Archive for August, 2010

Kill Zone (Wilson Yip) 2005

Posted in K on August 24, 2010 by moviemoses

Donnie Yen is a Hong Kong action star I haven’t really seen much of (other than say, Iron Monkey) and I had this one recommended to me. This movie is about a Det. Chan who is trying to take down one of the most ruthless crime lords ever in Wong Po (Sammo Hung). Chan is near retirement because of a tumor in his brain that will eventually kill him. His replacement who is taking over the team is Ma Kwun (Donnie Yen). The team tries to pin a murder on Chan using planted evidence and problems arise as a result.

I hate to launch right in on something that really bugged me but what the hell. Something I couldn’t quite get over is the bipolar tone of the movie. On the one hand it wants to be this almost Shakespearean tragedy as done through the lens of a gritty crime movie. On the other hand it wants to be a badass martial arts flick. Part of this is due to the fact there wasn’t supposed to be any martial arts fight scenes in it until Donnie Yen signed on to do the pic. Why is this odd? Well it would kind of be like having DiCaprio do some kung fu occasionally in The Departed. Oh don’t get me wrong, the alley fight and the final fight with Sammo Hung are freaking awesome but it is downright ludicrous when compared to the rest of the movie. It completely takes me out of the movie when you are being serious serious serious, and then you are having Sammo flip around with Yen in a giant wrestling stage.

I don’t want to get your hopes up either when I used Departed as a point of comparison. The story is alright, but it’s nothing to write home about. I don’t know if this is a plot hole, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this problem with the story. If these cops are going to go to the trouble of killing people, destroying evidence, planting evidence, intimidating witnesses, and basically doing everything in the “Vic Mackey Book of Corrupt Police Work”, then why don’t they just kill Wong Po? Seriously people. Work smarter, not harder. And I can’t really list this is as some objective flaw, but this movie is f*cking depressing. Holy hell, I feel like I need to be prescribed anti-depressants after seeing this movie.

I do like Donnie Yen. The guy has this intense look which is cool and is able to do many different martial arts styles. I love the fact he does MMA grappling mixed in with some of the flashier moves he does. Sammo Hung is also very compelling in this try at a heel turn. He is very menacing and can still move at his age. Once again I have to say the fight scenes are great and the alley fight is wonderful.

Kill Zone is kind of a mixed bag for me. I think if they really stuck with one genre they could have had either a very good cop movie/tragedy or a really good martial arts movie. But when they tried for both they ended up dragging the overall quality down. This was a good movie, but not something I would rush to see again.

Salt (Philip Noyce) 2010

Posted in S on August 23, 2010 by moviemoses

I had very low expectations for this movie. Many times Angelina Jolie vehicles suck and when it is an action role doubly so (I’m looking at you Tomb Raider movies). So this Jason Bourne type rip off movie didn’t look like it would be any good. Salt is about CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Jolie). A Russian defector comes to the CIA office to give up information. He names Salt as a double agent who is planning on killing the Russian president. Now Salt has to go on the run to find out what is going on.

The plot is ludicrous. The main plan is silly and doesn’t make much sense. In fact, get used to seeing double, triple, and quadruple double crosses. Whenever the writing seems at a loss to pad out the running time or keeping things interesting just to throw out another twist.

Not that the plot really matters. After all, many people liked Alias and not necessarily because of the plot. It was a way to see Jennifer Garner kick ass in sexy outfits. To the movie’s credit, it does have a lot of decent action to it. The physics of the movie match the reality of the plot so expect to see some physics defying stuff. But if you just come into this movie to see action, then it does have plenty of it spaced out through the running time. It is all shot well and is somewhat interesting.

The acting (and by acting, the only person given the chance to act is Jolie) is alright. She does a good job trying to give Salt an actual character while at the same time handling the physical demands of the role. As I mentioned before there isn’t anyone else to really follow though. I really like Chiwetel Ejiofor as an actor but he is delegated to spouting out one liners about “We have to find Salt.” and “Find her!” and “Go1 Go! Go!”

I know I’m not going too much into detail on this movie, but then again there isn’t much to this movie. This is a dumb pointless action movie created to earn a quick buck in the summer. The action is barely good enough to be kept awake during the running time and mildly entertained. However there is absolutely nothing which stands out or is memorable in any way. I can’t say I had a bad time watching it, but there is no reason for me to recommend it either.

