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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

— Macbeth, Act V, Scene V

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Good old William Shakespeare wasn’t referring to Michael Bay flicks, naturally, but rather life.   The above quote is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and overused quotes but I could think of none other that so exactly summed up the movie I watched this afternoon.

Transformers 2:  Revenge of the Fallen starts out on the wrong foot simply by virtue of being an obnoxious two and a half hours.   Roughly an hour could have easily been trimmed out of the film with no undue impact to the film’s dubious, threadbare plot.   Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is heading off to college and leaving both girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) and protector Bumblebee behind.   His overall goal is to have a normal life after the events that transpired in the previous film; however, fate has other things in store for him.   After a shard of the now-destroyed Allspark falls out of his clothing, Sam begins to see strange symbols and have bizarre, unexplained episodes of abnormal behavior.   Meanwhile, the Decepticons are gearing up for a big showdown, as they rescue Megatron from the depths of the Laurentian Abyssal and begin to search for a new energy source on Earth.

Transformers 2 is so much of a mess it’s hard to know where to start.   Megan Fox didn’t even bother to try to act.  I suppose she knew what she was signing on for when every article of her wardrobe is cut up or down to her navel, but she ho-hums her way through the movie.   LaBeouf is a decent actor most of the time but he’s forced to jerk and twitch his way through this bloated tangle of a movie.   The normally impeccable John Turturro is reduced to a blubbering knuckledragger who shows up to scale a pyramid and to drop his drawers and reveal a set of g-string underwear to the audience.   God Almighty, I hope Turturro bought a nice house with his paycheck.   Even Witwicky’s parents are dunderheads who can barely survive the flick on their own without being swaddled in bubblewrap and bodyguards.

Plot points such as tattoos are brought up and then dropped, ne’er to be seen again.   The film meanders from explosion to explosion in the first half before a geriatric robot named Jetfire shows up to monologue some exposition for the audience, explaining what exactly has been going on for the past hour and a half before picking right up again with – you guessed it – explosions.

The robots are tiresome, particularly The Twins, two robots who are the worst racial caricatures I’ve seen on film in a long time.   Decked out in gold teeth and lopsided faces, these two spend the film beating each other up and firing off such treasures of dialogue involving profanity and odious slang.   I have no idea who thought these two were a good idea, but it shocks me that someone tossed them in such a cavalier fashion.   The adolescent humor that pervades the film, like scrotum and ass jokes, feels more at home in something like Meet the Spartans but I suppose Bay never met a barrel he didn’t like to scrape.

What is amazing is the level of detail to the CGI but even that wears thin quickly.  Bay’s biggest forte has always been the fact that he can direct action scenes particularly well but the scale of the Transformers combined with the closer shots doesn’t lend itself well to a viewer making heads or tails of the bots fighting on screen.   Sometimes all that detail does is make your head hurt.

Transformers 2 isn’t a film so much as a cinematic beatdown for the theatergoer.  Bay’s purpose isn’t to entertain; it’s to pummel a ticket buyer into the plush theater seat with explosions and a soundtrack that would make the deafest of persons wince.   (I left the theater at roughly 6:00 p.m. with a raging headache that has only moderately subsided three hours later.)   If this film is a testament to anything, it’s Michael Bay’s unchecked ego.

Revenge of the Fallen is a behemoth of idiocy.   There is nothing entertaining or amusing about it.   There is no reward to this experience.   If you go see it, aspirin and a cool cloth await you post-film with a strange sense of having been clubbed half to death.

If we were running on the star rating here at 1,416 and Counting?  We’re talking half a star for those poor ILM folks who worked their tails off on the CGI.   That’s it.

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#1545: Darkman

Three words:  Disfigured Liam Neeson.

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Neeson plays Peyton Westlake, a scientist working on an artificial skin to help burn victims.   It’s got one problem:  it can’t survive more than 99 minutes in direct light, but functions perfectly in the dark.  Other than this stumbling block, his life is moving along well:  he’s got a great girlfriend, a sweet research gig and a swank laboratory.   Until he hits the worst day of his life.

