Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review
Regular readers of my blog (all three of you. Hi mom!) should have by now realized that I have an issue with Michael Bay and his movies, and that by “issue” I mean to date I have hated him and his work with the burning passion of 10,000 suns. His style of movie making (no story, big explosions, treating source material like toilet paper during a prune and Mexican food festival, acting that barely compares favorably to watching department store mannequins stare at each other, dopey cartoonish CGI that obscures the action and special effects with action and special effects, and characters who develop only under protest and usually come out looking like a failed mad science experiment) is everything I think is wrong with mass market movie making and I arrived at the theater like the bastard love child of MacGuyver and Elmer Fudd: armed and equipped with every literary shotgun, rifle, bear trap, claymore, and excrement coated punji stick to take down another gigantic movie wildebeest and mount it’s head up on my trophy wall. Imagine my surprise when I walked out of the theater realizing I had just seen the best movie of my life.
Wait, did I just write that correctly? No. What I meant to say was I had just seen the best Michael Bay movie of my life. On another day that might be like saying that the sand filled garden hose I had just been beaten with was made of the softest rubber available or that the piece of my brain they removed was the least important lobe but as the movie progressed I found myself warming up to the CGI turtles and being reasonably entertained. At no point during the movie did I want to see another human in the theater bleed (including myself or the projectionist. Surprises never cease) and at the end I felt like I had gotten my monies worth from the experience. It wasn’t a bargain and it wasn’t enriching but it did serve to entertain.
(note-I know there are those of you out there who will say the Rock was Michael Bay’s best movie but honestly if you go back and watch it again and mentally block out the stunning presences of Sean Connery and adequate presence of Nicholas Cage you will realize what schock it really was)
Star Trek Retrospective: Episode 38 I, Mudd
All good things in entertainment go their start in Star Trek (at least in my mind) and in this episode we see the origin of the recurring villain (I know, Doctor Who probably did it first but throw me a bone here people). Yes, the great Harcourt Fenton Mudd (and no, I did not have to look up his whole name. I’m too big a fan for that. Challenge me with something hard, like what are TOS space outposts along the Nuetral Zone made of? (Cast rodinium)) resurfaces to once again plague the crew of the Enterprise.
I’m going to give this episode an A++ for continuity in that everyone from the ship recognized Harry EXCEPT Chekov. Why not Chekov you ask? Because he did not join the Enterprise until Season 2 and Mudd’s Women was Season 1. This is the kind of fact checking and professionalism I long for in modern entertainment writing. It’s almost like they knew 50 years in the future loser nerds such as myself would have nothing better to do than analyze and notice things like this (what’s that you say? Kironide? Psycho-tricorder? Yangs? Gary Seven? You just reminded me of something important-shut up).
I have to say this is also one of the most fun episodes ever. Mudd is great, and the way Spock and the crew foil the androids is pure Star Trek brilliance. Plus the punishment Kirk thought up with for Harry was awesome (“Stella, dear”. Again, no need for me to look up her name. Am I not awesome? Hot female Trek fans should be throwing themselves at me, unless this is Mirror Earth again. I couldn’t find an image I liked for this post from Star Trek but this Weyland-Yutani android logo from Aliens seems to fit in with the androids from Mudds world. I pulled it from the movie t shirt category).
Speaking of quality writing over the last couple years I have gotten a certain amount of heat from my fellow nerds (I refuse to call them Star Trek fans) for my brutal and unforgiving review of the last awful, awful JJ Abrams space fiasco (I also refuse to call it a Star Trek film). Well, I was very gratified to come across this very accurate Star Trek Into Darkness Honest trailer by the good people at Screen Junkies. If you have always felt like there was something wrong with that film but couldn’t put your finger on it (and are too busy to read the 3,833 words I wrote on it in my own Into Darkness Review) watching this will shed a lot of light on your puzzlement.
the Infamous Dave Inman
Pain and Gain Movie Review
Not 100% painless.
This movie is a bit of a conundrum for me in that here I am 24 hours later and I still can’t decide if I liked it or not. There were parts that I enjoyed. There were parts that annoyed me. I did like the fact that this is a true story, which makes it extra cool. However the movie’s comedy is so at odds with the grim real life content that I can’t figure out what the tone was (or if there was even an attempt at a tone).
I did learn something important during the course of this film and that is I have been spelling Michael Bay’s name wrong for the last three years. I thought it was spelled Bey. I will apologize to him when he apologizes to me for making me sit through 30+ minutes of Shia LaBeouf attempting to inject himself into the working world like the wimpiest plague ever in the last Transformers movie (actually how about an apology for Shia LaBeouf in the whole series in general? Michael Bay, you owe me a coke).
