Archive for the '2' Category

Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part 2

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

**

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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Limacher Low Down: Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 brings the “Saga” to a conclusion. I know some will be saddened by this, and some will be elated; the question is will the ending justify the fans? If you have read my previous reviews of several of the Twilight movies, you’ll know that I have been rather generous for what they were. Breaking Dawn Part 2 has officially made me reach the point of utter frustration and glad the “Saga” is over! What makes a person who has generally been polite feel this way? Well, I will get to that…

[ Click for the Volturi Guards interview ]

Breaking Dawn Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 left off. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), now Bella Cullen is officially a vampire. Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) had to change her to save her from the birth of their child, Renesmee. This part we already know, but the film quickly jumps into Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) having a new relationship with Renesmee and the Cullen family. The scene that follows was supposed to be HIGH tension, but people were LAUGHING! The acting was THAT BAD in this part. I felt as watching it that the actors realized this was it for them having to be in these movies, and they basically phoned in their performances. When a scene that is supposed to be taken seriously has the audience laughing, that’s never a good sign. After the tension is resolved, the Cullens suggest that they tell Bella’s father; Charlie Swan (Billy Burke), that she has passed, but Jacob takes matters into his own hands. This scene will make the ladies happy, and Billy Burke, once again, does a great job of adding an actual humorous element to the movie. It adds humor, where humor was intended to be, unlike previous scenes.

Next, Bella starts to learn of her new found strengths. She even goes so far as to challenge the “strongest” Cullen, Emmett (Kellan Lutz). Everything seems fine with the Cullens and their new family dynamic, but not all is well in Forks. The whole scene comes across as cheesy and bad. The special effects are terrible, and this could have been cut out completely. I am sure some people will enjoy the laughs at how bad this is, but most people will just shake their head at how awful the whole thing plays out. Also, Bella’s first hunt offers some really bad acting and poor CGI. These movies have made a TON of money, and this is the best they can do for their fans? I quote Ron Burgundy when I say “That is Bush; that is Bush League!”

The Volturi have gotten word of Bella being turned and they seemingly offer a token to show their acceptance. While Bella and Jacob are out playing with a rapidly aging Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), they are discovered by another vampire who doesn’t like what they see. Bella and Jacob return to the Cullen’s house and alert Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli) and Esme Cullen (Elizabeth Reaser) of what had happened, but they seem not concerned about the consequences. Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) sees into the future and quickly learns that the Volturi will be coming to wage war with the Cullens. This is where the movie begins to morph into what people are seemingly waiting for, the big scene where all hell breaks loose.

Since the Cullen’s are greatly outnumbered, they start to spread the word of their story, and even start recruiting old friends to assist them. Vampires from different cultures come together, and yes, the acting from some is decent, but overall it just leaves an even worse taste in your mouth. The most intriguing “recruits” are a duo from Romania, Stefan (Guri Weinberg) and Vladimir (Noel Fisher). While most of the recruits are worrisome and ready to fight the Volturi if needed, Stefan and Vladimir are more excited and willing than anyone else. This scene is interesting in how the group comes together and discusses stories of their past and sharing with each other. I felt as if this scene could have lasted longer and gotten more in depth with reasons why they have all come together. In a sense, it felt rushed and for that seemed to be lacking.

This leads us to the climactic build-up people have been waiting for, the standoff. The Cullens and friends have gathered awaiting a battle, and not much longer the Volturi arrive. Aro (Michael Sheen), the leader of the Volturi comes forward to see what the fuss is all about. In tow with him, as always, are Caius (Jamie Campbell Bower), Marcus (Christopher Heyerdahl), Jane (Dakota Fanning), and their body guards Demetri (Charlie Bewley) and Felix (Daniel Cudmore). The reason I mention the other members of the Volturi that are with Aro is because they each have their own feelings and interpretations on the situation. Aro is very smug and honestly portrayed well.

I couldn’t help but sit there thinking, why wasn’t there more of this character in the movie? He seems to be having fun with this role and makes it come across as making this character believable. It was one of the things I actually enjoyed the most in the movie. After introductions, and polite banter, the battle begins, and this was actually very well done. As far as fight scenes go, it wasn’t the best, but it got the point across in a structured fashion.  I can honestly say that guys who get dragged to see this movie might actually enjoy this part of the movie. The question is do the Cullens or the Volturi have their way in the end? If you want to know, and haven’t read the books, you’re just going to have to go see Breaking Dawn Part 2 to find out.

I said before, this was the LOWEST I have rated any of the Twilight movies I have seen. The acting was worse than others; THE fight scene was good, but not enough to raise my rating; and the fact that there was so much anticipation thrust upon me for this one, I can honestly say I was let down. I went into the other movies with low expectations, and this one had raised them a little more. I guess if you go to this movie understanding the acting is going to be bad, and that the story is somewhat all over the place, you will enjoy it more than I did. Is this the best way to end a “Saga?” Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Alex Cross

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

**

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 3.50 out of 5)
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This one you can ‘Cross’ off your must see list.

