Story recap. Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a down and out sociopath and petty thief when he comes across an accident being filmed by news stringer Joe Loder (Bill Paxton). Louis realizes there is money in it and trades a stolen bike for a camera and police scanner. He starts filming accidents and crime scenes and selling them to desperate news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo. Remember her being naked in like 50% of the Thomas Crown Affair? I sure do. She also played Frigga in Thor, which is both a great film and an awesome character name. The Norse did it right. Thor image from the comic book t shirts collection). He learns quickly and in short order is creating news as much as filming it. He extorts Nina into sleeping with him in a skin crawlingly creepy scene and steadily increases his skills and value to the network. He gets involved in a major crime and films all of it.
So worth seeing or not? Hell yes. You are a fool if you don’t go see this film. Every scene with Jake in it will have you glued to the screen and every scene has him in it. Date movie? In the sense of a film that will encourage your date to get naked with you no but in the sense that you care about your date and want her to see an excellent movie yes. Bathroom break? Hold it dude. This film is worthy of you wetting your pants. 5 of 5 phasers.
More to see soon but I am still working on those social commentary blogs that I think I need to share with the world. I’ll post them soon. Thank you all for reading . I hope you all have a great night.
The Infamous Dave Inman
I will say this film is a great date movie and in truth I wish I had taken the girl I am seeing to see it (4 dates! A new record!). It is good wholesome family fun and once you get it on DvD or streaming you can use it to park your rugrats comfortably for 95 minutes. I just don’t see it as a cherished childhood memory when your kids grow up (although these days what is?).
Story recap: La Muerta and Xibalba bet on which of two boys young Maria will marry. Xibabla choose Juaquin, a brash soldier he gives a medal of indestructibility to, and La Muerta chooses Manolo, a musician from a family of bull fighters. They each try to prove themselves to her in their own way. Xibabla cheats, killing Manalo and sending him to the Land of the Remembered where he meets all of his ancestors. They team up to make him alive again and win the day.
So worth seeing? I’ll say yes. Go see it. The part of your brain that likes pretty things will thank you. Take the kids. Load up the minivan full of all the kids in your neighborhood and that night feed them all burritos. There is a good chance you will feel like you aren’t raising your kids to be the next generation of white suburban drones by exposing them to something other than Christmas at least for a while. I’ll give this film 3.5 out of 5 Phasers. Pretty good but could have been better. Sorry for the short review but honestly there isn’t a lot I can do with kids films.
the Infamous Dave Inman
PS I was contacted by a guy doing a Kickstarter Campaign for a documentary on comic books called Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages. He seemed like a cool dude and has interview with a ton of great artists including Stan Lee. As a fan of classic comic book artists (Jack Kirby image from one of my favorite comic book t shirts) I say if you can help him go for it. His goal doesn’t sound ridiculous to me and he does have some cool swag to hand out. Mostly he needs funds to buy the rights to comic book panels for his documentary.
Was there a need for this movie?
I need to be careful when I speak of niche sub cultures if only because I am neck deep in one myself. If someone were to create a movie about the Warhammer world literally 99.97% of you would not only not know what the hell is going on or even care but I and my friends would be fascinated.
That being said my experience (from high school until late 20’s or so) with street racers is this: they buy a potential hotrod for about $10 grand, spend three years and $8 grand modding it up, and sell it for about $10 grand when they are a point away from losing their license for speeding tickets. None of them ever go anywhere (as far as I can tell neither Nascar nor F1 teams are recruiting guys who tear up 2 lane highways in a Honda Civic with a suspension upgrade and a B18 motor) besides back and forth down desolate highways.
(Also once I came across an accident scene where two guys were street racing on a foggy night and killed some poor guy on a bicycle. My sympathy for street racers is not terribly high.)
So I guess there is a chance that there is a huge sub genre of street racers for whom this movie would make sense. Unfortunately I like to believe there is a much bigger genre of people who enjoy scripts that are coherent. For those people this movie is pretty much a big waste of time.
I’m not going to say this movie was bad. Good and bad are relative things really. A salmon gets caught and eaten by a bear. Is that good or bad? Well, good for the bear but fairly bad for the salmon. If you approach this film expecting nothing but mindless driving action then in a sense it is very good. However if you hoped for stimulation of any part of your brain other than the stem then in another very valid sense this film is very bad. If this were the 50’s this movie would be the perfect drive in experience in that you could watch it as the mood suits you or spend the time trying to get busy with your date in the back seat. Ironically this film featured a big drive in scene. Where did they find a functioning drive in, exactly?
I will say I am a fan of real stunts and effects rather than CGI. It’s like they put some effort into it instead of trying to impress us with hi tech cartoons. The driving was impressive and required good choreography. If you are a fan of cool automobiles this movie will have you drooling as it is like the highlights of Top Gear done where they wreck half the cars. I appreciate a good ride (ask me about my 2005 Crown Vic. Believe it or not, there are people in this world who think that car is cool. I get about an offer a month to buy it) myself although am more inclined towards the American muscle cars featured at the beginning of the movie rather than the European racers towards the end.
