Archive for December, 2010

Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik) 2010

Posted in W on December 21, 2010 by moviemoses

Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 17 year old girl in the backwoods of the Ozarks who takes care of the remnants of her family. Her father has gone missing after putting up the family house to pay for his bail. Ree has to find her father and try to convince him to go to court or else they will lose the house.

This is kind of like a white trash noir. Instead of wise cracking gangsters in suits you have nasty tweekers and their problems. However I would say the difference is that Winter’s Bone is not so much about an intriguing mystery. I was able to make a guess pretty early on as to where the father was. Winter’s Bone isn’t so much concerned with twists and turns as it is with interesting characters.

This movie is all about the character of Ree who is written brilliantly. She is a strong willed character, but unlike most Hollywood attempts at making strong female characters, does not go overboard. Ree is not afraid to speak her mind, but she knows the position she is in. She is going amongst her father’s associates who are not exactly open to letting anyone in on their business. Much of the drama generated is so authentic. We are not exactly talking about briefcases containing missile codes or millions of dollars or whatever macguffin of the week. Ree is fighting to keep their run down house so she can take care of her mother’s two kids (Ree’s mother is disabled). In essence, Ree is fighting to stay one step above rock bottom. In doing so she runs across her other shady family members. Teardrop (John Hawkes) is not some typical bad guy. At first, Teardrop puts on so much of a scary front it may seem like a stereotype. But by the end he is almost as compelling as Ree.

As I said, most of the drama comes from guessing what the characters will do. How far will Ree go to save this house? What will these other people do to protect the secret? Why is Teardrop trying to scare her away and simultaneously helping her? What will happen if Ree’s father won’t come back. You grow to care about this character that you are genuinely invested in what happens to her.

This is helped by the acting of Jennifer Lawrence. I have not seen her in anything else but she carried this movie. This was great casting as you needed someone young who could also give a compelling performance. I look forward to seeing her in other stuff. John Hawkes, who is usually delegated to small character roles, also does a very good job when given a larger role to work with.

Winter’s Bone was a surprise for me. I am usually leery of these little indie award winners (mostly because I have never heard of some of these film festivals) but this actually lived up to the praise. I’m not sure how much replay this movie will have for me. For me, one time was enough and I think that hurts my rating overall. But this is a very entertaining movie and is worth checking out.

 

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Jonah Hex (2010) Jimmy Hayward

Posted in J on December 21, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $47 million

Gross: $10 million

 

I’ll apologize in advance for the poor quality of this review. I had actually seen this movie a few months ago and for some reason I didn’t write a review for it. Maybe it made so little of an impression I forgot to do it after I saw it. But that being said, I won’t be able to really remember all that which happens in the movie as I would directly after seeing it (obviously).

Jonah Hex is based on a comic book of which I haven’t read. The movie is about a Hex, who’s wife and child were murdered by General Turnbull (John Malkovich). Hex was scarred and nearly killed which somehow gave him the ability to talk to the dead (don’t ask, cause they don’t explain). Hex is now a bounty hunter who is hired by President Grant to stop a plot to take over America by Turnbull using what appears to be Dragonballs.

I simply don’t know what happened to this movie. Apparently the original script by Neveldine/Taylor (writers of Crank) was quite good. Something must have scared the producers or something drastic happened because the movie was deformed worse than Hex’s face. There is no way in hell they would release a 73 minute movie in this day in age when even Yogi Bear (traditionally a five minute cartoon) is over 90 minutes. Yeah, you heard me right. This is barely over 73 minutes. I have read many reviews slamming this movie but frankly, I’m not sure how you can slam something which is so short. Like I mentioned earlier, I forgot to write a review immediately after seeing it.

There isn’t anything really god awful or crappy because we barely have a movie. We have barely enough to establish this anti-hero’s back story, set up the plot, establish some kind of a villain, and wrap things up. I could complain about a lot of things: Hex really isn’t given anything to work with, there are huge plot holes when it comes to his powers, his relationship with Lilah is completely glossed over, Turnbull is almost completely forgotten (which with Malkovich’s acting style is almost criminal), and the story is a watered down version of an even more watered down Crow remake. I could complain about all that, but somehow I feel all that would have been addressed in an original cut. I’m not saying it would have necessarily been good, but it would have been addressed. It feels like the movie should be 40 minutes longer and when you cut that much off, any movie will suck.

