01 December 2012

Gone


Summit Entertainment perplexes me.  I do not understand them as a production studio.  They are all over the board.  On one hand, they made The Hurt Locker.  On the other hand, they are behind the Twilight Saga.  Somewhere in between, they have Man on a Ledge and Gone.  I don’t get it.  I spent some time with the Redbox over Turkey Day weekend, and because Amanda Seyfried is gorgeous (I think it is her eyes), and the wife wanted to see it, we rented Gone.

Gone opens with Jill (Seyfried) walking through a park searching for something, but not finding it.  She then goes home, to where her sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) is studying for some important exam.  Jill then heads to work where she is a third shift waitress at a diner.  When she gets home from work, Molly is gone.  Jill immediately freaks out, runs around the house frantically, and then calls the police.

Officer Powers (Daniel Sunjata) and his partner, who looks like she doesn’t own a comb, brush or mirror, Lonsdale (Katherine Moening) talk with Jill.  This is where we get the beef of the backstory.  Jill was abducted and escaped.  No one believed that she was taken because they could not find the hole in the ground that she claimed to be thrown into.  So, she was committed to a psych ward.  Jill believes that the same guy has returned to get her, the one that got away.  Of course, no one believes her, except maybe creepy new Officer Hood (Wes Bentley).

So, without the help of the police, Jill sets out to find her sister and the guy that took her, and her.  This is where the movie starts to lose me.  Nothing goes wrong in her investigation.  Every lead she tracks down leads to the next clue.  No red herrings.  No dead ends.  Just clue after clue.  Not even Liam Neeson was that good in Taken.  The story was all too neat and tidy.  There were parts where it seemed that something had been deleted, especially the Hood character.

Gone features enough cameos to choke a donkey.  Most of the actors are from television shows: Jennifer Carpenter – Dexter, Joel David Moore – Bones, Daniel Sunjata – Rescue Me, Hunter Parrish – Weeds, Nick Searcy – Justified.  I would have assumed that it was meant for a direct-to-video release, but it got a theatrical release back in February where it bombed and ended with a gross just north of $11 million.  So, is Gone worth your  85 minutes and $1.30 (gotta hate inflation)?  I would go with “No,” but The Wife would argue me on that.

RATING: 4/10

Wreck-It-Ralph Tears It Up: In a Good Way




I am a little late to the Wreck-It-Ralph party, but better late than never.  That cliché rings true for this film.  Wreck-It-Ralph marks the fifth animated movie I have seen this year.  Of those five (The Lorax, Rise of the Guardians, Brave, Madagascar 3), Wreck-It-Ralph is my favorite, hands down.

Wreck-It-Ralph follows the titular character’s attempt to come to terms with being a video game bad guy.  Ralph (John C. Riley) lives in a landfill full of bricks from the building that he “wrecks” everyday.  He has done his duty for thirty years.  When the other characters in the game throw a 30th anniversary party for the game’s hero Felix (Jack McBrayer), they do not invite Ralph.  When he crashes, literally and figuratively, the party, one of the tenants of the building, Gene (Raymond S. Persi), informs Ralph that if he could earn a medal, then he would be welcomed by the rest of the characters.

So, Ralph sets off to try and find a way to earn a medal.  He learns of a game called Hero’s Duty, where the object is to get to the top of a structure, through the armada of alien bugs, and win the medal.  Unfortunately, it is forbidden for characters to go into other games, as it messes with the programming, not to mention leaves their game missing characters.  With Ralph gone, his game is put “Out of Order” which could lead to being unplugged, trapping all the characters in the game forever, essentially killing them.

Ralph wins his medal, but accidentally unleashes an alien bug into another game, Sugar Rush.  Now, Felix with the help of Calhoun (Jane Lynch), a military bad-ass from Hero’s Duty, must find Ralph and the alien before Ralph’s game is unplugged and/or the bug lays its eggs and takes over Sugar Rush.

In the meantime, Ralph meets Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a glitch in Sugar Rush.  All she wants to do is race, but she is forbidden to do so by King Candy (Alan Tudyk).  He fears that the user would see her glitch and assume the game is bad, potentially causing Sugar Rush to be unplugged.  Ralph decides to help Vanellope in hopes of getting his medal, which she stole, back.

This barely scratches the surface of Wreck-It-Ralph.  There is so much going on, and so many layers of goodness, that I could go on and on about the plot.  Just take my word for it, and give this a watch.  Along with all the cast already mentioned, Ed O’Neill, Adam Carolla, Mindy Kaling, Dennis Haysbert, and Horatio Sanz lend their voices to this fantastic film.  The story is so cute, and the screenplay by Phil Johnson and Jennifer Lee has the right balance of humor and drama.  There are plenty of nods to classic games such as Street Fighter, Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, Q-Bert, and even Pong, to make all ages feel represented  I cannot think of a better film to take your youngsters, or yourself, to see.  I liked Riseof the Guardians last week, but Wreck-It-Ralph is sweeter.

RATING: 9/10

19 October 2012

Here Comes the Boom




I am a fan of mixed martial arts.  There have been a few movies made recently trying to bring that sport to the big screen.  They have been unsuccessful in the box office.  Last year’s Warrior was one of the most criminally under-seen films of the year.  It barely made a blip on the box office radar, before submitting with a total of less than $14 million.  Before that, Never Back Down was hated by audiences and critics alike, but managed to make just shy of $25 million before tapping out back in 2008.  And then there was David Mamet’s fantastic but barely even released Redbelt also in 2008.  It barely saw any screen time, as seen by its paltry $2.3 million box office take.  So, maybe MMA is not meant to be shown on the silver screen.

