Archive for July, 2010

The Eiger Sanction (Clint Eastwood) 1975

Posted in E on July 28, 2010 by moviemoses

Clint Eastwood plays Dr. Jonathan Hemlock who is a government assassin. During his off time, he is a professor, mountain climber, an art collector, and a lothario. He is brought back for the trademark “one last job” to get revenge for the death of a friend. The only knowledge Hemlock knows is that the assassin will be climbing the Eiger soon and that he has a limp. Hemlock quickly has to get himself into shape for this killing or ‘sanction’ as they are officially called.

Now many will compare this to James Bond or Indiana Jones. I’ll actually reference my Sahara review and say it is closer to Clive Clusser’s Dirk Pitt. Pitt was an extension of Cussler’s real life diving exploits and adding spy intrigue. Hemlock here seems to be James Bond with a mountain climbing interest. Yeah, it seems rather lame, but this movie is about climbing up the Eiger to kill someone.

This movie is very over the top and I can see people being confused as to how to take it. I have read some calling it dated (which it is) and a movie in which you see Eastwood’s ego at its largest. We see Eastwood showing off his physique constantly, Eastwood once again as the gruff badass, and women falling over themselves to bed him. But I am almost firmly convinced this is just a pure satire of James Bond and Bond off shoots. In this movie, the M equivalent (here called Dragon) is an albino who can’t take any kind of direct light and has to have his blood replaced constantly. You have African American and Native American Bond girls which are the cause of some rather awkward race jokes, You also have an over the top gay villain who even calls his dog “faggot”.

The acting is a little hit or miss. Eastwood is miscast in this role. Sure, he does the physical work well and is comfortable when he has to grunt out one liners. The problem is when he plays the suave professor of art. Watching Clint play the intellectual Don Juan while muttering out lines in a Dirty Harry voice was a little unsettling. Thankfully after the first third they drop that pretense and just focus on the action. Actually the best performance is by George Kennedy who plays a long time friend of Hemlock. It really says something when Eastwood is out acted by a smaller supporting role but its that good.

I will give credit to Eastwood behind the camera though. The final third is when the characters climb the Eiger and it is shot extremely well. Anyone that has seen their fair share of MST3K knows the deep hurting when they hear the words “rock climbing” but this is actually interesting. The photography is beautiful and the climbing scenes are as interesting as they should be.

Overall this is a fun little movie. The plot is so over the top it is funny and the action is very good. There are flaws, but nothing that really cripple it. This is a forgotten movie in Eastwood’s catalog and it is a bit surprising. This is entertaining but probably got lost in the shuffle between Eastwood’s Western period and his Dirty Harry period.

Antichrist (2009) Lars Von Trier

Posted in A on July 21, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $11 million

Worldwide Gross: $686,000

Yes, I finally got to see this movie. As you may or may not know, I am a huge Lars von Trier fan. I have see all of his movies and at one time, even made my own commentary track for Dogville. I was glad to see him return after a semi retirement. Von Trier entered a deep depression after the fallout of Manderlay and it seemed after Boss of it All, an indie comedy he created (yeah, a Lars von Trier comedy…just think about that for a while), he was going to quit film making. While it doesn’t seem like he will finish his America trilogy with Wasington, at least he has worked through his depression with Antichrist.

Antichrist is about a couple, known only as he (Willem Dafoe) and she (Charlotte Gainsbourg), whose son has an accident and dies while the couple are making love. The female character falls into deep depression and has a paralyzing fear about nature; specifically a cabin they went to in a forest called Eden. The male character, who is a therapist, takes it upon himself to take her to Eden to confront her fears and to help her with her grief. As soon as they arrive though, nature itself seems to turn against the couple.

I honestly have no idea about this movie. I have been trying to examine this movie for the past week and even reading other analysis of the film and I still can’t really say what it is about. Von Trier never wants to make his themes or symbolism painfully obvious, but here it almost seems to me like he’s gone too far in that direction. The movie is so vague that it can almost be interpreted in any way you want it to. I have read analysis which call this misogynist (and with reasoned arguments) and some that say it is anti-misogynist. I have read some that call it anti-Christian, while others talk about subconscious themes of Christianity in the form of temptation and sin. The most plausible one I see so far is just that it is Von Trier working out all of his psychological bullshit. As I go into detail before in my Dogville commentary, this is a guy who was raised by nudist atheist anarchists who had no role in raising him. After finding out the father he grew up with wasn’t his biological father (after death), and his biological father wanting nothing to do with him he had a mental breakdown. This is a guy who collects phobias like Pokemon cards, is a perfectionist to compensate for his upbringing without guidance or rules, a guy who turned to Catholicism (as some theorize) as a rejection of his atheist father, and who may distrust women after the perceived betrayal by his mother. Antichrist could be Von Trier working out his feelings with the deceptive/evil she and the rejection of modern therapy with the male who has the unmitigated ego to think he can analyze the incomprehensible subconscious with reason and logic. Again, this is all pure speculation because Von Trier almost revels in the fact he is being so vague and not answering anything. Because of that, I want to mark the movie down for being too, I’m searching for the word, obtuse?

