Archive for March, 2011

Newsies (1992) Kenny Ortega

Posted in N on March 27, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $15 million

Gross: nearly $3 million

Newsies is loosely based on a true…okay, stop. It’s bad when cliches are so repetitive even I think of adding a yada yada yada to my reviews. Suffice it to say, don’t come to this movie for historical information and let’s focus on the actual movie.

Newsies was an attempt to bring back the musical. Music was actually developed for a script which was a drama bout the newsies strike in 1899. Alan Menkin, who did music for Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, wrote the songs for the movie. Let’s also get out of the way the fact that the Dark Knight himself, little Christian Bale, is also in this movie. The story is about Jack Kelly (Bale) who is an experienced newsie who longs for a better life out in the west. He takes two new kids under his wing to teach about selling papers. Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall), in an attempt to earn more money, raises prices for the newsies to buy papers in order to distribute them. This puts an unfair strain on the newsies who go on strike. The movie was one of the lowest grossing live action movies Disney has done but I think has done much better on home video.

I remember seeing this as a kid when it first came out and really liking it. I remember though I was the oddball of the group I went with and my parents still couldn’t get over the initial premise of making a musical about a strike. I guess if you could tie a certain thing to the reason this failed, I suppose that could be it. This isn’t your typical princess love story or even inspirational sports movie. This is a movie about strikes which I’m sure still has sharply divided opinions [insert Glenn Beck/Fox News/Rush Limbaugh joke here].

This movie does have much in common with the Disney formula though. You have the poor protagonist who raises himself up to a higher status, you have cute kid characters to root for, and you have a David vs. Goliath type inspirational story. When you look at it like that, Newsies accomplishes what it does rather well. It is rather refreshing to have a new take on an old storytelling convention. I like the fact this sort of story has not been done in a musical before. You become attached to the kids and want to see they succeed in their efforts.

The cast does a very good job. Considering the majority of the cast are kids (when most times kids are the worst actors in a film) they actually found some good talent. The best performance of course, goes to Christian Bale. Even at that age, he is still capable of carrying almost every scene he is in. He does a great job. Musicals though, either win me or lose me, by the music (obviously) and in this case I really like the music. There are a few memorable numbers and the choreography by Ortega makes the musical scenes really fun.

There are some bad parts to it. For one I didn’t really like Duvall as Pulitzer. He hams it up too much in trying to make Pulizer this over the top Disney villain when it really didn’t warrant it. There are also a few scenes where they try to shoe horn some Ann-Margaret numbers in there but her character does not fit. She serves no real purpose in the movie and her character could be cut out completely with no problems to the story.

This is a movie I have rediscovered due to the blog. I had not really seen it since it was first release and I don’t know why I haven’t seen it sooner. I think Newsies is a solid musical many people will enjoy and it was an undeserving bomb. This is an underrated Disney movie (a rarity) that I think people should check out.

 

 

Robocop 3 (1993) Fred Dekker

Posted in R on March 27, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $23 million

Gross: $10 million

Wow, I keep forgetting how bad this movie is and I am surprised every single time. This review will be a let down. I usually love to be in depth and describe what I don’t like and in this review I simply can’t.

Okay, so the plot of this movie is OCP is trying to evict several people from Old Detroit to make room for whatever evil plan they have. I dunno, it doesn’t matter. They’re eeeeeeeevil. Anyway, a group of people who live in those areas have formed a resistance force to fight OCP. Robocop and the police are first sent in to arrest the resistance, but Robocop decides to fight for them when he sees what is really going on.

Why do I hate this movie? For one, its because it doesn’t feel like Robocop is in it. For much of the movie Robocop is injured and out of action. Most of what we see is from the resistance side which is about as interesting as dry toast. None of these people are memorable or worth following, the plot is not interesting at all, and there is nothing new to wake me from my movie induced coma. Of the time we do get to see Robocop, we see the writers tread the same tired ground so much it doesn’t even count. Gee, OCP wants to take away Robocop’s humanity but events/memories change and he becomes more like Murphy. I’ve NEVER seen that before. This is not anything that adds to the Robocop character, this is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy.

So what do we get that is new? Well we go from the devastating ED 209 from the first movie, the evil Kane in the second movie, to the funny (although not in a good way) ineffectual samurai villain. Okay, we also have the death of Murphy’s best friend Lewis…which is robbed of any real significance and felt more like an afterthought to spice up a dreadful script. A lousy scene where Robocop uses a jet pack? Yeah, that’s about it.

There is nothing here for fans of the original movie. All of the satire and humor from the original are gone. Any of the memorable bad guys or good action scenes are replaced by poorly conceived crap. Even Peter Weller is replaced by a horrible replacement. All of the charm of the original is gone, and there is no reason to see this. I am not just talking about Robocop fans either. I see no reason for ANYONE to see this movie for any reason. This movie just sucks on all levels. And I’m sorry I can’t be a little more eloquent in expressing my hate for this movie, but if the writers aren’t going to give a shit then why should I?

