Archive for June, 2011

What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (Woody Allen) 1966

Posted in W, Woody Allen Retrospective on June 23, 2011 by moviemoses

After watching Midnight in Paris I decided to go through Woody’s filmography from the beginning.  I want to give all of his movies another viewing and to see how he has progressed through his career.  First up on IMDb was, of course, What’s Up, Tiger Lily.  This is a film I knew absolutely nothing about.  That is strange because you can usually find something on a Woody Allen film either good, bad, or indifferent.

Tiger Lily is to be fair, not really a film “directed” by Woody.  It is actually a Japanese spy action film whose rights were bought up by Allen and the original actor’s voices are dubbed over by comedy dialog.  This is not all that uncommon nowadays.  Probably the closest example from recent memory is Kung Pow except that had some new footage spliced into an already existing product.  You also see it to some extent on improv shows and probably the best evolution of the idea is MST3K.  The guys don’t dub over the lines, but I feel it is the same spirit by mocking a schlocky movie as it is playing.

So I guess you could say Woody was being innovative for the time.  Although you might also say this movie has not aged as well as it should have since others have come since then and has done it better.  I’m not necessarily saying that is the case, but that might be my guess as to why this doesn’t really get any recognition nowadays.

Woody does a good job by picking a suitably nutty movie to riff on.  This is the kind of movie where even if there were no dubbing you would still wonder what the filmmakers were smoking when they made it.

There are a few problems with the dubbing and the film as a whole.  The biggest issue is that while Woody is riffing on the movie with these goofy lines, he still has to try to present some kind of coherent plot.  Sometimes Woody can’t riff because he has to explain some plot point or the movie is just not doing much.  Because of that, there are some stretches where nothing is really happening and it is a little dull.  This is where MST3K really shines where this movie doesn’t.  You still have the crappy movie, but you don’t have long pauses between jokes.  There are also some musical interludes by the Lovin Spoonful which serve no purpose but to lengthen the movie to feature length.  Now I’m not blaming Allen (since it was added without his permission after the fact) but it still doesn’t help the movie.

That being said, there were moments I thought were absolutely hilarious.  Of the times Woody was able to play around with the dialog he was able to deliver some really funny lines.  Overall, Tiger Lily is something of a mixed bag.  As mentioned earlier there is a flaw with this dubbing process and having long stretches of nothing happening but there were many parts that were very funny.  This was an interesting experiment by Allen which I think is good overall but I hesitate to necessarily recommend to anyone else.  The movie is only 80 minutes so if you are curious it won’t take up too much of your time.

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Super 8 (J.J. Abrams) 2011 No spoilers

Posted in S on June 23, 2011 by moviemoses

I guess I’ll start with what seems to be the topic of discussion for everyone else. Yes, this movie is very much an homage to Spielberg movies of old. It has some of the same themes as loss, abandonment issues, and children coming of age. But just because Abrams has the same themes, don’t get confused that he is just copying Spielberg. Super 8 is an original film and is enjoyable in its own way.

The movie is about young Joe (Joel Courtney). He recently lost his mother in an accident and his father (played by Kyle Chandler) isn’t really there for him since he is dealing with his own grief. Joe is helping his friends make a short film for a regional film festival. During a night shoot, they observe a pickup truck intentionally ram a train which causes a creature to be released. The air force then enters the town to try to hunt the mysterious creature.

Super 8 is part coming of age story and part horror film. The film does do an excellent job of creating a tense atmosphere. The monster is slowly built up to create suspense and to show us what the monster can do. That being said, I will say the monster was maybe built up too much. I will admit there was a point in the second act when I was wonder when all the shadows and hints would actually amount to anything, or if the filmmakers would be playing with us all the way through. But in the final act we get a very exciting climax and all the build up seems worth it.

The plot involving the children is also entertaining. We follow them through their point of view as they are trying to investigate what is exactly going on all the while dealing with their childhood issues. We get to know Joe very well and we really care about what happens in his life. It really helps they have a solid child actor to play the part. Even a mediocre actor in that role would have been the kiss of death since just about every scene has him in it. Elle Fanning of course does a great job also playing opposite of Joe’s character. You also get some good supporting performances also from Ron Eldard and Kyle Chandler. Sorry I can’t really say all that much about the plot but being so close to release date and the fact the movie plays its secrets close to its chest, I don’t want to reveal too much right now.

I was surprised by this movie although now I can’t think of why. J.J. Abrams usually makes enjoyable movies. Maybe it is because in this movie he was a little more thoughtful and patient in crafting this story when he is usually all about action. I would have to see it a few more times to get a more solid opinion of it, but my first impression is it is one of the most enjoyable movies so far this year for me.