Now that I have settled the matter of spelling his name I realize that the parts of the movie I enjoyed had little or nothing to do with the direction. I said when I reviewed Snitch that I have somehow become a Dwayne Johnson fan. In that review I said one of the reasons I liked him is that he seemed to have a good sense of humor and is the kind of guy I could have a drink with. He doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously (Christian Bale, I’m looking at you) and that shows up in a really positive light here. He was easily my favorite character in this film, and the chemistry he had with Mark Wahlberg was really enjoyable.
Given that most of his movies involve CGI robots who deliver a better performance than any of the human actors I am at a loss how Bay managed to assemble such a crew of accomplished actors and get a great performance out of all of them. Not just Johnson and Wahlberg, but even the secondary characters like Tony Shalhoub and Rob Corddry were rock solid. This is why I am not inclined to give Bay credit for the parts of the movie I enjoyed. The best parts were the actors and their interaction, which is more a reflection on their individual talent than the director. Makes me wonder what a great director like Scorsese could have done with this cast and story.
I will however give Bay just due for all the parts that bugged me. For one thing this film is a painfully long 130 minutes and believe me you will feel every grindtastic one of them. The fact that the ending is revealed in the first 30 seconds pretty much drains the suspense from the film, although by the end of the second hour I was having a hard time remembering my dad, much less how the film started. There is a voice over monolog but the voice shifts depending on who the camera is focused on. The final denouement is delivered by a guy we don’t even meet until 2/3rd of the way through the film yet he acts like he was there the whole time. Bay has a love of back story that manifests itself in a life montage of pretty much every character, including the stripper. It’s one of those things that’s like a 7 out of 10 the first time he does it and loses a point every time after that. He also managed to take three fairly cool, interesting characters and turn two of them into flat, two dimensional stereotypes by the third act (Johnson’s character stayed cool throughout the end, but that was because he was constantly evolving). Speaking of acts, I had a hard time figuring out where they were. The instead of a story arc the movie felt like a flat line.
The biggest issue here is the tone. This is the true life story of the grisly murder and dismemberment of two people and the kidnapping and torture of another man and Bay transformed (haw!) it into the Three Stooges Meet Hercules. A fictional comedy is one thing but making light of the death of real people is more than a little off putting. The humor actually ramps up along with the gruesomeness of the film which I found confusing and disconcerting.
The story. (some spoilers coming here, BTW. Nothing really surprising and the real spoiler is delivered by the film in the first minute) Danny Lugo (Mark Wahlberg-Boogie Nights, Contraband, Entourage) is a body builder and personal trainer who feels like he isn’t being given his share of the American dream. He works and works out at Sun Gym with his friend Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie-Hurt Locker, Real Steel, the Adjustment Bureau). One of his clients is a real ass named Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub-Monk, Men in Black, Cars) who has a lot of money. While working there he meets Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson-Snitch, GI Joe Retaliation, Fast Five), an ex con who has found Jesus.
Together they come up with the plan to kidnap Kershaw and torture him into giving them all his stuff. They do so and the torture is considerable. They somehow get hooked up with a stripper (Bar Paly-The Ruins, Stiletto, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III) who starts off with Danny but ends up with Paul. The get all of Kershaw’s stuff and attempt to kill him in a burning car and later by running over his head but fail (by this point the spirits of the Three Stooges have possessed these guys).
The police fail to believe Kershaw (if this weren’t based on a true story I would be black holing the hell out of it for lame story. The truth is stranger than fiction) so he is forced to hire a private investigator (Ed Harris-the Rock, a History of Violence, a Beautiful Mind). He pretty much uncovers everything but the police still won’t believe it. Meanwhile Doyle goes back on cocaine and the gang starts to run out of money. They opt to run the same game on local porn kingpin Frank Griga (Micheal Rispoli-Rounders, Kick Ass, the Taking of Pelham 1-2-3) and his girlfriend (Keili Lefkovitz-Malibu’s Most Wanted, Scrapbook, On the Edge of Innocence). Things go badly and they end up killing both of them. They have to dismember the bodies and dump them in the swamp.
Dwayne Johnson knocked this one out of the park. One star. His chemistry with Mark Wahlberg was really fun to see. One star. The entire rest of the cast was really good. Two stars. Based on a really weird real story. Two stars. A smattering of nice gratuitous nudity. One star. Generally a fun experience. Two stars. Total: nine stars.
The Black Holes:
Long, long movie. Towards the last 40 minutes you keep expecting this thing to end and it never does. Then, when you hit what is set up to be the ending it still doesn’t end. The last 20 minutes could have been covered with a 1 minute “Where are they now” montage ala Animal House. One black hole. The inappropriate comedic tone was distracting. One black hole. The repeated monolog with shifting voices was kind of annoying. One black hole. So were the continuous back story pieces. The really felt like extra padding. One black hole. By the end of the film two of the three characters had shifted from being cool to being cartoon characters (I believe this is the direct result of the movie dragging on too long. There is only so much of an outrageous character we can absorb before he starts becoming ridiculous). One black hole. Total: five black holes.