The movie has atmosphere and it has it in spades. This has some of the best visuals of any Von Trier movie. The woods are all misty and ominous with tricks of the camera to make parts of the image wobbly and distorted (hard to explain but cool). There are many scenes that are downright artistic and others (like the famous scissors scene) which are so graphic and shocking they can turn many viewers off. The acting by the two leads are great and they carry what could be on paper very hammy dialog.

I’m really torn on this movie. The acting, the visuals, and some of the tension are really well done. Some of the things Von Trier does behind the camera is downright brilliant. That being said, the movie can be too ponderous and drags far too much in certain areas. The symbolism is a bit too muddled to comprehend and at times intentionally frustrating. Overall, this film is a bit of an oddity. This is a disturbing movie, and I can see recommending it to some because they want to see what all the fuss is about. But to most everyone, I can safely say you can miss out on this one. There is better Von Trier to watch first, and as a horror movie you could also do better. I really wanted to love this movie, but in the end I just didn’t care for it as much as Von Trier’s other stuff.

Inception (Christopher Nolan) 2010 NO SPOILERS

Posted in I on July 21, 2010 by moviemoses

Okay, this will actually be very difficult to do this without any spoilers but I will give it a shot. First I will give a very brief synopsis of the film. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a new kind of thief who can enter the mind through dreams and steal memories. In order to be with his kids he accepts the trademark ‘one last job’ to accomplish that. The job involves not the theft of an idea but “inception”; the implanting of an idea into someone’s head without them knowing it. This is thought to be an impossible task but Cobb agrees to it.

I found this to be an excellent film from top to bottom. Nolan is shaping up to be a complete package when it comes to being a director. Here is a guy who can craft complex and intriguing story lines, handle actors well to get good performances out of them, make impressive visual effects, and wrap it all together into a movie satisfying for the general audience and even a snob like me.

Let’s talk about the technical aspects first. The visuals are beautiful and the whole movie is imaginative. I still don’t know how they did some of the hallway scene. And while the movie tries to have grounding in reality, they can still play around with visual paradoxes and strange city scapes. The music is a great compliment to the action in the movie.

The story is where I can see the movie losing people. Some people will be confused, some people hate twists, and some hate getting “jerked around” by an unreliable narrative structure. While there is a lot going on, at no time did I feel lost. You just have to pay attention the whole way since you are keeping track of multiple plot threads. There is a surprising amount of depth to this movie. There is not only a satisfying thriller at the base level but plenty of hidden messages and themes to digest later on. This is going to be a movie I am going to watch numerous times and get many different things.

This is not a perfect film (I’m not sure there is such a thing). I do have some minor quibbles. For example the climax does drag a tad due to the number of plot threads we are following. It gets a bit bogged down trying to keep track of all the characters and all the action. Without thinking too hard on everything I’ve seen, I can pretty confidently say this is my favorite of the year so far. While this film may not be for everyone I think it is worth a shot if just for the spectacle. This is an impressive movie.

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Daniel Alfredson) 2009

Posted in G on July 14, 2010 by moviemoses

I really liked the first part of his series called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Most of the reviews leading up to this movie pretty much all say there is a dip in quality of the next two films, mostly having to do with the change of director.  Now, while I do agree there is a significant step down in quality, I am attributing it mostly to the story.  I’m gonna try not to spoil too much of the movie but hopefully explain why the story blows.

So we meet back up with Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) who hired on a new reporter who is going to blow the lid off of a sex trade industry.  The reporter, his wife, and Lisbeth’s kind of parole officer are murdered and the gun left at the scene has Lisbeth’s (Noomi Rapace) fingerprints on it.  Mikael then goes on a quest to find out who really murdered those people.