Green Lantern (Martin Campbell) 2011

Posted in G, G on June 23, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $200 million

Worldwide Gross: $219 million

 

It’s ironic that a movie based on a superhero who’s power is derived from his imagination, is so derivative and unimaginative. I also like producers are scrambling to cover up the lackluster box office of this movie by saying it is because the movie is based off of a smaller read superhero. Maybe it is because despite spending $300 million dollars on this movie, you still can’t make this movie any more interesting.

I was just bored sitting through this. I know when I’m bored when, in the middle of a movie, I stop focusing on the movie and try to think of all the ways the movie is losing me. Let’s start with the story. The story is a big ball of evil is coming toward Earth. That’s about it. Usually in better superhero movies, we have a a larger theme which gets us into the story. Spider-man has Peter going through his tough teenage years and all the struggles therein to become a better man. This latest X-Men movie was about the struggle for equality and a battle of ideals personified as Xavier and Magneto. In Green Lantern we don’t really get any of that. True in the story Hal is trying to fight his fears in addition to fighting a monster feeding off fear, but again there doesn’t seem to be any effort behind it. It doesn’t feel like Hal learned anything of value except to nut up and act like a man. It’s not exactly on par with “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Another thing which hurts this movie are the lack of compelling characters. To use other superhero movies as an example, in Batman you have Harvey Dent, Joker, Alfred, etc. In X-Men you have Xavier, Magneto, Wolverine, Cyclops, etc. Hal Jordan doesn’t have anyone to play off of. His villain is an expressionless ball of evil, he has no real friends, and his love interest is a cardboard cut out. I thought that void would be filled with other lanterns such as Kilowog, Sinestro, and Tomar-Re, but they are barely in this movie to provide any kind of personality. They also seem to tone down the usually wacky Ryan Reynolds

I did like when Hal actually got to use his powers. I don’t think the action scenes had too much tension behind them, but hey, at least something is happening. The lantern effects looked good and I liked any attempt to take the story into outer space (which had more interesting things than the dull Earth scenes). And also for $200 million for the production, the special effects SHOULD look good. Frankly I wouldn’t care if they made this at a quarter of the cost as long as it had a good story.

Now maybe I’m being too harsh on it. I’ll admit that. It’s true that I can’t look at this movie and tell you anything that is dreadfully bad about it. At best this is a serviceable origin story for Green Lantern. This movie introduces all the characters, establishes the universe, and does everything it can to get the franchise going. At worst, if you have seen ANY other superhero movie, then you have seen this one. This movie takes no chances, and follows every other cliché superhero script line for line and note for note. It is dull and uninteresting. By the end, I was not excited to see the further adventures of Hal Jordan, I was not interested to see what new villain was around the corner, and I was not interested in seeing this film ever again. I don’t think Green Lantern fans will really like this movie, nor do I think the general public will accept this half-hearted attempt at DC trying to shove their way into a genre already dominated by Marvel.

Sanctum (Alister Grierson) 2011

Posted in S on June 22, 2011 by moviemoses

Sanctum is a disaster much in the same mold as an Irwin Allen production (or I guess Roland Emmerich for the new generation). With that mold comes big special effects and a large cast of paper thin characters. In this case you have a group of cave divers having to go deeper into an underwater channel to escape a typhoon which is flooding them from the top. Now the disaster movie genre has been for the most part played out but that doesn’t mean somebody couldn’t bring something new to the table. Unfortunately, not only doesn’t Sanctum bring anything new to the table, it doesn’t even get some of the basics right.

My biggest problem with this movie is with the characters. Now to anyone that knows disaster movies, you know that characters are usually the weakest part of any of those movies. That is because those movies are primarily about giving the audience carnage and great action. Characters and good dialog usually get the shaft in these movies. Now to counterbalance that, these movies usually have a star studded cast. These actors are usually just cashing in, but they do help the movie by making these two dimensional characters likable and imparting SOME personality to them. Who do we have in Sanctum? Nobody really. And not just nobodies, but wooden nobodies.

Another thing that hurts these characters is they are not very likable. Again, to use the Irwin Allen movies as an example, the characters are usually regular guys who are stuck in extraordinary circumstances. In Sanctum we have a group consisting of either selfish prats or rich A-holes going into a cave system which they know is most likely going to be flooded. That’s right, they knew of a storm coming which would spell trouble for their dive but they chose to go anyway. So not only are they assholes, but they are stupid assholes too. So for the majority of the movie we are following characters that we don’t like which makes this story a dull slog.

Another thing that slows the movie down is the fact we have to wait through half the movie before we even get to the disaster. That’s a long time to spend with these people. When we do get to the action it is just not all that impressive. All during the movie I couldn’t help think of how much of a better movie The Descent was. Not only did the direction give us clearly defined natural obstacles for the characters to move through, but things were also spiced up by having it be a monster movie too. Here we see the characters slog through one random tunnel after another.

