Archive for January, 2010

Doomsday (2008) Neil Marshall

Posted in D on January 28, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $30 million

Worldwide Gross: $22 million

A deadly virus has struck Scotland.  To quickly stop the virus from spreading, the world constructs a wall across it’s land borders and has a military blockade of its waters.  Everything seems to have worked until several years later when there is an outbreak in the heart of London.  A former survivor of Glasgow and now special ops agent Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) is sent in.  (Sent in by Prime Minister Doctor Bashir from DS9) Apparently there are some survivors still in Scotland, and Sinclair is tasked to find one to find if there is a cure for the virus.  Inside she finds society has degenerated into a group of cannibal, car driving punk rock rejects.

Neil Marshall is quickly becoming a director I pay attention too.  His low budget horror movie Dog Soldiers was an extremely campy and scary horror movie and Descent was a breath of fresh air in a dead horror genre.  It is obvious to see the obvious parallels this movie has with primarily Escape from New York and Mad Max.

I really see this movie as kind of a third installment to the Grindhouse movies.  It is a loving homage to the post apocalyptic B grade action movies of the 80’s.  There is so much attention to the details of the genre you can see Marshall knows his stuff.  The look, the characters, the…uh liberties with the plot; hell, even the music has the John Carpenter feel to it.  There is just so much downright cool things to like about this movie: cannibal bikers, exploding bunnies, fights with medieval knights, a Bentley chase in post apocalyptic Glasgow.  All we need are some pirates and ninjas and I’ll officially orgasm.

Rhona Mitra does a good job as the female equivalent to Snake Plissken.  She doesn’t too anything to physically impossible as out heroine and she delivers her lines with the right amount of dry Brittish drollness.  She is complimented by a great villain in Saul.  He is so over the top you cannot help but love his energy.  There are also some nice supporting performances by Bob Hoskins and Malcolm McDowell.

I have read some reviews that complain “The movie can’t possibly happen!  Cars don’t work like that!  There are plot holes!”  That is like nitpicking Escape from New York or any of the Mad Max movies or any cheesy action movie.  You don’t go in for logical realism or a real world simulator.  You watch it because of the setting, the silly acting and the great action scenes.  This is a fun throwback to the exploitation post apocalyptic movies of old.  Just have fun with it.

Leonard Part 6 (1987) Paul Weiland

Posted in L on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: Unknown (trust me, it’s a bomb)
Worldwide Gross: about $5 million
Subsequent Earnings: $10 and a piece of lint

Bill Cosby was the man during the 80’s.  Between his earlier success with Fat Albert and his later success with the Cosby show, Cosby was one of the highest paid actors around.  But Cosby never really made it big on the big screen.  He was in movies (Hickey & Boggs, Mother, Jugs, and Speed, Uptown Saturday Night), but often he was the second or third banana to bigger stars of the time.  Now that he was an established star, Cosby wanted to make his mark on Hollywood.  Columbia was all too happy to oblige since they wanted to make money off of the massive popularity of Cosby.  Cosby originally wanted to write, produce, and direct Leonard, but because of his busy schedule, had to let others handle the writing and directing.

Leonard is supposed to be a parody of James Bond.  The story revolves around Leonard Parker, a former secret agent who quit when his wife left him seven years ago.  When an evil vegetarian discovers a way to control all the animals, Leonard is brought back to save the world. The “Part 6” is supposed to mean there were 5 other stories, but they were classified for security reasons.  I think they added that to spice the title up and, hey, if it’s successful we could make Leonard Part 1 through 5.

The movie was a disaster from start to finish.  Bill Cosby was very upset and let EVERYONE know about it.  He did not like how the movie was going.  He only stuck around because he was contractually obligated to stay.  The script was re-written many times and the humor was wildly inconsistent.  Looking at the movie, it makes you wonder what they were smoking, snorting, or shooting up in those meetings.  Okay, let’s have Cosby carry around a magic queen bee, let’s give him underarm rockets and have him ride an ostrich and have him dance like a ballerina.  Meanwhile, let’s have killer rainbow trout and vegetarian birdmen who have adverse reactions to beef.  Sheesh.

Cosby was contractually obligated to publicize the movie.  They didn’t say how he should publicize the movie.  He went to talk shows and told people that the movie was crap and that no one should watch it.  The public took Cosby’s advice as the movie only made $1 million its first weekend.  Cosby personally accepted the Razzies Leonard won and he also bought the tv rights to the movie so that the movie could not offend anyone’s eyes.  Classy.  What movies have Cosby done since?  Ghost Dad.  Yeah, we’ll just forget about that.