In the other corner, there is Kevin James.  He hit the movie theaters hard with Hitch, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Grown Ups.  Some thought it was because of Will Smith and Adam Sandler that those movies made the money they did.  James proved them wrong with the atrocity that was Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  I never finished it.  Since then, Kevin James has made The Dilemma and Te Zookeeper, neither of which met expectations.  Yet, someone in Hollywood decided that Kevin James in an MMA film would work.

Here Comes the Boom is the result.  It starts with biology teacher Scott Voss (James) trying to sneak into his classroom without Principal Betcher (Greg Germann) noticing his lateness.  He fails and finds himself with bus duty, a task he does not want.  Scott goes to music teacher Marty (Henry Winkler) to cover for him.  Marty finds out that his much younger wife is pregnant, and swears Scott to secrecy.  After school that day, Principal Betcher announces that the school is facing budget cuts and that they will be cutting the music department.  This causes Scott to stand up both figuratively and literally.  He proposes that they raise the money needed to keep the music department, $48,000.

Scott’s plan is to teach citizenship classes at night, but that is just a drop in the bucket at $8.00 an hour.  After class one night, he is approached by Niko (Bas Rutten) who asks him to privately teach him because he really needs to pass the test.  One evening, Scott goes over to Niko’s, and they watch a UFC fight where the loser made $10,000.  Scott then decides to become an MMA fighter to raise the money.  How could this go wrong?  He was a great wrestler in college, and Niko was a fighter before ruining his neck while training.

Scott takes some beatings as he tries to lose his way to $48,000, and utilizes the school nurse Bella (Selma Hayek) to patch him up.  Of course, he has the hots for her, and tries to wear down her defenses.  She, of course, thinks he is doing a noble thing.  In one fight, Scott accidentally knocks out his opponent, and discovers it pays a lot more to win.  That would mean that he has to be in fewer fights to raise the money.  Niko calls on Mark DellaGrotte to train Scott in striking.  Mark is a real highly regarded MMA trainer.  By a stroke of luck, UFC announcer Joe Rogan sees Scott fight, and gets the UFC to grant him a shot to compete.  The purse is $10, 000 to lose, or $50, 000 to win.

Here Comes the Boom is not a great movie.  It is not a bad movie either.  It fights with itself on tone.  I think the story is good enough, but I think the comedy is bad.  Bas Rutten is not an actor, and his comedy comes off flat.  Kevin James is a comedian, and his dramatic attempts come off just as flat.  With a better cast and little tweaking to the story, Here Comes the Boom could be a much better film than it is.  It also struggles because for some unknown reason, it got slapped with a PG rating.  I don’t know how it got that as opposed to PG-13, but PG-13 would have given them even more room to breath.  Here Comes the Boom is mindless entertaining with a good heart, but it comes with a lot of problems.

RATING: 5/10

14 September 2012

Redbox Disaster: One in the Chamber




One in the Chamber is a direct-to-DVD release starring Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding, Jr and Dolph Lundgren.  I don’t know who I feel sorrier for.  Dolph is getting a theatrical career after decades on the direct-to-video circuit with The Expendables films.  He is finally working with another Academy Award winner, but it is sadly Cuba.  Cuba has had a painful fall from grace and lost the respect of Hollywood since winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor back in 1998 for Jerry Maguire.  Since then, he has made bad films and worse films.  He has fallen all the way to star opposite Dolph.  It is like they are passing each other on the Hollywood power scale.

One in the Chamber opens with almost three full minutes of opening credits where they beat into your head something about a Bible and a little girl with music that does not quite fit this type of film.     Once the movie gets going, we meet Ray (Gooding), a hitman hired by one mob to assassinate the leaders of another mob.  The mobsters are introduced with ridiculous freeze frames.  The characters themselves are of very little importance.  Bobby (Leo Gregory) and his brother Mikhail (Andrew Bicknell) hire Ray to take out the head of the other mob Ivan (Jimmy Townsend) and Demyan (Louis Mandylor).  Ray misses Demyan, and this causes all Hell to break loose.

Ray’s handler Leo (Billy Murray, not Bill) informs Ray that he has not been contracted by Demyan to kill Mikhail and Bobby, as Mikhail and Bobby have contracted Aleksey (Lundgren) to finish the job Ray started.  So, some cat-and-mouse antics ensue, leaving both assassins at odds with their prospective employers, and each other.  In the meantime, there is a pointless storyline about the little girl from the opening credits.  She is the daughter of one of Ray’s past assignments.  He has been keeping an eye on her to keep her out of trouble.  The only problem is, I don’t believe she is in any trouble.  This storyline is absolutely useless to the story, but it’s  a convenient way to get Ray to voluntarily come out in the open to face his own death.

In the end, One in the Chamber has little to offer in the way of anything resembling entertainment.  Dolph Lundgren does not appear in the film for over twenty-five minutes.  And when he finally appears, the dialog is cringe-worthy.  As a matter of fact, the whole film is cringe-worthy.  William Kaufman’s direction is messy.  The editing is terrible.  The music seems out of place.  And the acting is subpar, even for this level of film.  The fact that I was able to sit through this atrocity astounds me.  I am truly wishing that I would have saved that $1.30 that I spent at the Redbox on this hunk of shit B-Action “movie.”  I guess what I am trying to say is, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME.  There are other movies in the Redbox that might be worth your time, but this is not one of them.

