Thursday, January 31, 2013

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

No one was expecting this.  No one could have.  In 2009 Regeneration was the best action movie to come out in probably about ten years.  It was simple, executed perfectly, done on a level of quality rarely seen with low budget action, pretty damn smart and just what the doctor ordered.  We all thought John Hyams was gonna make essentially the same film again with the next sequel.  It was what we all wanted, the same awesome shit with minimal changes.  But that’s not what John had in mind.  This was his baby now.  He was gonna build a UniSol from the ground up instead of shooting someone else’s script.  The results are very interesting.  We’ve got a different animal on our hands here than Regeneration.

For starters we have a new star, Scott Adkins.  I’ve known about him for a while now but have only seen him do bit parts in The Expendables 2 and Zero Dark Thirty (I’ll get around to Undisputed 2 and 3 one of these days).  So it was a pleasure to finally make his formal acquaintance.  And he’s great.  He can pull off some tremendous moves during the fights and tug at your heart strings during the drama. 

Adkins plays John, who we learn is a family man that has ski mask wearing intruders waiting for him in the kitchen.  Those are the worst kind too.  They end up beating him and killing his family.  See, I told you.  The catch is one of these thugs takes his mask off and holy shit it’s Luc Deveraux (Van Damme).  The rest of the movie is John trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.

Ok, I know you all want to know how the action is so why wait?  It’s very good with one caveat that I’ll talk about in a sec.  All of the sequences were choreographed well, shot well and are balls-to-the-wall.  I love the varied use of weapons like guns, machetes, a hammer, fists, feet, knives, baseball bats and there’s even a car battle too.  That’s definitely a more accurate description than car chase.  Sure they’re driving along a road but these cars are smashing into each other constantly making the whole thing less about pursuing and more about destruction.  That sequence leads into probably my favorite fight of the movie.  John and UniSol Andrei Arlovski (Universal Soldier: Regeneration, MMA shit) battle it out in a sporting goods store.  They use the equipment and tear the place and each other up nicely.  One of the most impressive sequences though takes place in this underground cave.  John fights off all these UniSols in what is made to look like one long shot but in reality is clearly not.  It impresses because Adkins is flying around and shootin’ dudes mercilessly and beating them to death and it’s just fucking brutal.

All of that shit is fantastic.  It’s all shot in a clear yet exciting manner so there’s no problem following it.  The thing that irritates me though is that some of it, not the majority but a small portion, has that Matrix-y slow down speed up treatment done to it.  I don’t fucking understand this.  They shot these beautiful action sequences that are many cuts above what anyone else is doing right now (besides maybe Nicolas Winding Refn) and they put a layer of shit on them in post by messing with the playback.  This doesn’t look good.  It totally ruins the flow of the movements, takes me out of the movie and is very gimmicky.  I’m really pretty sure this shit wasn’t in Regeneration because I would’ve remembered that.  Hyams, I love you man but this Matrix-y bullshit is inexcusable.

Speaking of gimmicks this piece was shot in 3D.  I couldn’t care less about 3D but I just thought I’d mention it because I was surprised that they would bother to spend some of their small budget on it.

One thing I definitely should mention is there are a couple of seriously seizure inducing strobe scenes.  The screen will pulse white for a long while and test your limit.  I personally had to look away after a few seconds.  I feel like Hyams is testing my manhood with something like that and I’m pretty sure I failed.  Shit. 

Moving on, while the overall plot is simple (find the dude who murdered your family), the details of the story are confusing for a long time.  In fact I didn’t fully understand what was going on until literally the last scene.  And I can’t think of another action movie that’s like that.  But don’t think of it as a bad thing.  Go with the mystery and stay engrossed.  Embrace the unknown and it’ll all make sense in probably a cooler way than you were expecting.  You may not realize it immediately but just mull it over for a day. 

I hope this whole thing didn’t give the impression that I didn’t like this one.  I very much did.  Admittedly at first I thought it was just ok but the more I thought about it and reflected back on all the really cool shit that was in here the more I appreciated the overhauled storyline and dug the gritty feel.  From what I can remember this is nastier than Regeneration in just about every way.  Some of the squibs and head shots are fucking ghastly.  Hyams says on the making-of extra that he’s not pandering to any demographic.  He wanted to make a balls-out badass “low to mid budget” action film.  Well, we certainly got that.