The H-Bomb:  When a young woman and her three bodyguards are professionally wasted in a wealthy part of Detroit, Detective/Psychologist Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) and his team of dicks (including Edward Burns) are called on to the case.  Now, Cross is a guy with a lot on his plate, as he’s being courted by the FBI to join the Bureau as a profiler, which would mean a substantial increase in income and less hectic hours, both of which could be useful, given that his wife is expecting a third child.

But this murder case is soon going to shoot straight to the top of Cross’s to-do list, when he discovers from a clue that the assassin (Matthew Fox) left hidden in a drawing that indicates that the woman’s murder was just the first of many hits to come.  After connecting a few dots and following a couple of paper trails, Cross deduces that the assassin‘s, who he dubs Picasso, main target is French industrialist Leon Mercier (Jean Reno).

So now that Cross knows Picasso’s target, he figures that setting a trap for him shouldn’t be too difficult.  That’s when Picasso throws Cross a curve, by killing a couple of people who are close to him.  But Picasso has just Crossed the wrong cop, as now it’s fuckin’ personal for our doctor/detective, as he taps into his inner Harry Callahan and goes rogue looking for revenge.  Locked and loaded for bear, he will stop at nothing to bring his man down, even if it means sacrificing his own life in the process.

Alex Cross, created by novelist James Patterson, is a hero who appeared in two prior films, Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, where he was played both times by Morgan Freeman.  I’ve have seen both of those films one time each, and barely remember either of them, so my dislike for this new film, based on Patterson’s novel “Cross”, has nothing to do with any loyalty I may have to those films or to Freeman’s portrayal of Cross… I thought this new flick just plain sucked.

Directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and The Furious, XXX), Alex Cross is a slick but dull, uninvolving thriller whose titular character is portrayed by the dull, uninvolving Perry, who sheds his Madea persona and attempts to follow in the footsteps of Morgan Freeman.  Sorry, Mr. Perry, but you are no Morgan Freeman.

The film starts out as your average police procedural that shows the killer in the act, then shows the brilliant detective piecing together what he did and creating a profile for him, “Our killer is sociopathic, narcissistic, methodical, yada, yada.”  It’s not bad, per se, but it’s pretty routine and plodding, and Manhunter did this kind of thing so much better, and with so much more style (so does your typical episode of CSI).

Where Alex Cross truly fails is when things get personal for Cross, and it turns into one of the most half-baked revenge movies I’ve ever seen.  When Perry was doing the straight forward criminal profiler thing, he was okay, but when he transforms into a rage-fueled, vengeance-minded bad ass, he becomes hilariously awful.  Listening to him, with all the conviction and earnestness he could muster, say lines like, “I’ll meet his soul at the gates of Hell!” had me laughing so hard I was choking on my popcorn.  I hate to say it, but Perry makes a much more convincing mad black woman than he does any kind of a tough guy.

There was one point in the movie, when Cross has a very emotional scene with his daughter, where I stopped laughing at Perry and actually started to feel a bit sorry for him… because this little girl in the scene with him was completely acting circles around him!  Had someone like Jamie Foxx been cast in lead, Alex Cross would still be a stale, by-the-numbers cop thriller, but at least it would have had a solid, believable lead actor.  But with Perry, it gets so bad it gains a kind of camp quality, but not enough of one to actually make this dreary flick enjoyable.  Now, if they had cast Tommy Wiseau, then they might have had something…  but I digress.

Getting back to the topic at hand, while the routine script and the terrible lead performance almost completely sink this mess, there is one aspect of the movie that nearly salvages it, Fox’s portrayal of the killer, Picasso.  Chiseled and ruthless, with a panther-like physical prowess, he is fucking scary, and unlike Perry, is totally credible in his role.  I don’t question his cold-blooded killer for an instant.  If Fox played more parts like this, I’d pay more attention to him as an actor, because here, he steals the show.  It’s a shame that his final fight with Cross is ruined by director Cohen’s vomit inducing shaky-cam.

Other fine actors like Burns, Reno, and John C. McGinley, are wasted in throwaway roles.  I must wonder what attracted these actors to these rather bland characters in this rather bland script, other than the paychecks… oh wait, I guess that’s enough these days.  I can’t really say I hated Alex Cross, because overall it’s too generic to hate.  I was, for the most part, just bored by it.  The two lead performances were the only things that held my attention and kept me from dosing off in the theater, albeit they held my attention for two completely different reasons.

Due to circumstances that were completely outside of my control, I missed the press screening for Alex Cross and had to see it on my own dime.  And although I most definitely took a loss on that one, I don’t feel too sore about it, as I’ve heard that Paranormal Activity 4 is just as bad, if not worse.  I truly pity the fools who paid to see that one.

