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Archive for the ‘Netflix’ Category

This was not the best introduction to the Pang Brothers.

I really felt at a loss to describe Bangkok Dangerous.   The plot and ending are so loaded with cliches, it’s almost as though the screenwriters constructed a movie solely out of tired, over-used devices.   The directing is adequate, although the blue filter applied to some of the scenes gets old fast.   The primary problem with Bangkok Dangerous is Nicolas Cage.

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that I have a bit of a soft-spot for Cage.   My theory is that Cage got his Academy Award and then set about purposefully destroying all critical acclaim he had.   I think Cage makes bad movies on purpose.   This, however, doesn’t explain the horrible performance he turns in.

Normally, Cage likes to overact.  I can appreciate this.  It’s broad, it’s bold and it takes guts to act like that, even if it turns out to be ridiculous.

This one, however, Cage doesn’t act like much of anything.   He stares at fixed points, his face unmoving and mask-like, while he monotonously narrates unnecessary voice-overs.   Since he plays an assassin, you’d think he’d want to blend into his surroundings, but his hair is so bad you wonder when Nic Cage stopped bathing and stopped cutting his hair.   Said frightening hairdo is the most interesting thing about his entire character.  Considering this is Nicolas Cage, he of the “why is it burned?  WHY IS IT BURNED?!” fame, I am not quite sure what was going on.  Did someone give Nic elephant tranquilizers?  Was he under constant hypnosis?   Did he forget he was filming a movie?

I don’t know.   It does feel depressing that Cage is so not there that creating facial expressions seems to cause him real pain.  What sort of crazy mixed up world is this?

I watched this movie twice.  It felt like an eternity.   I’d take a pleasant, friendly visit from some Cenobites over a rewatch.

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Four Rooms is … an interesting experience.

Four Rooms is not for everyone.    Made up of four segments directed by four different directors, there’s no major story other than following a bellboy, Ted, as he works his first night at a rundown hotel.   Each segment has a different flavor, a different style but it also makes an uneven viewing experience.

The Missing Ingredient is the first and the weakest of the segments.   A coven of witches camps in the honeymoon suite and they are desperate to resurrect their goddess.   One of them has forgotten a much-needed ingredient that she can get from Ted.   You’d think a piece about a coven of witches would be interesting but The Missing Ingredient can’t even be awful, just boring.   It has a bit of inspired stunt casting in Madonna, but she’s not any good here either.

The Wrong Man centers on a man and a woman in one of the rooms who may be either playing at some sort of sexual role-playing game or…not, and Ted’s not really sure which is which and what is what.   All he can tell is that the man’s got a gun and is pointing it at him.   Most of this one relies on Tim Roth and Jennifer Beals using some precision timing and while it has a few laughs, the short wears out its welcome quickly.

Robert Rodriguez’s The Misbehavers is easily the best of all of them.   A husband and wife pay Ted $500 to watch their children while they’re gone for the night.  The kids turn out to be pint-sized, foul-mouthed tyrants who give Ted no end of grief.   By the time their parents return, they have managed to set the room on fire, discover a dead hooker in the bed, stab Ted with a syringe, smoke, drink and generally destroy all manner of property and drive Ted nearly to the brink of insanity.   It’s as though Rodriguez melded his Spy Kids sensibilities with the same sick humor in Planet Terror … just before all that.

The Man From Hollywood is directed by Tarantino and it’s got an awful lot of Tarantino trademarks in it.   What sinks The Man From Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino casting himself.   His character is Jimmie Dimmick from Pulp Fiction dialed up to eleven.   Tarantino’s fine in small doses (a la Desperado) but here it’s insufferable, obnoxious and asks way too much of the viewer to be patient as Tarantino manically bumbles along.   The Man From Hollywood is about a bet that really doesn’t end well and it feels longer than it actually is.

So what’s the guilty pleasure in Four Rooms?  Tim Roth, hands down.   Roth combines silly, well-timed comedy with slapstick and comes out with a neurotic bellboy who’s over the top but still believable.  This is a guy poorly equipped to handle the night at this hotel and reacts badly to most of the insane situations in which he ends up.

Roth is the connection between the four pieces, and even when Four Rooms is bad you hope you can still keep watching for Tim Roth and what he might do next.   I suspect The Missing Ingredient was placed first solely because it’s just not that good, and Roth’s performance is the one good thing about it.   Four Rooms would have been atrocious without him, primarily because it runs as a movie without any real sense of direction.  In fact, Four Rooms feels like four people got together on a lark to have some fun, not present stories and characters they had any investment in, so Roth has to bear a heavy weight in making things work.   He does, as best he can, and he’s the best part of it all.

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Uh, not the Sean Penn version.