The story, however, looks like they tried the old “Million monkeys on a million typewriters” approach but were about 999,997 monkeys short. The plot holes had plot holes. I don’t have all day to work on this review (driving to LA in my high performance Vic. I really shouldn’t watch race movies the night before a long drive) so will skip most of them, but how the hell can the main character avoid the combined police forces of like 22 states (who between them seem to have 2 helicopters and 5 cars) but some random Bubba rednecks can track him down on a road in the middle of no where? Also don’t you think the fastest Mustang ever built should be able to outrun a pickup truck and a couple of cement mixers? Also if you are in a high speed chase wherein several police officers are involved in crashes that might very well have killed them while on parole you are going to do a lot more than six months in jail
I think the best way to describe the story is it plays out like a video game. This is about right as the movie is based on a video game. It is true that some video games actually have amazing stories and complexities that would be the envy of most movies but EA is not know for being literary masters (or, for that matter, competent). It could be stated that in a B movie who’s main function is to provide another outlet for all the Fast and Furious fans a story is of tertiary concern and odds are the people making that statement are exactly the ones producing this film.
The story is of Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul-Breaking Bad, the Last House on the Left, Mission Impossible III), street racer and car mechanic. He enters a local race with his crew Benny (Scott Mescudi-The Bling Ring, 30 Minutes or Less, Fright Night), a pilot who specializing in stealing assorted aircraft and teleporting across the country in defiance of all known laws of time and space; Finn (Rami Malek-Night at the Museum, Short Term 12, Battleship), a mechanic who seems to want to be naked; Joe Peck (Ramon Rodriguez-Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Battle Los Angeles, the Taking of Pelham 1-2-3), another mechanic who drives the worlds largest pickup truck; and Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson-Beneath Hill 60, Accidents Happen, Conspiracy 365), another driver and the younger sister of Tobey’s ex-girlfriend Anita (Dakota Johnson-21 Jump Street, Beastly, the Five-Year Engagement). They jump in a series of really hot American muscle cars and wreak havoc through the streets of some small town, avoiding cops with the help of Benny and literally doing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to other cars and the city.
Tobey wins and afterward is approached by Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper-Captain America: the First Avengers, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures (what’s the deal with this guy and movies with colons in them?)), a guy they all knew and hated in high school for some reason and who has grown up into a rich, arrogant jerk (while they all slave away as mechanics. I guess being a jerk has its benefits). Maybe they hate him because he is with Anita now? Seemed a little confused. Anyway, he comes to their shop the next day (Tobey owns it and his friends all seem to work there for free in exchange for use of an Xbox and giant TV). Apparently he has come into possession of the last Mustang Colby worked on and wants them to complete it. Turns out Tobey is near broke and needs the money desperately (remember that street racing equation I showed you at the beginning of this blog). They do it and sell the car to a rich dude and his super car chick Julia (Imogen Poots-That Awkward Moment, Fright Night, V for Vendetta) for $2.7 million (just to depress myself I calculated that that would buy 108 of my current car. Are there really people out there who wipe their ass with money like that? If you are such a person you are a pretentious ass hat).
After the sale they get into a fight and decide to settle it like all men do: in an illegal road race with millions of dollars worth of elite European racing cars. Pete joins in the race because…I don’t know? Dino had 3 cars? Tobey is about to win when Dino runs Pete off the road and he dies in a fiery crash. Naturally Tobey gets framed for it and spends 2 years in prison for manslaughter.
At this point we are reminded that this movie comes from a video game with the introduction of the Monarch (Michael Keaton-Really? I guess it has been a while since the original Batman and honestly all his best work since then seems to be cartoon voices so maybe he’s eager to get out there. Batman, Speechless, Jackie Brown. I’m particularily pleased to have found this Batman image in our Batman T-Shirt collection. It seems most apropos). The monarch is some rich guy who loves racing but spends all his time in his internet racing dungeon doing a radio show and puts together a race every year where people show up in millions of dollars worth of cars and then race for pinks. In a video game he would be the voice over cut scene you would see and listen to while the game’s next sequence is loading but in this film he fits in as organically and painlessly as a broken bottle in your next bowel movement. It really felt like the director ran into Michael at the local Starbucks and once they got him had to figure out a way to include him in the film at the last minute. Also Michael had a lot of other stuff to do and needed to film his entire performance in 12 hours so they set up a room in his house and bailed on all that pesky “interaction with other humans” business.
Tobey gets out and needs to get revenge on Dino by beating him in the big race that the Monarch is running. He calls the guy who bought the Cobra and offers to give him all the cars if he lets him use it in the race. The guy agrees but makes Julia tag along. At that point rent Cannonball Run and watch it on fast forward and you will get the middle 80 minutes of this film. In order to get invited into the big race he first has to attract the attention of the Monarch. To do that he goes on a driving rampage violating his parole and attracting the notice of every cop in the country. Fortunately for them there are only like 6 of them and they have never heard of a spike trap. However, while it might be easy to avoid capture by every cop in the USA it is nigh impossible to avoid being trapped by a half dozen rednecks in pickup trucks. Dino puts a bounty out on Tobey and the aforementioned trailer trash catch up to him on a road. Rather than accelerate to the Cobra’s reported max speed of 230 mph he opts instead to take them on a cross country road race with a bizarre helicopter rescue thanks to Benny in another stolen helicopter (don’t helicopters have keys or something?).