I can’t wait to see what his next movie will be.  Hyams is one of only a handful of directors these days that I feel that way about.  He brings the goods and isn’t afraid to try new shit.  He gives me faith in the future of action.

Getting back to Day of Reckoning, it’s understandable why this didn’t get a favorable reception.  It’s not a remake of Regeneration.  It’s different and that’s hard to accept.  But give it a chance.  Open your mind and you’ll be rewarded with Van Damme’s head painted completely white on the top half and completely black on the bottom half.  Well, that and an axe fight where some body parts…get the axe.  I bet you didn’t expect this review to end on a really bad pun, did you?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Initially when the movie was over I said that I liked it.  And overall I guess I still do.  But the more I thought about it and the more I discussed it with others a lot of flaws started to appear.  “The greatest manhunt in history” turned out to be kind of less interesting than I thought it would be.

Let’s start with Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life) who plays Maya.  I thought she was good until she has an outburst with her boss and suddenly everything Chastain was doing seemed very contrived.  This is an extremely pouty performance and I was fed up with this character about half way through.  And this has nothing to do with Maya being a strong female.  I’m all for that but why the fuck is she acting like a child?  This person is supposed to be a fairly high ranked CIA operative which means she’s gonna follow the chain of command.  She’s not gonna throw a tantrum or write on her boss’s door every day the number of days of inactivity it’s been since bin Laden’s compound was found.  Be a fucking professional lady.  And the part at the end where she cries was really forced.  As it was pointed out to me, if this character had been a man they sure as shit wouldn’t have had him cry at the conclusion of this operation.  All we know about Maya is that she’s tenacious and has to have her way.  She wants to find and kill bin Laden and that’s it.  We don’t know anything else about her except for the inadvertently comedic line where she mentions that she was recruited by the CIA out of high school (I don’t care if the CIA really does do that, it just sounds stupid).  Now that I think about it this fact could explain her unprofessional behavior.  My point is this protagonist is pretty one dimensional and that was disappointing.

What was also disappointing was the manhunt itself, which is most of the movie.  I think they started too far back in time.  I totally understand that 9/11 needs to be in there because, after all, this is the reason why we wanted bin Laden’s head on a platter.  But I think you could start the story with discovering the compound or possibly with the courier stuff.  Everything else before that could’ve been summed up either in text or narration before the film beings proper.  If you want to show some torture, I get it, go for it.  But there is just a lot of very little going on until the compound is found.  However, I could see an argument being made that the length of the movie mimics the length of the manhunt and how long and difficult it was to find bin Laden.  That’s a fair point.

The raid on the compound was excellent though and by far the best part of the movie.  I love how it was cut and dry with no music or very fancy camera work.  It felt more like a documentary at that point, like Kathryn Bigelow had somehow gone back in time and sent a camera crew with Seal Team 6 on their mission.  And even though I knew how it was all going to play out the adrenaline was pumping and I couldn’t wait to see what was around the next corner.  It was such a smart choice to have the death of bin Laden be relatively uneventful too.  The Seals kill a bunch of dudes and then one of them over the radio says they may have him but they’re not totally certain.  There’s no slow-mo shot or musical cue or anything.  Beautifully done.

I have to admit that the raid is a damn good payoff.  But at the same time it should’ve been the second half of the film.  I mean I was really let down that we don’t get to know Seal Team 6.  I still cared about them and didn’t want to see them get hurt regardless but we’re not told a single thing about them here.  I was expecting a montage of these dudes getting handpicked for the job after doing some impressive Seal type shit.

And that may sound too much like an action movie cliché but it became clear after a little while that this wasn’t some lofty, formula free, extremely realistic flick.  That’s what I thought it was supposed to be with all of this talk about the filmmakers working with the CIA and getting access to privileged information ‘n shit.  Turns out the director of the CIA said that this thing took significant artistic license and that it’s “not a realistic portrayal of the facts”.  So here’s my beef, Bigelow and co. dramatized and made shit up but still crafted a picture that’s mostly kinda boring.  And the original script was written before we found and killed bin Laden.  The raid was added after the fact.  Goddamn, we would’ve gotten such a dull movie if it was just about the manhunt and there was no raid finale. 