Rango (Gore Verbinski) 2011

Posted in R on March 23, 2011 by moviemoses

Now I’ve said before that I don’t really get into animated movies as much as I used to. I still get requests to see Toy Story 3. It’s just most of the time, even the best of kids movies are still, well, kids movies. So I guess it means something when I find an animated movie I really like (or it doesn’t…whatever).

Rango is about a lizard played by Johnny Depp who is accidentally removed from his bowl on a family vacation. He wanders into a town fully of creepy looking critters and decides since no one knows who he really is, that he should adopt a tougher alter ego. Through his lies and various shenanigans, the townspeople believe him and make him Sheriff Rango. Rango gets caught up in a plot by a corrupt politician who later sends for desperadoes to eliminate Rango.

I like Rango because it is a send up/homage to the spaghetti westerns of old. You can see it hits all the genre notes as far as the characters, the plots, and the overall vibe of it. But like any good comedy they take those conventions and turn them slightly for laughs. The art style is what really sells it and makes it unique. These are characters you are not going to see in your typical Pixar or Disney movie. These animals/reptiles/whatever can be both dark and funny given the situations they are put in. I particularly loved a chase scene where a wagon is being chased by moles on roadrunners and on dive bombing bats.

Most of the voice acting is very good with the obvious note of Johnny Depp. He does a great job in the role of playing the cowardly thespian but also playing the role of tough guy. He really sells the performance and in many other hands it could have been an annoying character. There are some other cast members that are very good including Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin, Ray Winstone, and Timothy Olyphant.

The story, even though it plays on familiar story tropes, does not ever lag for me. This is probably because it is not so much about the story as the comedy that comes from those tropes. Just when things do slow down, there are some really inventive action scenes to spice things up. I’m sorry, I can’t come up with too many things to rant on. I’m sure if I spent enough time I can come up with some things I didn’t like and some scenes that could be trimmed. But these would be minor gripes in what is overall a great animated movie. I highly recommend it.

 

Flyboys (2006) Tony Bill

Posted in F on March 23, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $60 million

Worldwide Gross: $17 million

Flyboys is based on the true life story (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA) story of the Lafayette Escadrille. They were a group of American pilots who volunteered to fly for the French in World War I before the US entered the war. We follow a group of new recruits headed by Blaine Rawlings (James Franco) as they go through training and the early stages of the war. They are led by Capt. Thenault (Jean Reno) and are mentored by grizzy veteran Cassidy (Martin Henderson).

Yeah I’m not going to hammer the obvious point that you shouldn’t expect this to be some serious historical film about World War One aerial combat. Whenever you hear the words “Based on a true story” you should more think “six degrees of separation from the actual true story”. In this case, put all generic war stereotypes, add a sprinkle of Disney, and boil it in a WWI airplane flavor and you have Flyboys. This is another movie where all the characters should be named after their stereotype. So Hunky Protagonist is trying to be the ace of the squadron, but Grizzled Vet with a Heart of Gold keeps ragging on him. So Hunky becomes close friends with his fellow squad mates Burn Out, Dead Meat, Religious Stereotype, Sir Not Appearing in this Film, and Has no Dialog but is a Really Close Friend…Honest. Nothing about it is necessarily bad, but you can tell it is generic plot filler. It is actually quite funny when they try to tell what happened to the characters after the war and it doesn’t quite mesh with the tripe they fed us in the movie before. All during the movie we are given this romance between Blaine and a French girl and it is built up like they are destined to be together forever. And in the final text blurb they just throw out “and they never met again” hoping that we don’t notice.

The story also seems to lose focus of what it is trying to say. I saw the writers trying to push out the message that air combat was not some easy escape for people that didn’t want to serve in the trenches. This is not about magnificent men in their flying machines but a portable death trap. Cassidy is bitter because he knows the longer you fly the greater the chance is of you dying a horrible death (and your odds aren’t that good to start with). But it doesn’t help when for the most part our main characters do well and aren’t affected too much by the war around them.

Alright, enough bashing about the plot. We all know it is the bare essentials in order to move from one action scene to another. To the movie’s credit, I found the flying scenes to be the best part. The special effects were good and the scenes shot well enough that they put you in the middle of the dogfights. They were enjoyable although they certainly are not enough to recommend this movie to anyone.