Is it any good?  I should have taken Cosby’s advice.  Absolutely horrid.  I think they were trying to do the same thing Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai was trying to do.  Leonard was a jack-of-all-trades (millionaire, restaurant owner, spy, commando, ballerina) and he faces extremely goofy situations.  But where Banzai was funny, this was painful.  I have said before that the length of a movie does not necessarily make a movie boring.  I have sat through the Extended Editions of LOTR no problem.  This movie was only 80 minutes long and it felt like years.  This movie makes baby Jesus cry.  Don’t see this.

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) Russell Mulcahy

Posted in H on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Costs: $30 million
Worldwide Gross: $28 million
Subsequent Earnings: People bought this?

Now, I’m not sure if you would call this a flop or a bomb.  It’s not like I have a solid definition of what a bomb is.  But since this movie was so bad I decided to include this.  I mean, why not?  It’s my list.  Anyway Highlander has always been a personal favorite of mine.  The movie immediately became a cult hit and the producers wanted to capitalize on that success.  There was a tiny problem though: how do you make a sequel to a movie when the story has already ended?  MacLeod had won.  He had beaten the last immortal and received the prize.  What else can you do?  You can almost picture a group of writers huddled around a table brainstorming what to do.  In the end, they wrote a logical and completely thoughtful continuance to the story.  It seems the ozone is failing, and Connor uses his massive intellect to created a giant shield to block the sun.  This shield blocks the sun, but somehow the planet is still warm and plants still grow despite any natural sunlight.  Anyway, it seems Connor is not really a Scot, but an alien from the planet Zeist who was exiled with Ramirez (who is not Spanish or Egyptian) to battle it out for the chance to earn their mortality or to return to Zeist.  Even though Connor chose mortality, the evil Katana thinks Connor is still a threat and fights him.  Meanwhile, Connor calls Ramirez back from the dead (???????) to help him kill Katana and overthrow the evil shield corporation.  See, it all makes sense!

Russell Mulcahy was brought back and so was Lambert.  Connery actually wasn’t supposed to return, but Lambert (who was close friends with Connery) threatened to walk if they didn’t bring him back.  So they shoehorned Connery into the story and continued.  Both Mulcachy and Lambert were unhappy with the story and Lambert wanted to leave but was contractually obligated to stay.  At the premiere Mulcahy left after the first 15 minutes.  The film was so bad that you could almost hear all the Highlander fans scream in unison “WTF!?”  The movie was released in a Renegade version, which is supposed to have removed all Zeist references, but really, Zeist was just the cherry on top of the crap cake.  Even later incarnations of the Highlander series completely ignore Highlander II just like how many of us try to forget this movie ever existed.

Is it any good? Noooooooo.  Highlander fans have had to put up with a lot: Season 6 of Highlander, Connor dying in Highlander endgame (bullsh*t), and Highlander 2.  How did they come up with this?  You couldn’t have made this more stupid if you tried.  Just horrible.

Bloodrayne (2005) Dr. Uwe Boll

Posted in B on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Costs: $25 million
Worldwide Gross: $3.7 million
Subsequent Earnings: $5 million

It was only a matter of time.  Dr. Boll (yes, he has a doctorate in literature) had been making movies since the early 90’s with movies like German Fried Movie, Run Amok, and Barschel.  So, how did he come to make films like Alone in the Dark?  The story goes that in the late 90’s he fell trying to hang a clock over the toilet when he fell, hit his head on the sink, and got the inspiration to bring crappy video game movies to everyone.  No wait, that was how Doc Brown came up with the flux capacitor.  Whatever, something happened which made him lose his marbles and make these movies.  He started his own production company where he churned out dreck like Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead.  Each of his movies make less money than the last. So how does Dr. Boll keep getting these films funded.  I’ll let Wikipedia explain:

In the DVD commentary of Alone in the Dark, Boll explains how he funds his films:
“Maybe you know it but it’s not so easy to finance movies in total. And the reason I am able to do these kind of movies is I have a tax shelter fund in Germany, and if you invest in a movie in Germany you get basically fifty percent back from the Government.”
Boll is able to acquire funding thanks to German tax laws that reward investments in film. The law allows investors in German-owned films to write off 100% of their investment as a tax deduction; it also allows them to invest borrowed money and write off any fees associated with the loan. The investor is then only required to pay taxes on the profits made by the movie; if the movie loses money, the investor gets a tax writeoff.

The plot is a mess.  Bloodrayne is a half human/ half vampire and she’s trying to get revenge against Gandhi.  And then we have Mr. Blonde and this guy with a mullet fighting Meatloaf and this cross eyed guy and Billy Zane is doing…things.  I dunno.  The movie predictably tanked but he goes on making video game movies.  I don’t even think his greatest bomb has yet to come.  In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is a $60 million dollar production.