Before I checked this out I was surprised, like the rest of the world, when Bigelow wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for best director this year.  And even though I think the Academy Awards are all bullshit and politics anyway, I can see why they didn’t give her a nomination.  The cinematography and the production design are great but the script and the lead actress are not.  Some of the dialogue in particular is really bad and I had a bunch of examples but I can’t remember them now.  Although, it was pretty cool when that CIA guy yells “bring me people to kill!”

The main problem here is the script.  It’s not tight enough and was way more movie-ish (if you know what I mean) than I was expecting.  There are too many unnecessary details and flat characters.  The story focuses too much on Maya which doesn’t feel right.  I don’t care about her.  I want to know about the team that had to train and execute the raid.  It might have been nice to get some background on bin Laden too ‘cause they don’t tell you shit about him in this.  He’s portrayed purely as a boogeyman like he was in real life.  But I’m not sure how well that would’ve fit, just thinking out loud.  Anyway, it seems like everything leading up to the compound part wasn’t crazy or unbelievable.  That shit unfolded in an uninteresting way.  But how we deciphered that bin Laden was staying at the compound and the actual revenge part where he gets shot in the fucking eye was the good shit.  That’s your story. 

This ain’t no Hurt Locker.  That was really entertaining but also really informative.  Zero Dark Thirty doles out the info in a stiff manner which makes it harder to absorb.  But then again, you’re apparently being misinformed anyway.  As a movie this isn’t bad but it’s not great either.

And if you take a step back this is classic Bigelow really.  Her films are pretty hit or miss.  Since The Hurt Locker was good she won’t have a good one again for another one or two movies.  I liked Near Dark better than this but they’re similar in that they both have one incredible segment out of an otherwise, honestly, forgettable picture.  Bigelow can definitely make some magic happen; she’s just not very consistent.

Zero Dark Thirty
Near Dark

Monday, January 21, 2013

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

The long story, the acting, the dialogue, the costumes, the lighting and some of the camera work make this feel more like a mid-level budget TV show than a summer blockbuster.  The whole thing feels very fake and kind of uncool.

But first I gotta get something off my chest.  I can’t stand the costume design in this picture.  A lot of people are dressed in these rags that look cumbersome and they’re like someone’s idea of what old English folks would wear without doing any actual research.  They look too much like what they actually are: cheap Hollywood costumes that were all designed by one person which makes everyone look the same.  These are outfits that you would find in a theme park stunt show (which would be appropriate), not a major film production.  And Reynolds uses this same exact look in Waterworld.  I swear they’re recycled, they just modified the getups slightly. 

And this is part of that uncool thing I brought up.  Out of the four Kevin Reynolds movies I’ve seen I only like one of them (The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)) and another is just ok (187).  But this and Waterworld are sister films.  They both have the same feel and look.  Between the two I’m not sure which is better.  Robin Hood is more competently made so it makes me want to pick that one.  But I have to admit that Waterworld is a unique idea and it’s just a weird flick.  So it actually might be a little more interesting in that regard.  But you wouldn’t be seen with either fucking movie.  It’s not cool to own these films, especially Robin Hood.

Just like how I’m sure no one did research on the costumes, I’m sure no one did research on anything else.  This production of the old tales comes off as such a Hollywood douchebag vision.  I could see this guy in the initial meeting saying, “we got to have a big explosion at the end, we have to include a black side kick so it’s like those really popular buddy cop movies like Lethal Weapon and Another 48 Hrs., we need to cast someone in the lead part who’s smokin’ hot right now (who gives a shit if they’re right for the role, they’ll bring in a ton of people to see it), Robin needs a long lost brother character too, for the love interest have it be a childhood friend so there’s already a connection, the bad guy needs to be flat out evil with no redeeming qualities, Robin will encounter and bond with his band of merry men over a misunderstanding of some kind, oh and we need a big brief cameo ‘cause the audience will love that shit, etc.”  I think you get the idea.  This is a pure Hollywood birth. 

But it’s not that this movie isn’t watchable because it certainly is.  You definitely get the feeling though that every decision made about the film was money driven and that any artistic choices were either quashed altogether or subdued as much as possible.       