So a grand total of four stars. I can honestly say once I get past my Transformers fan boy-ism that this is probably the best Michael Bay film I have seen (Decepticon Logo from my retro TV Show t-shirts collection). While that may or may not be saying much I did enjoy this film. It’s worth seeing just for Dwayne and Mark, plus the fact that it’s based on a true story. Nothing on the screen would require a big theater so if you don’t want to go out wait for NetFlix. Date movie? Kind of. However if she is turned on by yoked out muscular guys and you aren’t one of those I would steer clear. Bathroom break? There are a number of scenes that are pretty redundant. Once it is established what they are trying to do most of the torture scenes could be missed. Also there is a bizarre scene towards the end where Danny is trying to establish himself in the local community by forming a neighborhood watch that is five minutes of your life wasted so I’d go then. With a movie this long you will probably need it.
Thanks for reading. I’m in LA (a mix of business and Warhammer) and will try to see something down there but won’t be able to write again until Tuesday. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Feel free to post here if you see this movie and have a comment. Off topic questions and suggestions can be sent to [email protected]. Talk to you soon.
Girl Rising Movie Review
An important lesson is learned about always watching a trailer before seeing a film.
Not to say this film was bad. Just that I walked in expecting to see a chick flick with lots of people coming to terms with stuff and instead got a documentary designed to make me feel guilty for living in a 1st world country and for being a man.
As an extremely regular movie goer I have memberships to pretty much every theater reward program out there. Typically this gets me cheap popcorn and the occasional free movie ticket but a couple weeks ago it spat out a free pass to see this movie. I am if nothing else cheap, and giving me a free pass to a new screening is akin to waving the red flag in front of the bull (although I will admit on the rare occasion that I see a film for free or early I tend to start of more kindly disposed to the film (to any Hollywood marketing firms out there that was a less than subtle hint)).
Girl Rising is a documentary about the importance of educating girls and young women in third world hell holes. As a marketing tool I will have to say it is shockingly effective as I am now an advocate for this. No joke I am going to try to scrape together a few ducats and send it to the charity behind this thing (and if you knew how I live you would understand what that means. My life savings is in t-shirts right now and my business is not exactly capable of doing more that buying me the occassional quesadilla from Burrito Ole’.) Showing real people in real situations is always more impactful than all the fake tears and stuntmen Hollywood can through at us, and when those real people are cute little girls from across the globe it will pull at your heartstrings with monster truck force.
During the course of this film I felt a wide gamut of emotions. I felt fear for a couple of the girls who were honestly in danger, rage and helplessness in the face of others who were raped or sold (if you don’t feel an urge to punch the first six men you come across after listening to a 12 year old Egyptian girl talk about being raped and then married off a year later you are not human. Feel free to leave the planet by the quickest method available), and happiness and exaltation for the girls who managed to succeed and excel through education. I have spent most of my life pretending to be Spock emotionally (DJ Spock image courtesy of the Star Trek T Shirt category) but this film blasted through my defenses like a bullet train through a paper towel fence.
The overriding message is that educating girls in Third World countries is an extremely powerful tool for helping not only the girls themselves but the world in general. Educating girls will grossly benefit the countries GNP, cut down immensely on rape, human trafficking, death from childbirth, overpopulation, and reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS. This is all in addition to the massive personal benefit to the girls in question. It shows this presenting short vignettes about 9 different girls from 9 different countries. Some of them are stories of girls finding an education in spite of the cultural and economic issues facing them. These are the happy stories. Others are about girls who can’t get an education due (and in some cases it is illegal for them to do so) and the horrible things that happen or face them because of that. Each vignette is followed by very interesting statistics on how education can benefit these girls.
I was going to give a quick rundown on each of the girls but halfway through it decided one sentence descriptions does not do them the justice the deserve. I will just say it’s worth your time to see each one, even if some of them will have you clawing your own face off in frustration.
I am not going to bother with my usual stars/black holes rating system. I called this blog a review for lack of a more descriptive term but this film can’t be reviewed by normal means. It is not a traditional film. Is it powerful? Yes. Will you want to do something at the end of it? Yes. Will you feel good afterward? Depends on which story you want to focus on, but knowing that for every positive one there are probably thousands of negative ones probably not. Not all movies are about feeling good.