More driving madness ensues. The Cobra gets wrecked by yet more hillbilly mercenaries but Anita gives Tobey another car to drive in the big race. Racing starts, cars get smashed, about 20 police officers are either injured or killed, and Tobey is given a chance to prove what a good guy he is.
In spite of my bitching about this movie I am a fan of Aaron Paul. In the few scenes where he was actually allowed to act he did a great job and reminded me why I loved him in Breaking Bad. One star. The cars were all pretty amazing. Even once they got out of the muscle cars that I love and onto the Euro stuff they were really fun to see. Two stars. Most of the driving action was really good and impressive. You have to give real camera work credit in these days of CGI mediocrity. Two stars. If you can shut off the part of your brain that craves a story more complex than “See Spot Run” this movie is pretty fun. Two stars. Total: seven stars.
The black holes.
The story was like if you tool all the worst plots from video games ever (including Pac Man) and used that to inspire your mediocrity. A crime against literature and really disappointed as the trailers really implied that there was more. One black hole. Every scene with the Monarch was teeth grindingly awful. To prep for this role must have listened to every radio personality ever starting with Hello, Vietnam and combined them into the worst amalgam shock jock ever. The use of his awfulness to punctuate the scenes was like throwing AA batteries on the floor of a roller rink. Whatever momentum the film had generated came to a screeching halt every time. Two black holes. Sorry Imogen Poots you are hot but your character sucked. Do you know a lot about cars or not? Can you drive more than 60 mph or not? What were you here to accomplish? One black hole. Most of the other characters sucked too but in particular I am going to ding this film for Benny, the pilot. Every time he showed up the believability of this film (all ready on the balls of its ass) nose dived. One black hole. This film seemed really eager to distract you from itself. It’s a race movie but let’s throw in a scene where one of the mechanics quits his office job naked. How about Benny in a stolen news copter using the camera to scope out girls jogging? One star. The incompetence of the police in this film and the complete disregard for the fact that your racing might have just killed dozens of people was annoying. At least Fast and Furious tries to keep from running civilians off the road. One black hole. The gullibility of Anita was really annoying, especially after Dino put out a bounty on Tobey. One black hole. Some of the action driving scenes were really dumb (especially the helicopter escape scene). One black hole. For that matter how exactly did the pick up truck guys catch them? Sorry but that part is still bugging me. One black hole. This film clocks in at a whopping 132 minutes and you will be feeling it’s length by the end. One black hole. Total: 11 black holes.
A grand total of 4 black holes. Should you see it? That’s an easy question to answer. If you like Fast and Furious then yes. You will get everything you ever wanted from a F&F film only with less chicks and slightly more naked man ass. If you don’t enjoy them then don’t bother. If you are a huge Breaking Bad fan and want to see Aaron Paul go for it but honestly he is not on the screen as much as you might like. Date movie? If your girl is into fast cars sure, but really not many more reasons. Bathroom break? I’d say the scene right after they drop Imogene Poots off at the hospital is pretty disposable. It’s just more story development and if you are in this theater for the story you probably don’t know how to use a toilet anyway.
Thanks for reading. My apologies for not getting this done on Friday but I had to drive to LA for a small Warhammer tournament (where I took best overall. Yah, me! I’m king of the world! (I mean nerds)). I’ll try to see something tonight and write it up tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Hit the Like Us on FB thingy up above and leave you comments on this movie or my review here. I do enjoy hearing from readers as long as you are not trying to sell fake Louis Vuitton bags. If you have an off topic question or suggestion (or even request) feel free to email me at email@example.com. Talk to you soon.
I’m working on my 2013 review but wanted to throw another one of these out there. I enjoy doing them, they are quick, and above all greatly enhance my nerd credibility.
So Whom Gods Destroy. I have to say I like this film. Insanity is a great plot device and it was refreshing to see someone get tortured other than poor Chekov. I have often wondered if Roddenberry was trying to make some point about how we treat the criminally insane or just using the insane asylum as a platform for a cool story ala Arkham (image courtesy of the Batman t shirt collection). If there was a message to be had it wasn’t terribly strong (or at least did not resonate over time). Of course since we now more or less have turned out all our crazy people as the homeless it has even less relevance.
I do have one issue with this episode. When Garth is impersonating Kirk and orders Scott to beam him up Scotty demands a countersign. At that point we had seen Kirk beam up about 100,000 times and never once was there any kind of countersign protocol. Did he and Scott make it up just in case this one time a shapeshifter had replaced Kirk in an attempt to take over the Enterprise? Granted since that was the plot of about 15% of all the episodes it would not have been a bad idea, but just pulling it out of nowhere was kind of lame surprise. However even as a fan of this series I admit TOS was never going to get any awards for strict continuity.
The title comes from a quote by Euripides, the ancient Greek equivalent of Ayn Rand: “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad”. It was also the only episode banned by the BBC in the UK for having “sadistic plot elements”. Hey, high tech torture is cool. Haven’t you ever listened to J-Pop?
I haven’t had time to do a lot of movie watching this week so I’m back on the Star Trek stuff.