Case in point is who they cast in the title role.  Kevin Costner had a string of hit pictures leading up to this one including Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and Dances with fucking Wolves.  He was huge.  The problem is Costner isn’t a very versatile actor and can’t play just any role.  Robin Hood proves that.  Costner gives maybe his worst performance ever and definitely does the worst job in this (along with Christian Slater who is probably equally as bad).  Every single word out of his mouth sounds like he’s reading it for the first time.  Not only that but he doesn’t look the part either.  Aside from the very beginning when Robin is in the Jerusalem prison Costner looks like some fuckin’ American dude.  Big surprise: that’s because he is.  He should’ve had a beard or different hair or something to make him look like he actually gave a shit about this thing.  It comes off like Costner couldn’t be bothered to prepare for the role in any way.  Although he apparently tried to do an English accent but it was so horrible they had to nix the idea.  I do agree with that.  If the actor can’t do the accent then they shouldn’t force it.

Morgan Freeman?  I’m not for or against him in general.  He’s just kinda there and takes on the elder wise man part fine.  He also serves partially as comic relief (this task was divided up between many characters) by pointing out differences between his culture (Moorish) and Robin’s (English).  You know, hilarious classic Yakov Smirnoff type shit.

Marian is played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss, The Color of Money) and she probably gives the best performance along with Freeman.  I mean she’s not as good as she usually is but she works with what she’s got.  She goes through a range of emotions like anger, happiness, sadness, nervousness, sacredness (?) and she even goes halfway with the English accent which makes her sound more like a snotty American but whatever.

The saving grace of the cast should’ve been Alan Rickman but he’s not that good in this.  He plays one of those pathetic villains.  He’s a pussy and a whiner, not macho at all.  And no matter how hard he tries shit never goes his way, not even once.  It’s a little sad because we never see him score a real victory so he’s just some asshole that keeps getting screwed over.  My heart doesn’t really go out to him though because he doesn’t let up on his jackass personality.  Like at the end of the movie he tries to rape Marian and I’m not gonna get behind someone that does that shit.  Supposedly Rickman had total freedom to do what he wanted with the role and that does seem to make sense.  I could see the studio wanting a much less prissy and much more traditionally bad ass masculine motherfucker, the kind that had been dominating action films for a long while.  But Rickman already played one of those in Die Hard just a few years earlier so I’m sure he wanted to change things up.  I can respect that.

Unfortunately Michael Wincott (The Crow, Strange Days, Metro) is wasted in his role as Rickman’s number two.  He’s not in it very much and whenever he is he’s getting his ass handed to him.  I don’t believe him as someone so weak.  Wincott should pretty much always be the one kicking the ass. 

Speaking of action, there’s a fair amount here.  In that Hollywood douchebag meeting for this film he must’ve strongly insisted that this not be rated R.  Widen the net and rake in as much money as possible.  This makes for some awkward sequences.  Like Robin Hood shoots an arrow into a guy’s forehead at least twice (one of those is a flaming arrow too) but they had to find angles to shoot that stuff from so it wouldn’t look like the fucking horrific thing that it is.  Blood is kept to a minimum as well.  But at least they weren’t afraid to kill people.  A lot of henchmen get murdered and that’s a blessing from the era that this movie was made in.  It looks like most or all of the action scenes weren’t shot with a set choreography in mind but rather they just tried a bunch of stuff and pieced it together later.  The sorta messy editing during those parts seems to point to that.

So overall this is not a great film.  There’s a lot to dislike here.  It’s lame and contrived.  I never got caught up in the story or cared very much for any of the characters.  But despite all the shit I said I don’t think it’s completely terrible.  We’re given some adventure, some swordplay, some arrow…play and it’s a fairly big story so there is some scope to it.  The sets and scenes that were shot on location look great.  The lighting at times can be very moody and wonderful but at others it makes absolutely no sense (there’s one scene where it’s completely overcast outside but when Robin steps inside the building the sun is gleaming through a stained glass window).  So there are some fun little moments.

In the end though, this is no one’s favorite version of Robin Hood.  I remember the ’38 one starring Errol Flynn being fucking awesome but it’s been a long time.  Also, Robin Hood: Men in Tights is a direct response to this Costner one and I think it’s really funny so you might want to check that out too.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Frat House

-“How are your social skills?”
-“My social skills are pretty fuckin’ damn fine.”

Thanks to Ted for sending me the link to this.

