Monday, February 27, 2012

GONE - but not forgotten

I watched the preview and thought this movie looked boring and silly. Much to my surprise it was not. Before I even decided either to view this film or not, I thought I would take a look at the directors previous work, Adrift. I thought Heitor Dhalia's narrative of a young French girl was riveting with a great twist and superb acting. A great coming of age story. That enticed me to see Gone, his second major work. 

I would suggest that Amanda Seyfried was good in some parts and not so good in others. There were moments that really felt like she was acting like a deranged teen more than actually embodying the character, especially in the scene where she tries to convince the police of her sanity and that her sister really had been taken. I also felt that Jennifer Carpenter (best known from Showtime's Dexter) was criminally underused in the overall plot line. 

Despite these pedantic nuisances, I thought the film was a compelling mystery that didn't make me want to bolt out of the theater. There is no great surprise ending and no fantastical movie conundrums but just enough reality mixed with ambiguity to make for a good thriller. I am interested to see what Dhalia does next.

Recommended Viewing: Don't Say A Word - Along Came A Spider - Don't Look Now

              Bob Scale: Objective: 6.8   -   Subjective: 7.0
             MetaCritic: 41
 Rotten Tomatoes: 12
                      IMDB: 5.5

WANDERLUST - a lust for the raunch

I have this bizarre desire to go to the theater to see this type of film. I watch the preview, it makes me laugh and I feel an inner penchant to view it with 300 other sycophantic peers. It must be that I want to laugh so badly that I will pay $13 for just the chance of elation because I know full well that 90% of the time all the laughs are in the preview. However, when you view a comedy in the theater with a number of people exuding palpable energy, it is usually more hilarious than it actually is; how many times have you rented or bought a comedy that you thought in the theater was phenomenal and then watched it at home with a friend or two and been really disappointed the second time around? This is quite the marketing scam. 

Only a few surprise's come around now and then. Bridesmaids was one that was totally worthy of not only your laughs but of your respect as well. The year before was The Hangover which was very good and Superbad before that. Last year they tried the The Hangover II which was awful and I know there are plans to make Superbad II and Bridesmaids II to capitalize on the original successes. The Five Year Engagement due shortly is another attempt to immediately capitalize on Bridesmaids.  Most likely these movies will not succeed because what is generally funny is original concepts and to repeat that is to lose most of the good stuff from the original. 

I love to laugh and will continue to see many of the rauch-coms that come out because there is always a chance for it to blow me away. This one, unfortunately, was far from good and made me squirm in my seat multiple times, not due to raunch but due to in-your-face unfunnyness. I have an affinity for Paul Rudd but even he could not save me from this doomed travelogue. A couple lose their way in life and think the hippie life is the only real way to be alive. Much to their discontent they discover that these wonderful hippies are just as full of deceit and lies as anyone else. DUH. Then everyone lives happily ever after. The end... to another failed attempted at comedy with a message.

Recommended Viewing: Bridesmaids - The 40 Year Old Virgin - The Shape Of Things

              Bob Scale: Objective: 5.0   -   Subjective: 5.2
             MetaCritic: 52
 Rotten Tomatoes: 60
                      IMDB: 6.2

Monday, February 20, 2012

THIN ICE - one deal to rule them all

Thin Ice was a solid murder conundrum tale. I had moments of laughing aloud but more often I was subsumed by feeling of black guilt and regret. 

This is the darkest of dark comedies and most of the time Thin Ice doesn't feel funny at all because of the horrible happenings that befall Greg Kinnear. Does he deserve it? Most probably but I would argue that almost any film which portrays a character that continues on a downward spiral of unfortunate luck and circumstance creates within most viewers a real sense of empathy/sympathy. I really felt bad for the Kinnear character -  he had lost the semblance of control of his sad life. 

Alan Arkin, Billy Crudup and Bob Balaban are all sublime in their portrayal of country bumpkins. I don't want to give any of the plot away except to say that it had many expected twists and many unexpected turns. I wasn't enjoying the movie at first but eventually the characters and plot drew me in. A great winter rental indeed.

Recommended Viewing: Fargo - A Simple Plan

              Bob Scale: Objective: 7.0   -   Subjective: 7.5
             MetaCritic: 62
 Rotten Tomatoes: 72
                      IMDB: 6.3

THIS MEANS WAR - morality on trial

This Means War is one of those safe action romcoms that are overproduced. This film is targeted towards couples that will be out for Valentine's Day - it promises hot stars, explosions, love, sex and comedy. What else could one want? Perhaps a touch of realism would be nice - this film is pure fantasy but what upsets me about it is the thoughts it encourages towards the youth of the world.