Bernie

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

**

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (1 People gave this 3.00 out of 5)
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Swift shot:  Jack Black almost saved this freak-show of a poorly edited farce based on factual events.  Richard Linklater’s style is intact, but it is not something I care for personally.  Credit to him for making it near impossible to discern if these were actors or real interviewees – the professional actors did a tremendous job blending in with the Carthage, Texas yokels.  Matthew McConaughey being the blatant exception; his overacting confused the overall identity of this film.  Was this a typical over-the-top Jack Black comedy, or was it something else?  Black teetered on the edge the whole film, but McConaughey jumped into the snake pit of lunacy with both scuffed bottom, cowboy boots intact and confused the whole film with his antics and bad hair.

Bernie (Jack Black) enters Carthage, Texas literally singing the whole way.  He’s more than a mortician, he is a gentle, giving creature of God who truly believes his calling is assisting families as their loved ones go to meet their creator in Heaven.  At first glance, and when you realize this is based on an actual case in Texas, you roll your eyes at the caricature of such an oddly put together person – I mean, no one is a saint.  And truly, with Bernie, while he is a true believer, he is no match for pure evil in the guise of the town’s feared and loathed Mrs. Nugent (Shirley MacLaine).  After her husband becomes a client of Bernie’s (i.e. he dies) Bernie does what he always does for grieving widows, checks up on them.  He finally enters her good graces and begins his odd relationship with the town’s richest widow.

Eventually Bernie becomes more than just a willing pet to Mrs. Nugent, he becomes a platonic slave of sorts, after she fires her whole staff and takes Bernie on lavish trips around the world and unbeknownst to Bernie, she even changes her will to cut out her family and leave everything to Bernie.  So, when Bernie finally snaps, his choice makes no sense.   But, as one person put it in the film, when you have pure good and pure evil so close together, something is going to give.  You will have to see Bernie, if you can find it in theaters, to find out how everything plays out.  It wasn’t very funny, it was a bit charming and the overall build-up to the final scene was decent.  But I just couldn’t in all honesty recommend this to many people.  Sure, it is a real “critics” movie – but the substance was lacking whilst the acting was impeccable.  So, if you want a wonderfully acted film that lacks true identity, look no further than the oddity that is . . . Bernie.

American Reunion

Friday, April 6th, 2012

**

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (1 People gave this 3.00 out of 5)
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Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie…

The H-Bomb:  In case the title is not enough of an indicator, the American Pie gang is back, descending on their home town of Great Falls for their thirteen year high school reunion… why thirteen?  Because no one from their school bothered to organize a ten year reunion (that’s literally what we’re told).  So what has everyone been up to since American Wedding?  Well, Oz (Chris Klein) is now a big shot sportscaster and a former “Dancing with the Stars” contestant.  Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is now a happily married housewife.  Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has turned himself into a regular Renaissance Man, traveling the world to experience many exotic cultures firsthand.  Stifler (Seann William Scott) is slaving away in a demeaning job as an office temp and is just as big an asshole as ever.

As for Jim (Jason Biggs), he is still married to ex-band geek Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), and they now have a two year old son as well as some… intimacy issues.  They realize that their sex life is not as healthy as it should be when they both experience a bad case of Masturbatus Interuptis during the opening scene.  This of course, is the first of many sexually humiliating situations that Jim will find himself in, which have been a staple of this series.  In one of these scenarios, we even get to see Jim’s manhood, which has been the victim of much abuse over the course of four movies.  In addition to all this, he is still getting unwanted sex advice from his well intentioned Dad (Eugene Levy), who is now a widower.

Jim’s friends have it a little easier, as both Oz and Kevin have to deal with seeing their old high school sweethearts, Heather (Mena Suvari) and Vicky (Tara Reid), for the first time in years.  Some half-baked drama ensues from this, but not many laughs.  Finch seems to finally be over Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge), and has taken a liking to a hot bartender who happens to be a fellow classmate.  Stifler has never quite moved on from high school and just wants to party like it’s 1999 (literally).

I really love the original American Pie.  It was raunchy as hell, but it was also genuinely funny, with real heart behind it, and strong characters who, despite being sex obsessed, were very likeable and relatable.  Then came American Pie 2, which I didn’t like at all.  The raunch was there, but the charm was gone, as were the laughs.  American Wedding followed, and while it was a definite improvement over the second movie, it didn’t even come close to touching the original.

Now we have, whether we wanted it or not, American Reunion, arriving some nine years after the last one (I don’t count the slew of straight to DVD “sequels” in between).  This movie reminds me a lot of Scre4m, which came out a year ago this month.  Both came after their franchises had been dormant for a decade, both try to milk their brand names for all their worth, both attempt to recapture, with a hint of desperation, the magic that made their originals so great…  and both are pretty underwhelming.

While I found American Reunion watchable, curiously enough I didn’t laugh out loud once, though I did smile a number times, mainly from the antics of Stifler and Jim’s Dad; the party scenes where they drink and spend quality time together are the best in the movie.  Everything else involving the rest of the cast is pretty limp.  Kevin is worried about cheating on his wife with Vicky, Oz finds he still has feelings for Heather, even though he’s dating a supermodel.  All this drama just didn’t interest me, and the film just got boring during these parts.