Todd Phillips isn’t a mystery anymore.  He once was a while back but it’s clear the path he’s chosen for himself.  He used to be one helluva documentarian.  If you haven’t seen Hated: G.G. Allin & the Murder Junkies then you really should.  It’s one of the filthiest and also best docs out there.  It’s a pretty incredible thing to see someone like Allin not care about a single solitary thing, his music, his friends, his health or his life.  He’s a fascinating subject and the movie is well made too.

From there Phillips wanted to tackle fraternities and the shit you have to go through to join one.  It’s another great topic of discussion.  The physical and mental abuse that the pledges go through is horrific.  And it’s one thing to hear stories about that kinda shit and another to actually witness it.  The whole process is relentlessly brutal and of course the question posed at the end of the movie is ultimately the driving factor: “why is it that some guys are so afraid of standing out that they will do almost anything to fit in?”

The idea was to film the entire pledge procedure, including the infamous hazing, but Phillips was shut out before getting too deep into it.  One frat tells him that they’ll let him film everything but the catch is Phillips needs to pledge himself.  And he actually does it!  Now that’s being dedicated to your art.

This was shot for HBO as part of their America Undercover series but they never aired it.  According to Wikipedia the reason for this was because some people who either worked on the doc or who were in it claimed that parts were re-enacted and not genuine.  I understand the thinking behind this because if you’re gonna call something a documentary it should be authentic; otherwise you’re just making a regular fictional movie.  But at least in this case, does it really matter?  I mean even if the hazing shit was re-enacted that doesn’t automatically make what you’re showing a false representation.  The frat brothers did in the past and will continue to do in the future more or less what you’re watching.  Of course there’ll be variations and new techniques developed but if you’re repeating for the camera in full fashion what you did a couple of months ago then I don’t see there being a big problem here.  Phillips and the other pledges really are getting beer, food and other shit poured on them.  They really are doing pushups and standing on their heads ‘n shit.  The idea undoubtedly comes across.  If these are re-enactments it’s fine because we know that frats do this shit for real.  There isn’t any speculation.  It’s not like Phillips is exposing something that people have no clue about.  He’s painting a clearer picture of what we already know.

Maybe it’s because of what happened with this film that made Phillips decide to become a bro comedy director.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make those movies.  I’m sure in a lot of ways they’re easier to make than these docs he was doing.  But it’s kind of a shame because I think we lost a great documentary filmmaker.  Whatever, Frat House is a really interesting and great watch.  Check it out.   

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Das Boot

You know, I’m a little embarrassed.  This whole time I’ve been pronouncing it the way it looks, like the footwear.  The same way you would say “I’m gonna stick my boot in your ass”.  But it’s supposed to be pronounced the same way we say “boat” in English.  Well the damage might already be done.  I don’t know if I can change the way I say it now.  By the way it’s a pretty good movie that Das Boat.

The most interesting thing about it, at least for me, is that our heroes are Nazis.  I mean, most of the world agrees that they were kinda bad people.  But I’ve never seen such a humanization of this group before.  Usually Nazis are portrayed as robots, unemotional, insensitive, endlessly suspicious, distant, arrogant, narrow-minded, brutes, cold blooded fuckin’ murders, etc.  None of that exists in this film.  The crew of U-96 gets scared shitless, they worry, they get bored, they get cabin fever, they play games and try to keep themselves entertained.  These guys are just doin’ their job.  The captain (Jurgen Prochnow (In the Mouth of Madness, Judge Dredd)) never talks about how puny or stupid the allies are.  In fact he respects them when they put up a good fight.

I wanted to see all of these characters make it through their mission.  I wanted them to succeed and blow up ships when they had to and make a safe getaway when they had to.  It was always in the back of mind that these sonsabitches are Nazis but my emotional attachment overruled that notion. 

Wolfgang Petersen said he wanted to make the most realistic submarine movie ever and it seems like he did just that.  Since almost the entire thing takes place on the sub there is a very claustrophobic feel to it all.  You can see the descent into boredom, fear and general untidiness and uncleanliness that the sailors go through and it’s a little depressing to watch.  Things don’t always go smoothly, in fact very little goes smoothly, and my heart went out to these poor bastards.  They weren’t all up Hitler’s ass or nothin’ the whole time.  They were too busy worrying about trying to keep themselves alive.