I hate this time of year for movies.  November cannot get here fast enough.

RATING: 2/10

31 August 2012

Lawless



The review is up over at InsideStL.  Check out how it fares.

27 August 2012

Premium Rush



The Joseph Gordon Levitt film finally opens after being pushed back from tis original first quarter release date.  Find out if it was worth the wait at InsideStL.

24 August 2012

Hit & Run



See how the latest from Dax Shepard and company holds up to other chase films over at InsideStL.

The Expendables 2




Back in the late nineties and the early part of this century, Sylvester Stallone was the butt of a lot of jokes in the movie industry.  He had amassed the most Razzie awards (30), collecting them for acting, directing, writing, worst decade, and lifetime achievement to name a few.  The later Rambo and Rocky sequels contributed to a lot of that.  Ironically, Rocky Balboa and Rambo, the last in their respective franchises, revitalized  his career.  So, Stallone wrote and directed The Expendables back in 2010(for which he received his latest Razzie nomination), where he gathered together more testosterone than any other film.  He put together the Ocean’s Eleven equivalent of action heroes.  The Expendables was a box office success despite taking a critical lashing and broke $100 million domestically.  The only question was, who would be in the inevitable sequel?

The Expendables 2 quickly received the go ahead, and the search was on for actors to join the film.  To me, the two biggest problems in the original film were the direction and the choppy, uneven storytelling. Stallone was just too close and passionate about the film to direct it the way it needed to be.  The good dialog flowed into the half-hearted action became distraction.  Thankfully, in The Expendables 2, Simon West replaced Stallone behind the camera.  This seemed to kill both birds with one stone.  Unfortunately, The Expendables 2 had to create its own set of problems.

The Expendables 2 opens on the mercenary team infiltrating a bad-guy compound for an extraction.  All the originals are back (except for Mickey Rourke’s Tool): Toll Road (Randy Coture), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and team leader Barney Ross (Stallone).  As it turns out, they also save the hide of Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Trench was apparently on the same mission, but got caught in the process.  During the extraction, we get our first glimpse of new team member Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), a young ex-Army sniper.

Back in the states, the Expendables are having a drink at a bar, and we see that Christmas is engaged to Lacy (Charisma Carpenter) from the original film.  Billy asks to talk with Barney outside.  Billy informs Barney that he will be leaving the team at the end of the month. He says that the pay and team are good, but the lifestyle is just not for him.  Barney then goes back to his plane hangar, and is met by Church (Bruce Willis) from the first film.

Church tells Barney that his band of misfits are being sent to recover a package from a wrecked plane, and that once it is returned to Church, Barney is off the hook and out of debt to him.  The other catch is, Church is putting his own member, Maggie (Nan Yu), on the team.  So, the team sets out to retrieve this mysterious package from the wreckage.

Upon arriving and retrieving the package, Vilain (Jean Claude Van Damme) and his team of cronies intercepts the Expendables, and steals the package.  Another significant event happens (no spoilers here) and the Expendables are left trying to track down Vilain for vengeance and they discover that the package contains a blueprint of a mine where the Russians stored five tons of weapons-grade plutonium at the end of the Cold War.  The final showdown between the Expendables and Vilain’s crew happens at an airport.  Joining the fight for the good guys was Church, Trench, and Booker (Chuck Norris).

So, here is what is wrong this go around.  The dialog and acting are so tongue-in-cheek that it actually made me groan.  When Chuck Norris first appeared on screen, he tells a Chuck Norris fact.  It hurt.  The amount of self-awareness of the actors and their previous characters just gets old.  They reference Lone Wolf McQuade, Die Hard, Terminator, Rambo and Dolph Lundgren’s actual biography.  There is a long dialog about how Gunnar was a Fullbright scholar, a Chemical Engineer, and went to MIT.  That is really my only complaint.  In addition, Chuck Norris does no hand-to-hand combat.  That is a real shame.

West’s direction helped the movie flow well through its 103 minute running time.  He is no stranger to action.  He directed Con-Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and The Mechanic.  The story feels like a script that was written back in the late eighties and was dusted off and revamped for this exact group of actors.

The Expendables 2 did not have as big an opening as its predecessor, but it might have better legs.  There is no real big movie coming out in the near future to threaten it.  The Expendables 2 is a better made film than The Expendables.  I just hope that it makes $100 million since the rumor mill is already turning as to who will be joining the cast for The Expendables 3.  Not to mention, both Stallone and Schwarzenegger have a new action films coming out this winter, Bullet to the Head and The Last Stand respectively.  Then, they are in a film together sometime next year, The Tomb.  If The Expendables 2 does not perform well, it could spell the end of the nostalgia that got these three films greenlit.

If you are a fan of the original, then you will not be disappointed with its sequel.  It is very bloody, action-packed, and funny.  I highly recommend seeing The Expendables 2 if you have already seen The Dark Knight Rises, and The Bored Legacy.

RATING: 6.5/10

17 August 2012

The Odd Life of Timothy Green



Click over to InsideStL to see if the latest Jennifer Garner film is a beautiful flower, or a horrible weed in need of plucking.

10 August 2012

Hope Springs



Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, if they can't make marriage work, who can?  Find out if they can at InsideStL.

09 August 2012

The Bourne Reflection



I decided to once again re-watch all the movies in a franchise prior to the newest release.  This weekend will welcome the latest in the Bourne franchise that exploded on the scene back in 2002.  So, I went over to my shelf and dusted off The Bourne Trilogy on Blu-Ray that I purchased a few years ago, and never watched (I use my money wisely).  As a quick warning, the following article does have some spoilers, as if you haven’t seen the trilogy.