It is hard to really describe where the plot goes wrong without really going into details but I’ll try.  My problem is that the plot is now so freaking ridiculous that at the very least elicited chuckles from my audience and nearly had me scream “OH COME ON!!!” at the screen.  And I’ve already worn out my welcome doing that.  One more time and I’m trespassed from the Harkins.  You see when we meet Lisbeth we can tell she has a troubled past (both physical and mental abuse) but we never feel that she is an important person.  I mean, she is a talented hacker but it is not like the fate of the free world depends on her.  In the end, she is just a woman who tries to get by.  But in Girl Who Played With Fire well all of a sudden have to believe that this whole intricate plot has been laid out for her with twist after reality bending twist added on.  When we finally run into the mastermind and his freakish man-child who cannot feel pain I am wondering if I am seeing a Sweedish crime thriller or the next Bond villains. We get a big twist which is a cliché so overdone it ranks up there along with “It was all a dream…” as one of the most overdone twists in movies.  AND THEN WE GET THE SAME TWIST BUT WITH ANOTHER CHARACTER!!!  I mean, what the hell?  How can you re-use a cliché twist in the same movie?  And then yet another thing happens that I don’t even know how it happened.  It’s like even the writers forgot a character died or something and just kept rolling like that person was still alive.  This movie hurts my brain.

Another thing that hurts this movie are the lack of characters.  Now, I know we get a ton of back story on Lisbeth for example (too much) but stay with me.  Even though we get EXPLAINED a lot of the character’s back story, we don’t get any real interactions with the characters.  Part of what made the first movie enjoyable was the play between Lisbeth and Mikael and seeing how they cope with situations.  Here it seems like they spend most of the time trying to churn out all the exposition so that this movie will make sense.  That is probably where I can fault the director.

There is too much plot crammed into a confined space.  Alfredson seems to have no ability to craft a tense scene.  The first movie had plenty of quiet suspenseful moments where here it is more a cheesy action movie.  Here we have poorly choreographed martial arts fight scenes and gratuitous scenes where we put in some Lisbeth wank material.  I know, I am somehow complaining about nudity, but it’s that pointless.  The main actors do alright, but as I said, they are so hamstrung by the confines of the script you see very little actual flashes of character.  In fact, they make Lisbeth stare in awe so often I wondered if I was in a Spielberg movie.

I don’t like to write reviews this snarky but this movie got to me.  As I was sitting there you can just imagine a meter in my brain of my enthusiasm for this movie as it crept down and down from “Very Interested” to “Kinda Slow” to “Pretty Bad” to “Idiotic” to “Get me out of this damn theater”  By the end I was just sitting there out of obligation because I never walk out of a movie.  But I was done emotionally.  Wow.  Just wow.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Oplev) 2009

Posted in G on July 14, 2010 by moviemoses

I was kind of interested by the trailer so I thought I would check it out.  The trailer boasts this is based on a critically acclaimed book now finally made into movies blah blah blah.  It’s obvious I haven’t read them and I am dubious of the current crop of bestseller/movie franchises (see also Nicholas Sparks novels, The Twilight Saga, 95% of Michael Cricton novels, etc.)

Actually since I’m on the subject of literary comparisons, this movie’s story structure did kind of remind me in a way of the Hannibal Lecter series.  Now let me cut some of you off at the pass right here.  No, I am not making any quality comparisons in regards to Silence of the Lambs or Manhunter.  I am simply discussing plot structures so chill out.  Anyway, in the Lecter stories we have kind of the A plot which follows either Agent Starling or Will Graham trying to catch a killer.  Then we have the side plot in which we get the more interesting character that the audience latches on to.

In this movie our Will Graham is Mikael (Michael Nyqvist), an investigative journalist who is going to prison in 6 months following his conviction in a libel case.  Prior to his sentence, he is hired by an old tycoon.  A family member he loved disappeared from a family gathering 40 years ago.  The tycoon hires Mikael as a last ditch effort before he dies to find out what happened.  The list of suspects include the many people who were at the family gathering.  Our Lecter subplot follows the titular character of the girl with the dragon tattoo Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace).  She is a goth/punk girl with a mysterious and checkered past.  She is a hacker who works for a security company originally made to spy on Mikael.  The two then become unlikely partners in the mystery.

The mystery in this movie is well done.  It is not so contrived that you are calling bullshit on numerous plot holes, and it is not so dumb that it is not spelled out for the audience.  It is entertaining enough in its own right but really is more the vehicle by which we see Lisbeth interact with people.  She really is the main reason to see this movie.