The part of this film that I had the hardest time was waiting for the denouement. As a patron of the Hollywood movie set I spent most of the movie waiting for Jason Stratham to break in with a sub machine gun and rescue each of them but you know what? That sort of hero doesn’t exist in real life. The actual heroes are regular people like you and me who take a stand and do what is within our means. I don’t usually do this sort of thing but I invite each one of you to visit Girl Rising, the website of the organization that put this film together, and do whatever you can to help. If you have money send money. If you don’t then try to watch the film or social media the crap out of them. Facebook, Twitter, whatever it is you kids are doing these days to get the word out. I am not much of a social activist and I hate this Jerry’s Kid’s style telethon BS intensely but if you saw this film you would understand why I now care (and if you know me you know how little I care about almost anything). Please do what you can.
I always say thanks for reading at the end of my blogs, but this time really thank you for reading. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Comments on this cause or movie can be put here and off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to [email protected]. Thank you again.
42 Movie Review
Life, the Universe, and Everything.
If you don’t know where that joke comes from you can turn in your nerd card on the way out. It is something of a mystery to me that I have absolutely no interest in watching baseball (or any other sports for that matter) on TV but love baseball movies. Major League, Moneyball, the Bad News Bears; these are all some of my personal favorites. I think I find the actual game dead boring but the intricacies of teamwork and sports training fascinate me. Either that or I can’t find anything of interest in watching a pitcher scratch his jock for two hours.
I saw this the other night but have been trying to process the experience. I went into this film with a lot of hope and honestly can’t say I was disappointed. It was a compelling story reasonably well told and well acted by all the principal characters. The problem I was having was trying to decide if it was ham handed or not. All the characters good or bad are kind of cartoonish in their portrayal and I couldn’t tell tell if this was a deliberate attempt to portray racist characters in the late ‘4os or if the director had the word subtlety excised from his vocabulary. Even Harrison Ford’s character Branch Rickey had a very strong Yosemite Sam feel to him. Again, I’m not an expert on any of the real life people these characters were drawn from (in truth I’d never heard of any of them before this film) but they all seemed more than a little over the top. Since the director Brian Helgeland also did L.A. Confidential and Man on Fire I will give him the benefit of the doubt, but that nagging thought was pecking at me the entire time like a tiny woodpecker on my brain (Woody image courtesy of the Cartoon T Shirt category).
In terms of portraying the advancement of civil rights on America this film was no Mississippi Burning or Glory but it certainly was better than Red Tails. My mother grew up in Brooklyn in the ’40s and is a huge Jackie Robinson fan. She told me he was known for being a complete gentleman and never lashed out against the bigotry and racist epithets thrown at him on the field. For the most part this movie held true to that. However he did not become the first African American major league baseball player out of a burning desire to advance civil rights. He did it to play baseball and make money. This attitude carries through in the film and actually denigrates the civil rights message. The racism becomes an obstacle for him to overcome in order to play ball but does not play out as the dragon he needs to slay. I’m not saying it didn’t have a great civil rights message. Just that it didn’t feel like the main thrust of the film. Again, perhaps that was purposeful on the part of Mr. Helgeland.
The story is of course about Jackie Robinson, the first African American major league baseball player. It starts out with Branch Richie (Harrison Ford-Star Wars, Indiana Jones, really if I have to list his credits for you go back to the cave you grew up in), owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers telling his management that he intends to hire an player from the Negro Leagues. They go through some known names and select Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman-The Kill Hole, Persons Unknown, Fringe). The recruit him into their secondary team the Montreal Royals. Once he gets the contract he proposes to his girlfriend Rachel (Nichole Beharie-Shame, the Express, American Violet) and marries her. He travels to spring training and at that point the racism comes thick and fast. He deals with all kinds of stereotypes including members of his own team. However he is supported my Mr. Rickey and the manager Leo Durochser (Christopher Meloni-Runaway Bride, 12 Monkeys, Law and Order).
Honestly at that point the story kind of trundles its way down the Predictable Highway. He gets hit in the head with a pitch. Over time his previously hesitant teammates accept him and support him as a member of the team rather than an African American. Another guy shouts all sorts of racist crap at him and his teammate jumps in to stop it. Durocher gets fired for sleeping with a movie starlet and another guy shows up and pretty much does nothing. With Jackies help the team gets into the World Series and the movie kind of peters off without a real conclusion.
I thought Chad Boseman did a great job with this role. One star. A really good story and one my mother will enjoy immensely. Two stars. Harrison Ford. One star. The period was well portrayed and accurate. You really got the feeling you were in post WWII America. One star. The portrayal of racism was well done, moving from out and out Southern cartoon characters (like the cop at one game) to more subtle things like the team signing a petition to not play with Jackie or an umpire purposely blowing a call against Jackie. One star. The gradual acceptance of Jackie on the team and the acknowledgement of the changing of the times was kind of refreshing to see. One star. Nichole Beharie has a heart breaker face. One star. Overall a quality film. Two stars. Total: ten stars.