The third season is universally decried as the worst of TOS in the same way that a banana peal is the worst of the banana. However there are a few gems in there and this is definitely one of them. Not only does it have a great message about the dangers of racial intolerance and how miniscule such things really are to outsiders, it guest starred the great Frank Gorshin who played The Riddler in the Batman TV series (Riddler image courtesy of the Batman T Shirt category).
In many episodes there are certain scenes that will always stick with me. The death scene of the Romulan commander at the end of Balance of Terror, the fight scene from Amok Time, Anton Karidian reading the declaration of Kodos the Executioner in the Conscience of the King; these scenes are ones that made a permanent imprint in my cerebral cortex and are the soul of the various episodes. The benchmark scene for me in this episode will always be Bele trying to explain to Kirk and Spock why he is in all ways racially superior to Lokai based on the fact that their faces are black and white on opposite sides. Not only is it a great commentary on human racism it is a good example of how cultures focus on what seems trivial items and elevate them to primary importance’s. In Western culture the focus of attraction is inevitably face, boobs, and butt but in other cultures it can be a tremendously elongated neck, or enlarged lips, or eye folds. It’s kind of surreal. If only Western women would wake up and decide a creative mind, insightful thought process, and high intellect were what is sexy I might actually get laid once in a while.
Anyway, this weekend I’ll get my best and worst of 2013 done. Something tells me the worst is going to be easier to write than the best. 2013 for quality movies was a bit of a dry spell in the same sense that the Sahara desert is experiencing a bit of a dry spell. Looks like Grudge Match slipped my net and now I’m getting pressure to go see Her, so I’ll try to wrap up 2013 this weekend too. Have a great night.
I admit it. Somehow without ever being a Vin Diesel fan I am a Riddick fan. I own the DVD’s of all three movies (ohh, you say? You didn’t know there was an animated film with his voice connecting Pitch Black to the Chronicles of Riddick? No fan you) and played Escape from Butcher Bay front to back several times. There is something about his character that absolutely rocks. I enjoy every aspect of his character, and will probably see every film ever made with him in it.
So this movie. Saw it last night and enjoyed every second of it. Sure, if you are looking for the things that make a movie great like story, originality, great acting, character development, or good dialog you might be marginally disappointed. To the critics that I have read who are harping on about those things I say do you go to a Mexican restaurant and complain to the cook about the quality of his sushi? Riddick isn’t about making Citizen Kane in space. Riddick is about watching a bad ass bald guy who can see in the dark kill as many aliens and humans as you can fit into a shot, and as such the latest film delivers in spades.
That being said, if you are not a Riddick fan this film will seem like a massive self indulgent overly macho campy Pitch Black remake (and yet, I still defy you to find something wrong with it). Derivative it certainly is, but honestly if Pitch Black was the movie that made you a Riddick fan why would you not want to see the Aquaman version of it? Again, if you are a fan than the actual story is merely a vehicle to deliver alien ass kicking.
I will say to the writers credit they really did manage to tie the other films into this one. It’s obvious they knew this movie was for the fan boys and they threw lots of tasty crumbs to us, with references to both films that made sense in a way that George Lucas should be green with envy. Just referencing something in a past movie sucks, but to make it into a critical and worthwhile plot point is excellent work. However, if you haven’t seen Pitch Black or the Chronicles you might very well be lost for quite a bit.
I’m also going to spout off on the special effects/CGI. Honestly really good, especially the dog Riddick domesticates. I’d like to say that good special effects are the standard in science fiction these days. I’d like to say that, but I can’t. Even now when any kid with a decent Macbook and about an hour’s worth of YouTube instructional video can create a CGI monster running down the hall of his Jr. High we still get CGI and special effects that look like it was done using film scratch techniques (Google it). These days creatures in Sci Fi films should not look like they were added in using Colorforms on the playback monitor. The point is the CGI for this film was really good, and the creatures all looked awesome.
The story starts off with Riddick (Vin Diesel-Saving Private Ryan, the Fast and the Furious, xXx) left for dead on a barren world. He is badly injured and is constantly being attacked by local wildlife including some very large dog-like creatures. We find out from a series of flashbacks that he was betrayed by the Necromongers (those silly kids!) including head guy Vaako (Karl Urban-Dredd, Star Trek, the Bourne Supremacy. Dredd image courtesy of the comic book t shirts) and dropped off a cliff. The first part of the film is his struggle to survive, splint his leg, and find a safe place to heal. He does so and sees a land ahead with more resources. Unfortunately the way is blocked by a creature that looks like a cross between a chicken, a scorpion, and a barracuda (but awesome) that lives in a pool of water he has to cross. He manages to build weapons and get by it (while building a tolerance to the creature’s poison), rescuing the puppy he domesticated on the way.
He finds his way to a mercenary station but on the way observes a rain storm in the distance. Turns out the creatures he got by (chirpionuda?) hibernates most of the time and only comes out when the ground is wet (cough cough Pitch Black with rain cough cough). At that point he opts to get out of town and calls for help. Naturally two teams of bounty hunters show up looking for him.