The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone) 2010

Posted in E on August 23, 2010 by moviemoses

This is a movie that I have been looking forward to for a while. Now the fact so many people are anticipating this movie has baffled some critics. After all, why are you so amped to see a bunch of geezers go out for one last ego boosting hurrah. Well it is because some of these still have what it takes to be entertaining and some of these guys are even better in their older age than when they were younger. I’m just going to use Jean Claude Van Damme as an example even though he doesn’t have anything to do with this movie. With his latest smaller productions I can now safely say that JCVD is a good “actor” where before uttering that sentence would be as ludicrous as saying the Earth has a delicious nugat center. And really I prefer JCVD’s most recent productions to most of his movies when he was most popular. But to even apply this to Stallone, even he seems to be enjoying a comeback. I thoroughly enjoyed Rocky Balboa and Rambo so I thought he could make a fun Dirty Dozen type movie.

The movie is about a group of mercenaries who are hired by a shadowy figure to overthrow a Latin American dictator. Aaaaaand that’s about it. Yeah, you don’t want me digging too deep into the plot because only bad things can come from it. This is some of the most basic action movie material with nothing special or new to the formula. Which would be fine if the movie stood out in some other way. After all, I didn’t come to this movie to see a gripping plot but to see a bunch of action movie icons tear the place down. We don’t really see that either.

This movie is not so much The Expendables as it is the Stallone and Statham show. They are the people we see through the majority of the movie. We get the expendables in the first five minutes or so and the last 10 minutes, but this isn’t a Dirty Dozen type ensemble cast. Most of the rest of the cast could have done their work on a few days of shooting. As far as everyone geeking out over seeing Bruce Willis and Ahnuld in the trailer; calm down people. If you have seen the trailer, then you have seen their entire role in the movie. Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren have a little more to do in this movie, but not much. I have to say (despite limited screen time) I thought Dolph had the best part in the movie. He was the only person that really tried given the rather crappy material.

I can’t really say the scenes with our main characters are that entertaining anyway. Oh sure they “banter” a lot which is supposed to be hilarious but I just wasn’t feeling it. They don’t really interact as people would and just throw around lame jokes about each other’s physical appearance. The only person with a chance to act is Mickey Rourke who is given a good five minutes to squirt out some tears in the only well written monologue then gets his paycheck and leaves.

Now I know what you are going to say because I said it after reading people’s reviews and I have read other people say it too. “Yeah, well, I’m still gonna see it anyway.” I know the knee jerk reaction is say that we just don’t get it. We are coming into this movie looking for Shakespeare while you are know better and just want to be entertained by loud noises and seeing the cast. I went into it with those low expectations too. I know what I wanted from this movie. Rambo didn’t re-invent the wheel by any stretch of the imagination. But it had so much action, blood, and pure “balls” that I absolutely love it. I went into the Expendables if just to see (to use the phrase) mindless action. I hope you listen to this; you will be disappointed. It is like Stallone forgot how to shoot an effective action scene. In the fight scenes with Jet Li and Jason Statham the cameras are brought in waaaaaaay too close so we can’t see what the hell they are doing when in fact the camera should be pulled out so we can see all the action. Believe me, Jet Li is a pro at this sort of stuff. He can do a good martial arts scene in his sleep. You do not have to confuse us with shitty camrea work as if he were some bum who can’t stage a good fight scene. Most of the other action is poorly staged and generic. Even parts in the last fight were so poorly shot and dimly lit, that I didn’t know which Expendable was fighting which generic bad guy and who was winning. Not to mention the movie is full of CGI gore and effects which just look awful and even detract from the movie.

The Expendables (given its budget, actors, talent, and potential) is a failure. Sure, this isn’t a horrible movie. There are some good scenes peppered here and there, some (emphasis on SOME) of the dialog is funny, and there are some moments (Jet Li vs. Dolph) which were nice. However, those points are few and far between. This is a disappointment all around and shouldn’t really be worth your $10 bucks at the theaters. Maybe when it is available for rent you can check it out on a slow night.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright) 2010 No Spoilers

Posted in S on August 17, 2010 by moviemoses

So this movie already has a split reaction where people either love it or really hate it. I can actually see how people could both love or hate it. The movie is about hipster geek culture and most of the jokes are centered around it and that seems to be the big problem with non-fans. Most of what I read amounts to “I don’t get it.” and the writing doesn’t help as it is content with chucking out obscure references. Also some people loathe hipster culture so they don’t want to see something which could be argued is a glorification of it. I didn’t get all the references (in fact I only knew some) but I could kind of tell Wright was in a way roasting hipsters. He likes what the culture is about but has no trouble playfully mocking it. For the most part the humor worked for me although I hate to say sometimes the jokes fell into the Family Guy method of writing where just chucking out pop culture references is supposed to be funny.