There’s not much I can say about the story. It is a basic revenge story. Very basic. Insultingly basic. There are times when the writers try to inject some personality by making it over the top; almost Wild Wild West-ish. This comes with the talking with the dead power, the dynamite crossbow, the gatling guns on Hex’s horse, and the odd Dragonballs/cannonballs which are Turnbull’s devastating new weapon. But as I mentioned, almost every instance of personality is cut out.

Brolin is alright as the title character, but I feel bad for the guy. I know the character has a deformed face, but it doesn’t do well to have your actor grunt all his lines through mashed teeth. I love Malkovich when he overacts but he has nothing to work with. He does absolutely nothing in this movie. A lot of people want to bash on Megan Fox in this movie but she is not the worst thing in this movie. I don’t even hate her in this movie. She just exists. Speaking of completely wasted I’ll finally mention Wes Bentley. American Beauty was a long, long time ago eh Wes?

This movie sucks but this isn’t exactly a movie I hated. Nothing was horrible or really laughably bad but it was horribly gutted. Although, I think even if the unedited cut came out, I don’t think this movie would be any good. It would be just plain bad. As it is on DVD, I would not recommend this movie to anyone. For fans of Hex this will most likely piss you off, for bad movie aficionados there is nothing hilariously bad, and for the general movie going public this is barely a movie. This is a skip all around.

 

District B13 (Pierre Morel) 2004/ District B13: Ultimatum (Patrick Alessandrin)

Posted in D on December 9, 2010 by moviemoses

As I mentioned in one of my reviews, Pierre Morel is a director you can depend on for delivering what a movie promises (even if it’s not really a good movie). Taken isn’t a good movie per se, but it delivers on having Liam Neeson delivering bad ass lines and kicking mass amounts of ass. From Paris with Love is not a good movie, but it delivers on having John Travolta overacting and bouncing off the walls. District B13 follows in the Morel tradition. B13 isn’t really a good movie, but it is entertaining and delivers on good parkour/kung fu.

The movie is about Leito (David Belle) and Damien Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli). This takes place in the not too distant future where the bad sections of town are walled off into districts. The government is planning on just bombing the districts out of existence to start from scratch. Damien, a police detective, teams up with a parkour street urchin to help disarm him.

As my brother pointed out, the plot is really nothing more than you would get from your standard Jackie Chan movie. It is the most basic thing to get the characters from point A to point B. The acting is not anything to remark on either. After all, the cast is mostly parkour people and stunt guys. One thing that is almost too distracting is the English dubbing which is almost cast by cartoon characters. We are seriously slightly less goofy than a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon here.

The action though, is very good. Parkour has pretty much been overexposed recently, but B13 does a good job in showing the best of this style. There is also good fight scenes by Raffaelli to keep things fresh.

I have included the sequel in this review, simply because I would be repeating myself in many respects. The plot of the second involves Damien getting set up and arrested on false charges. This is all done to get him out of the way so evil government people can, you guessed it, blow up the districts to create new high rises. Cripes people, I’m not going into this for the plot but you can at least try to shake things up. Even though this is a new director, I don’t feel like much has changed. I have heard some complaints that Ultimatum has shakey cam, but I don’t think its bad at all. I had no problem following any of the action. I actually preferred some of the fight scenes on Ultimatum. The story is still goofy, right down to the finale where literally the skinheads and the Muslim fundamentalists agree to live together in peace and harmony.

If you like kung fu movies, then I think these would be worth your while. To your standard movie goer, these movies are a little too goofy but they do have some fresh action for those missing good Jackie Chan movies.

 

127 Hours (Danny Boyle) 2010

Posted in O on December 8, 2010 by moviemoses

127 is about Aron Ralston (James Franco) who spends a weekend climbing in Utah. He gets his hand trapped against a canyon wall with a boulder and has to do whatever he can to survive.

It is a challenge to make a movie where a guy is stuck in one place for 127 hours seem exciting. Sure, this was a harrowing and traumatic time in this man’s life. There is no way to ever know the true depth of what this man really went through. However that doesn’t necessarily translate to compelling cinema. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is kind of the standard of how to do a movie like this where it is a clinic of camera tricks. Danny Boyle is certainly up to the task. While Aron may be trapped in a canyon for days, the camera barely rests for a second. We go into illusions, recollections, asides, and whatever else to keep the narrative moving. There is also a nice attention to detail and we realize the gravity of everything Aron goes through. A scene that had a large amount of tension is when Aron drops his leatherman and has to retrieve it by picking it up with a stick in between his toes. If it were to drop any further, any chance of him doing anything to escape would be near impossible.