The Bourne Identity opened back in June 2002 to an impressive $21 million second place finish.  It went on to make over $121 million on its $60 million budget.  I remember seeing this movie in theaters back in Indianapolis after my shift at the local movie house.  What a badass film!  That is all I really remembered.  I bought the Extended Edition DVD when it came out in 2004, watched it that night, and never again.  So, when I sat down this past weekend, it had been eight years since I have seen The Bourne Identity.

The Bourne Identity opens on a fishing boat in a storm fishing a body out of the water.  The crew medic examines the nearly lifeless body, and removes the two bullets from his back and a mysterious laser pointer containing a back account number from his hip.  The mysterious man (Matt Damon) awakens with no knowledge of who he is, or what he was doing out in the middle of the ocean.

Once on land, he sleeps on a park bench and gets confronted by some police officers.  Out of nowhere, he takes them down with ease.  The next morning he makes his way to the bank and gets a safe deposit box.  He discovers his name is Jason Bourne, and he lives in Paris.  Next, he makes his way to the US Embassy with his US passport, one of the many passprts he found in his lockbox.  There, he is confronted by more officers and military personnel.  Once again, Bourne dispatches of them and eludes them with ease.  As part of his escape, he pays Marie (Franka Potente) to drive him to Paris.  She is quickly added to the ensuing manhunt as his accomplice.

Meanwhile back in the US, the government is working hard on damage control.  Apparently, there was a black ops mission to assassinate Wombosi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), an extremist.  The mission was a failure, and now Wombosi is threatening to name names within the US government about something that no one wants to be made public, unless he is given the would-be assassin.  Of course, the assassin was Bourne.  This leaves Conklin (Chris Cooper), the head of a black ops group called Treadstone, to activate all his other operatives to try and locate and contain or kill Jason Bourne.  This also makes Ward Abbott (Brian Cox) uneasy, as he has some stake in Treadstone, too, and does not want Wombosi’s information to go public.

This puts three operatives on the trail of Bourne, who is still trying to figure out who he is.  As very few pieces come together for Bourne, he is forced to confront the other operatives.  One of which is played by Clive Owen, who informs him of Treadstone, and gives Bourne enough knowledge about it to be dangerous.  Bourne sends Marie on her way for her own good, and sets out to end this with Treadstone.

As I mentioned above, it had been eight years since I last watched The Bourne Identity.  I forgot just how deep and layered the plot is.  All I really remembered was the action scenes.  Doug Liman, who had only directed Swingers and Go, put together a helluva film.  He managed to balance great character development and dialog scenes with down to Earth action.  John Powell’s score helped keep the movie moving at the appropriate pace.  It fit the action as well as the non-action scenes.  The script, written by Tony Gilroy, is based on the first of three books by Robert Ludlum about his memory challenged assassin.  I have not read the books, though I have them and have tried.  Ludlum’s writing is just plain boring to me.  I cannot read his style or Tom Clancy or John Grisham.  I don’t know why.  I love the movies based on their literary works.  I just cannot read the books.  After watching The Bourne Identity again, I might give the book another try.

The cast of this film amazed me, too.  There are just so many actors who have gone on to become household names and faces since this movie came out.  Clive Owen was in the BMW series Driver, and was in the Robert Altman Oscar contender Gosford Park, but he was not known to US audiences.  Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was great as the political extremist, and went on to be Mr. Eko in Lost.  Probably my favorite find was Walton Goggins.  He played a member of Conklin’s research team.  He is better known as Shane from The Shield and Boyd Crowder from Justified.  Julia Stiles plays Nicolette, a member of Treadstone tasked with keeping tabs on the operatives.  Her character becomes more important in the later films.  If you are a fan of foreign films, you might even recognize Franka Potente as she is Lola, from Tywer’s Run Lola Run.  On top of all of these “no-name” actors, you have Academy Award winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation), Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) and Emmy winner Brian Cox (Nuremberg).  That is a stacked cast set for success.

I like The Bourne Identity already, but after a long hiatus, I know love it. There was so much about it that I forgot, or just did not catch the last time I watched it.  At the conclusion of the film, Liman and Gilroy wrapped the movie up nicely in the chance that this was the only film they would be able to make.  Damon was no action star back in 2002, not to mention an actor capable of headlining a franchise.  It might have been a big risk in 2002, but now it would be a no-brainer.  Much of his success is due to this film.



As the ending credits rolled for The Bourne Identity, I was faced with a tough decision: Do I risk waking The Kid, who had been sleeping on me for the past hour, to change out the disc?  Or, do I let him sleep, and just watch what is on television?  I took the risk.  I paid the price.  The Kid was not happy with me moving him, and after twenty minutes, I finally got back to the Bourne franchise, and had a sleeping baby.

I did not see The Bourne Supremacy in theaters.  It opened at the end of the summer in 2004.  I just finished interning in Chicago, and was moving back to college as this film opened to a massive $52 million first place finish and was on its way to $176 million on a $75 million budget.  So, I first viewed the movie when it hit DVD.  I rushed out and bought it, watched it once in college while doing something else, and quickly forgot about most of it.  All I remembered was some car chase and Marie getting killed at the beginning.  I also remember not liking it much.  I sat down, hit play, and gave The Bourne Supremacy another chance.