Jack Burden is a young newspaper reporter sent out to the small town of Kenosha to cover a story that’s interesting to his editor because it’s about “an honest man”.   Willie Stark is a Kenosha man tired of the corrupt politicians, so he runs for county tax collector.   Burden is intrigued; Stark does seem honest and righteous, the kind of guy who doesn’t drink and refuses to bow to the local good old boys who terrorize his family, throw bricks in his windows and prevent him from passing out handbills and talking to the townsfolk.   Stark warns of corruption in the contracts issued for building the new school.  He loses the election, but a group of slick politicians show up and convince Stark to run for governor.   It is their hope that he’ll split the vote between the two major candidates, thereby allowing a specific candidate to win.

Burden goes back to his newspaper job, but quits after a while, disillusioned with the fact that the paper owners want him to write stories that support a candidate other than Stark.

After Burden and campaign worker Sadie Burke inadvertently reveal to Stark the brutal truth of why he’s in the governor’s race, all bets are off.

Stark unleashes rage and fury at the men who set him up and at the establishment in general, appealing to his fellow men, the poor and the downtrodden — the “hicks”, as Stark calls them.   He goes ballistic.    He does not, however, win the election.

He spends his time preparing for the next election while Burden watches from a distance, Stark striking shady deals with corporations and spending money like its going out of style on circuses and barbeques for voters.    Stark gets elected the next time, with Burke at his side and now, in his bed.   He gives up the teetotaling in favor of drink and leaves his wife at home to spend time with Sadie and later, another woman.   His zeal for the common man turns ruthless and brutal, self-serving and greedy.   Jack Burden is hired as his hatchet man, and after that, everyone Burden knows that comes in contact with Willie Stark is painfully destroyed in some fashion.

Ideas are often noble and carry with them some sense of purity.    The problem is that once human beings must act on ideas, such concepts are left to the fallibility of human nature.   Ideas might be noble, but there is no such thing as a perfect human being.

Willie Stark starts out with a very noble goal:  to take back the government from the corrupt politicians in power.   He appeals to the very best of human nature while unleashing the absolute worst in himself.   Stark justifies some very brutal actions – bribery, blackmail, even murder – by telling himself that it is for the good of the people.   When Stark’s son kills a girl in a drunk driving accident, Stark attempts to bribe the girl’s father with a lucrative contract for the truth to remain hidden, something Stark himself railed against.   The father turns him down, disgusted, and later, the man disappears.  It is only when the man’s badly beaten body is discovered that Stark’s staff realizes the man was murdered for standing up for the right thing.   All those in Stark’s path lose their innocence or possibly even more.

Stark promised the people of his state certain things, things that he did deliver – a new hospital, museums, universities – but at what cost?    He destroys lives for the right vote or for a pair of eyes set to look the other way.   Indeed, Stark’s own reliance on the justification that he is doing all this for the little guy is just a smooth veneer on Stark’s need to feed his own ego, line his own pockets and solidify his power base.

It’s a cautionary tale, one based on Huey Long’s life, which Robert Penn Warren (the writer of the book All the King’s Men) witnessed first-hand.    The axiom absolute power corrupts absolutely might be a bit tired to trot out, but it’s nonetheless true.   Stark starts out as perhaps the best of men and ends up the wretched worst.   Broderick Crawford is perfect as Stark, a mix of righteous indignation and self-serving interest.    It’s a movie that doesn’t leave you easily, since Stark is so eerie and creepy, his staff and hangers-on so readily compliant and the crowds cheering him on.    All The King’s Men is the telling of a story of the worst of human nature, a warning, a lesson on what we choices we make to when it comes to the terrible side of life.

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Real Genius begins with Mitch Taylor, a high school whiz kid interested in lasers, being recruited to the prestigious Pacific Tech by a Professor Holloway.  Holloway is secretly interested in using Taylor to develop a laser that the CIA can use to incinerate people from space.   Weak, right?   (This was the stuff of Reagan’s nightmares, right?)   Taylor’s thrilled just to be at Pacific Tech, but he hits the books hard much to the displeasure of his roommate Chris (played by Val Kilmer).    Chris plays Obi-Wan to Mitch’s Luke, teaching him that life isn’t all about solving problems, while Holloway puts the heat on the two to finish the laser.

When they finally figure out what Holloway has planned for their little experiment, the two recruit other students to help them sink the laser before it can do any real damage.

William Atherton plays the slimy professor keeping the students in the dark.   He also played Richard Peck, the jackass EPA agent in Ghostbusters and the jerk reporter willing to sell out anyone for a scoop in Die Hard.   Thus, Atherton seems to have a propensity for playing assholes we love to hate.  (I bet he gets stopped a lot with comments from people:  “You’re the asshole from Ghostbusters!”   “You’re the asshole from Die Hard!”  I wonder if people ever bring this one up.)  He doesn’t disappoint with Real Genius, as he plays the smarmy professor playing all the angles just right.