Westlake’s girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) is a lawyer working for the Strack company, headed up by the evil Louis Strack.   She discovers an internal memo by accident.   It’s too bad for her that the memo contains information about Strack’s shady business dealings with a mobster named Durant and Strack’s bribes to the zoning committee.   Westlake picked it up by mistake on his way to his lab, so off go Strack  & Durant’s minions to clean up the problem.

Poor Westlake got his marriage proposal to Julie laughed off that morning, then mobsters come in, beat him, drop him in a vat of acid, kill his assistant and explode his lab.

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Yeah, that day would go right in the “Shittiest Day Ever” category.

Westlake’s battered, burned body washes ashore and the local hospital mistakes him for a homeless person.   You know what this means!  Experimentation!   They snip some nerves so he can no longer feel pain, making him sorta superhuman, but with the major bummer side effect of increased emotional angst and some serious adrenaline rages.   Think half-Wolverine berserker kind of stuff.

Westlake escapes the hospital, rebuilds his lab and decides to take out the bad guys who basically fucked up his awesome life and win his girl back.   Said girl is operating under the assumption that he’s dead, actually, so Westlake has a ton of work ahead of him.

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Darkman is far from greatness but it is fun.   Made by Sam Raimi, it features a lot of Raimi hallmarks, but it feels more like a throwback to the old monster & sci fi flicks from the ’30’s – ’50’s than it does a modern flick.   (Raimi’s montages in particular are evocative of this.)

Neeson does about as good a job as one can expect.   He’s part Phantom of the Opera, part Hunchback of Notre Dame, and he spends most of his role (sadly for us shallow folks) in full burned up makeup.   He’s stronger in the first part of the film, where he really does tug your heartstrings after he’s escaped from the hospital and is gradually realizing what happened to him.

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What’s shocking is how much of a dullard Frances McDormand appears to be in this one.   She looks shell-shocked for most of the movie, even before Peyton catches the fireball express to the river.   Afterwards, she doesn’t get much better.   Sad, but true – and it makes you wonder what Westlake’s expending all this energy to recover.

The ending of the movie is great and solid, but probably not the one audiences wanted to see.  While the bad guys get their just rewards, the story line between McDormand and a progressively more and more unstable Neeson can only end in an unhappy way.

While it is entertaining, the effects can border on the bad and muffle the actors’ ability to do what they do best.    It’s fun, but not inventive; dated and not fresh.   This is something you’d pause to watch on cable on a Saturday afternoon and then move about your day, nothing from the movie sticking in your head.

However, since this is a Sam Raimi flick… obligatory Bruce Campbell cameo!

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I know it’s widely popular to love Bruce Campbell, but how can you not?  I adore the man, so this was the cherry on the top of a fun movie.

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HOW DO YOU FUCK THIS UP?!

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X-Men Origins:  Wolverine should’ve been an easy movie to make.   The story of Wolverine was already written down as a whole comic, so it’s not like the filmmakers/screenwriters had any lack of material here.   This is not something incredibly difficult.   This should’ve been a hole-in-one.  Instead, it turned out like some people were competing to make one of the worst superhero movies ever.

No, I don’t use the “ever” term lightly; Daredevil‘s non-director’s cut, The Punisher and shit, even The Shadow were better plotted out than Wolverine.   Watching the Wolverine movie was like watching a few hours of WHAT-IN-THE-HOLY-FUCK strung together.

The movie begins with young James and young Victor Creed – James’ father is killed by Creed’s father and this is where James discovers he’s a mutant.   Enraged by the death of his dad, James pops a pair of nasty looking bone claws and kills Creed’s father, only to discover Creed’s father is his real dad.  Victor and James scamper off, and the most well-done sequence of the film is a montage of James and Victor throughout the years, fighting in every major war since the late 1800’s.

After a nasty fight that takes out their commanding officer in Vietnam, the two are court-martialed and sentenced to death.   It’s too bad that both of them have insane healing factors, so – as James puts it – the sentence “doesn’t take”.   William Stryker shows up, offering them a chance at redemption because of their special talents.   They accept but it’s not long before James has a change of heart.