Even the eccentric Finch, who has always been my favorite character in this series, is just kind of dull here.  The movie seems to put all it’s comedic chips into Stifler’s mugging and Jim’s sexual mishaps, which just aren’t enough.  None of them are as memorable as the pie fucking from the first movie, and they just reek of too much effort, like, again, showing Jim’s dick on camera, or putting him in a gimp outfit.  One sequence has Jim trying to sneak the girl he used to baby sit for, who is drunk and naked, back into her house without her parents noticing.  This girl conveniently just turned eighteen that night, so we don’t have to feel creepy about looking at her, but we do anyway.  It’s a sequence that goes on too long and isn’t all that funny, the same could be said for the whole film.  For the most part, the raunchiness seems toned down from the outrageousness of the past movies, and not for the better.

On the plus side, just about everyone is back, even the ones who missed Jim’s wedding.  It’s nice seeing all these people again, even those who only pop in for a scene or two.  Shannon Elizabeth gets to use her laughably awful Russian accent again, and John Cho shows up from time to time as the Asian MILF Guy, though now he’s apparently gay, without any rhyme or reason or explanation whatsoever.  Seeing all these people in the same movie again do give me a sense of nostalgia, kind of like the one I got while watching Scre4m.

Nostalgia, sadly, is basically all American Reunion has to offer.  No real laughs, no interesting updates on the characters, just trading on the fond memories of the original.  I used to hate Stifler, but this time he, along with Jim’s Dad, are the only ones keeping this overlong, badly paced party from turning into a total bore.  Even the songs on the soundtrack try to remind us of that earlier, better film.  If anything, that’s the one thing that American Reunion succeeded in doing, making me want to revisit the original, and that is exactly what I suggest you do.  This is one Reunion you can miss.

The Rum Diary

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

**

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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I’m afraid more rum was needed.

The H-Bomb:  I must confess off the bat that I’ve never read anything by Hunter S. Thompson, and my only real exposure to him was from Terry Gilliam’s bat shit crazy adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which I do kind of like, but ultimately just got too obnoxiously bonkers for me to really, fully embrace.  That’s why the trailers for “The Rum Diary” looked promising.  It looked as though we were going to get another glimpse into Thompson’s very unique mind, only this time in a toned down, more palatable way.

Sadly, screenwriter/director Bruce Robinson toned things down to the point where any interest or fun to be had was just evaporated.  It was like “Fear and Loathing”, except instead of tripping on Acid, it was bombed into a complete stupor of Quaaludes and Valium, so much so that all it can do is slog along from one dramatically indifferent scene to another at a leaden pace.  That is The Rum Diary, Fear and Loathing gone dull.  There is a plot, things do happen, but there is absolutely zero dramatic tension.  There’s no sense of urgency or importance, nothing to hook us in or make us invested in what’s happening.  It’s like watching the movie drunk: we see what’s happening, but we’re only watching passively, and we’re completely detached from it all.

It’s starts out promisingly enough, with Johnny Depp once again stepping into the role of Thompson’s surrogate, this time named Paul Kemp.  The story is set in Puerto Rico in 1960, with boozy writer Kemp arriving fresh from the States to work as a reporter for some local rag that is slowly going the way of the Dodo.  Kemp is serious about being a journalist and wants to tackle important stories, but his cynical, toupee-topped editor (Richard Jenkins) just wants him to write fluff about fat American tourists at bowling alleys.   Kemp isn’t particularly happy about this, but just keep the rum flowing, and he’ll be fine (hey, sounds like me).

Eventually, he crosses paths with wealthy douche bag Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), who, we eventually find out, wants Kemp to write promotional pieces for an island resort that he’s trying to interest investors in.  Kemp becomes involved with Sanderson’s beautiful girlfriend, Chennault (Amber Heard), and soon discovers what a shady guy Sanderson really is.  It’s then that Kemp sets about finding a way to bring him down, with the power of the printed word.  All the while, the unfocused narrative sends Kemp on a series of misadventures with fellow alcoholic writers Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi) and Sala (Michael Rispoli).  These include scary altercations with gringo hating locals and accidentally setting a cop on fire.  Sometimes the antics rise to the level of mildly amusing, but never beyond that, and not often enough.

And again, that‘s the dang problem. The Rum Diary is the most bewilderingly boring film I have ever seen.  Overall it’s about Thompson discovering his voice as a writer, and that certainly had the potential to be a fascinating story, but the execution is just so Goddamn blasé that it‘s actually frustrating to think about what a squandered opportunity this movie is.  The actors do try, with Depp back in the Thompson role.  Only this time, instead of playing zany, drugged out Thompson, he’s playing restrained, drunk Thompson.  His performance is very understated, and sadly, that only adds to the film’s lack of dramatic oomph.

Eckhart is perfectly cast as the sleazy, rich slime ball, but the movie didn’t make me care enough to hate him.  Ribisi and Jenkins actually are funny as the more lively and eccentric characters in the piece, but they couldn’t salvage it.  Heard is not bad to look at, but writing wise, her role is terminally malnourished.  Here, she is eye candy, and nothing more.