The first team is a typical bunch of low life losers all looking for the bounty on Riddick, including shot caller Santana (Jordi Molla-Bad Boys II, Columbiana, Blow) and big bad boy Diaz (Dave Bautista-the House of the Rising Sun, the Man with the Iron Fists, WWE Smackdown. By the way, I really liked him in this film. Since when did WWE become the source for all the best new action stars like him and Dwayne Johnson?) plus a few other minorities. The other team is lead by a mysterious guy (Matt Nable-Killer Elite, 33 Postcards, the Final Winter) and seconded by non other than Starbuck from BSG, although in this film she is called Dahl (Katee Sackhoff-Battlestar Galactica, White Noise: the Light, Campus Killer) plus a couple other guys. Riddick tells them to give him one of the ships and leave or die there.
At that point you can pretty much guess the rest. Riddick kills a few of the bounty hunters until they catch him with super tranq bullets. It starts to rain and chirpionuda hell breaks loose. Since Riddick has stolen critical components of each ship they now have to help him run through the wet darkness to get off the planet. Crosses are doubled, and the mysterious guy leading the second team has an agenda with Riddick that references Pitch Black in a very cool way.
Duh. Riddick movie in every sense of the term. Two stars. Great sci fi action. One star. All the characters were cool and none of them annoyed me. One black hole. Excellent CGI and creature design. Two stars. The bounty hunters had these jet bikes that are second in coolness only to a super hot girl who wants to have sex with me (in other words, I can now dream about two things I really want that don’t really exist). One star. Speaking of which, the film had a couple of totally gratuitous nude scenes, including a side boob shot of Katee Sackhoff that has earned a permanent place in my personal spank bank. It might have been good body double and/or more great CGI, but I really don’t care. Thank you, Riddick, for understanding what rated R is supposed to be about. One star. While I can’t really give them credit for a particularly good story, I do have to give them props for nicely tying in the other two movies. One star. Total: nine stars.
The black holes:
I suppose if I must. The film really doesn’t deviate much from Pitch Black, and I would be a total hypocrite if I didn’t ding them for being so derivative. One black hole. Deus ex Machina doesn’t accurately describe the ending. One black hole. Total: two stars.
A grand total of seven stars. Should you see it? If you are a fellow Riddick fan, have at least seen both of the prior films, and/or are a fan of sci fi action then yes. Absolutely. If you are not and think Vin Diesel as the toughest most macho guy in the universe is a ridiculous idea than go see the new Woody Allen film. I’m sure your life is not boring in any way. Date movie? You’re probably going to want to give your prospective future girlfriend/wife a pass on this one. Unless she is herself a fan there is too much awesomeness for most girls to handle, and in truth she will think lesser of you for enjoying it. This is the perfect movie to sneak out of work early one day with a couple of your buddies and see without her. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt you. Bathroom break? There isn’t a lot you want to miss here but the scene where they have Riddick chained up and are interrogating him are a little more disposable, especially if you never saw Pitch Black. Try to hold it IMO.
Thanks for reading. Like I said, this film was fun and I enjoyed writing it up. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu and like us on Facebook. If you have comments on this movie or my review feel free to post them here, and if you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
Dead on arrival.
I think I have reached the evolutionary point in my movie reviewing career (yes I am starting to call it a career. Suck it if you can’t let me enjoy a little fantasy) where I will no longer allow myself to excuse a crap movie just because I am a fan of the star of the film. I am a Bruce Willis fan. Pulp Fiction, the Sixth Sense, the Fifth Element (what’s with him and number movies?), and the original Die Hard are among my favorite films and to date have carried enough credibility to forgive the occasional Hudson Hawk or Cop Out. Recent movies such as Moonrise Kingdom, Surrogates, and Looper continue to show his acting ability and general movie appeal.
However, as I watch more and more movies I have come to realize that each film is in and of itself a discrete particle that needs to be examined in isolation like lab rats to determine which one had the negative reaction to the massive overdose of hemorrhoid cream and which is just part of the control group. Taken as such A Good Day to Die Hard is the most disease ridden lab animal in the cruelest testing facility in history.
To beat another analogy into this review if a movie franchise could be likened to an aircraft either soaring sedately through the stratosphere or crashing and burning horrible than the maneuver that the Die Hard franchise has been executing for the last four films would best be called a death spiral. Each film in turn gets bigger, more elaborate, and stupider with more explosions and ridiculous plots. The first film was arguably one of the top ten best action films of all time with Bruce Willis playing John McClane, an ordinary cop fighting against a villain bent on robbing millions of dollars and destroying a building in LA. Die Hard 2: Die Harder decided the only way to make a better movie would be to have a bigger set and more evil plot so McClane is in a giant airport trying to stop some mercenaries from releasing a Latin American dictator. In Die Hard With a Vengeance the villain opts to blow up parts of New York as part of some kind of nefarious plot to destroy the US economy (hey, I earn money in the US! I should care about that!). Then, like a drug addict needing more and more smack we are given Live Free or Die Hard and the ultimate evil plot: some kind of computer virus that will disrupt all power, traffic, computers, and possibly even your own home computer (OMG save us!)
Which leads us to the latest installment where the bad guys plan to do…something? Honestly I’m not really clear on what the ultimate plan really was. There was something about killing the rival of some Russian political guy, and later on it turned out to be something about weapons grade uranium but I’m not sure what the deal was. I guess it was implied that they planned to build WMD’s but it’s not really clear (perhaps they left the nuke option out there in case they need an even bigger threat for Die Hard 6. This does not bode well for Die Hard 7. Once they have done nukes what is left? Destruction of the entire world? Perhaps by killing all the whales (which of you got that reference?)).