The team Stryker assembles is comprised of Wraith, a shapeshifter; Deadpool, a smart-mouthed sword-wielder; Agent Zero, a master gunman who never misses; Fred Dukes, a guy who can punch things really hard; Beak, an electrical manipulator and of course, Victor and James.  When Stryker carries a mission too far and when Victor’s enjoyment of bloodthirsty killing is brought the forefront, James leaves.   He adopts the name Logan, settles in the Canadian Rockies with Kayla Silverfox and builds a new life.   When the team is slowly being killed off, one by one, Stryker shows back up to end his happy homelife.

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There are so many problems with this movie that I almost don’t know where to start.

Special Effects:   They’re so bad they’re laughable.   Most of the movie is has terrible CGI to the point that it’s almost distracting to watch.   A friend of mine commented on the explosions as being like “everything that blew up had explosive ordinance in it”.   While I give action movies a lot of leeway on this sort of thing, Wolverine‘s special effects are ridiculous for 99% of the movie.   A scene at Three Mile Island is so bad, I could see people in the theater throwing their hands up in frustration.  (I was, too.)

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When one of my friends found out I was doing Moonraker, he said (and I paraphrase):  “I love James Bond but I don’t even own that piece of shit, Caitlin”.   Praise, indeed!

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The nominators for this one were the sisters Pookie and Schnookie, who have long James Bond marathons and enjoy such things as Murder, She Wrote and quilting, so you know we get along well.   I was warned in advance that this was awful.  I believe there were some admonishments about how none of Bond’s quips even make sense given the situation at hand, but nothing, really, can truly prepare you for the cataclysmic ineptitude that is Moonraker.

There’s no real use in summarizing the plot since every James Bond movie has the same plot for the most part.  In this one, Bond must stop the villain Hugo Drax from doing something villanous involving outer space.   He must battle Hugo Drax’s feared henchman Jaws and Bond’s contractually obligated to have sex with a couple of pretty girls who have vaguely pornographic names, too.   In theory, it’s hard to completely fuck up the premise of Bond.   He uses some gadgets, drives a cool car, gets laid and bests the baddie.   If you’ve seen one…

Moonraker, however, is in a league of its own due ot the fact that nearly every aspect of it is shitty.   Hugo Drax, the villain, is so bland that I didn’t even bother to take a screencap of him.  His dullard henchman is more interesting than he is.

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Jaws is a simple fellow who likes to bite things with his metal teeth, stand around being intimdating and generally walking around with a big smirk on his face.   That, ladies and gentlemen, is the mark of a great Bond villain.

Oh, except for the fact that Jaws turns “good” in the end…for love.

The man just runs around and bites things and is a strong freak, okay?   That’s all he does, right up until the very end.    How memorable.

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Nothing like celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with some stereotypical, unrealistic, Lucky Charms-accented Irishmen, eh?

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The Boondock Saints takes place in South Boston, where a pair of Irish immigrant twins, Connor and Murphy McManus (played by Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) are living in near squalor, attending church faithfully and working in a meatpacking plant.   A twist of fate lands them in a situation where they realize that they have a chance to take out society’s trash and act accordingly, believing it to be a mission from God.   Special Agent Paul Smecker of the FBI is hunting the killers, believing them to be mixed up in a mafia war.   The McManus brothers have a friend, Rocco, who’s a ne’er-do-well package boy for the Italian mob that begins to help them after he does nothing but royally screw himself all the way through the film.  All storylines intertwine at the end, depicting a hyper-stylized version of what happens when you take “justice” into your own hands.

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Let’s get it out of the way first:  I never understood the hardcore Boondock Saints fans.   I love the movie but mainly because it’s an over-the-top epic; entertaining, yes, but completely absurd.   I lived with this guy in my dorm in college who used to draw the twins’  “VERITAS” and “AEQUITAS” tattoos on his hand, who took the film so seriously that it was almost hilarious.   He also looked like a velociraptor, but that’s a story for another time.   Anyways, there are a lot of people who love this movie as if it is the Holy Gospel of Irish Saintly Men Killing People.   You won’t find that here.

