Sunday, October 28, 2012

CHASING MAVERICKS - a ho-hum pursuit

Chasing Mavericks is a true story about a boy and his surf board. The real brazen teen Jay Moriarty to be precise. The movie seems to claim that his genes are somehow more driven to the aquatic terrain than the rest of us. They might be right.

The film is virtually encap-sulated in the trailer. A coming of age story about a fearless 15 year old boy without a father tries to conquer one of the biggest waves the planet Earth has to offer—the mighty mavericks. His mom is slightly dim witted and lazy and so relies on him to take care of himself and her—played by the ever beautiful Elisabeth Shue.  Gerard Butler is a regular Joe that loves to surf and agrees to train the young padawan. A little bit of Rocky ensues and then bang bang splash we're at the end with the big wave upon us. Will he survive?

Chasing Mavericks is like most athletic centered dramas—inspiring. However, this film is really not one for the books. Your California 15 year olds might enjoy it but I would guess the most pleased demographic will be at the ripe age of 9.  

Recommended Viewing: The Endless Summer - Riding Giants - Big Wednesday

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 5.5   -   The Fan: 5.5
             MetaCritic: 44
 Rotten Tomatoes: 33
                    IMDB: 5.7

CLOUD ATLAS - blah blah balh blha hbal lhba

Um, I know I know—I said Taken 2 was the worst movie of the year but I believe I spoke too soon. Cloud Atlas, somehow, manages to embroil your senses in six parallel narratives without engaging your mind or emotions for three dreadfully long hours. An utter tragedy. 

I had strong inclinations from the get go that this film was probably going to be mediocre at best. It's too bad because there is a lot of talent present. As everyone knows, the Wachowski Brothers were codirecting this film with Tom Tykwer. Both directors have crafted masterpieces. The Wachowski Brothers created the world of The Matrix. The first Matrix movie has one of the best science fiction plots out there. The next two were enlightening in their own way. Speed Racer was actually rather innovative and bracing despite the poor reviews and negative viewer reaction. Anyway, the brothers can direct good cinema. Tom Tykwer is also an exceptional filmmaker. His Run Lola Run, Heaven and Perfume are particular exemplars of his talent. Nearly all the performers in Cloud Atlas have deserved renown and for good reason as well.

So, the combinatorial of persons involved yielded shocking, unwatchable, unpalatable nonsense. It was surprising to me that scene after scene harbored nothing of interest at all. The makeup was silly and unnecessary, the dialogue was puzzling and thoroughly unengaging, the acting was boring and the story was simply nonexistent. Are we all connected? Is reincarnation the way of the natural order of things? Perhaps Yes and Yes. But certainly not in the way this movie (and book) puts forward. Evolution via natural selection confirms that we all (humans, animals, plants—LIFE) are related—all distinct cousins of one another—all connected through RNA and DNA. Death and rebirth seem to be intrinsic in all life and non life from trees and monkeys to stars and galaxies to even possibly universes. However, I need not even say that so far there is absolutely no proof that any of these rebirths are the product of soul transfer or parthenogenesis etc. I love a good laborious mystery but I need to be able enjoy watching it while I dissect it. This film was just an unwelcome challenge to get through. Please save your time and money and skip this horrible illusory snickery trickery.  

 Recommended Viewing: Mulholland Dr. - Lost Highway - 12 Monkeys

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 2.0   -   The Fan: 1.4
             MetaCritic: 55
 Rotten Tomatoes: 62
                    IMDB: 8.4

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Hmmm. The preview made this film look quite good, as most trailers do. I guess I was hoping for a slightly more comical Warrior part 2. They should have laid off the silly factor and gone for more respectability.

Kevin James has acted in a number of non-witty slapstick comedies as of late. I like the guy but his films are relatively puerile and adolescent for the great majority elapsed screen time. He has fallen in the pit with Adam Sandler—a less raunchy pit that is. I would like to see if he could handle a dramatic role, maybe as a crazed gangster of some sort.

I would say that Here Comes The Boom comes in with a bang and goes down with a bang without too much of anything interesting in-between. Is it inspirational? Maybe on some level—it's hard not to be taken in by the magic of cinema no matter how lame the attempt at manipulation might be. Salma is looking as hot as ever so if that be your only reason to check it out, then so be it. Enjoy the Spanish poster!

Here Comes The Boom is a Kevin James movie. Nuff said.

Recommended Viewing: Warrior - Raging Bull - Our Hospitality

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 5.2   -   The Fan: 5.4
             MetaCritic: 41
 Rotten Tomatoes: 44
                    IMDB: 5.9

ARGO - naught in Iraq the other one

Ben Affleck has little left to prove. He has again brought us another first rate thriller. That being said I don’t believe it was quite as good as the hype. It was a well made film for sure but nothing terribly special—maybe people are so used to mediocre Hollywood films that when a good film comes along it goodness gets blown out of proportion. Duh, you might utter, but this concept always seems to surprise some.