The Black Holes:
That nagging question of whether this was an accurate portrayal or just an over the top in your face jumble kind of distracted me from enjoying the film. One black hole. With the exception of Jackie, the owner, and first manager, the entire Brooklyn Dodgers more or less morphed into pasty smear of white dudes. I was struggling to tell any of them apart. They all had the same short haired beefy look look normally associated with military policemen and tow truck drivers, and more or less sounded the same. I don’t know how they could have done it differently but I just found it confusing and distracting. One black hole. Jackie’s wife Rachel was portrayed as pretty two dimensional, and there was a supporting reporter who was supposed to add some back story to it but kind of got lost in the shuffle. Plus there was a couple of kid characters who felt really out of place. One black hole. The movie ending felt more like they just ran out of footage. The completed with a “where are they now” montage that was kind of cool but I think a stronger denouement would have been more impactful. One black hole. Total: Four black holes.
So a grand total of six stars. In spite of my doubts as to the veracity of the portrayal I think this was a cool movie and I’m glad I saw it. You will remain in your seat for the entire 128 minutes. Date movie? Sure, why not. Show her how forward thinking you are. Plus if you are a baseball fan here is your chance to maybe get her into it. Bathroom break? Nothing really stands out as not worth seeing. I suppose the scene after Jackie gets injured and they are stitching up his leg could be missed but if you can hold it do so.
Thanks for reading. I will be seeing Scary Movie 5 later today so look for that review tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Comments on this film or my review can be left here. Any off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to [email protected]. Talk to you soon.
The Croods 3D Movie Review
I get the joke. Crood = crude as in neanderthals. However, the title literally says nothing about the film and is a made up word that sounds like it could be mistaken for a weird sexual sub culture like cloppers or steampunks. Also do you want the word crude in your title if you movie is not about oil? Most kids movie titles have a simple description in them. Toy Story was a story about toys. Finding Nemo was about finding a fish named Nemo. Cars was about cars. You get the picture.
Title aside, how was the movie? Not bad. Definitely leaned more towards kids than adults in the humor section, but Dreamworks does know how to craft an animated movie. Honestly I would say it was slightly less than I had hoped for but at least in the range of what I expected. The humor and story didn’t have all the adult appeal that a better film such as the Incredibles would include (Incredibles logo from the Cartoon T Shirt category) but there was the attempt. It’s definitely a movie that pretty much anyone on the planet of almost any age can enjoy, which is what all “family” movies look for.
Kids movies are hard to review. As I have stated before I don’t do my usual stars/black holes routine for them as I think quantifying a kids movie is a waste of time. If I were to hit this movie for specific annoyances one thing that would definitely hit them for would be the sound track. I don’t know who they got to produce the music (oh, wait. Yes I do. Thank you IMDB. Alan Sivestri-the Avengers, Captain America, Beowolf) but he must have been watching a lot of 70’s porn lately (actually that kind of makes sense when you consider Ron Jeremy looks a lot like a cave man. By the way if you just laughed you are officially a degenerate). The music is intrusive as hell and really got on me. It’s not all 70’s porn but rather a mishmash of bad choices all designed to get on my jock. I rarely notice a soundtrack in any movie I see so when I do you know it’s bugging me.
I will say I was pleased to see a role that Nicolas Cage could get behind and do really well with. His last couple of movies have not been where you would imagine a career spanning 3 decades would want to go.
The story is of the Croods, a family of cave men (and women) who live in a cave and spend their lives in fear of everything outside, which for the most part all wants to eat them. The father Grug (Nicolas Cage-Drive Angry, Season of the Witch, Valley Girl) teaches his family that anything new is to be feared and their best chance to be safe is to never leave the cave except when looking for food. The rest of the family (wife Ugga (Catherine Keener-Into the Wild, Being John Malkovich, the 40 Year Old Virgin), son Thunk (Clark Duke-Kick Ass, Hot Tub Time Machine, Sex Drive), grandmother Gran (Cloris Leachman-Young Frankenstein, the Iron Giant, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), baby Sandy (Randy Thom-the Incredibles, How to Train Your Dragon, Forrest Gump)) all agree with him with the exception of teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone-Crazy, Stupid Love, Zombieland, the Help) who wants to explore. She sneaks out one night and meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds-Green Lantern, the Change Up, Safe House), a more advanced human who has the secret to fire. He tells her that the world is coming to an end and they have to get to higher ground or something.
Now go rent Ice Age: the Meltdown and you have the rest of the movie. The family has to keep moving to stay ahead of the wall of impending doom while overcoming assorted prehistoric (sort of. Not sure if this is supposed to be Earth at all. I don’t recall giant birds with four wings or rodents with two heads connected by a long tail from my Natural History class) obstacles. Grug is threatened by the presence of Guy while Eep has the hots for him. Lots of comic relieve shows up, as well as a ton of cute future plush toys.