I ask, is it fine to date two people at once? Is it fine to knowingly compete with a friend for a woman who has no knowledge of the deception? Is it fine to be attracted to a cute guy with no clout? Is it fine to love a hot guy with no morality? Is it fine to laugh about it and forgive each other in the end? This movie will no doubt make certain females feel that they always deserve more or someone better. There are many points in this movie that I could discuss on the disgusting nature of these characters, however, I will just note that the morality displayed is repugnant and disingenuous throughout. 

I know it is just a fantasy and most films play with reality to make it seem as real as possible. It's truly amazing the amount of deception a film can convey while the viewer has no clue he's being deceived. I am fascinated by this and am in constant awe of why I am believing something on screen that I would never believe 5 minutes after I exit the theater. Anyway, the film has some comedic value and the Pine vs Hardy dynamic work quite well. Fun for a minute and then you think - what the hell am I subjecting myself to?

Recommended Viewing: Grosse Point Blank - Romancing The Stone - True Lies

              Bob Scale: Objective: 5.0   -   Subjective: 5.5
             MetaCritic: 33
 Rotten Tomatoes: 26
                      IMDB: 6.4

Friday, February 17, 2012

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE - 10 year old intellect + 75 million dollars

All I have to say is wow - Tommy Wiseau would be pleased with this film. This is truly one of the worst films I have ever seen. Everything in this monstrosity is overdone with poor taste and overtly obvious childish antics. 

The camera work feels like two friends in early high school who got their first camera and thus every shot that comes into being is followed by "that is so freakin awesome!" Believe me, they are not. I'm used to Nicholas Cage overacting (although, somehow I generally enjoy his presence), however, in this film the terrible lack of direction made his histrionics nearly unbearable. I seem to recall familiar moans in Faceoff. I believe he is only good/great under the constraint of great direction. 

Even the very stable Ciarán Hinds was awful in this brimstone laden kindergarten play for hellbent troglodytes. My favorite bit is when the aforementioned gives his minion a special power. There is a long buildup and a swelling musical score and then "I give you the power - the power of DECAY!" I laughed my ass off. It brings me to an interesting point that the film will undoubtedly fall into the worst movies ever category, yet be entertaining due to how bad the script, acting and plot happen to be. This movie is hackneyed noxious garbage but if you want to light one up and laugh like hell, go kill two hours and bask in the glow of Nick Cage pissing fire into darkness.

Recommended Viewing: The Wild Angels - Backdraft

              Bob Scale: Objective: 2.0   -   Subjective: 2.3
             MetaCritic: NA
 Rotten Tomatoes: 15
                      IMDB: 6.1

Saturday, February 11, 2012

SAFE HOUSE - supermen grounded in the real

Safe House is movie for those who wish espionage was this exciting. Maybe the director, Daniel Espinosa, should have viewed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy beforehand to get clearer perspective on the reality of spy land or maybe not because he certainly would have fallen asleep 10 minutes in. I can't accuse this movie of that sort of tedium but it is certainly guilty of being mentally impotent.

It's star Denzel Washington has been going strong now for 3 decades and his face has become a staple of gritty action films. He is good here but brings nothing really new to the table. You suspect from the first minute of the film, for him to actually be a good guy trying to bring down the establishment. Ironically the trailer tries to sell the film by showcasing him as the bad guy most likely do to his successful turn in Training Day. 

The plot is extremely easy to follow because the action never stops to let you think about it - every time the story slows down for a second someone gets shot by a surprise bullet and the audience gets a an audible blowout. The style of filmmaking here is so nausea inducing- it feels like a number of Peter Berg's atrocious attempts at filming action scenes. Apparently the only way to engage an audience with action these days is to move the camera around so incomprehensibly and edit so quickly that you could probably be filming a 90 year old woman picking out a ripe tomato on the street corner and I wouldn't be able to tell that you just tricked me into believing that it was Ryan Reynolds grabbing for his gun and shooting three people in the face. The only successful director I can think of that utilizes his cameraman in this fashion and makes it a joy to watch is Paul Greengrass. The last two Bourne films and the underrated Green Zone are a credit to his brilliant use of this effect.