The film opens two years after the events of the first film.  Pam Landy (Joan Allen) is running a CIA operation in Russia to obtain some files about corruption (are there any other kind?).  As the transfer is about to go down, the power and security goes down, a mysterious figure enters and kills both the seller and the buyer.  This leaves Landy trying to figure out what just happened to her op.  A thumbprint left at the scene matches that of Treadstone operative Jason Bourne.  She gets the necessary clearance, and obtains the files on Treadstone.  As she starts to dig into it, she comes across Ward Abbott’s name and interviews him.  Abbott (Cox) is not very forthcoming with information, and is quickly dragged into the case.

Meanwhile, Bourne (Damon) wakes from a nightmare/memory.  He is living with Marie (Potente) in India.  They have made a life for themselves free of the government per Bourne’s request at the end of the first film.  The same mysterious man, Kirill (Karl Urban) comes to India, locates Bourne, and tries to kill him.  Of course he fails, but believes he has succeeded.  All he really did, however, was kill Marie and piss off Jason Bourne.

Bourne then starts to look into why he was targeted, and discovers that yet another manhunt is on, and he is once again the target.  He learns that he is wanted for the hijacking of the money and the files, and now must prove he had nothing to do with it while being chased.  To make matters worse, word gets back to Kirill that he is not dead, and now Bourne must evade both sides.

Bourne makes contact with Landy, and demands a meeting with Nicolette (Stiles).  Bourne confronts her about a mission he was on in Russia.  She tells him he was never in Russia, but he knows otherwise.  As he pieces it together, Bourne discovers that his first mission was off-the-books.  He was used by Conklin and Abbott as a private hit man to take out a Russian bureaucrat.  Bourne puts together that the head of the corruption is none other than Abbott.  He leaks this information to Landy, leaving Bourne to deal with Kirill.  This showdown occurs by the way of ridiculously awesome car chase.  Now, with his name clear, Bourne dares to come stateside and contact Landy.  She informs him of his real name, David Webb, and offers to help him.  This is where we fade to black.

Again, the depth and layers in the script by Tony Gilroy keep coming and keep me intrigued.  I am not sure what I watched the first time, but I cannot believe that I did not love The Bourne Supremacy.  I might go as far even to say that this was better than The Bourne Identity.  The only real change from Identity to Supremacy comes by way of the director.  Paul Greengrass replaces Doug Liman, but Liman sticks around as a producer.  This is the first of three collaborations between Greengrass and Damon.  Both return for the three-quel and then again for Green Zone.  Anyway, Greengrass had not really directed anything of note before getting this job.  He brought a whole new feel to the action by way of fast, frantic, cuts that make you feel like you are in the middle of it.  Unfortunately, this also hinders your ability to see what is going on.  Greengrass uses this style to death in Green Zone.

With the loss of Chris Cooper from the first film, it is refreshing to see Academy Award nominee Joan Allen step in.  She takes the reigns and leads the charge in a convincing manner.  Brian Cox keeps up his great acting, until his untimely ending.  Damon does a fantastic job playing the tortured, memory deprived Treadstone operative.  Julia Stiles sees her role increase, and she takes the opportunity to show her acting chops.  The interesting addition this time around is Karl Urban as Kirill.  Kirill does not have a lot of dialog, but Urban says a lot with his actions.  He just came off the Lord of the Rings trilogy, stepped into this role, and has gone on to other action movies; some better than others.  So, that is two Bourne films down, and one to go.



It took a few days until I found the time to finish the trilogy, but the important thing is: I found the time.  I originally saw The Bourne Ultimatum during its massive $69 million opening weekend.  It went on to gross a franchise high $227 million.  I remember the shaky-cam filming more than anything.  I remember thinking, thank goodness The Wife did not accompany me to this, she would be sicker than sick.  I also remembered a lot of action, and the ending.  I am not sure why these movies did not leave a bigger impression on me, but I am sure after watching all three of the Matt Damon Bourne films in such a short time period, and enjoying them, they will stick with me better.

The Bourne Ultimatum opens right after the Kirill action scene of The Bourne Supremacy.  The story fills the gap, which you don’t know is there, from the car chase to Bourne calling Landy at the end of Supremacy.  Bourne is bleeding, finds a pharmacy, administers his own first aid, takes out a few Russian cops, and begins his journey to the States.

In the meantime, over in Italy, Simon Ross (Paddy Considine), a reporter, is meeting with CIA whistleblower Neal Daniels (Colin Stinton).  Ross has been trying to piece together the story of Bourne.  Daniels informs him of a top secret CIA program codenamed Blackbriar.  So, being the typical reporter, Ross blurts the codename on his cell phone, and immediately gets flagged by CIA Agent Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) and his team.  Vosen is part of the cover-up going on with Abbott.  The head of the CIA Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) is in on it, too.  Landy (Allen) gets involved to help track Bourne.

Bourne makes his way to England to meet with Ross and find out what he knows and who his source is.  This meeting does not go well, as Vosen has sent a Blackbriar operative Paz (Edgar Ramirez) to kill both Bourne and Ross.  After Paz takes out Ross, this leaves both the CIA and Bourne on the hunt for Daniels.  Vosen sends another Blackbriar operative Desh (Joey Ansah).  Along the way, Bourne runs across Nicky Parsons (Stiles), and they go after Daniels.  Desh is then sent orders to kill Nicky and Bourne after dispatching of Daniels.  He bats one for three.  The hunter/hunted scene between Nicky, Desh and Bourne seems to go on forever before Bourne finally puts an end to Desh.  Now, with Daniels and Desh dead, Bourne tells Nicky that she must lie low and stay on the run.