Even though I describe her as a goth or a punk that is not quite accurate.  What is probably so great is that she does not fit into some stereotype or category (nor do they really make jokes about her appearance) and is a strong protagonist.  She is tough, but not some uber strong amazon crap that Hollywood tries to dump on us.  She is intelligent and strong willed, but that doesn’t have to mean she is the female embodiment of Chuck Norris.  She has a dark past (mostly unexplored in this movie) yet she is not some emo mope.  She is damaged and is sometimes emotional, but she never really lets anything cripple her.  Noomi Rapace does a great job as the character and, as Roger Ebert said, it is hard to imagine what actress they would possibly get for the eventual American remake (supposedly David Fincher is eyeing it).  It is hard to imaging because this character has to do some shall we say, explicit things in this movie in addition to her acting performance.  It is the only thing you can really expect from a foreign film.

This was a movie that really surprised me.  I wasn’t expecting a whole lot but I found myself really enjoying it.  I hear the book trilogy is already filmed so I will be interested in checking the rest of it out.  If you get the chance to check it out down the road I do recommend it.

Broken Lizard Presents: The Slammin’ Salmon (Kevin Heffernan) 2009

Posted in S on July 13, 2010 by moviemoses

I am something of a grinch when it comes to modern comedies. I am hard to please. Most of the stuff I come across is either extremely unimaginative or painfully unfunny attempts at lowest common denominator humor. One group that actually grabs my attention is Broken Lizard. Super Troopers is a personal favorite of mine, Club Dead was a misstep, and Beerfest was better than it had any right to be. So when I was trolling the aisles of the Blockbuster looking for something to watch, my eyes gravitated toward this. I rented it despite my reservations this was the first Direct to Video Broken Lizard film. Well, Slammin’ Salmon is not only the worst film they have ever (and maybe will ever have done) but they all need to be lined up and smacked for making something so unimaginative and lame.

The movie is about a restaurant of the title’s name which is owned by retired boxer Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan). Cleon makes a bet to some Yakusa boss and now needs $20,000 by the end of the night otherwise the restaurant will close. So the wait staff have a competition to raise the $20,000 in sales that night and “wacky hijinks” ensue.

It seems like this movie has ripped off every sitcom and movie about working in a restaurant ever. It’s time once again to play “Finish that Joke!” Okay, a young man comes up to one of the waiters asking him to put an engagement ring in the dessert so his girlfriend will find it. Finish that joke! If you guessed someone eats the dessert and has to shit out the ring, then you are a writer for Broken Lizard. But what other tired cliches can we throw in? How about a competition among waiters who can draw in the most tips? Let’s rip that right out of Waiting… Or how about a running gag where the cooks don’t like it when someone sends their food back? How about stereotypical patrons of a restaurant? We have ‘guy who doesn’t order but sits for a long time’, and ‘bitchy couple’, and the movie stereotype of people from the main character’s past who flaunt their success but mock them for working in a restaurant. Wait, we haven’t hit our uninspired crap critical mass yet. Throw in some male nudity and prat falls? GOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLL!!! Of course you have the true indicator that a movie/show will not be funny? It has Olivia Munn in it. Heyoooo! All you people that see G4TV know that…all four of you.

I mean I chuckle a few times but for the most part this movie is a boring slog. When you are even cribbing jokes from Waiting… then you are in serious trouble. You don’t need to see as many movies as I do to predict where the joke is going to end up an hour before it gets there. There’s not that much more to say on the subject. This is flat out boring and unfunny. Even for die hard Broken Lizard fans I recommend you stay far away from this mess.

Rollerball (2002) John McTiernan

Posted in R on July 13, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Costs: $70 million
Worldwide Gross: $20 million
Subsequent Earnings: $5 million

Yeah, another McTiernan movie.  So we have this cult hit from the 70’s, it figures that Hollywood would eventually remake it.  Okay, so let’s do this right.  Who will we get to direct?  McTiernan?  Hm, Predator, Die Hard, Hunt for Red October.  That will work, he can do action.  Who will be our action star?  Chris Klein in the James Caan role?  You gotta be kidding me.  There’s not much to report on this one.  There were no cast squabbles or perfectionist filmmaking or overblown budget. This is just a failure on every conceivable level and people were smart enough to stay away.