During the movie we learn about Aron and his relationships. Certainly when you are stuck in a location with the good possibility of death you will reflect on your life. These scenes are very interesting and add depth to his character. James Franco personally carries this movie. I have to admit, early in his career I thought James Franco was a wooden actor. Now with this and Pineapple Express, I see it wasn’t Franco being wooden but more him being cast in very bad roles. He has a natural charisma and is easily likable. It could be easy to dismiss Aron as making a stupid mistake, but the script is great in how we care for him. There is a great scene where he bashes himself for being a rescue worker (specializing in mountain rescue) and was dumb enough not to tell anyone where he is going.

This was an intense movie and I really enjoyed it. I don’t think this would make my top 10 of the year (or 15, haven’t really thought about it) but this is still a great movie. Boyle does a great job in taking a difficult story and making it accessible to just about anyone. I recommend it.

 

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Peter Sollett) 2008

Posted in N on December 8, 2010 by moviemoses

Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) pretend to be boyfriend and girlfriend one night to show their exes they have moved on. During this night they try to find some rare indie playing in an unknown location. In the middle of endless shenanigans they find they really like one another.

 

I didn’t mean to really watch this. I for some reason thought this was a bomb so it was queued up on my Netflix. And like an idiot I now checked and it isn’t a bomb. This movie felt a lot like an homage to Adventures in Babysitting crossed with an attempt at trying John Hughes. It may try to be like that, but the quality is not quite up to par.

 

Now I am not the biggest fan of Michael Cera. He is fine in certain roles, but his schtick can get tiring fast. Now whether you will like this movie is really tied to how much Michael Cera you can stand seeing as how he is in most of the running time. This is a role where he is at his most Michael Cera-est. Now, I get that Nick’s conflict is about him getting over a girlfriend. But there is a difference between being hung up over a girl, and being a complete pansy. He whines at the drop of a hat and mumbles all of his lines.

 

There isn’t much else to this movie besides the likability of the actors. The plot is just barely enough to push it over the 80 minute mark. You can see the predictable plot conflict that will separate our title characters. Well, this movie has so little to do it’s like they have to do it twice. Most of the movie is about Nick and Norah going from one goofy situation to another in search of this McGuffin.

 

I’m kind of struggling to come up with stuff to say but really, this is it. This isn’t a movie about a complex story or difficult themes. Here we have a movie with two likable characters falling in love. I can’t really rage against this movie. I thought it was kind of meh but I can understand if people like it. You can tell that the director is really trying hard to make a charming movie. Sadly nothing really pushed this over the top for me. The dialog is by no means smart, the jokes are telegraphed, and the supporting characters are stock. This is by no means a bad movie, but there isn’t enough for me to recommend it.

 

The Nutcracker in 3D (2010) Andrey Konchalovskiy

Posted in N on December 7, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $ 90 million

Gross so far: $65,000

Yeah, this movie isn’t out of theaters yet so I’m kind of jumping the gun. However I don’t really expect this movie to make over 179 million soon after this review. Call me a pessimist.

Why am I jumping the gun on a review like this. I’m sure you haven’t heard of this movie, cause I hadn’t. At least, you had not heard of this movie until you may have read some of the reviews for it. Reviews that say things like:

“From what dark night of the soul emerged the wretched idea for “The Nutcracker in 3D”? Who considered it even remotely a plausible idea for a movie?”

“One of the most misguided children’s films ever made.”

“One of the most wretched, misguided extravaganzas ever mounted on the big screen…”

With that kind of talk, I had to see what all the fuss was about. After all, it isn’t often you hear stuff like “abomination” and “travesty” without it being in regard to a Friedberg and Seltzer movie. I’ll admit my cultural ignorance and say I’ve never seen anything about the Nutcracker, but I don’t see how anything could suck that bad. No, that’s not right. I’ve been doing this for far too long to be that naive.

So this movie isn’t a ballet. Instead the writers change it up to be this strange dark fantasy movie. The movie is set in 1920’s Vienna and focuses on Mary (Elle Fanning). Her parents neglect her and she is lonely. On Christmas Eve her Uncle, Albert Einstein (Nathan Lane…and yes. THAT Albert Einstein) visits and brings her toys; among them a nutcracker. During the night, Mary is brought into the Nutcracker’s world where toys are brought to life and they are in a war with the Rat King (John Turturro).