Take for instance, Connor and Murphy McManus.   These twins are devoutly Catholic, sport any number of religious tattoos and work in a meatpacking plant.   Yet they also speak eight thousand languages, are well versed in fighting, guns and killing folks, and generally seem to be perfect.  They’re also your stereotypical hard-drinking Irishmen.

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When Agent Smecker shows up, it’s because the McManus brothers have killed two Russian mob guys who attacked them in their home.   He’s paired with three of the most brainless Boston cops ever, to the point of being unbeliveable.  Detective Greenlee, pictured above, theorizes that the mob guys were smushed to death walking home from St. Patrick’s Day celebrations by a “huge fuckin’ guy”.  If Detective Greenlee is representative of the Boston Police Force, then there must be a slew of families in Boston who have been told their family members were stomped to death by the Jolly Green Giant, smothered by the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and assaulted by the Tooth Fairy.   Smecker promptly schools the detectives and continues to brow-beat and deride them throughout the entire movie.

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The only way this could get more cliché is if these two had donuts stuck in their claws.   Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Willem Dafoe remains the prime reason to see this movie.   Willem Dafoe as Agent Smecker is an eccentric nutso.   Dafoe swallows every scene up, masticates it and spits it back out at the audience.   It’s hard to notice anything else on screen, which is why I think so many people are disappointed he’s not coming back for the sequel.

Dafoe’s Puccini-listening FBI agent who’s barely holding on to his sanity throughout the investigation reaches his prime point at the most audacious, ostentatious part of the whole shebang.   The McManus brothers and their bumbling friend Rocco go after a made man who’s a “sick fuck”, only to be confronted by a hired gun named Il Duce.   The Italian mob has hired Il Duce to dispose of the pesky Saints and the two sides do their damndest to blow each other away right in the middle of suburbia.

The suburban firefight is probably the most memorable part of the movie save for one scene, primarily because Willem Dafoe goes completely fucking crazy.

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Watching the utter magic, no, the beauty of a crazed Willem Dafoe conducting a fake orchestra while he loses his everloving mind with the violence in the background is grade A stuff.

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It’s not as magical, however, as watching Willem Dafoe dress in drag and seduce mafia dudes to go in and rescue the Saints, who have been captured by the mafia guys.

When Il Duce is released from prison solely to tackle the Saints, his release is anything but subtle:

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Hello there, Billy Connolly.

A cage?

What’s perverse is the ending.    Il Duce turns out to be the twins’ long lost father; the three then team up with the Boston police department to take matters into their own hands and make sure a mafia don is punished ‘properly’ since it appears he will be acquitted at trial.   They, of course, cannot take a quiet approach.   They execute him in full view of the public at his trial.

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The Boondock Saints is not an understated film.   It’s loud, obnoxious and requires a tremendous sense of disbelief in many ways to buy it at all.   It’s through mainly Flannery, Reedus and Dafoe’s charm and quirk that the movie sails through, something the sequel may be lacking in since Dafoe won’t be there to manage the lion’s weight on his shoulders.    I don’t think that you would have had The Boondock Saints without the influence of Tarantino hanging spectral-like over the film.

For all that, the film is an enormous amount of fun, in its own way – overblown accents and gratuitous violence and all.   I’ll be shocked if the sequel can measure up to the original, but you never know.

(And if you’re looking for further stuff on the making of the movie, you can watch this awesome documentary called Overnight, which is about the writer/director’s meltdown through pre-production, shooting and post-production.   Strange stuff.)

Oh, and speaking of gratuitous…

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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#1521: Watchmen

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The main problem with Watchmen is that no matter what anyone did, no matter who made this film, it would never live up to the graphic novel.   Watchmen the novel is so dear to so many people and so solid a work in its own right that no cinematic treatment would leave people satisfied.