So, Bourne finally makes it back stateside to find out who he is, what happened to him, and to take his life back.  This is when Landy receives the call from the end of the second film.  This is 75 minutes into the 115 minute running time.  The last forty minutes deals with Vosen still trying to locate, capture and kill Bourne while keeping Landy from finding out how dirty he is.  In the end, Bourne confronts Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney), the man responsible for turning him into Jason Bourne.  After a long, semi-painful scene of dialog that explains everything, Bourne is forced to escape one more time.  He is shot as he jumps into a river, and believed to be dead.  But we all know better.

Again, a solid script by Tony Gilroy keeps this entry moving forward.  Sadly though, The Bourne Ultimatum is unwatchable by anyone who gets motion sick while watching movies due to the excessive shaky cam shots by director Paul Greengrass.  The Wife sat down during the last fifteen minutes and had to vacate the couch in less than five.

Once again, the franchise is forced to replace a great actor, Brian Cox.  How do they do that?  They get Academy Award nominee David Strathairn.  Strathairn does a great job standing toe-to-toe with Joan Allen.  I am only saddened that Scott Glenn is under utilized as the director of the CIA.  Julia Stiles sees her role increase yet again, and she takes advantage of it.  Matt Damon takes his character into deeper and darker places yet again.  The rest of the cast puts in a solid job for what many of them considered the final chapter in the Bourne franchise.  But, we all know that if that were the case, or I would not be writing this article. 

While I enjoyed The Bourne Ultimatum, I do not think it is as strong as the first two.  It relies heavily on long action scenes to carry it to its conclusion.  The story does what it has to in order to wrap up the story of Jason Bourne.  The ending is both final and yet open. I prefer this method to the closed, no more Jason Bourne movies, this is it type ending; and the cheesy, is this it, we could make more style.

I am glad that I took the time revisit this franchise, as it has been better than I remembered.  Individually, each film has its strengths and weaknesses.  As a whole, the franchise is stronger than most trilogies.  A lot of times, by the time the third movie rolls around, everything is tired and boring.  The last entry becomes about making money.  That is not the case here.  There is a definitive ending that is being aimed at, and it is achieved.  Hopefully, I will not wait another eight years before watching them again.

I look forward into seeing the fourth entry, The Bourne Legacy, but I think it will be hard to capture the magic of the original.  Come back Monday to find out how it fares…

03 August 2012

Ruby Sparks



What gem!  No joke.  This is a cut must see.  How cute?  Find out over at InsideStL.

27 July 2012

The Watch



The review for The Watch is up at InsideStL.  Check it out.

Green Lantern: First Flight




After watching Green Lantern: First Flight, I now only have two more DC Universe Animated Films left to watch.  I have one in the mail, and still need to track down the other.  But those reviews will be up in due time.  Green Lantern: First Flight was released back in 2009.  The second Green Lantern animated film was released just prior to the disastrous live action film.  The less said about that, the better.

Green Lantern: First Flight tells the familiar origin story of hotshot military pilot Hal Jordan (Christopher Meloni) and how he comes to acquire a Green Lantern ring.  It is the same retread story that all comic book geeks know: Abin Sur (Richard McGonagle) crash lands on Earth moments before dying and gives Hal his ring.  Hal is then taken to Oa, the home of the Guardians and base for the Green Lantern Corps.  There, Hal is despised as no human has ever been selected.  He is put to the test by GL trainer Kilowog (Michael Madsen).  GL super soldier Sinestro (Victor Garber) takes Hal under his wing, as they search for Abin Sur’s killer.

As the Green Lantern Corp gets closer to finding the killer, it is revealed that he is in possession of a yellow element.  The yellow element is fear.  Sinestro falls prey to its power, and forms a yellow ring.  He then goes to Oa and threatens to destroy it and the Green Lanterns.

Where Green Lantern: First Flight went wrong is in its story.  It is a retread, but I can look past that.  It is the rushed nature of the training and overall story.  It feels compressed, almost as if scenes were missing.  Out of nowhere Sinestro is now bad, Hal Jordan is a master Green Lantern, and they fight.  A lot of the lore behind the rings and the Guardians is left out.  You are only told enough to understand what you need to on a minimum basis.  If you want to watch a fun and intelligent animated Green Lantern, I highly recommend the Green Lantern: The Animated Series on Cartoon Network.

RATING: 7/10

20 July 2012

Justice League: Doom


In my recent quest to get caught up on all the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, I sat down last night with The Kid and watched Justice League: Doom. Right from the start, I had high hopes. I love it when they get Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly to voice Batman and Superman. They did the voices originally for their respective animated series; therefore, I associate them with the characters. Plus, it has Bane. I am a sucker for Bane. Well, except for Batman & Robin. I try to forget that version of Bane. And Batman. Well, the whole movie in general.

Justice League: Doom has one of the more creative story lines, loosely based on an arc from mid-2000. The story centers on Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) hiring six super villains to dispense of the six members of the Justice League. Batman fights Bane (Carlos Alazraqui). Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) battles Star Sapphire (Olivia d’Abo). Superman goes toe-to-toe with Metallo (Paul Blackthorne). Carl Lumbly voices both Martian Manhunter and his nemesis Ma’alefa’ak. Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg) has to deal with Cheetah (Claudia Black). And lastly, Flash (Michael Rosenbaum) faces Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof).

The premise behind this stems from Batman’s paranoia. He has devised a plan to neutralize each member of the Justice League if they go rogue. These detailed plans are stolen by Savage, and tweaked to kill the target in lieu of neutralizing. With the Justice League out of the way, Savage can then take over the world. The only hope lies with Cyborg (Bumper Robinson), a non-member of the JL.