This is a project that Depp, who also produced, had been nurturing for a long, long time, at least a decade, and I really wish the end result would have been more worth his while.  I wish it had been more worth my while, as well.  Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was certainly not a perfect film, but it was also certainly never boring for a second, either.  The Rum Diary just runs on the same flat tempo all the way through to its utterly “so what” ending.  It’s not funny enough to keep me entertained, as comedy-wise, all the best bits are in the trailer.  The limp attempts at drama are not engaging enough to make me care, and all I was left with at the end were two hours that I wished I had back.

Straw Dogs

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

**

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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Just let this sleeping dog lie.

The H-Bomb: Young, dull newlyweds David (James Marsden) and Amy (Kate Bosworth) move from L.A. to the small southern town where Amy grew up. David is a screenwriter, and he hopes that the peace and quiet of their isolated farm house will be the perfect place to work on his script. Unfortunately for him, the local hillbillies they hired to fix up the barn roof have other ideas. It’s bad enough that David is an outsider and a city boy with a condescending, intellectual air to him, but the fact that he hired Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard), Amy’s old high school beau, to work on the roof only makes matters worse. See, Charlie still has an eye for Amy, and he doesn’t much care for her running off and marrying this nerdy little Joe Hollywood douche bag, so… I think you can guess where this is going.

Charlie and his buddies’ taunts start out as minor annoyances; showing up to work at the crack of dawn with their shit-kicker music blasting, walking into David’s house uninvited and just helping themselves to whatever’s in his fridge, cutting out at midday to go hunting, so on and so forth. Being that David is a product of the Left Coast and a very principled pacifist (so he tells us), he is willing to turn the other cheek and try not to let it get to him.

But Charlie’s antics soon escalate and become more hostile and dangerous; David is run off the road by their truck, pet cats turn up dead (why does that sound familiar), and eventually a vicious assault takes place. If David and Amy had even an iota of common sense, they would just cut their losses and leave, but David isn’t about to be driven out of his home, and he now has a lot of manning up to do before the inevitable violent showdown.

You’d think after the dismal failure that was the “The Getaway” remake, that Hollywood would know better than to redo Sam Peckinpah, the guns n’ booze auteur who had an arresting, kick-to-the-dick style that no one could ever replicate, but that didn’t stop them from trying. This time, they tried doing it with “Straw Dogs”, his 1971 film about a non-violent man pushed to the breaking point. It was mucho controversial when released, but it’s kind of tame by today’s standards.

For this remake, the setting has been changed from rural England to the rural U.S., and the main character’s profession has been switched, inconsequentially, from mathematician to screenwriter, but everything else follows the plot of the original to the letter. The result is a banal, quasi-boring film which adds nothing new to the story thematically, and ultimately has no reason whatsoever to exist. The graphic violence of the Peckinpah film is retained, including the infamous use of a bear trap, but the potency is gone.

Writer/Director Rod Lurie (“The Contender”, a putrid film) also didn’t do himself any favors by making all the small town folk a bunch of tobaccy chewin’, beer swilling, narrow minded primates who enjoy bullying and tormenting outsiders when they’re not too busy fucking their own relatives. It’s the kind of lame, clichéd small town stereotype that could only have been written by some snotty writer who has never actually been to a small town in his life.

I also love how Lurie has his protagonists say and do the most stupid, illogical things imaginable simply because the plot needs them to, like having the atheist David wax philosophical about religion with Charlie by calling God a “bully,” or having him say shit like, “I’m a writer, that means I work for a living” to a blue collar guy who actually does work for a living. Jesus, a fucking first grader would know better.

But the real kicker, the one that truly insults the intelligence, is what Lurie has Amy do after she catches Charlie and his slobbering goons eyeballing her; she opens her bedroom window and strips naked in front of them. Seriously, is this chick retarded?! What was she thinking? Can she even think? Does she even have a brain? Apparently, Lurie forgot to give her one.

Lurie also forgot to fix the one aspect of the 1971 film that, at least I think, doesn’t work, the reason for the final confrontation. It doesn’t come about from the simmering hatred that builds between David and Charlie, but from a subplot about the town retard who likes to touch children. It bothered me in the Peckinpah version, and it only added to my list of reasons to dislike the Lurie version.

Moving on to the performances, it’s a mixed bag. Marsden and Bosworth are reunited from “Superman Returns” and display the exact same lack of chemistry that they had in that film. They are both big zeros, and it should be noted that James Marsden is no Dustin Hoffman. Skarsgard (son of Stellan) is actually quite menacing and subtle as Charlie. His performance is one of the movie’s few virtues, and for a Swede, he made a pretty convincing redneck. James Woods is fun to watch as the alcoholic ex-high school football coach who also makes trouble for David and Amy. The only problem I had with him was that I didn’t believe for a second that he could actually intimidate an entire barroom full of good ol’ boys the way he does here.

(H-Man Parenthetical: I just remembered that Woods was also in “The Getaway” remake, as well. Weird.)