This movie is weird. Like, Roberto Begnigni’s Pinocchio type weird. You know, the kind of wide awake nightmare that makes you wonder what exactly the director was smoking when he came up with some of the ideas in this movie. Why is Albert Einstein in this movie? Why is Nathan Lane in a Don King wig singing ‘The Theory of Relativity’ in a terrible accent? Why is there a Jamaican stereotype in The Nutcracker? Why are there rats with jet packs flying around? I have to admit, this movie surprised me. I can’t exactly show pictures of me watching this, but I think they can be summed up by the text emoticon o.O I was flat out befuddled by the odd crap I was seeing. I literally facepalmed seeing Nathan Lane in the most ridiculous goddamn wig I have ever seen.

But all this stuff is just stupid. I can deal with stupid. I don’t see anything really offensively stupi-oh shit they made the rats Nazis. Yup, they went there. The major conflict in this movie is the Rat King wiping out toys in his own concentration camps. I am not kidding. There is a toy concentration camp, where toys are being thrown into ovens. You can’t tell because of dry text but I seriously had to pause after typing that to marvel at the idiocy of that. Even Jerry Lewis had a last minute call of common sense to get him to realize The Day the Clown Cried was probably a bad idea.

Believe it or not, this movie gets even goofier. The cherry on top has to be John Turturro’s role in Nutcracker. I thought Transformers 2 was the low point in his career. Well, it turns out I was wrong yet again. Picture John with an Andy Warhol type wig, prosthetic rat teeth protruding out of his lips, and in full Nazi garb including the boots. Now picture all that, and imagine him tap dancing to Mariachi music while making little children cry. Frankly I’m stunned. I know actors do things for paychecks, but I have to wonder how much is enough to take some of this direction. “Yes John, glad you could make it on set. Now, your SS uniform is around the corner along with the rat teeth and platinum white shock wig. Now, in this scene you are going to be singing about your evil deeds to a jazz band in the background and it culminates in you killing a shark. No, I’m not kidding. John, this is my vision. I have been planning this movie for twenty years…stop laughing. Look, here is another pile of money. Just shut up and play the damn part.”

I suppose I should address the 3D part of this movie. It sucks. Okay I’ll go in a little more detail. They do absolutely nothing with it. Despite being made specifically for 3D, this feels like a 2D movie which had the 3D slapped on in post. There was nothing at all that necessitates you seeing this in 3D. The CGI is also shit. I will say I kind of liked the design of the Nutcracker character. It was actually kind of cute at times with its blocky features. That is probably the only nice thing I will say about the graphics. The rest of the CGI ranges from bad to god awful. The CGI used for the rat king is some of the worst CGI in movie history and I don’t throw that stuff around lightly.

The acting is over the top and hammy. Nathan Lane mugs in front of the camera every chance he gets and as mentioned before, John Turturro is downright embarrassing as the rat king. The only one that even gives a somewhat good performance is Elle Fanning. However her role is lousy and she isn’t given good stuff to work with.

The final thing I’ll mention are the songs. These are not anything from the Nutcracker. Sure, they are inspired somewhat by the Tchaikovsky ballet, but they are made new for this movie. None of them are memorable at all. They are all half ass clap trap about love and wonder and they are so bland I expect an apology from the actors after they are done singing.

Oh, I lied about the songs being the final thing. I have one last thing I remembered. For some odd reason Nathan Lane chooses to break the fourth wall despite no one else doing it ever again in the movie. Dear writers of The Nutcracker in 3D…fuck you.

Is this movie as bad as critics say it is? It’s pretty bad. I mean, at first you have a rather bad kids movie. But when you decide to thrown Nazi’s in your bad kids movie it does raise it that extra level. That being said, I’m not sure I can talk bad movie aficionados out of seeing this movie. After all, where else do you see a Planet of the Apes ape crush Nazi John Turturro’s head in between his thighs? Where do you see jet pack wearing rats driving motorcycles with Gatling guns on the front? Where do you see a shark killed with fluorescent lighting as a means of highlighting the Nazis plan to kill toy-kind? The festive holiday world of Nutcracker in 3D that’s where!