The acting is pretty much bland all around. I won’t bash on Franco since I don’t think anyone could have made his material all that great. He tries his best, but it is just not a well written role. As much as I also like Jean Reno, you don’t see much of him either. You see him in about three scenes and none of them are memorable. The best actor and the person with the best role is Martin Henderson (who was in another bomb Battle in Seattle). I liked him in that movie and I found him charismatic in this movie as well. I kind of wish he would get out from box office bomb hell and get in a good movie. I say that, and looking at IMDb, I see I will probably be reviewing his latest bomb in Torque.

Overall, I can’t really hate on this movie. It is made competently enough with good action and alright acting. But the plot is so generic and there just isn’t anything special to make this movie stand out among all the other action movies out there. This will be a forgotten film (if it isn’t already) and justifiably so.

 

Battle: LA (Johnathan Liebesman) 2011

Posted in B on March 16, 2011 by moviemoses

The main plot for Battle: Los Angeles is quite simply aliens invade Earth. There is no mystery or attempts at peaceful contact; just land and kill everything that moves. The military plans to bomb the portion of LA where the aliens have established a beach head. They send in a group of marines to assist in evacuating the last stragglers at a police station before the bombing commences.

I have heard reviews refer to this movie as either Call of Duty with aliens or Black Hawk Down with aliens and frankly those comparisons work rather well. Battle tries to dispense with what little plot is necessary to get the movie going before shoving you into non-stop action. In fact, this review will be rather short in that it all depends on what you are expecting this movie to be. Don’t expect to be blown away by anything from the story or the characters. Think of all the cliches from all the war movies you have ever seen and the stereotypical characters and you have everything you need to know about Battle: LA. The characters are so stock I kept thinking of Hot Shots where all the characters are referred to their cliché like “Dead Meat” and “Wash Out” You will roll your eyes for sure at the hammy dialog and some of the silly character traits.

If on the other hand you are just expecting an action movie, then I don’t think this movie will disappoint. You don’t have to suffer the bad scripting as it is the bare minimum to get from one action scene to another. The aliens are interesting in that they are a scary fighting force and not some of the stock aliens you get from other invasion movies. The writers do well not to make the audience too familiar with what they do so even by the end of the film you are left guessing as to their true capabilities. The action is varied with different enemies (this movie had me thinking so much of a game at some points I was saying “boss battle” during some set ups) and different objectives for the heroes. The action never felt stale for me.

I would talk about the acting but like I said there really isn’t much to say. Most of the characters are so stock and interchangeable that you are going to have a hard time keeping track of them. The only person that comes close to a main character is Aaron Eckhart’s character. To the man’s credit he does a great job delivering some of the cheesiest lines in the whole movie and almost making it sound good. He really tries selling this movie to us and overall he does a great job.

I went with a group of coworkers/friends and we all had about the same opinion on this film. This is not a film that will redefine the genre or any of that crap. We came in for a fun action movie about marines kicking alien ass and we got what we wanted. In the early months of the year when most studios are dumping their crap, this was a better movie than it ever had any right to be.

 

Final Part

Posted in Best and Worst So Far on March 15, 2011 by moviemoses

I’m actually going to try to post links on the list to where if you want to see a specific review for a movie you can click on the name.  But that will take some skill and I don’t think I’m that good at computers yet to do something that nifty.

 

 

25. Rent

24. The Hunted

23. The Shadow

22. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

21. White Dog

20. Playtime

19. Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead

18. Repo: The Genetic Opera

17. The Brothers Bloom

16. Mother Night

15. The Limey

14. Peter Pan

13. Miami Vice

12. Agora

11. Team America: World Police

10. Heaven’s Gate

9. Tetro

8. Zero Effect

7. Doomsday

6. Strange Days

5. Che

4. The Fall

3. Munich

2. Zodiac

1. Sorcerer

 

 

 

Part Six

Posted in Best and Worst So Far on March 15, 2011 by moviemoses

72. Shade

71. Be Kind, Rewind

70. Wyatt Earp

69. Australia

68. The Last Legion

67. Striking Distance

66. Paparazzi

65. Extreme Measures

64. Pirate Radio

63. The Phantom

62. Cassandra’s Dream

61. Highlander 3

60. New York, New York

59. The Last Castle

58. Daylight

57. Broken Arrow

56. Antichrist

 

55. Soldier

54. Last Action Hero

53. Battle in Seattle

52. The Four Feathers

51. Lions for Lambs

50. Speed Racer

49. The Lost City

48. Supergirl

47. Funny Games

46. P2

45. Event Horizon

44. Screamers

43. The Alamo

42. K-19: The Widowmaker

41. Blindness

40. The Brave One

39. Creation

38. The Grey Zone

37. Whatever Works

36. Find Me Guilty

35. Auto Focus

34. Synechdoche, New York

33. Body of Lies

32. The Adventures of Baron Muchausen

31. Chronicles of Riddick

30. Les Miserables

29. The Great Raid

28. Return to Oz

27. Superman Returns

26. Toys