The acting is a little hit or miss. I’ll just say up front: I hate Michael Cera. I don’t hate the man personally, but I hate his persona which he plays in every single role he has ever played. It is annoying and I don’t want to watch it. Well, here Cera plays the typical Michael Cera role again but I will say it is less annoying this time around. I will give kudos to the writing to give Cera funny lines and to help him break out of his shell. But every once and a while he mumbles out emo punktard crap and you wish they found someone else. Mary Elizabeth Winstead also doesn’t have much to work with. Yeah, I know she is supposed to be a world weary traveler with a kind of “so what” attitude to life, but she seems more wooden than anything else. The supporting cast does the best job here and make the movie really funny. Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh, and Chris Evans almost outshine Pilgrim.

In fact, my second problem with this movie might be the fact Scott Pilgrim is too much of a douche to be a likable main character. He is almost too much of a whiny jerk for you to care about him and it doesn’t help Cera doesn’t quite have the charisma to pull it off. There are actors that can be lovable dicks: James Spader, Bill Murray, Robert Downey Jr. to name a few. Now I know those actors can’t play Scott, but I am simply illustrating that some people have the charisma to play jerks and Cera isnt’ one of them. Now I know Scott kind of learns his lesson by the end and becomes a more likable person, but that can be “too little, too late” for some audience members.

But overall I liked this movie. I don’t hate this movie, nor do I want to proclaim it “an important movie” (Chud) or suck off Edgar Wright like Spill did. This was an enjoyable movie which had me laughing a lot. The humor was (for the most part) fresh, the visual style was colorful, and the acting (again, for the most part) was good. There is enough here for me to buy this movie on DVD and check it out several more times. As most of you know I hate most modern comedies, so when I find one that is even ‘very good’ it is a special thing.

Repo Men (2010) Miguel Sapochnik

Posted in R on August 9, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $32 million

Worldwide Gross: $17 million

Repo Men is set in the ‘not too distant future’ where organs can be mass produced and sold to people on installment plans. When people default on their payments, repo men come and take back those organs. And if it just so happens people die as a matter of not having those organs than that’s the cost of doing business. Remy (Jude Law) and Jake are friends and some of the best repo men available. Remy has an accident and needs a new heart. Soon after getting it he realizes the immorality of his job.

My big problem (to just dive right in) is this movie can’t just pick a style and stay with it. In the first third, this movie is a dark comedy. They know this is a ridiculous premise and it is best when you can take it with a grain of salt and laugh with it. After all, Repo! The Genetic Opera is the closest thing to this movie and it is a rock opera. But then in the second act it does a 180 turn and becomes this dead serious drama. One minute we are chuckling at the stupidity and then next it is like the movie says “Oh no, we are serious. Isn’t this horrible?” We then sit for the second act while we get a morality lecture. Then in the third act we swap again into big dumb action movie. This movie is schizophrenic and it sucked being jerked around by the writing.

When we get around to the meat of this movie, it is mediocre at best and derivative as all hell at worst. There is a fine line between homage and ripping off. Now I won’t go as far as say this movie steals, but some scenes struck a little too close to home like a hallway scene reminiscent of Oldboy and the ending which smacked of Brazil. Everything else is fine and I suppose people who are inexperienced with these kinds of movies COULD be entertained by some of the stuff they pull. Me? I have seen this kind of stuff a million times before and was completely bored by it. This is a movie that has nothing new to say and no new directions to go.

I furthermore don’t like the main character of Remy. His big moral lesson is that it is wrong to kill people for money. This is something toddlers can figure out and it makes me figure Remy is either an alien who is devoid of empathy/sympathy or is a sociopath. It is only by the second act when he gets a new heart (by the way…SYMBOLISM!!!) he figures that it is kind of wrong to gut people and take their organs for the purposes of some money. Well duuuuuuuuuuuh. Jude Law tries his best in the role, but there simply isn’t anything there to care about. Live Schreiber gets some funny lines in this movie but the best acting goes to Forest Whitaker. In the hands of most actors, I would not buy for a second that Jake and Remy were friends. Whitaker is so good he almost invents the character on his own and makes the audience believe.

I should give special mention to the ending (although without spoiling). It fails on every conceivable level. It fails in the context of the plot, it fails in the context of the tone of the movie, and it fails on a basic storytelling level. I almost feel like writing a paper on how badly this ending misses the mark in an attempt at a cheap GOTCHA.

Like I said before, if you don’t see many movies at all, this may be an alright distraction. But to anyone that is even casually familiar with this genre will be bored by how mediocre it is. The constant shifts in tone and all around imbecilic writing/direction make this movie a very frustrating and shitty movie to me. I hated this movie.