With this realism, however, also comes classic Hollywood type shit (yeah, I know it’s a German film but the same shit applies).  The entire part where they need to repair the sub and lift her to the surface towards the end is the kind of triumph over strife against all odds you’ve seen a million times.  Another example is the Lieutenant that the story is, sorta, told through.  He’s on board as a war correspondent and his idea of life on a U-boat is glorious and exciting.  Of course, it’s completely terrifying and totally different than what he imagined.  None of this is bad though.  I just wasn’t expecting there to be so many movie-ish elements at play here.

However, the very end of the picture is absolutely incredible.  Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you.  I have to give Petersen credit for going with this.  He took your typical ending (one of two possible classic type conclusions) threw it on the ground, pulled down his pants and took a horrifically messy shit all over it.  I absolutely loved it.  This is one of the ballsiest and most audience-snubbing endings I’ve ever seen period.  And this is at the close of a three and a half hour epic too (I saw the Director’s Cut version).  Bravo Petersen.

It’s weird that he went on to make some pretty shitty movies like In the Line of Fire, Air Force One and The Perfect Storm.  They’re very watchable (well I’m not sure about The Perfect Storm) but they’re not films that exhibit such a great balance of cheese, realism and drama.  Nor do they possess very big balls.  Maybe a small set of balls, but not big ones.  I did enjoy Outbreak though.  And I do have to see Shattered.

Das Boat isn’t perfect.  It can be repetitious but maybe that’s the point.  Life aboard a sub was a cycle of waiting for the enemy, battling the enemy, recovering from the battle.  And you’re trapped inside this fuckin’ tin can underwater for weeks or months or however the fuck long these grueling deployments lasted.  But even with the three and a half hour running time I’m not sure what could’ve been cut out.  I wonder how the theatrical cut compares.  It’s an hour shorter which seems like there would be way too much material left out but maybe it works fine.  I’ll have to figure that out one day.

Anyway, I know this isn’t news but this is a fine sea going vessel here.  It really is just a very cool picture.  See it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mish Mash 3 (Dragon Eyes, Jack Reacher, Hoodlum, The Godfather: Part II, Dante's Peak, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

1. I saw Dragon Eyes like six months ago and meant to write about it but just never got around to it.  Anyway, it’s not nearly as good as Hyam’s previous film, Universal Soldier: Regeneration.  The story and action scenes don’t seem to be as fleshed out.  One fight scene is really baffling too where Cung Le (The Man with the Iron Fists) goes up against like six or seven dudes and it’s all done in a horrendously Matrix-y way where they constantly slow the footage down and then speed it up again.  I can’t stand that shit.  Hyams didn’t pull that kinda crap in Regeneration.  So that along with the less complex and also less interesting characters I would say that this is definitely a step back for him.  But still, this picture is better than a lot of other action movies that get released theatrically these days.

2. Jack Reacher wasn’t very good but did anyone else really enjoy that car chase?  I thought it was done pretty damn well and it was impressive to have a lot of shots in there showing Tom Cruise actually driving the car for real for a good portion of it.  Werner Herzog was fantastic too.  I love that they made him all fucked up with a bad eye and no fingers.  He also has that incredible voice with a menacing delivery.  It’s just a shame that they didn’t give him anything to do.

3. Unfortunately Hoodlum wasn’t the gem I was hoping it would be.  It was a little too confusing to follow, I couldn’t understand a lot of Tim Roth’s lines and it looks cheap, like really cheap.  Also the acting is not very good with the exception of Laurence Fishburne.  Some of these aspects could work in the film’s favor but it just moves too slowly and the characters were underdeveloped.  I had high hopes for this Bill Duke period crime drama but alas.  Although, the “split” scene is fucking great and the best part of the movie.