While I was severely underwhelmed with Superman vs The Elite a few weeks back, Justice League: Doom was a refreshing return to the great works that I have come to expect. I would rank this is second only to Batman: Under the Red Hood. The story was great, the voice work was wonderful, and Lauren Montgomery’s direction fit nicely with the animation. The characters were designed closer to the old Batman: TAS and Superman: TAS instead of the buffoonish looking characters in Superman vs The Elite. I would recommend giving Justice League: Doom a watch, even if you don’t have a twelve week old to watch it with. Not that I think The Kid watched too much of it.

RATING: 8/10

The Dark Knight Rises



The review is now up at InsideStL.  Find out how this finale fares.

16 July 2012

Superman vs. The Elite



DC Universe Animated Original Movies has had its share of ups and downs.  Batman: Under the Red Hood, Wonder Woman and Superman: Doomsday are great films.  On the other end of the spectrum, there is Batman: Year One and Batman: Gotham Knights.  Then, in the middle you have all the Justice League and Superman/Batman films.  Superman vs. The Elite is the latest to join his massive group in the middle.

Superman vs. The Elite starts off with Superman (George Newborn) defeating and containing Atomic Skull (Dee Bradley Baker).  He is then drawn to a fight where a group, going by the name The Elite, helps him stop a potential disaster between two warring Middle Eastern nations.  The Elite is headed up by Manchester Black (Robin Atkin Downe) and includes Menagerie, Coldcast and Hat.  Superman assumes that they are heroes, but as we can tell by the title of film, that is not the case.

Atomic Skull escapes his special confinement, and wreaks havoc on the city.  This draws hatred toward Superman for not killing him when he had the chance.  Yet, The Elite are willing to kill to achieve peace.  This pits Superman against the new “heroes,” and leaves Superman with a decision to make: Is he willing to go that extra step?

Superman vs. The Elite is based on Action Comics #775 which was written by Joe Kelly.  He adapted his own comic.  Michael Chang directed.  The animation was a big cartoonish, if you will.  Everything seemed a bit exaggerated.  As is becoming the case, Superman is hardly challenged.  So, with a lackluster story, this film becomes boring.  I think I will try to track down the issue itself and give it a read, but my expectations will be quite low.  I gave this a Redbox rental, and was only moderately entertained.  I would put this in the low end of the middle group.

RATING: 5/10

13 July 2012

Redbox Gem: Breakaway


Read about this delightfully campy Canadian Punjabi film at insidestl

05 July 2012

This Means War


This Means War opened the week I was sick.  My sinuses were kicking my ass.  I should have taken this as a sign.  This Means War is not a good movie.  I rented it from Redbox, and wanted my time (97 minutes) and $1.30 back (Yes, I wasted the extra money on the Blu-Ray).  I was shocked at how bad it was.  I thought the trailer made it look funny and cute.  Nope.

This Means War opens with CIA Agents FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) working a covert mission.  Things go awry, and bad guy Heinrich (Til Schweiger) escapes, but not before his brother is killed.

We are then introduced to product tester, single white female Lauren (Reese Witherspoon).  Her cantankerous friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) signs her up for online dating without her permission.  At first, Lauren is against it, but then a match hits.  It is Tuck.

Tuck and Lauren go on a date.  FDR stays a few blocks away just in case Tuck and escape plan.  The date goes great, and Lauren goes to rent a movie.  The video store is a few blocks away.  Do you see where this is going?  She meets FDR, and agrees to date him.  Now, best friends Tuck and FDR are dating the same woman.  Get it?  Funny! Nope.

The two CIA agents pull together a CIA team to spy on and mess with the other suitor.  I am sure that the CIA has nothing better to do.  This is my biggest problem with the film.  Why did they have to be CIA agents?  Why couldn’t they just be some private covert agency like Isis?  Get it?  Archer reference. This had to cost money, not to mention it makes the government look worse than it already does.

Meanwhile, Heinrich tracks down FDR through his suit material that he obtained in the opening.  He comes to the US to get even with FDR and Tuck.  This leads to a ridiculous action scene and leaves Lauren with a choice: Tuck or FDR?

None of the acting is worth mentioning in a positive light.  Chris Pine was great in Star Trek. Why not just wait on the sequel?  Tom Hardy is on a roll, and has The Dark Knight Rises and Lawless yet to come this year.  This seems like a setback.  Reese, well, I expected little from her, and she succeeded in being average.  Chelsea Handler is just awful.  That is part of the reason her sit-com got shit-canned already.  The other part is, she is simply not funny.

How McG continues to direct and make movies just amazes me.  This Mean War is not fun, funny, or romantic.  They two suitors literally stalk her, spy on her, and use the government resources to obtain all they can about her.  That is not romantic.  That is creepy, not to mention highly illegal.  I expect more from the writer behind Role Models (Timothy Dowling) and Sherlock Holmes, (Simon Kinberg).  I cannot figure out why they even spent time with the CIA operation on Heinrich.  It really goes nowhere and just seems pointless.  This Means War is not worth the Redbox rental.

RATING: 3/10

03 July 2012

The (Not So) Amazing Spider-Man



Read the review of this unnecessary reboot at InsideStL

28 June 2012

Brave & Madagascar 3 (Two-fer)

This past weekend, the Wife and I took our son, henceforth to be called the Kid, on his first movie going experience.  With him being only seven weeks old, we decided that a trip to the Skyview Drive-In over in Belleville made the most logical sense.  So, we packed up some snacks and drove across the river for a double feature: Brave and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.