After all is said and done, this new “Straw Dogs” isn’t a terrible movie, it’s just a terribly pointless one. There’s nothing in here that Peckinpah didn’t already do better in his original film some forty years ago, and there is just no reason for this watered down, dumbed down version to have been made at all. If you must see “Straw Dogs”, do yourself a huge favor and watch the original, and give this future piece of K-Mart bargain bin fodder a pass.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Friday, January 6th, 2012

**

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 2.50 out of 5)
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The lifeless ‘circus’ 

Swift shot: Boring, Boring, Boring, Spy.  I had just one expectation for this film . . . to be less dull and uninspired than “The Good Shepherd”, and it was actually worse!  Everyone knows that US Intelligence is by far more sexy than the stuffy Brits, so I anticipated a lot of pensive thinking and intrigue in this film, but I thought The Good Shepherd’s poor reception by critics, essentially would set the ground work for a more imaginative script.  They blew it!  Of course, without fail, Oldman becomes his character, George Smiley, but I just didn’t know enough about any of the characters, including Smiley, to give a Tinker’s damn about them.  With such an impressive cast, shame on the writers for not giving them much with which to work.

I am no fan of torture, with some exceptions, and especially not when I am the one being tortured!  And, I willingly allowed the film-makers to torture me for over two hours, ok, I will give them about 20 minutes of film-time that didn’t suck and was even brilliant in fact, but when the majority of scenes are free of dialog and driven by sympathetic introspection, not to mention tediously boring, well, that is about how I define torture.

Set in 1972-73, Control (John Hurt) has gained wind of a possible mole within the circus (AKA, the leading echelon of British Secret Intelligence) and the only person on his payroll whom he can trust, Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) is sent to Hungary for a meeting with one of his assets to help identify the villainous traitor.  But, as Control slips off to death, which is handled in such a bizarre, did you catch that fashion, that I almost didn’t catch it, so I am doing you the courtesy of providing that exposition free of charge.  Anyway, Control dies and a new Control assumes the position, and his greatest desire is to bring the Yanks on board to share intelligence.  Apparently, at some point in time, (at least it was implied) the Yanks found British Intelligence suspect and a “leaky ship” so the Americans have been avoiding sharing, well anything significant, with their British friends. 

Control manages to bring his trusted compatriot and former member of the circus, George Smiley into the hunt for the mole, all the while a mysterious figure from the circus’ past, a double-agent, code-named Karla is somehow involved and is believed to be the puppet-master of the mole.  George recruits the stalwart Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) who risks career, and more, to discover if there is a mole within the circus.  Personally, I thought Cumberbatch stole the whole film, because I actually believed he was his character, he and Tom Hardy, as his ‘scalp-hunter’ Ricky Tarr were the most interesting characters in the film.

Mark Strong gives a great performance as Jim Prideaux, but again, I am only guessing what his character is really all about, because the story-tellers leave so much left to the imagination that it becomes downright annoying and even condescending at times.  I understand that the action and violence was used very little to ratchet up the effect when it finally happens, I get that, but just because you don’t want to oversaturate the film with violence and action, doesn’t excuse you from using other tools at your disposal . . . say an amazing cast who could put out some excellent dialog work and build these characters!  Shame, shame, for shame!

A lot of the story-telling is left for you to guess at, which I can appreciate to a point, but when half of the audience is comatose or snoring that says a lot.  I am in favor of using my imagination, and in some cases that is preferred, but not the whole bloody film!  The story was told as if it were a true story and the film-maker was afraid to reveal anything solid about any of the characters for fear of exposing them to the enemy.  Newsflash, we are an audience, we want to be entertained, we want to know about these characters so when anything compelling happens to them we will care.  The only time I excuse that is in a balls-to-the-walls action flick, which this was so incredibly . . . not.

Look, some critics are going to say, it dazzled me with its subtlety, it was so underwhelming that it was overwhelming, to which I say, and THAT is why you are a “critic” and I am not; I am a movie lover.  I did not love this movie, in fact I couldn’t wait to get home and share with my thousands of followers and friends how much I did not like this movie.

At best this is one you should watch alone, at home, when you have some time to dissect it and not be distracted by your friends falling asleep.  It was the most un-thrilling thriller I have ever seen, even less so than “The Good Shepherd”, which is really saying something.  With this award-winning cast: Colin Firth; Gary Oldman; John Hurt; Ciaran Hinds; Mark Strong, and even Tom Hardy, I challenge you to tell me anything significant about their characters after seeing this film.  You can’t, because you never actually learn anything real about them . . . some things are revealed, but nothing of merit.  So, why would you care what happens to any of them, it’s just a story, and a poorly told story at that!

Life During Wartime

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

**

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“Happiness”, Where are you? – Oh, you are RIGHT HERE!!!

The H-Bomb: There are very few films that I can think of that left an impression on me the way Todd Solondz’s “Happiness” did back when I first saw it many years ago. With its assortment of freakish, malcontent misanthropes, some with more issues than others, it was a funny, disgusting, shocking, and poignant experience unlike any other. It went into dark, taboo places that few films dared, yet somehow managed to be highly entertaining despite that. The scene where the young boy asks his pedophile father if he would ever molest him is unforgettable, and the father’s answer to that question is a whole new kind of fucked up.