The vagueness of the dastardly plan is not what is bugging me about this film. In fact, I kind of liked it if only because it felt a little ramped back from the lameness in three of the four previous plots. No, what bugged me was the fact that the director really didn’t want to make a John McClane movie. You see, one of the greatest things about McClane is the fact that he is an ordinary guy prevailing in the face of horrific odds. In the first film every fight is a struggle and he has to use every resource he can to save his wife and her coworkers. He turns his feet into hamburger by running barefoot through broken glass, gets shot, beat up, blown up, and falls off the building. He starts off with his service gun and just improving his armament is a struggle. However as the series progresses he looks less like the lovable punching bag we saw in the first one and more like a T-800, except that even the Terminator could get crushed in a hydraulic press and John McClane is pretty much immune to everything including what should be radioactive water (at least he doesn’t have to worry about hair loss).
This trend is taken to the next level in A Good Day by making John McClane (and his son. More on that later) so indestructible that the combined military forces of the planet couldn’t take him out. This is why Superman sucks and Batman rules. There is no real struggle or bravery for a guy who is pretty much immune to everything on this planet except Krytonite (check out my article on how stupid the idea of Kryptonite on Earth really is) so we can’t care about his fight against 99.99999% of the villains out there. Meanwhile, Batman (comic book Batman, not movie Batman. Batman image courtesy of the Batman T Shirt category) is in constant danger from even the lowliest criminal. All it takes is for one punk to get lucky with a gun and it is all over. Thus is Batman the far superior hero (for other reasons too, but I don’t want to go too far off topic). So when you make it pretty apparent that John McClane (and his son) are never going to really have anything bad happen to them you drain away all the tension in the film and the biggest helicopter explosions, car wrecks, and flying stunts in the universe will not motivate the audience to really give a damn. Guns literally fall out of every cabinet and trunk they open, bad guys apparently trained at the Helen Keller School of Marksmenship and are all equipped with powerful bullet magnets, and injuries heal with nigh miraculous speed.
Sigh. 980 words in and I haven’t even started the story recap. I’m going to be pretty generous with the spoilers in a minute but honestly if you are going to this film to be astounded by the story why don’t you just slam you head in your refrigerator door for 98 minutes? (Incidentally, this film had a $92,000,000 budget and hired the guy who wrote the Wolverine movie. Are a million monkey banging on a million typewriters really that hard to find?) John McClane (Bruce Willis but if you didn’t know that what cave have you been living in?) has a grown son and daughter. Like most families the son (Jai Courtney-Jack Reacher, Sparticus: War of the Damned, Boys Grammer) is a huge disappointment and has been arrested in Russia for something(?). John flies to Russia to do something (really, what has that about? Is John McClane some kind of expert on Russian law? Was he going to go in guns blazing and bust his son out of the gulag? Hypnotize the judge with the spot of light reflected off his head? What?). Meanwhile Russian billionaire Komorov (Sebastion Koch I think. I might have these two guys reversed. If you see the movie you see why-Unknown, the Lives of Others, Suspension of Disbelief (ironic)) is in the same prison waiting for trial for something (?). He is the main rival of bigwig Anton (Roman Luknar-the Garden, Panelak, Lidice) who wants him killed because he has some file that will destroy him (again, very vague deals. Everyone kept banging on about this file and then later it meant nothing).
Here come the spoilers. I hope this doesn’t drain your excitement to the point you fall into a narcoleptic coma. Anton sends a hit team to kill Komorov in the middle of the courtroom where he and Jack McClane are sitting in glass boxes. Turns out Jack works for the CIA and is there to rescue Komorov. They escape in a truck and nearly run down John, who was on his way to the courthouse. Then we get the stupidest chase scene ever (I’m not kidding. It made the escape scene from 2012 look like Bullitt.) with McClane literally driving over other cars. They escape from the main henchman (Radivoje Bukvic-Taken, Three Worlds, Armed Hands). Kamorov has to pick up his daughter and the file before leaving the country.
You know, twists in a movie plot are like nuclear power; they can be used for both good and evil. In some films they greatly enhance the story and keep you really engaged, but in this one it seemed like they were throwing twists in whenever the writer got bored, which was like every 10 minutes. The daughter betrays the father and gets him captured. She then betrays the main evil dude and was secretly in league with her father all along, who instead of trying to atone for his sins and bring a bad man to justice had some secret plot to do something(?) with weapons grade uranium. The story thread ends up looking like the biggest string of Xmas lights all piled up in a big incoherent mess.
So stuff gets blown up. John and Jack kill about a million guys with each spray of their guns. The end.
The stars. I will give one for Bruce Willis doing his thing, but honestly since that is what I expected it’s like awarding a gold star to the best oxygen processor in 2nd grade. One star nevertheless. There was some attempt at character development between John and his son Jack, so I will award a star in the A for Effort category. One star. If you like guns, explosions, and pointless plot twists than you have found your Nirvana. One star. Total: three stars.