Kilmer’s funny enough as Chris Knight, and while the movie isn’t great, it has a sort of “real life meets a touch of wishful thinking” kind of sweetness ordinarily found in John Hughes movies.   … Or I could’ve just been mistaken by looking at all the ’80’s-tastic fashion.  Some of the characters are a bit one-dimensional, but Real Genius makes the whole experience fun.    The ending in particular is worth the price of admission.   Unrealistic?   Slightly zany?   It’s hilarious and the kind of thing that can only happen in the movies – and I mean that in the very best way.

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So much to like and so much to … not.

Diablo Cody was damned if she did well and damned if she didn’t.   After the success of Juno, an Oscar and all the hipster cred a girl could ever want, Cody seemed to be either much hated or much loved by film geeks.    Any follow-up she crafted would have been heavily scrutinized, no matter what it was.   It’s a shame that Jennifer’s Body has gotten heavy flak given the fact it bombed at the box office in spectacular fashion, because it’s not terrible.   It’s also a shame that Jennifer’s Body isn’t great either.

Needy Lisnicki (Amanda Seyfried) is a geeky high schooler who has a normal life, complete with average guy boyfriend Chip.    Needy’s best friend, Jennifer Check, is the most popular girl in school.   Their unlikely friendship is the result of growing up as best friends and sticking together all their lives, to the point where they can sense things about one another.   “Sandbox love never dies,” says Needy.   They live in the town of Devil’s Kettle, a place where nothing exciting happens, and everyone and everything has horrible, sour-sounding names.  (Needy?   Really.)

One night, Jennifer wheedles and pleads with Needy to see an indie band called Low Shoulder at some dive bar.   Fronted by the scheming Nikolai (played by a fantastic Adam Brody), the band longs for mainstream success.  Due to some well-intentioned lies, the band believes Jennifer to be a virgin.   When a horrific accident befalls the bar, the band lures Jennifer to their van and sacrifices her in the woods to Satan.   The problem is Jennifer’s not a virgin and she comes back all wrong.   In fact, she comes back needing to eat people for sustenance.   Needy has to confront the demonic aspects of her best friend and the fact that Jennifer’s “evil, not just high school evil”.

Obviously, Jennifer’s Body is about female high-school relationships and how toxic and sick they can be at times.    I’ve read Cody proclaiming this is a feminist movie; I don’t think that, but it is refreshing to have two female leads and a female-centered horror story.

The style and tone of the film is remarkably similar to Heathers in a way.  Needy provides a running voice-over, much like Veronica.   Jennifer, even before she becomes a succubus from Hell is Heather McNamara.  Post-demonic transference, she’s Heather McNamara channeling the spirit of J.D.   Jennifer’s Body has the same winky black humor as Heathers.   Hell, Cody liberally seasoned the movie with so much of her whippy slang it’s hard not to compare it to Heathers, especially when it appears Cody’s angling to get in an iconic quote much like the infamous “I love my dead, gay son” moment.   With all of the parody of grief and the platitudes people spout and all of the above references, Jennifer’s Body becomes less like a homage or tipping its hat to Heathers and more like someone used it as Cliff’s Notes.

Megan Fox surprisingly is good, given that she demonstrates some measure of self-awareness and actually sells the scene in which Low Shoulder sacrifices her in the woods.    Adam Brody steals the show as an asshole wanna-be rockstar.   Cody’s got recurring characters from Juno popping up too, like J.K. Simmons as a high school teacher with a hook that prove to be fairly funny.

For the most part, Jennifer’s Body is fun; it’s not horrific, it’s not gory, but it is mostly fun with a dash of teenage self-exploration.   More than a few of Cody’s lines and signature teen-speak fall so flat it’s awkward, but most of them zing like they’re supposed to.   I still haven’t decided how I feel about the ending, which is what you would expect and not what you’d expect all at the same time.   I have problems with some of the choices the director, Karyn Kusama, made, but for the most part, I think Kusama did a fairly good job.

(Note to whoever insisted on the lesbian kiss between Fox and Amanda Seyfried:  totally unnecessary and slightly exploitative, dudes.)

I’d recommend it is a Netflix rental, that’s for sure.   There’s a couple of commentaries on the DVD but I haven’t had a chance to watch them yet.   (As a side note, I watched the extended version, however different that is from the theatrical version.)

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Based on a true story, y’all.

Star runner Derrice Bannock is a hero in Jamaica, but his hopes of running in the Olympics are dashed when he and a fellow runner who goes by the name of Yul Brenner no less are tripped by another competitor named Junior on accident.    Derrice refuses to give up his Olympic dream.   He recalls that a bobsled coach attempted to court his father, who was also a Jamaican runner, into starting the first Jamaican bobsled team.  With help from his friend Sanka, Yul and Junior join up and they manage to go all the way to the Olympics.  But can four guys from Jamaica actually compete in winter sports?