As far as I’m concerned, “Happiness” is Solondz’s finest hour as a filmmaker and an absolute masterpiece… and it absolutely did not need a sequel. But alas, we got one, from Mr. Solondz himself. The fact that Solondz was the one resurrecting these characters did give me some hope… though unfortunately, hope is a four letter word, and frankly, he really should have left well enough alone.

Like its predecessor, “Life During Wartime” centers around three sisters; depressed dreamer Joy (Shirley Henderson), insecure writer Helen (Ally Sheedy), prim ‘n proper suburban mom Trish (Allison Janney), and the various oddballs in their orbit. Joy is now married to Allen (Michael Kenneth Williams), the obscene calling fetishist who continues to struggle with his… problem(s). Joy still clings on to the vague dream of becoming a musician, but for the time being, she’s content with counseling ex-cons.

Trish, meanwhile, is living in Florida and dating Harvey (Michael Lerner), a nice, middle aged Jewish man. They bond over their inability to talk about their sex lives and their shared desire to be buried in Israel. Trish’s oldest son, Billy (Chris Marquette), is now in college, and still trying to cope with the fact that his dad once re-assured him that he would “only jerk off” to him. Her younger son, Timmy (Dylan Riley Snyder), is about to become a man in the Jewish sense (Solondz, for no particular reason, decided to amp up the “Jewishness” of this family this time around), and has no idea that his father, Bill (Ciaran Hinds), who he has been told is dead, is a pedophile. Except Bill is not dead. In actuality, he has just been released from prison, and is now trying to track down Billy, who he hasn’t seen since being incarcerated over a decade ago.

Helen is now in L.A. making a profitable but artistically unfulfilling living as a screenwriter. She’s about a million times more neurotic than in the last picture and still considers herself to be a no talent hack, but… well, to be honest, her appearance in this film is relatively brief, and everything involving her is of little importance, so never mind.

What is important about “Life During Wartime”? Not a whole lot, really. In this part sequel, part rehash of “Happiness”, Solondz brings back a number of the major characters (all played by new actors) and basically seems to set them forth on the same journey of searching for… um… happiness. Only this time, that journey isn’t nearly as interesting. The ensemble of weirdo losers is on hand, as is the biting, satirical sense of humor, as well as the subversive themes. But while “Happiness” captivated me and made me care about these people, “Life During Wartime” failed to do either.

One problem “Life During Wartime” has is that in the first film, the characters seemed, for the most part, like actual people. This time, they act and sound like broadly drawn caricatures. The fucking pedophile aside, nobody comes across as anything even resembling a human being. If we heard real people saying some of the shit that the characters in this flick spew out, we’d be lining up to take turns smacking the stupid out of them. Seriously, would a mother really tell her twelve year old son how her new boyfriend makes her “wet” by rubbing her elbows? Give me a fuckin’ break!

Solondz’s ultimate theme for this piece, redemption, is muddled all to hell with pretentious crap like, “Should we forgive and forget? Or should we forgive but not forget? Or, should we not forgive but forget.” The fact that it’s the twelve year old Timmy farting this Philosophy 101 gibber-jabber out of his mouth makes it even more laughable. A couple of these attempts at redemption, such as the confrontation between pedo-dad and his son, or Joy being haunted by the ghost of her dead ex-boyfriend Andy (Pee Wee Herman), could have been effective had Solondz brought back the original actors to reprise these roles. But since all the faces are new, whatever weight or catharsis these scenes would have had is lost… or at least considerably diminished.

The decision to recast all the roles was a calculated one by Solondz, operating under the logic that people change over time, sometimes to the point of becoming someone else entirely. I certainly get what Solondz was going for, I just don’t think it worked. With two notable exceptions, most of the cast members are downgrades from their counterparts in “Happiness”. As Joy, Henderson is far less appealing than Jane Adams. Instead of being sweet and soulful, she comes off as an obnoxious, spastic flake.

The straight laced housewife Trish was annoying before, but in the form of Janney, she is truly insufferable, and that she has the most screen-time is fatal to the film. As for Snyder, I know it’s not nice to pick on child actors, but Goddamn! Every time this little shit opened his mouth, I was praying he’d either be struck in the head by a stray bullet, or someone would drop a piano on him. Williams is okay as the prank calling masturbator, Allen, but he’s underused, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (the original Allen) he is not.

Hinds, a very solid thespian, is a perfectly capable sub for Dylan Baker as the ex-shrink/kiddie diddler, but for most of his scenes he’s skulking around, alone and silent, thus he’s under-utilized as well. Also, Baker looked like a regular, all-American dad, which is what made him so chilling. Hinds, on the other hand, is brooding and even a little scary looking, so he’s not as effective. Nevertheless, he gives the film its best performance.