Is it any good?  What a silly question.  I can’t believe you can ask that.  The movie is horrible and the Spoony One has already given a proper rant on this movie.  The actors from Michael Madsen to Ben Kinsley and Billy Zane all look depressed that they have to be there.  The dialogue is howlingly bad with lines like “Thrall!  My companion has seemed to have disappeared.  I don’t know what could have happened.”  Meatloaf gives a hilarious performance and the CLANG! sex scene CLANG! is not at all CLANG! annoying CLANG!  It is also very funny to watch Michelle Rodriguez try an English accent.  But this movie is awful and Boll is one of the worst directors today.

Munich (2005) Steven Spielberg

Posted in M on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $75 million
Worldwide Gross: $50 million
Subsequent Earnings: $38 million

I know.  If you had asked me what Spielberg film was a bomb I would say something like Hook or maybe Amistad.  I would be wrong.  Spielberg has never had a massive bomb: even 1941 has made a tidy profit on DVD.  And in time, this movie will eventually make a profit too.  Currently, it is in the Netflix Top 100 for rentals (#64) and as soon as Universal gets off their collective duffs and re-release the two disc special edition, it will have an interested buyer.  Still, it’s a damn shame that this is the movie people chose not to see.

Munich was a project that Spielberg was interested for a long time.  The movie is based on an assassination squad used by Israel to kill people involved with the 1972 Munich hostage crisis.  Early intelligence from former Mossad agents was that Israel dispatched several assassination squads to eliminate Black September agents and people involved with the planning of Munich.  These squads would have several groups that handled different things; the assassinations, the clean up, the making of forged documents, finding the terrorists.  The squads temporarily stopped when they killed an innocent person that was mistakenly identified as a terrorist.  But they later resumed and in the end, killed 9 of the 11 suspected collaborators.  Then a book was written from the testimony of one of the Mossad agents (the character of Avner in the movie) called Vengeance.  In Vengeance, there was only one group that did everything.  There were many claims that the book was untrue (even though no evidence to the contrary was produced) and the book was released in the fiction section instead of non-fiction.  This book however, was used as the template for the movie.  Spielberg also used independent research to fill in any holes.

The movie was a race.  “The time span between the start of production to the release date in December of 2005 was less than six months.”  He wanted to release the film for the holiday market.  The movie received mostly rave reviews and was nominated for Academy awards for Best Picture, Director, Writing, Music, and Editing.  People still didn’t go.  Maybe it was because of stiff holiday competition, or maybe Dreamworks didn’t market it well enough.  I don’t know.  The movie is doing well on DVD and is receiving great customer reviews.

Is it any good?  It’s among his best work.  I am a huge Spielberg fan and there are only a few films of his that I don’t like.  Munich is just a great movie.  Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, and Ciaran Hinds all give great performances.  At first glance, the movie seems toned down, but then you get scenes with incredible power and tension.  The one complaint I’ve heard is that it is a little too long.   While it may need a scene or two cut, that is no excuse to not see this movie.

The Alamo (2004) John Lee Hancock)

Posted in A on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Cost: $95 million
Worldwide Gross: $22 million
Subsequent Earnings: $2 million

Remember the Alamo (the movie I mean)?  No?  Yeah, I almost didn’t either.  The movie started with potential.  Originally, the movie was supposed to be directed by Ron Howard, produced by Brian Grazer, and starring Russell Crowe, Ethan Hawke, and Billy Bob Thorton.  The deal fell through when Howard asked for an unbelievable $200 million to make the movie.  Disney said “Hell no!” and everybody but Thorton walked.  Disney then hired John Lee Hancock.  Who is John Lee Hancock?  No one, that’s who.  I had to check IMDb to see what (if anything) the guy had done.  His only big movie is The Rookie.  Well, now that I know that, he’s the perfect person to direct our $100 million dollar historical epic.

The movie was supposed to be more historically accurate than the 1960 John Wayne film, featuring a balanced look at both the Mexican and Texan sides of the conflict.  It was shot near Austin on the largest outdoor set ever.  Even though this was his first big effort, Hancock actually finished the film under budget.  Well he only finished $82,000 below budget, but hey, I’m trying to come up with anything good about this.  The film opened with a whimper with so-so reviews.  It didn’t help that the film opened next to the box office juggernaut The Passion of the Christ.  The movie got even less attention on DVD.