Let’s go with the good first:   the triumverate of Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach and The Comedian is a very good thing.   I think that Mr. Haley in particular should have film parts pouring through his door like a tidal wave after this.   Out of all of them, the mask gives Haley the least to work with and he probably makes the biggest impression.   (Rorschach’s attack on a prison inmate followed by the cry of “You all think I’m locked up in here with you…well, you’re all locked up in here with ME!” elicited a huge amount of cheers from the audience when I saw the film.)   Crudup’s easy to look over because he runs his corner of the Watchmen very smoothly and in a very understated fashion.  Morgan makes The Comedian a very believable, very frightening psychopathic persona with limited screentime.

The opening credits will probably stick in people’s minds for a very long time, as they’re very well done.   The movie in general is entertaining, I’ll give it that.   Is it perfect?   Not really.   It’s not a trainwreck, though.

The bad?

Zach Snyder really needs to take some time off and put pen to paper.  While he’s easily mocked for his liberal use of slow motion and other cinematic tricks, he’s not a bad director.   The problem mainly is that he’s spent so much time adapting other people’s work that it seems that he’s very focused on making an extraordinarily faithful adaptation and his own movie suffers.   I haven’t seen enough of Malin Ackerman (Silk Spectre II)  to know whether or not she’s a good actress but she really isn’t very good in this one .  This particular film is a very high profile movie to be bad in.   Matthew Goode and Patrick Wilson aren’t terrible, but they’re not fascinating or interesting.

I get Snyder’s liberal use of violence:   these are violent, sometimes insane people who are not necessarily the “heroes” they’re portrayed in society.   I get why Snyder chose to change the ending of the film, although I don’t think it worked as well as in the book.   But I do think that Snyder stopped seeing the forest for the trees and as a result, Watchmen feels less like the masterpiece it was on paper and more like a really blurry copy, like a Xerox machine went wrong somewhere.  Add in the fact that I think the world’s moved on from the Cold War, from the ’80’s, from the questions the film is intended to raise and you have a film that feels dated and cold.

Note:  This should read also that “The film’s overall issues – the destruction of humanity by itself – is a universal, archetypal point, but the time period and absurdity of historical characters such as Nixon leave the film feeling slightly irrelevant.” This was missed in the initial posting and I feel it is necessary to the review to include it.   — 06/08/09

A noble effort?   Yes.   An entertaining one?   Pretty much.    It falls short of the mark, though, and that’s a shame.   Even for all the nitpicks, though, it would’ve fallen short no matter who it was or when it was made.   Maybe Hollywood should learn from this and just stop making Alan Moore’s work into movies.

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I had heard of the awful aspects of Superman IV in vague generalizations before, but man – oh man – it was far worse than I expected.   While real life events in Caitlinland have left me unable to review many movies lately, I kept putting this one off… and I wasn’t disappointed by what I got, in a sense.

The basic plot is that it’s Supes versus a character named Nuclear Man, who is created in the most obscene, ridiculous way humanly possible.   Nuclear Man wears a lot of spandex and has pretty, fake nails and seems to be very intense all the time.    There’s a Dynasty joke in there somewhere that I just can’t find.

More than anything, the movie looks kind of slapdash – like someone cared enough to make this one but not make it well. Christopher Reeve looks like he constantly wants to slink out of frame with embarrassment at every opportunity and really, you can’t blame him.   Cheesy, stilted dialogue and hopeless, awful sets probably don’t engender much faith in an actor, especially when there’s an epic moon battle between the nuclear lord of synthetic clothing and The Great American Hero that looks like it belongs in a cheap, made for TV film.

It’s a depressing end to Reeve’s run in the franchise; it’s even sadder based on the fact that the movie is so boring you have to resist the urge to pass out from sheer inanity all the way through.   It’s disappointing.   Superman – both the movie and the comic book – is really something a lot of people take very seriously and while Superman is not “serious business” to some extent, it’s very disheartening to watch it casually turned into a big joke.

Thank god I’m not a huge fan of Superman…because then, I might cry.

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