Argo chronicles a brief tumultuous period in Iran—very surprising I know. A coup has currently caused the American embassy to be a hot spot for nationalist rebels. A few American employees escape the embassy and hide out with a Canadian Ambassador. This will not be safe for long. So the Americans back home at the CIA find a guy who gets people out of tight spots. His idea is to come up with a fake film, script and all, to present to the foreign government so that he can pretend that the clandestine Americans are filmmakers and subsequently get them out of the country because they were only there on a location scout to begin with. If this weren’t a declassified true story it probably would be too weird of a concept for the regular Joe to buy. Myself included.

However, the film succeeds on many levels. The story takes you in rather quickly and of course your always rooting for the good guys in this riveting scenario. The last quarter of the film really shines as Affleck gets you on the edge of your seat without really seeming to try—as all good directors can. If you’ve seen the preview nothing much will surprise you in how the film plays out, which is to it’s advantage, yet, somewhat geared towards my view that it may not really exceed your expectations—it’s just simply a very good thriller.

Recommended Viewing: The Town - Syriana - The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 8.0   -   The Fan: 8.0
             MetaCritic: 72
 Rotten Tomatoes: 94
                    IMDB: 8.0

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS - verily surely quite extremely highly absolutely indeed yes

Seven Psychopaths was Martin McDonagh's second attempt at glorious filmmaking. His first film, In Bruges, was in my view, one of the 10 best movies of 2008. His new film tries really hard and succeeds on some level but misses the mark slightly.

The movie almost feels like it was directed by a psychopath. Your taken on a speedy journey through the lives of several men and women, of which, nearly all happen to be psychopathic murderers. But you knew this already. The film tries hard to be clever and funny and on some occasions succeeds beautifully but generally you end up coughing on your laugh midway through.

At first, I thought this was a bad thing. The director just couldn't find his way. Then I thought, well, this guy knows what he's doing. I think he wanted you to just bask in the presence of a few psychopaths for an evening. Their stories are bizarre, their jokes don't always work, they have odd quirks and really you don't want to be around them for too long. So if that was his vision—he succeeded. All in all, I enjoyed the actors and the fun they seemed to have—you probably will too. Don't expect the high quality of In Bruges, though.

Recommended Viewing: In Bruges - The Rundown - Pulp Fiction

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 7.2   -   The Fan: 7.6
             MetaCritic: 66
 Rotten Tomatoes: 84
                    IMDB: 7.9

Saturday, October 6, 2012

FRANKENWEENIE - a return to form

Tim Burton is back with his best film in a long long time. Frankenweenie was a concept short that Burton produced about 30 years ago. The full length realization has now finally come to see the light of day.

He chose black & white cinematography (excellent decision) and a mixture of stop motion and claymation. The film looks great! A supremely apt voice cast was also chosen for this mini masterpiece. The animation felt Burtonesque, without going overboard like he has done with Alice In Wonderland, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride etc. Burton fell back on his roots and made a film worthy of his macabre talents. 

The film contains myriad references to the original Frankenstein of 1931 and it's sequel, Bride of Frankenstein. Frankenweenie becomes a clever spin on these familiar tales. This movie eclipsed the other stop motion goth fairy tale of this year, Paranorman, by quite a leap and no doubt a shock!

Some quick facts: Igor, the hunchback, doesn't show up till the third Universal Frankenstein sequel. Frankenstein is the last name of the scientist not the name of the creation—that is simply dubbed 'the monster'. Tim Burton did not direct The Nightmare Before Christmas!

I also viewed Pitch Perfect: mediocre high school piece—it wishes it could be anything like the Breakfast Club. They knew how to make sentimental films in the 80's without feeling mawkish. 

Recommended Viewing: Frankenstein - Bride of Frankenstein - Vincent 

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 8.0   -   The Fan: 8.5
             MetaCritic: 74
 Rotten Tomatoes: 86
                    IMDB: 7.3

TAKEN 2 - good god

Wow, ok so I guess what we have here is just one crazy step in the wrong direction—literally. Luc Besson again proves that he has absolutely zero talent in writing and producing for other filmmakers—despite his own genius as director. 

This has got to be the worst movie of the year so far, next to Lockout which was also produced by Besson. Taken 2 was directed by Olivier Megaton?, a Frenchman, whom also brought us vertiginous masterpieces such as Transporter 3 and Columbiana. It is no surprise that this movie was just one banal scene of atrocity after another. The movie started poorly with ridiculous editing and mise en scĂ©ne. Liam Neeson looks disheveled and uncool for most of his time onscreen and really just becomes his own fatuous caricature. I feel that his voiced track was raised to an obscene level so that we, the audience, could bask in his gritty ferociousness. Effing Daft. 

This film was so bad that it might one day become a cult favorite. That is to say, it actually was enjoyable—jocular in the extreme. My favorite part has to be when Neeson's daughter roams around the streets of Istanbul launching grenades with relative abandon to give him an idea of her location—classic just classic. The lines are delivered so poorly and abstractly, even in normal dialogue scenes, that it makes one wonder how this director has survived till now. It's films like this that make you appreciate good direction, like the first Taken (however silly), and how it can make all the difference. Taken 2 was plain sloppy, amateur detritus.     

Recommended Viewing: Taken - The Next Three Days - The A-Team (Yes I enjoyed this)

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 3.0   -   The Fan: 5.5
             MetaCritic: 44
 Rotten Tomatoes: 19
                    IMDB: 7.4!!!-holy crap