First up, Pixar’s thirteenth feature length film Brave.  Brave tells the story of a Scottish princess, Merida (Kelly MacDonald), who is to be wed against her will to one of the other three tribes’ first born sons.  She decides to go against her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson) and father Fergus (Billy Connolly), as she interferes at the games for her hand.  This puts the kingdom in an uproar.  Merida slips out of the castle into the woods, where she follows magical blue flames, or whisps.  They lead her to a witch that gives her a potion to change her mother’s mind.  Of course, this does not go according to plan, and Merida is left trying to unravel a riddle before time runs out.

Brave is a disappointing film from Pixar.  Had any other animation studio put this out, I would have thought it was better.  But this is Pixar.  The team behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Up.  Brave offered nothing new or exciting and was not up to snuff.  In the end, it boiled down to a weak villain and the mom turning into a bear.  Better luck next year, Pixar.
 
Next up, the third film in the Madagascar franchise.  I watched the first one a few years back, and was not impressed.  I did not bother with the second one Escape 2 Africa, but since I was at the drive-in, I stayed for part three, Europe’s Most Wanted.  I should have just gone home.

Madagascar 3 picks up where the part two left off, I assume.  The penguins and monkeys left for Monte Carlo on a reconstructed plane.  So, Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Melman (David Schwimmer), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), and company go to France to get them.  They find the penguins as they are winning lots of money at a casino.  After the extraction attempt goes haywire, an animal control officer (Frances McDormand) goes in pursuit of the group of escaped zoo animals.

After thirty minutes of random chase scenes, I have no idea what is going on, or the overall plot of the film.  My sister-in-law, her boyfriend, the Wife and I are just plain confused.  More and more random scenes and songs being covered and butchered by the cast, and finally, the animals meet up with a circus bound for America.  The circus animals are lead by a tiger names Vitaly (Bryan Cranston).  Also in the mix are a leopard Gis (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano (Martin Short) a seal.  I blinked, and the zoo animals bought the circus with the penguins casino money to ensure their trip home to New York.

I am not joking, this movie made little to no sense to me.  A lot of the other patrons got in their cars and left.  We stayed.  The Kind was asleep, and who wants to wake a sleeping 7 week old?  We suffered through the rest of the 93 minute film, only to be more confused by the ending.  If there is a fourth, I will be passing for sure.

As a whole, neither film was great.  Brave was a letdown, but way better than Madagascar 3.  Yet, I cannot stress to you how much fun it was to go to the drive-in.  If you have kids, take them.  It is cheap, and you can bring your own snacks and beverages.  Shows start at 9pm, get there early for a good spot.  It was sold out the night we went.  Here is a link to their website.  Again, I highly recommend taking your little ones, so they can experience a real drive-in movie theater.

BRAVE: 6/10
MADAGASCAR 3: 3/10

22 June 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of...Who Cares?



So, back in February, Sony did not screen Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance for critics.  After I saw it flop in theaters, I was glad that I did not spend my money or 95 minutes on it.  Yet, curiosity got the better of me.  My younger brother came to visit, and we wondered over to the local Redbox and gave it my $1.50, and rented the latest film from Neveldine/Taylor, the duo behind Crank.

All I really have to say is, 2007’s Ghost Rider was not a spectacular film, but it was not terrible.  Eager to prove that they could do worse, Neveldine/Talyor gave us a sequel devoid of everything but incredibly cool action shots.  Not action scenes, just action shots.  There were numerous videos and articles about how they directing duo were strapped into harnesses and jumped from various things and were attached to various riggings to get the shots.  They also held onto a motorcycle while wearing rollerblades.  So, those action shots did stand out.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance follows Johnny Blaze (Nic Cage) as he tries to save the spawn of Satan (Fergus Riordan) from being taken over by Roarke (Ciaran Hinds), the corporeal form of Satan.  In the meantime, Roarke has dispatched his minion Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth) to capture the child and his mother Nadya (Violante Placido).  Working for the good, we have Moreau (Idris Elba) and a short lived cameo from Anthony Stewart Head, of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer fame.

On no level does Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance work.  The story is convoluted and simply terrible.  All three, yes three, writers should be ashamed of themselves.  The action scenes overall are dumb.  There is one whole scene of Moreau and Blaze doing motorcycle tricks on the highway.  Why?  I don’t know.  The acting is awful.  Last year, I deemed Season of the Witch the worst movie of the year, and stopped trying to defend Nic Cage’s career.  Since then, I have not changed my mind.  As a matter of fact, this is his first theatrically released film following two direct-to-video flops, and I do not see his career getting any better.  Idris Elba has no excuse for being in this.  He is in Thor, and supposedly its sequel.  That should have quenched his thirst for a comic book film.  There is also a quick cameo by the Highlander himself, Christopher Lambert.  I don’t even know why his character is in the film at all.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is terrible and not worth the $1.50 I paid to rent it.  It started off in the worst way possible.  In a movie as shitty as this, there is no reason I should have to wait fifteen minutes to see Ghost Rider himself.  The visual effects were head and shoulders about its predecessor, but who would have guessed I would prefer the original with Eva Mendes and Donal Logue?  Not me.  Neveldine/Taylor was a one-trick pony, and that trick was Crank.  Everything else they have done has been pure garbage, and I am calling a ban on their films along with Cage’s.  Good riddance.

RATING: 1/10