Like I said I won’t do the whole star/black hole thing. I judge kids movies by how the kids in the audience seem to be acting and for the most part they all appeared to be enjoying it. None of them got bored and started acting out, so I guess if you are trying to keep your children entertained you could do a lot worse. Would I want to take my non-existant children to see it? Probably. Nothing to damage their tender brains (or my toughened one for that matter). Funny enough to keep mom and dad entertained but not so engrossing that if one of you wanted to bunk out for a smoke and make a phone call or three you would miss much. I predict this DVD will grace many a family entertainment collection in order to keep the kids out of your hair. By the way, the 3D was remarkably ineffective for an animated film.
Date movie? Sure, for mom and dad with kids. The movie isn’t so amazing or iconographic that a single girl you are courting will get turned on by it (plus no princesses). Bathroom break? Pretty much anywhere, but the best place is probably when the family is up in the tree resting and Grug is trying to come up with ideas.
Thenks for reading. I might not be able to post again until Tuesday. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Post comments on this film or my review here, and if you have an off topic question or comment feel free to email me at [email protected]. Talk to you soon.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Review
90% a good movie.
This is one of those tragic films that seems to have all the elements of being a great film but somehow manages to just miss the mark. It has funny elements for sure, and the cast is stunning, but the sum of the parts of this film just felt like less than the individual values of them.
I saw it last night and have been trying to put my thumb on what the issue really is. It could be that the director, Don Scardino, really only has TV credits to his name. He directed a bunch of episodes of 30 Rock, and that’s kind of what this film felt like; a three part episode of 30 Rock (30 Rock image courtesy of the TV Show T Shirts). Clever lines, funny characters, and running jokes that are all ha ha funny but not bust your gut funny. Some of the elements border on genius, but most of it is that special kind of comedy that graces the pages of the New Yorker magazine where you are more or less obligated to admit that the joke is intellectually funny but doesn’t actually do anything to tickle your funny bone.
I will say the cast and acting was impressive as all hell. Everything you have ever loved about Steve Carrell, Steve Buscemi, and Jim Carrey is displayed in force here, and the best scenes are the interactions between the three. The rest of the supporting cast also knocked it out of the park. All around an A+ for the performers.
The story is of Vegas magicians Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell-the Office, Crazy, Stupid Love, the 40 Year Old Virgin) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi-Fargo, Resevoir Dogs, the Big Lebowski) as they get tired of their act and each other. They start off as best friends in grade school but by the end are treating it like a mediocre job they don’t want to do. Meanwhile street musician Steve Grey (Jim Carrey-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the Truman Show, Dumb and Dumber) is edging out their act by doing Chris Angel style stunts such as holding his urine for 12 days. Burt and Anton have a falling out as they try to do something as difficult and go their separate ways. Burt more or less fails out of show business and end up entertaining retirees at an old age home.
There he meets his youth idol Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin-Argo, Little Miss Sunshine, Edward Scissorhands) who helps re-ignite his old passion for magic. He goes back to the basics and puts together an act with Anton and his former assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde-Tron:Legacy, In Time, the Change Up. Weird. I wouldn’t have thought I did three full reviews for her movies. Too bad they all kind of sucked since I kind of like her) to go head to head with nemesis Grey. Magic happens, but nothing that would surprise you.
The stars. Overall excellent cast and acting. If you are a fan of any of the actors in this film you will see them displayed in their best light. Three stars. There were parts that were really funny, especially the scenes between Carrell and Buscemi. One star. I don’t usually go in for this sort of thing but I have to give the makeup people special props. They managed to make all the characters look significantly different from what you are used to seeing, and the work they did with Alan Arkin was brilliant. One star. The scene shot for the beginning of the credits was funnier than the entirety of the film. Don’t rush to leave your seat. One star. Generally a fun movie all around. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes. The film story was predictable, and generally borrowed heavily (including the main character) from any Will Ferrel you want to name except Stranger than Fiction. One black hole. A lot of the humor didn’t really strike a chord with the audience (except for at the end). It was like hearing a joke you didn’t get and then having the joker explain it to you. Eventually you throw a courtesy laugh to get him to shut up but the moment has passed. One black hole. The romance sub plot between Carrell and Wilde was really tacked on and had no meaning or relevance. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of four stars. Yes, I enjoyed it and believe you will as well. However, a year from now I sincerely doubt anyone not cursed with my stupid incredible memory for bad movie plots will really remember this film. It will just pass by and five years from now when your girlfriend picks it out as something to watch you will remember having seen it after the first 10 minutes. Date movie? Sure, no harm here. It is cute and funny with very little to offend her. Mostly harmless. Bathroom break? The scene where Carrell and Wilde start making out after planning their big number is pretty worthless. There isn’t a scene in this film that missing it will damage your understanding, so feel free to go whenever.
