I will definitely be seeing Toy Story 3, The A-Team and The Karate Kid. I might see Knight & Day, Killers and possibly Jonah Hex. You’ll just have to check back to see.

06 May 2010

IRON MAN 2



This is Why I Love the Summer!

This movie is number two on my anticipated movies of the year list, behind only The Expendables. I was psyched to see this movie. I went to the midnight show at the local IMAX theater and sat with all the comic book dorks. I don’t judge, I was there, too.

We are first introduced to Mickey Rourke’s sinister character Ivan Vanko while he is in Russia watching the news cast that ended the first film. We learn that his father worked with Stark’s father, but there was some bad blood. Vanko is then seen making a weapon similar to what powers Iron Man.

Next, we see Tony Stark, played by returning cast member Robert Downey, Jr., at a Congressional hearing where they want him to turn over the Iron Man suit for military use. The leader of the hearing is Senator Stern, played by Gary Shandling. He calls on rival arms manufacturer Justin Hammer, played by new cast member Sam Rockwell, to back him. After Stark makes him look like a fool, Rhodey is called in by the Senator. As the only new cast member in an established role, Don Cheadle only made me think one thing. Terrence who? Again, Stark works his mojo and the hearing is over. Hammer is not happy, and again, we can see that there is some bad blood there, too.
We are then moved to see Iron Man’s arrival at the Stark Expo. Apparently, these used to be more prevalent in the years of Howard Stark. It is a science expo where people work to create scientific discoveries to benefit world peace and the like. During an old video by Howard, we see that Tony is sick. It is from his power source that is keeping him alive. Ironic.

As the movie moves forward, there are plenty of action scenes. Vanko is arrested for attempting to kill Tony. Hammer intercepts him, and employs him. Rhodey and Stark fight verbally and physically. This leads to the creation of War Machine, and Iron Man suit armored by everything Hammer has. Also along the way, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury makes an appearance. This was the only stupid part of the film to me.

I don’t like how Marvel is going back and trying to map out a plan to reach an Avengers film after the fact. If Marvel would have mapped it out and planned it ahead of time, I think things would have flowed better. This whole story line was kind of stupid. We find out that Scarlett Johansson’s character works for S.H.I.E.L.D. and she is there to protect him. They mysteriously have the solution to the problem of Stark’s life force, but he has to figure it out for himself. This lead to the only part of the film I threw out as outrageously ridiculous. This forced Favreau and his crew to bend to what was needed to reach this future film. It also makes Iron Man 2 not stand alone as well as it should. I do appreciate how they did not make it an open ended film that requires a sequel. That seems to be the fad as of late, i.e. Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers.

Howard Stark hypothesized this power source presumably decades ago, but was unable to create it. But, thankfully, Tony is not only smart enough, but rich enough to perform the experiment in his house.

In the end, Vanko becomes a super villain, and by joining forces with War Machine, Iron Man saves the day. Other story lines are explored with Pepper Potts, played once again by Gwyneth Paltrow. Jon Favreau has his cameo as the servant to Stark, but it is a larger role this time. The chemistry was there again between all the actors. The script was great. The dialogue was witty and quick. Favreau showed once again that he is not afraid to have fun with his explosions and action scenes. In an interview about Iron Man 3, Favreau stated that he has nothing planned because he is waiting to see what happens to Stark and Iron Man in The Avengers.

Let me go there again real quick. I just hope that Marvel know what they are doing. Thor may not translate well to film. Look at Hulk and then The Incredible Hulk. Bruce Banner’s alter ego just doesn’t seem to make a good transition to the big screen. Captain America should be a lot easier sell, though some of the casting has me worried. Chris Evans has already been Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm and The Losers’ Jensen. Do you really think it is wise to give him another comic character? He might be too much of a smartass to be Cap.

Anyway, as I do too often with comic book movies, I have written more than needed. Iron Man 2 was awesome. It was not quite as awesome as I was hoping for, but it was far better than The Losers. Verdict: A must-see of fans of the original, and everyone else. IMAX? Not needed.

28 April 2010

Date Night



The Perfect Date Night Movie

Date Night has Tina Fey, her biggest starring role was the tepid Baby Mama, with Steve Carell, his biggest starring role was Get Smart (basically an untested leading man) in a movie directed by Shawn Levy, director of Night at the Museums and Cheaper by the Dozen, in a moderate budget comedy. Seems like a “can’t miss.” Both leading roles come from hit comedy series. It boasts a cameo cast of Mark Wahlberg, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, Ray Liota, James Franco, and Mila Kunis. It seems way too good to be true. Happily, it wasn’t.

The wife and I went out to see this on a Friday night, we had free passes, it wasn’t like we hit the lottery and decided to forgo the cheap early shows. From the start, we both found it funny. As it went on, the laughs did not let up.

Date Night was a nice mix of North by Northwest and Adventures in Babysitting. I know, it sounds weird, but once you see it, you’ll understand. The Fosters lead a normal, safe, mundane life in the suburbs of Manhattan. They decide to go into the city for a nice dinner to add some spice back into their marriage. When they can’t get a table, they steal the reservation from the Tripplehorns. This innocent act starts an avalanche of hilarity and adventures. It becomes more than they bargained for when they get in the middle of a blackmail scheme gone wrong.

While watching this movie, I had the same thought I have had many times. How can they keep a straight face while doing all this crazy stuff? I could not imagine trying to keep a straight face looking at Tina Fey say, “I need to go home and fart in a shoebox.” I just laughed to myself typing that line.

After we left the movie, satisfied, and impressed, we went out to dinner, where we had a gift card. We managed our “date night” on a paltry $29.00 with tip. Verdict: This is a Must see for fans of Carell and Fey, but you already saw it if you are. If you aren’t, but enjoy a good adventure, this was well worth the watch.