4. I don’t get The Godfather: Part II.  Or maybe I should say I don’t get why everyone loves The Godfather: Part II.  The first film I do get.  It’s a masterpiece.  But I thought the sequel was pretty boring.  I don’t think the two-movies-in-one thing worked with the separate Vito and Michael stories.  If they had each been their own picture then we probably would’ve gotten a better third movie than Part III (believe all the shit you hear about Sofia Coppola’s acting being atrocious, she really is terrible in it).  It’s weird for me because Vito is by far a better character than Michael but I wasn’t that interested in how he got his start.  Michael is pretty uninteresting to begin with but on top of that Al Pacino plays him so stiff.  You could put a cardboard cutout of Pacino in front of the camera and just have him record his dialogue later and the movie would be no worse.  However, I found myself in a conundrum because I was more interested in his storyline than Vito’s.  Michael’s plot was more exciting because it involved the same type of sinister shit that made the first one so good and not deal with just one small time asshole who wants a piece of Vito’s action.  So the two major stories of the film I had inverse issues with.  This film is no doubt epic but best sequel ever made or even as good as part one?  I don’t see it.  When it was all said and done I thought Part II was only a little better than Part III.  It wasn’t night and day like I was led to believe.

5. So the other day I sat down to have dinner and saw that Dante’s Peak was going to start in a minute so I decided to enjoy my meal in the company of the 90’s disaster movie.  I only meant to watch like a half hour of it but I ended up seeing the whole damn thing.  The first half was about how I remembered it, typical action film clichés are set up but there’s some nice tension built.  The second half when Dante starts to blow was a lot more exciting than I recalled though.  I mean Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton get so much shit thrown at them and it’s just one crazy situation after another.  It’s a solid 45 mins or so of relentless catastrophes that’s constructed wonderfully.  It starts with earthquakes, then some guy gets trampled trying to escape a mob, the roads gets destroyed, the town shakes to pieces, Brosnan’s truck gets stuck in a river, it’s raining ash, a helicopter crashes and explodes, Brosnan and co. run from pursuing lava, a lake gets turned into acid and on and on and on.  Jesus.  I was captivated.  All of this shit looks really good too because the filmmakers used practical effects with actual cars, fire, buildings getting destroyed and miniatures ‘n shit.  And I love that they took the time to stop the devastation for a sec to (Spoiler) have a sad moment and kill off the grandmother character.  But before she goes when she’s laying there all burnt to shit and totally fucked up did anyone else think it was really funny when Hamilton says, “you’re gonna be alright”.  I think this picture deserves a second look if you have the time.  It’s just a lot of fun.   Also, it’s worth mentioning that I saw director Roger Donaldson’s latest movie, Seeking Justice, starring Nicolas Cage.  It was a pretty enjoyable one time watch.  I’d recommend it.     

6. I kind of hope they don’t make the other two Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books into movies here in the U.S.  I saw the Swedish sequels and man are they boring.  They don’t have anywhere near as good of a story as the first one.  Lisbeth seems like a good character to have stories about but the ones Stieg Larsson came up with are just tedious.  Oh and does anyone else think that guy looks like John Hughes?  Shit, maybe John faked his own death and became Stieg.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Evil

“I can hear your heart beating.  I don’t like that”

Sonuvabitch.  Sorry guys, I meant to have this done for New Year’s Eve but I just totally forgot.  Well, there’s not much to say about this one anyway.  A killer goes for a victim every time the new year is rung in across the time zones in the U.S.  I kinda like this idea but the thing is only two murders actually follow this gimmick while the rest happen at nonspecific times.  I would’ve liked to have seen a little more discipline with the script but what are you gonna do, right?

Also, the killer isn’t threatening looking or sounding (especially when he does that jaw harp voice on the phone) and his weapon of choice is a switchblade which seems kinda puny and not very scary at all.  Although he does kill one woman using a sack of weed which is a new twist on the ol’ plastic-bag-over-the-head gag.  And the way he tries to murder his final victim (hanging them from the bottom of an elevator with the intent of crushing them) is something I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen before.  But other than those it’s standard fare.

I guess like the usual New Year’s celebrations they show on TV the filmmakers threw in a bunch of live music in between the killings to make it seem more like you’re watching an event.  You know, like you’re enjoying a New Year’s festivity except it keeps getting interrupted with murders.  It’s another idea that isn’t that bad, well, if you’re into new wave 80’s music that is.

Overall this one’s pretty dull.  It’s very formulaic with the first half getting off to a really slow start.  The second half finally picks up some speed and shit starts happening but that’s typical of most slasher flicks.  I’d say skip it unless you really want to relive New Year’s again.

Now that that’s out of the way, Happy New Year everyone!  Here’s to more good, bad and ugly movies in 2013.