The black holes. The plot could be considered a Crime Against Fiction. Two black holes. I think I have found a way to accurately describe the action in this film and that is it looked like Bruce and his buddy were playing a video game. Even they looked bored and nothing seemed a challenge (easy mode video game). Two black holes. The story was needlessly labyrinthine and hard to follow. If they had given me a reason to care I might not have resented the work it took to keep track of but they didn’t. One black hole. At no point did this film give me a real reason to give care other than it’s John McClane and my nostalgia should carry me through. One black hole. A chase scene that literally hurt my brain. One black hole. I’d say the explosions in this film rate 8/10 Micheal Beys. One black hole. I am going to hit them for drinking the “We must make things bigger in each film or else!” punch. One black hole. Crowbarring in a son and then have John show all the paternal instinct of Cronus (there’s a test of your education). Is there any father in the world who is OK with sending his son into a fight against trained mercenaries and his plan literally is to go in guns blazing? One black hole. Finally one more for being so wrapped up in the name Die Hard that they created one of the stupidest movie titles ever. One black hole. Total: eleven black holes.
A final total of eight black holes. It has been a while since I rained unholy hell on a film like this, but I feel justified doing it here. Die Hard was a masterpiece that should have been left to enjoy it’s success in the sun with a pina colada and a big umbrella. Instead they keep trotting it out of retirement to help move the furniture around and then then everyone acts surprised when it defecates on the carpet and dies. Who is to blame for this trend of exhuming corpses and using their bodies in puppet shows you ask? I am going to blame you, the audience. If you would only stop seeing this garbage then Hollywood would have no choice but to actually make something original and creative. Each Die Hard movie has made more money than the previous one, so why should Hollywood stop? Ugh. Should you see it? If you are a fan of John McClane or just want to kill 98 minutes than sure. If you are easily distracted by explosions and bright objects you will not feel any remorse. Date movie? Hell no. This film is an anti-date movie. Bathroom break? Since this film really only serves at an action delivery system (like the worlds stupidest t-shirt gun) then any of the non action scenes could be missed with ease. You might even enjoy the film more if you made up your own plot to connect the action sequences. If I had to be specific I’d say the scene where John starts off whining about how the whole opperation is blown before they head off to Chernobyl.
Thanks for reading. More to see soon. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Feel free to post comments on this film or my review here. Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to email@example.com. Thanks and I will talk to you soon.
Watch this and feel taken too.
Headed into this film I felt an unusual level of ennui not normally associated with Luc Besson or Liam Neeson films (for those of you who aren’t uptight pretentious intelligencia (or don’t dream of one day becoming one) ennui is “a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest”. In other words, I had a hard time giving a crap). It looked like another miserable retread of an otherwise decent film in an attempt to get another ounce of milk out of the cow that is we the movie going audience.
Fortunately for my personal self esteem regarding my almost psychic ability to predict the suck levels of movies, it was exactly that. I think it now fair to say that Luc Besson has problems with sequels. He is brilliant when he comes up with his original film ideas but like the Piers Anthony of the film world (special geek cred if you get that joke) he falls in love with his own characters and decides they need a sequel when honestly he should have just let them sit in splendor as the brilliant stand alone movies they are. Columbiana was a perfect example, as is this dog.
Thankfully for Luc (and unfortunately for us) there are legions of Hollywood executive types eager to beat any dead horse lying in the street and spread whatever foul ichor spews forth from it’s assorted orifices (orifi?) all over the screen (I am currently looking forward to seeing Citizen Kane II: Rosebud’s Revenge, Godfather Apocalypse, and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial Resurrection. You know it’s only a matter of time). This film is not necessarily as bad as that, but it in no way deserves to be associated with the original Taken (or, for that matter, does Taken deserve to have references to itself crowbarred into this film in every way shape and form).
However, like most issues in films the blame does not reside firmly in Luc’s lap but rather in the lap of the director, candidate-for-stupidest-name-ever Olivier Megaton (he takes his name from his birthday, which was the 20th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. Why didn’t he just name himself Olivier Douchebag? Isn’t that about the same? I have a friend who was born on Christmas Day, but she didn’t rename herself Katherine Stigmata). I guess the director of Taken (Pierre Morel) was too talented for this film so they hired the guy who is best known for miserable flop Columbiana. His ham handed approach to action with a complete disregard for story is all over the inside of this film like a frog in a microwave.
As long as I am bitching about the direction I am going to take a moment to rail against an ugly trend in action movies that I have coined (and expect a royalty from all you other reviewers out there for) quick cut action sequencing. This is where in a fight scene rather than actually hire actors who can fight and a choreographer who can set up a scene they just film the actors throwing punches, rolling around together, and spitting fake blood and then edit the whole bundle into a series of 1/4 second or less fast shots that simulate action while letting you know nothing about what is actually going on. It is a horrible technique, and all who ascribe to it shall one day eat a turd in hell for movie blaspheme. However, what Megaton did was decide that this technique is so awesome at hiding his inability to direct that he was going to apply it not only to fight scenes but every gun fight and car chase as well. As soon as the action music starts rolling the film starts to look like you are trying to watch it through a kaleidoscope in a shockless car on a dirt road. Even the slow motion car explosion scenes are cut into 5-10 tiny little headache inducing cuts. It is a horrible technique and needs to stop.