Is it any good?  No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, and no.  This plain sucks.  It’s so strange that with a director with a great record of action movies can be so sloppy.  The action is so frantic you don’t know what’s going on, the editing is choppy, and it has one of the worst sequences in any movie.  That scene is the night vision scene.  Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a 15 minute sequence that was in night vision cause, I dunno, it’s hard to shoot at night?  All of the stuff that was interesting about the original story was tossed out in favor of more incomprehensible action sequences.  Chris Klein is no James Caan, he will never be anywhere near as bada**  as James Caan.  No way.  L.L. Cool J and Rebecca Romijn are completely forgettable in they roles and Jean Reno is just embarrassing himself in this movie.  It’s loud, its boring, the plot is now stupid, and the acting is annoying.

Revisit

It is almost amazing how bad the writing is for this movie. The structure of the movie is actually that of a mystery/thriller where Klein investigates who is killing his players. But if you look at even the trailer you guess right off the bat its Jean Reno. So the first half of the movie of guessing is pointless when you have “It’s Jean Reno, it’s Jean Reno. Jean Reno is the bad guy” on a constant loop in your brain. The story also has little bits of stupidity peppered in. Take for example the plot by Reno to kill off players to spike ratings. What is funny is we cut quickly to a Ratings Meter immediately after a death and the ratings almost double. Its as if people psychically know that someone was murdered on TV and tuned in to see the replay 5 seconds later. Or another stupid thing is when they don’t explain the rules to Rollerball but then in the final act it is some big surprise when Jean Reno suspends all rules and makes it “Anything goes”. Wow, that would really be suspenseful if we knew what that meant. You would think there would be no penalties for players beating the shit out of each other, but in every scene before that players would get in all out brawls and not so much as a yellow card. So when we see players fighting each other in the finale it means absolutely nothing to me. Or how about filming an entire night scene in night vision. Why? I have no f*cking clue. You may think it is some choice due to budgetary restrictions but just chew on this. A: If you really can’t shoot night scenes you could somehow write that it is daytime B: Even though day for night looks bad, it looks a hell of a lot better than blurry NVG but C really pisses me off when you consider they shot several other night scenes with normal cameras and standard lighting. That is like making the score to your film all orchestral except for one scene where for some reason Nickelback comes in and plays their guitars with their asses. Some would argue that’s what they already do but anyway.

Chris Klein as Jonathan is the cherry on this sh*t sundae. Besides his flat acting, his character is so poorly written. I’m sure they wanted to make a character who was all badass and “didn’t play by the rules” or whatnot. But there is a difference between a guy who doesn’t play by the rules, and a complete tool the audience can’t connect with. I’m sure that quip was supposed to be more clever but at this hour of the morning in which I am writing this I am using all the creativity the writers of Rollerball were. Take for instance a frequent issue Marcus (LL Cool J) is always chastising Jonathan about; his refusal to wear an armadillo (a spine protector). But Jonathan is too cool to wear something that could save his life. See, this is what I mean. This is supposed to make Jonathan seem like a real man, but really it makes him look like an idiot. These are the same people for whom we have to put stickers on the vending machines warning them that rocking the machine could result in the machine falling on him. I especially like the plot point that Jonathan is looking for the person that knocked off a player’s helmet (because after that player got his helmet knocked off he got killed by someone hitting him in the head). But another endearing character trait we see of Jonathan is he doesn’t strap on his helmet either. The straps hang loose on his head which means his helmet could be smacked off too.

There is nothing I like about this movie. Aside from the crap writing, the characters are all unmemorable and the action scenes are just lame. McTiernan somehow forgot after DIE HARD how to shoot an effective action scene. Most fail simply because we know nothing about what is going on both with the game of Rollerball and rather confusing construction of the action. A great example is the very first action scene which happens right at the beginning of the movie. We start right off with Jonathan racing some random dude down San Fransisco’s hills in some kind of back board (I forget the technical term for it). At this point we have no idea who Jonathan is, why he is racing, who the other guys are, how dangerous this stunt will be, what any of the characters motivations are, or why the hell I should care who wins or loses. I don’t care how well shot the action scene is, if I know nothing about these people I care even less.

I can’t recommend this to anyone. Even for the low low price of one penny on Amazon (which is how much I paid for it + shipping) I can’t say this is even a ‘so bad its good’ sort of movie. There are dumb things in it and I laughed a few times, but this is not some forgotten camp classic. Skip it.