Pee Wee Herman, stepping out of the Playhouse and into Jon Lovitz’s shoes, is also very good as the ghost of Andy, with the actor’s own personal history adding some shading to the character, which is a good thing, since the script sure as hell didn’t. Charlotte Rampling contributes a cameo as a bitter old woman who has a one night stand with Bill. She probably did a fine job, but I can’t really say for sure, because I couldn’t stop staring at that ugly mop on her head.

Overall, “Life During Wartime” is another example of a belated sequel that’s just completely gratuitous. Solondz brought back the old characters, but he couldn’t think of anyplace new to take them. This was made all the more apparent in the number of instances where he mirrored scenes from the original (the opening dinner date, Joy playing her guitar, a key suicide, among others). The whole redemption angle be damned, the story of these characters was finished in the excellent, stand alone movie that is “Happiness”, and “Life During Wartime” is about as pointless and unworthy a follow up as one can imagine. The power and resonance of “Happiness” are gone, and fans of that fantastic film are better off leaving this one unseen.

Rendezvous

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

**

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Every sin comes with a price

Swift shot: While not a professional feature film, there is a raw complexity that makes this one watchable, despite some mediocre acting and unbelievably pedestrian dialog.  Sarah Cooper and Javon Johnson were exceptional stand-outs in an otherwise amateur cast and production team.  Still, I was roommates with one of the supporting actors, so I can’t completely trash this.  And, truth be told, it will find harsher critics than I, but even the harshest critics will be able to find something praiseworthy . . . the stories.

Rendezvous is a film about three separate couples, meeting in hotel rooms for affairs of differing natures.  One couple is incredibly asexual, with hair, dialog, and delivery to match their mechanically mundane relationship. Carolyn (Lesley Warren) has arranged a special series of surprises for her apathetic partner, Scott (Dorian Alexis Santiago) who has an agenda of his own that is immediately apparent, if you pay attention to his body language.

The next couple is made up of a pair of thirty something lovers who it is evident have shared a sorted past, but for no apparent reason that is ever truly explained, wound up apart.  Devin (Javon Johnson) is a strong character, a loving father, a supportive husband and an almost genuinely like-able character, but his rendezvous tonight is not his lovely wife, it is his emotionally scarred, off and on again flame, Nicole (Sarah Cooper) who goes through a roller coaster ride of love, lust, shame, pride and guilt in one dramatic evening.

Finally, the third couple is a more common type of affair you might expect in this digital age.  It’s clear almost immediately that they met on a website promoting affairs and other sexual appetites for people looking to step out of the confinement of normalcy.  Thing is, being abnormal is so normal these days, that old fashioned types are now the freaks.  Still, Antonio (Joao Bounassar) and his web-mistress Candice (Stephanie Smeltzer) are all about fucking, and I use that word deliberately, because if fucking offends you, couple three is going to downright disgust you.  If their acting were any better, maybe it wouldn’t have been so vile watching them be dirty, dirty is an appropriate description of the whole film really, and Director/Writer/Producer Duane Dixon does a fine job of displaying the filth of each relationship in varying degrees of intensity.

Each couple is in for a rough night, and each starts out with high hopes of simply a magical evening – granted, they all have their own definition of what magic is; however ultimately it is about getting their rocks off.  But, as I mentioned in the tag line, they are sinners, and they all eventually pay for their sins.

What I really liked about Rendezvous was that I knew nothing about it, save that my buddy was in it, playing Tristan who adds an element to the film that takes it from melodramatic to dramatic . . . in more ways than one.  Sadly, he was under used by Duane Dixon, and yes, I am biased, but I also wouldn’t pull any punches if I thought my friend sucked.  He didn’t.  Still, getting back on point, I liked how the stories built into a crescendo of retribution.  I pretended that I was Satan, watching these little marionettes grind  into one another, trying to satiate some missing thing that would finally make them whole, as if sex alone would fill the void . . . all the while knowing that in the end, I would watch them all crumble in dark despair.

If the acting were better by the majority of the players, I could see giving this a few extra half stars, and if there wasn’t any Jazz music.  Hey, that is my opinion, take it or leave it, I am no fan of Jazz and leading with it made me feel like I was watching a bad Red Shoe Diaries at first.  But, if you can get past that first opening sequence, and you are a bit of a sadist, you may enjoy watching this morality play unfold.  Maybe you’ll even take something from it, because while they are all sinners, every one of them, yes, even Tristan has a reason for their actions that is grounded in personal sadness and despair.

Scott is driven by more than love or passion, his is a different kind of lust.  Carolyn just wants to be really loved, by anyone, even if it might be a lie.  Devin wants to prove that he is in control of everything, that he can balance his good and dark sides, all while trying to be heroic in his own mind.  Nicole wants to prove to herself that she matters, that she is worthy of Devin and her mother’s love.  Candice is ashamed that she has sexual desires that she could never explain to her straight-laced husband.  Antonio is driven by self-gratification and also wants to control both sides of his life, and even Tristan (Maurice Chevalier) has gone through life with a chip because he too can’t find acceptance from those he loves.

No matter; Satan sits laughing, loving their loss – and in the end, he is paid in full.