Anyway, the story, for lack of a better term. It is now five years past the events of Taken, and ex CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson-Taken, The Grey, Batman Begins) is still obsessively stalking his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace-Taken, Lockout, Lost), who in spite of being five years older than she was in the last movie (when she was 17) still doesn’t have her drivers license. There is some really pointless character development with his ex wife Lenore (Jean Grey from all the X-men movies. X-men image courtesy of the Comic Book T Shirt category) and the meeting of Kim’s boyfriend Jamie (Luke Grimes-Assassination of a High School President, Brothers and Sisters, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) who as a face you just want to stick fists into. In spite of the fact that last time she traveled to a foreign country she was kidnapped and sold as a sex slave to an Arab sheik Kim is totally gung ho to fly to an Arabic country with her mom to hang out with her father (Darwin at work, I guess).
Meanwhile, all the relatives of the guys Bryan killed in the last movie are out for blood. The head guy is Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija-Batman Begins, Snatch, Mission Impossible II), the father of the guy Bryan electrocuted in the last one. They “take” Bryan and Lenore but now (careful or some of this amazing plot twist might get in your eye) it is Kim who manages to escape and rescue her dad (or at least deliver to him a gun). That’s pretty much it except for the shooting, driving, and bleeding. All the great investigative elements and the mad intensity that Liam Neeson brought to Taken are completely missing from this film, leaving the director with a huge gape that he either filled with more bad action or nothing.
The stars. I still like Liam Neeson, and while they kind of spread him too thin on this film like a tiny drop of grease trying to lubricate a giant engine, it was cool to see him as Bryan Mills again. One star. Maggie Grace is pretty hot, and they managed to contrive an excuse for her to run around in short shorts and a bikini top for an extended period of time. One star. That’s pretty much it. Two stars.
The black holes. This film comes with all varieties of plot holes, from marble sized all the way up to Indiana Jones crushing. One black hole. A tired, unimaginative retread in an attempt to draw bored idiots (like me) into the seats. One black hole. No story to speak of. One black hole. Quick cut action editing to drive you nuts. One black hole. If you hadn’t seen the first film you would have had no reason to remotely care about any of the characters in this one. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A grand total of three black holes. I won’t say this movie is horrible. If all you want is action and you change channel on your TV every 1/4 second odds are you can enjoy this film. If you are a fan of the complexity and character behind Taken (as I am) prepare to be bitterly disappointed. They took the script from Taken and left in out in the sun too long. Date movie? Meh. Nothing in here will encourage your date to take off her clothes but on the other hand nothing will discourage it. The romance is tepid and tertiary at best. Bathroom break? Any time in the first 35 minutes will work fine. Once the action starts you might as well sit through it as it is the only thing in the film worth viewing. The film is a flaccid 91 minutes long, but if you really can’t hold it I’d say the scene where Kim is watching her cell phone do a 5 minute count down. Some action there but not a ton.
Thanks for reading. Plenty more to see this week, including Frankenweenie (why am I not excited to see this?), Hotel Transylvania (looks cute), Pitch Perfect (there’s never an incoming meteor when you really need one) and Trouble with the Curve (I will probably love this one. I have a thing for baseball movies). Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. If you have comments on this movie or my review feel free to post them here. Any off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great Columbus Day. Talk to you soon.
I know, I know. I’m supposed to write up my review for Cold Light of Day. I’ll get to it after lunch. I don’t expect many of you are on the fence about seeing it so I don’t feel a huge amount of pressure, but I have some funny thoughts to impart so I will get to it.
However, I wanted to take a moment to wish an icon of the nerd world, Mr. Adam West, a happy birthday. As any nerd with his salt should I’m sure you are aware of the fact that Mr. West played Batman in the 70’s TV show. This show was a big part of my childhood as it was in syndication on about 1,000 channels and you could find it anywhere. That being said, it was awesome, mainly due to Adam’s super campy portrayel of both Bruce Wayne and Batman. A huge number of modern cultural ideas and concepts were derived from this show, and as it started three months after my beloved Star Trek TOS it has that same niche appeal.
By the way, if you have never watched the series but want to absorb the culture of it in 105 glorious minutes rent the Batman movie. It features all the best characters, including the very hot Lee Meriweather as Catwoman and Cesar Romero as a mustached Joker. It also features the infamous worst shark attack scene ever (and by worst I don’t mean realistic or horrific, if you know what I mean) complete with Bat Shark Repellent. It also has the Batcopter and the Batcycle (with side car). Plus, the shark explodes.
The cars and money image I pulled from the Batman T Shirt category. Review later today I promise.
By the way, big spoiler coming in so if you have not yet watched the film better bail out.
Anyway, at one point Bruce Wayne is at the bottom of a prison pit. The only way out is to climb up the pit wall and make some kind of jump or something. They tie a rope around his waste so he won’t die when he falls. He then has to attempt the climb over and over again.
Here’s the question. If there is a rope that goes all the way up to the top of the pit wall why didn’t he just climb up the rope? Or just use the rope to walk up the wall in relative safety. They even did that in the 70’s Batman movie. For that matter it looked like the rope was on some kind of pulley that a big dude held the end on. Why didn’t they just pull him up to the top? Dumb.
The image I got from Dave’s Batman t shirt collection. He has a lot of them.