Is it any good?  It’s mediocre.  I cannot testify as to whether it’s historically accurate or not.  It might be, I don’t know.  The movie just never strives for anything great.  They lost Howard and who did they get?  John Lee Hancock.  They lost Russell Crowe and who did they get?  Dennis Quaid.  Now I’m not saying the movie would have been better with a $200 million dollar budget.  Far from it.  In fact, I think there is no way the movie could have ever made that much money.  But for a movie of this scope and budget, you need a more experienced hand directing, you need someone who will draw people to the theater, and you need a tighter script.  The movie has its moments and Billy Bob Thorton gives a great performance, but it never really interested me.

Revisit

It’s strange. I’ve seen this movie three times now and each time I kind of have the same thought process all the way through. Coming in I’m depressed because I think it’ll suck and it will be an epic time waster. Roughly two hours later I’m like “Meh, that was alright.”

There are some that I like a good deal in this movie. I could even go as to say this movie is good. But every time it tries for great, something drags the movie closer to mediocrity. For example, I love Billy Bob Thorton’s performance as Davy Crockett and think the character is well written. Much of what he’s about can be told in a quote he gives one night at the Alamo “If it was just me, simple old David from Tennessee, I might drop over that wall some night, take my chances. But that Davy Crockett feller… they’re all watchin’ him. “ Thorton plays Crockett as a world weary traveler. At heart he is a good old boy who would rather retire into anonymity, but his legend seems to precede him everywhere. He really doesn’t want to play the hero role, but knows he has an obligation to everyone around him. It is a wonderfully written role and I liked every scene he was in.

The problem is every other role in this movie. You have several other famous historical figures involved with the Alamo but none seem to be as richly developed as Crockett. James Bowie (Jason Patrick) doesn’t really have anything as he spends the whole movie in bed with consumption and Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) just sits around grumbling that he wishes he could save them brave boys at the Alamo and whatnot. The person we actually follow as main character is William Travis (Patrick Wilson) and he is the blandest character of them all. His arc is that he has no experience and is forced into the leadership role by coming to the Alamo. Wilson doesn’t have much personality compared to Patrick and Thorton and the script doesn’t give him anything to really work with.

The action is good in this movie when we get to it. The final battle at the Alamo is shot very well with some great shots (like a full overhead shot where the army is converging on all sides). The problem is the story is a bit sluggish in the beginning. You really notice the slow start when they have to drastically rush the ending of the movie. You see, after the fall of the Alamo we get Houston defeating Santa Anna in his own version of Waterloo. But like I said, it is so rushed, it is like they literally remembered they had to shoot an ending for the movie at the last second. This is the cinematic equivalent of “Then the Alamo fell yada yada yada Santa Anna lost to Sam Houston.” The script needed a few more rewrites to make it all tight and flow perfectly.

Overall, I do like this movie. There are enough pluses to this movie that I don’t think you would be disappointed if you rented it. Would I necessarily recommend you get it? Ehhhhhhhh probably not. If you are interested then by all means, but don’t go out of your way for it. It’s good, but it could have been really great if they spent more time with the script.

The Great Raid (John Dahl) 2005

Posted in G on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $70 million
Worldwide Gross: $11 million
Subsequent Earnings: around $3 million

There’s actually not much to tell on this one.  John Dahl (Rounders) was set to direct a movie about the greatest rescue in American history.  The movie follows three different plot threads: the prisoners, the American soldiers, and the civilian resistance.  As far as I can tell, there were no problems on set, no fights among the actors, no overblown budget.  This was simply a film at the wrong place at the wrong time.  This movie was actually done in 2002.  At the time, however, there were tensions between Miramax and Disney.  There were many layoffs and many films were put on the shelf while the two companies battled it out.  Two years later when the two companies finally split, Miramax gave the movie a small (really small) release.  Miramax never gave the movie a chance.  When a movie spends that much time on the shelf, it’s usually because it sucks and they want to release it quietly.  In this case, it was because Miramax was in a legal battle.  Miramax also never really promoted the movie.  I only knew about it because I saw it reviewed on Ebert & Roeper and I thought it looked good.  The movie doesn’t really have big star power, and that probably didn’t help draw people in.  It may also be that people were tired of WWII movies and didn’t want to see this one.  But I feel that if Miramax didn’t have so many problems, this movie would have done much better.

Is it any good?  Yeah.  The movie is not groundbreaking like Saving Private Ryan, but it is still a very good movie.  The cast (while there is no big name stars) does a very good job.  The best part of the movie is the raid itself, which takes up the final 30 minutes of the movie.  The direction is well done, and the movie kept my interest the whole way through.  If there might be a complaint, it’s that the romance between Nielsen and Fiennes might take up too much time.  But I would recommend it.