The movie rehashes a number of espionage cliches and felt for me to be chore to sit through. Denzel is bad but not really yet he does kill and seems to feel no remorse which makes it difficult for an audience to decide. Reynolds is a good guy who is green and comes to see the light once presented the facts. The most unlikely person and the most likely turn out to be bad. CIA bad - Government bad - all people good.The most unlikely people to get shot get shot. It's a typical Hollywood script with your "oh shit" and "ah ha" moments. Save your money and catch some Greengrass or opt for some older Denzel.

Recommended Viewing: Green Zone - Out Of Time - Salt

              Bob Scale: Objective: 6.0   -   Subjective: 5.8
             MetaCritic: 53
 Rotten Tomatoes: 52
                      IMDB: 7.1

Saturday, February 4, 2012

THE WOMAN IN BLACK - there is still magic

Daniel Radcliffe, of über Harry Potter fame, stars in this creepy ghost story alongside Ciarán Hinds who has a near ubiquitous presence in current cinema. 

This is a dark story, told quietly - the film is silent for long portions of time. Radcliffe is well chosen for the lead and for a while you forget he was Harry Potter as he imbues the role with real sincerity. However, I couldn't help but question if there was a bit of the wizard still left. This guy is bloody fearless! Every single time he hears a noise or sees an object moving by itself or views an apparition, Radcliffe goes headlong to confront it. It made me chuckle numerous times. He goes out in the middle of poring rain at night to catch a ghost, jumps into a gruesome bog to pull out a dead child at the bottom and continually goes into a area with a number of toys that look like they belong in Charles Manson's bedroom, all without a second thought. What kind of mother was the woman in black?

After viewing 7,550+ films, few at this point have any power to actually shock or genuinely frighten me. Certain moments in The Woman in Black did actually make me cringe with fear. The scare tactics are done well, many you have seen before but regardless, still have the power to make you scream a little on the inside.

On a side note, I find it interesting that, generally speaking, we all seem to believe that when a dead person's physical body is reunited with the kin of the dead person's ghost via the help of a living person, the terror they spread will go away. Why is this? I've seen it numerous times in TV and movies and am curious why we all seem to accept this mythology as making any sense. Why is not every dead person turning into a ghost - only some seem to get this awful privilege of unfinished business. And why would reuniting a dead physical body help a ghost!? Hell, why are there ghosts at all?

Recommended Viewing: The Others - Onibaba - The Haunting (1963)

              Bob Scale: Objective: 7.5   -   Subjective: 7.0
             MetaCritic: 63
 Rotten Tomatoes: 77
                      IMDB: 7.2

Friday, February 3, 2012

CHRONICLE - a journal worth reading

Since, like it or not, found footage films are still being made, you are as a movie goer, bound to run into one now and then. I would argue that this one is worth your time.

It all started with Cannibal Holocaust in 1980 and then hugely popularized again by The Blair Witch Project in 1999 and 13 years later we have come to this. Chronicle is not that much unlike Catfish of 2010 in that instead of using found footage, young men are just documenting their surrounding experiences - this may seem a lame reason but in this day and age, ever more popular an idea. Everyone wants to be on film and as Truffaut argued nearly half a century ago - "Is anyone really alive if not on celluloid ?"

The style of found footage films has become it's own aesthetic and a green light phrase for producers that want to make a film on the cheap. I don't think they will be going away anytime soon either, since somehow atrocities like Paranormal Activity 3 and The Devil Inside keep raking in the dough. Every bone in my body screams of loathing for this type of cinema but rarer than I would like to admit I do end up liking the story presented. I also find that the filmmakers are exploring this genre to enth degree and in so doing are really bringing some surprisingly creative ideas for representing reality.

Chronicle has your usual sporadic moments, typical in this type of cinema and purposeful "bad editing." Nothing new here - but other than Cloverfield, no other film of this type has had such intense special effects and for the most part they are done well. The story is preposterous but that doesn't stop you from becoming engaged. I related to the main characters of the story and since I consider myself a pariah of sorts, I became fascinated with the idea presented here - becoming super telepathic like Magneto or like a less polished version of Bradley Cooper in Limitless.

Most of us want to be someone other than who we are OR the best most possible version of ourselves and this movies delivers on that fantasy with dire consequences. I guess filmmakers seem to think that if we get everything we want, no good can come of that.

Recommended Viewing: The Last Exorcism - Cannibal Holocaust - Catfish

              Bob Scale: Objective: 6.8   -   Subjective: 7.0
             MetaCritic: NA
 Rotten Tomatoes: 77
                      IMDB: 7.3