Thanks for reading. I’ll try to see something tomorrow night after a scheduled round of Warhammer ETC practice (if you know what that is cool. If you don’t explaining will serve no purpose). Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Post comments on this review or the film here, and if you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at [email protected].
Iron Giant Still Holds Up
I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging as I am dealing with the second flood in my warehouse in a week. My upstairs neighbors are the most moronic dregs of humanity available. I’m seeing Burt Wonderstone tonight so look for that review tomorrow.
However, on Wednesday I went to movie night and my friend Brian showed us The Iron Giant. This movie made my 10 best animated movies list and after last night I’m glad I included it. It has everything a kid and/or adult nerd could want in a film: a giant friendly robot who turns into an unstoppable killing machine. Really, what more do you want for a great flick?
One thing I learned during the course of the film is the guy who made the film, Brad Bird, was considered a failure after this film tanked in the box office and was on his way out when he got an offer from fledgling animation company Pixar to make the Incredibles. Thank god for someone’s sharp eye at Pixar.
Anyway, sorry for the brief blog but I have been up to my bottom in dealing with idiots. Look for a complete review tomorrow. The Iron Giant image comes to us from the Cartoon T Shirt category, by the way. Talk to you soon.
Zero Dark Thirty Review
A disturbing good movie.
Katherine Bigalow is a very talented movie maker. She has a gritty, no fluff approach that makes for movies that draw you in and engage you in ways guys who think multi million dollar special effects budgets in place of story telling are the way to go never can (cough cough Micheal Bey cough cough). She is an excellent director and I would see and most likely enjoy any film she made.
All her talents are evident in this film and I enjoyed it on many levels. However, this film labors under the curse of not only being derived from real events but derived from real events that we are all intimately familiar with and really care about a lot. I remember being happy when Osama Bin Laden was killed but at the same time being disturbed by the means by which it happened. He was an animal and deserved what happened to him (and were I alone in a room with him I would have happily beaten him to death with the nearest blunt object I could find), but the Unites States is a country of law and seeing men and women of our military and intelligence use water boarding, starvation, sleep deprivation, and summary execution of injured prisoners was really disturbing. This was made even more so in the knowledge that all those things really happened. Like the issue I always had with Titanic the idea of the seven CIA agents killed in a car bomb I just saw on the screen having really died is very off putting, as is the idea that we kept guys naked in a box sleeping in their own filth.
The other victim of the “based on true events” demon is the idea of a story arc. As this film is chronicled over ten years of real events there wasn’t much opportunity to show anything resembling a three act story line, or any kind of plot complication other than “Where the hell is he?” I honestly think some opportunities were missed. The main character, Maya (Jessica Chastain-Lawless, Tree of Life, The Help-hey, a trifecta! I think this is the first time I have had a star where I did three or more reviews) could have actually shown a character arc, but we learn so little about her personally and she plays the character so dead pan that you really can’t come to grips with what she is supposed to be feeling. There is some attempt in the last 1/3rd of the film and some kind of breakthrough in the last 30 seconds, but for the most part she was the robotic soulless automaton. The story could have also had more of an arc had they tried to dig a little deeper in to the investigation more Scooby Doo like (Scooby Doo image courtesy of the Cartoon T-Shirt category). You know, follow the money trail, etc. Instead it always falls back on to “enhanced interrogation” of insurgents. By the end of the movie the story felt like it was wearing interrogation water wings.
But again, since this is a true story odds are this is actually how it happened and I can’t really fault the movie for that. I’m just saying if you are going to the film in hopes of seeing something that fits into a more traditional story mode prepare to be disappointed. The story isn’t 100% accurate (in fact, I don’t know if it is even 70% accurate) but it was based on as much truth as possible.
I don’t know if I need to go into the story too much. SPOILER ALERT: Osama Bin Laden dies at the end. The movie covers the 10 year investigation to find him, driven for the most part by Maya in spite of some minor issues with other people trying to set other priorities. She was recruited in to the CIA in high school and has done nothing in her adult life beside hunt for OBL. Other than that, we know literally nothing about her. I actually learned more about some of the soldiers who carried out the raid at the end (and consequently like them more).
Anyway, guys get water boarded (and other things that some people might construe as cruel and unusual punishment). Stuff gets blown up. You get to see a little bit of what might be the internal workings of the CIA. After two hours of very little action you get to see an amazing raid by Navy SEALS that was really cool to watch.