Paparazzi (2004) Paul Abascal

Posted in P on August 3, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $20 million

Worldwide Gross: 16 million

Paparazzi is about up and coming star Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser) who sounds like he should be in a cigarette commercial. Four paparazzi are stalking Bo and they behavior eventually lead to Bo’s son and wife getting seriously injured in a car crash. Bo then decides to get revenge on the eeeeeevil paparazzi.

This is an exploitation film; pure and simple. This movie handles the topic of paparazzis about as level headed as Steven Seagal talking about the environment and the government…and medicine, and his career, and his past, well you get the picture. The paparazzi are all evil, murderous, rapist scum and Bo is a good ol boy who isn’t used to all the fame nonsense. It is an easy set up to get Bo to mow through some baddies in increasingly elaborate ways. You also get some unintentionally hilarious moments. Take for example when Bo walks out of his mandatory anger management course and waiting in the lobby is a stressed out Mel Gibson with stacks of journals documenting his “feelings”. That may have been funny at the time when Mel only had a crazy on screen persona, but now when we have heard his ramblings on race, religion, and sex? Comedy gold my friends.

My one problem with this movie, is that this movie doesn’t go far enough on the camp value. Oddly enough, the times when Bo tries to kill the paparazzi are played more serious than they should be. The movie has an odd cat and mouse game between Bo who is trying to get away with these murders and the local Columbo type detective (here played by Dennis Farina). Much of the plot has to do with Bo covering up evidence with Farina constantly giving his “Oh just one more question…” If we are gonna go overboard with the camp, then just do the triple lindy off the high dive. I wanna see Bo kung fu fighting with photogs and having car chases in supercharged muscle cars and giving cheesy one liners as he mows down the people that hurt his family. This movie shouldn’t try to be Death Wish, it should rather be what Death Wish 4 was.

Cole Hauser is okay but to this day does not strike me as a leading man. While he has the look, he doesn’t have enough of a personality to carry a movie like this. He is frequently getting upstaged in this movie by Tom Sizemore and Farina who are clearly unafraid of hamming it up in a movie like this.

There really isn’t much more to say on this movie. It is a straight up revenge flick and a rather average one at that. I actually like the premise and it is all done competently, but the movie doesn’t go nearly as far as I would like it to. I want crazy action scenes, over the top acting, and cheesy dialog. At the end of the day this movie is just ‘meh’. Maybe if you are bored and you find this on TV you should give it a shot, but I found it to be a little disappointing.

Restrepo (Tim Heatherington/Sebastian Junger) 2010

Posted in R on August 3, 2010 by moviemoses

Restrepo is a documentary following a platoon through a fifteen month deployment in Afghanistan’s Korengal valley. This has been called the deadliest valley in Afghanistan. Restrepo is the name of the outpost the platoon created (named after a loved soldier who died early in the deployment) at one of the biggest Taliban hotspots.

What makes this documentary kind of special is the cameraman is in the trenches with the soldiers. We see how dangerous it is for these soldiers. A day doesn’t go by where they aren’t engaged in combat. The mountainous region makes movement difficult and easy to hide Taliban fighters. We see the dynamic of the platoon as they try to deal with this rough situation. One character we really get to know is Captain Keaney. He is a commander who tries to do his best to salvage basically a cluster of a situation. He is nice to his troops but works them hard to keep them sharp and alive. He is also given the extremely difficult task of trying to play ambassador to the local village elders. Commanders want him to win their support (because they mostly support and hide Taliban operatives) but it is almost useless. A humorous moment happens when he has to smooth over an incident with the elders which is called The Cow Incident. Kind of like The Hurt Locker this isn’t a documentary with any preachy message or theme. We see all the crap this platoon has to deal with on a daily basis.

Now the thing I love about this movie (the in the trenches cinematography) is also the thing I hate about it. Don’t get me wrong, some of the stuff in this movie is intense. For example, we are there in a humvee when an IED goes off disabling the vehicle and an ambush occurs. That kind of stuff was downright crazy. However, if you have any problems with shaky camera work, you will hate life itself. I usually don’t have a problem with shaky cam. I can see the Bourne movies for example with no problem But this movie is like a camera was placed on a paint shaker. There were many times when I simply could not watch and had to close my eyes for a few seconds to make the pain stop. After the movie, I had nausea like you wouldn’t believe. I understand you can’t have smooth camera work when you are getting shot at, but it still doesn’t make the viewing any easier.

Overall this is a very good documentary. The motion sickness is a huge problem and maybe home viewing may lessen the feeling. I just enjoyed the content and found some points very exciting. And at about 96 minutes, this movie doesn’t overstay its welcome. I would probably recommend this when it comes out on DVD for an easier viewing experience.