Oh, the drama!  The suspense!   The tension!

Not really.   This is a feel-good Disney flick, so it’s chock full of cliches and great life lessons:  never give up, always finish, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (to quote the real Yul Brynner).    Somehow the film avoids preaching, which is great and the cast makes it actually a real joy to watch, cliches and all.

Cool Runnings is frivolous fun, one of those movies I watched when I was a kid to pass the time that as an adult I find amusing without being tiring.  It’s a sweet film mainly carried through the interactions of the four bobsledders and I imagine partly on my childhood nostalgia to be frank.

What I did not expect was to turn off the movie and feel an odd wistfulness for John Candy, who died quite a while ago and who I realize I miss greatly in films.   Candy was a big part of my childhood in the sense that I watched more than a few of his movies, but his salty, cranky sled coach in this movie is a gem.   It’s sad that Candy’s no longer around; he was skillfully funny, I now realize, in a way a lot of comedic actors never are.   He could also cut it as a “real actor”.

The movie’s a fun piece of feel-good cinema, if you’re into that sort of thing and if you’re not, then you won’t like it in the slightest, I don’t think.

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Gerard Butler’s choice to play the Phantom like Gerard Butler was going out on a Friday night for some stalkage may have been … unwise.

Christine Daae is the orphaned daughter of  a Swedish violinist.   Before he died, he promised her he would send an ‘angel of music’ to watch over her.   Christine is taken in by Madame Giry and her daughter at the famous Opera house in France, where no one actually has a French accent except for Madame Giry.    Christine loves to sing but has been too grief stricken to sing properly; until, that is, she hears a voice behind a mirror helping her.

Now begins the parade of idiocy that runs through this movie.  Most of the general populace, however brain damaged, stupid or downright idiotic would hear a voice behind a mirror and do two things:  1) run or 2) grab something sharp and pointy.   No, Christine believes her angel of music has finally arrived.

Madame Giry knows the truth, since she’s totally BFF with the infamous Phantom of the Opera, who’s really a sideshow freak that she let live in the sewer bottom of the Opera.    Sadly, it does not have a charming view but Gerard Butler’s Phantom seems well stocked on candles.   He seems to have nigh on two million; perhaps he is a candle collector?

The Phantom schemes to get Christine in and Carlotta, the diva who can’t really sing, out of the Opera’s shows.    The whole time he’s trying to seduce Christine, taking her on fun boat rides to his Sewer Palace and wooing her with his dark and mysterious pipe organ.   Uh … yeah.

The problem here is that while Gerard Butler may look hungover, in need of a shave and a shower and possibly not all there sometimes, he is not bad looking.   In fact, I’d wager that it’s hard to ugly up Gerard Butler (although The Ugly Truth did a good job of making him seem vile) and sticking a bit of molded plastic on his face doesn’t make him look like a monster who has to chat up a girl by kidnapping her to his Sewer Palace with his candle collection; it makes him look like a guy with a serious brain malfunction.   Oh yeah, and a creepy, perverted one at that.

Competing for Christine’s affections is Raoul, the Vicomte with a heart of gold and nothing upstairs.    If one were to crack open Raoul’s cranial cavity, it would probably contain bits of cardboard and dryer fluff, with  a few starving moths flying around.    He’s obnoxiously bent on Christine-directed chivalry.

Needless to say the Phantom doesn’t like this.   And he doesn’t like that the new Opera owners won’t pay him his extortion money.   … And he really doesn’t like that Carlotta lady.   Yeah, so some people die.

The main problem with Phantom is the cast.  Emmy Rossum is convincingly dim, but her eyes are so … dead.    Not to be mean, but everything I’ve seen her in she’s got the same look that salmon has at the fish counter.   And Gerard Butler can eke out the Phantom’s songs, he looks like he shops at L’Abercrombie & Fitch in his spare time.    He’s not menacing or scary or even remotely creepy; he’s just Gerard Butler, running around an opera and doing his best sexy-eyes at Christine.   The guy that plays Raoul is no better, and Minnie Driver as the divalicious Carlotta is just exhausting.

The real guilty pleasure in all this is the amount of detail lavished on the sets and costumes.   The Opera is stunning, the costumes magnificent and everything seems to be locked down to the minutiae.   Lloyd-Webber’s music is cool, if you view it through the lens of when it was popular on Broadway (the ’80’s) and very bombastic.

Overall, it’s not … good but it is a guilty pleasure, if only to laugh at the idiocy of the main characters and gaze upon some awesome sets and costumes.   … And to see Gerard Butler attempt to act as a conflicted, disfigured person with lots of emo rage.

I suggest you all run off and read Cleolinda’s Movies In Fifteen Minutes Recap of Phantom of the Opera, which is far more hilarious and much more in depth than I could write — you can find it HERE.

 

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