The stars. Generally excellent film, with all of the Katherine Bigalow (Point Break, Hurt Locker) style. Three stars. As long as she was supposed to be cast as a remorseless CIA hunter, Jessica Chastain nailed it. One star. From a history perspective the film was really neat. One star. The raid in the Osama compound was super cool. Two stars. You do end up with a certain grim satisfaction at the end of the film even if you are not of a super patriotic bent (if you are you will probably have to change your shorts). One star. Total: Eight stars.
The black holes. If you are particularily empathetic, or feel water boarding is torture, a lot of the stuff our guys had to do to find him will really screw your head up. One black hole. Pacing was erratic. Sometimes it felt like the film was moving incredibly fast, other times it felt like it had gotten stuck in the mud and the director was just spinning the wheels. One black hole. That lack of a story or character arc I discussed earlier. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of five stars. Should you see it? Probably. If you will be really turned off by the techniques used to hunt him down maybe not, but for the most part this is one of those films every American should see once. Date movie? No, not really. There is nothing going on the screen that will encourage your date to take off her clothes. Bathroom break? That’s a tough one. The scattered nature of this story means that at any moment a critical plot point could be dropped without warning. I’d say your best bet is the scene in Langley where the guy in charge bitches out everyone about how they suck at finding OBL and his cronies. It’s actually a good scene, but doesn’t contribute anything to the plot.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to post comments on this film or review here. Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to [email protected] (invitations by studios to see advanced screenings of movies are particularly welcome. If there are any studio marketing people amoung my tens of readers I’ll buy you a Slurpee if you can make that happen). Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks and have a great day.
Maybe the Alternative Factor was a lot worse than I remember it being.
Back in November when I did my 10 Worst Star Trek TOS Episode list I included my list of bad ones. One of the episodes that slipped my grasp was the Alternative Factor. One reader commented and called me out on it. At the time I said I had a liking for Lazarus and anti-Lazarus fighting for eternity between universes. However, I have been rewatching the TOS episodes and last night got up to the Alternative Factor and have had to reconsider my position on this one.
Basically this episode is the first to have Season 3 sized plot holes but was barely into Season 1. The science was about as dumb as possible. If anti-Lazarus was made of antimatter wouldn’t he be annihilated as soon as he came into contact with matter from our world? The matter humans are comprised of changes every minute. If anti-Lazarus ate or drank something what happened when he went home? Wouldn’t his stomach contacts destroy the universe? Is it only the exact molecules that destroy each other? How does that make sense?
So Lazarus is a crazed madman who has already expressed a desire for critical components of the Enterprise’s warp drive. Why didn’t Kirk just throw him in the brig, or at least put a guard on him? Instead a complete stranger has free run of the ship, and gets to hang out in the rec room listening to crew members discuss dilithium crystals. Had Lazarus been under observation the crew might have noticed how he kept phasing in and out of reality every time the universe went on it’s freaky binge. Given that knowledge I think Kirk would have not been remiss dropping him into the nearest black hole.
Why, exactly, did anti-Lazarus have to fight Lazarus in the corridor between universes forever? You can’t tell me it’s because of the balance of atoms or something like that. One of them had a bandage that the other did not, so there is no way the atom count was accurate. Why couldn’t Kirk have just executed Lazarus (the crazy one) or rendered him unconscious, tied him up, and tossed him into the little ship? Anti-Lazarus could have just hung out on the other side and blown up his own ship, then went home to market his own line of facial hair products.
Speaking of just knocking Lazarus out, at one point Kirk and Lazarus struggle as Kirk tries to pitch Lazarus into the gateway. That’s all fine and well, but Mr. Spock and two red shirts just stand there fully armed watching. What if Lazarus had been secretly trained in martial arts and tossed Kirk in the door again, or just gotten lucky and gouged out one of Kirks eyes? Spock could have nerve pinched him out, cuffed him, and tossed him into the corridor. Also Kirk takes his sweet ass time nuking the ship from orbit. At any second Lazarus or anti-Lazarus (or both) could have come rolling out of the gate and destroyed the universe.
I don’t know. Is it worse than the Enemy Within, my number 10 worst episode? I guess not. The science is not as horrible, and at least they tried to address some interesting ideas beyond the duality of man. However, Kirk did not get to demonstrate his range of acting ability as he did in the Enemy, so from a cinematographic point of view maybe.
One thing is for sure. This episode would have to murder a bus full of orphans and nuns to be considered worse than Spock’s Brain, so as bad as it or any of the other ones are at least it has that going for it. (Spock’s Brain image courtesy of the Star Trek T-Shirt category)
Today is cheap movie night, so I will try to see Hit and Run tonight. It’s the new pretty boy Bradley Cooper movie, but apparently it was done semi-independently so I am curious to see what comes of it. Look for the review tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have any thoughts or comments on this post feel free to make them here, and if you have any off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at [email protected]. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!