Everything about this movie is just poorly done. This was a movie made to capitalize on Cameron’s 3D technology and it is clear to see that is the only thing this movie had to get it greenlit. I don’t see myself recommending this movie to anyone.

 

 

Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen ) 2011

Posted in M on June 21, 2011 by moviemoses

Midnight in Paris is about Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams), who are having a vacation in Paris prior to their wedding. Gil is wanting to work on his book (instead of going back to his lucrative career) and is kind of stuck in a nostalgic fixation with the past. Inez doesn’t really understand Gil and the two butt heads over what his priorities should be. In his frustration, Gil goes for a walk and when a bell signals midnight in Paris, he is transported to the 1920’s with all of his literary heroes.

If you are familiar with me you know I have a fickle relationship with Woody. I guess it didn’t help I came into movies right around the time when he sucked the hardest. I’m sure it is something completely different for those that started in his prime and can more easily look over his occasional missteps. For me it has been a little harder to start with my initial assessment from my first few movies. Even in this year, when this movie came out and reviewers were praising it I still couldn’t help thinking “God…I really don’t want to be stuck in another Scoop.” Well not only is this not another Scoop, but it is probably the best comedy so far this year.

I haven’t seen Allen so energetic or fun in quite a long time. His enjoyment of the subject is pretty much contagious to the audience as you fall for the characters and the setting. Owen Wilson does a good job as the resident Allen-substitute. What really stands out is the cast of characters that surround Gil. When Gil meets his literary heroes and all these colorful characters it is absolutely hilarious. All of the actors playing those roles do a great job in making them fun characters and you will love Hemmingway and Dali. All of this is framed in the great direction of Allen who makes Paris (in any time frame) beautiful.

New settings seem to inspire Woody as you see everything come together well for this movie. The plot is interesting and well executed, the acting is top notch, and the comedy is just right for this movie. The movie didn’t run on too long and there were no glaring problems with anything. Sure there may be minor quibbles, but nothing major. I like to actually repeat a line from a reviewer I read in that I like to give this comedy more credit than I usually would because of its originality. It is rare to see a movie that is not a remake/sequel/prequel or a standard dick/fart joke movie. Normally I would classify a review by possibly saying “If you are a Woody Allen fan…” but I think this movie would be fun for anyone. Highly recommended.

 

Screamers: The Hunting (Sheldon Wilson) 2009

Posted in S on June 21, 2011 by moviemoses

This is a SyFy Channel original movie right? There is no way a movie can suck this bad and not by a SyFy movie. And on a tiny tangent I would rather see an Asylum film than a SyFy movie.

So the reason I saw this movie was I reviewed the original Screamers for my box office bomb blog. One of my helpful “fans” directed me toward the direct to DVD sequel. Now, it’s not like I expected this film to be all that good, but I certainly didn’t expect it to suck this hard.

The sequel is about a group of people (marines, special forces, company men…the movie never specifies) to the planet of the screamers because they received a distress call. I don’t exactly know why people care now about what happens on Sirius 6B since they didn’t care in the first movie but trust me that is only the first of many plot holes. So a group of cannon fodder make their way onto the planet and realize the screamers have evolved.

Let’s start by talking about the story. It sucks. They do absolutely nothing to make this story interesting or to add anything new. We learn nothing new about the screamers, nothing about the universe these characters inhabit, and nothing about any of the characters. They decide to make the main character Bronte (Gina Holden) the daughter of Hendrickson of the first movie. Do you wanna guess how much they do with that during the course of the movie? That’s right, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

This movie is just another killer something movie. The crew are just there to get picked off one at a time. I don’t mind a monster of the week movie, but this one is just sooooo idiotic. The movie is littered with plot holes and inconsistencies. For example, the crew gets stranded on the planet when the screamers get on the ship, kill the engineer and drain the fuel cells. There is just one problem; how did it get on the ship? No one left a hatch open, the screamers didn’t break through the hull, and they didn’t slip a human hybrid on board. It just shows up and kills him. Why? Because the plot needs there to be a conflict. It is sad when I am drafting re-writes in my head to show how lazy the writing is and how easy it would be to fix it. I could write way much more about the plot holes but I won’t bore you.

The plot wouldn’t be so big of an issue if the characters were at all interesting. They aren’t. Not only are they all annoying pricks, but they are stupid pricks to boot. That is probably the most frustrating part. Making your characters jerks, I guess I can live with that. But when the characters are doing things so stupid and moronic you are yelling at your TV? Yeah, that’s bad. It takes you out of the movie when all the characters combined don’t have a shred of common sense.

The action is dull since I don’t care about the characters and the special effects are bad. Now I know this is a DTV release and normally I can look over that if the story is good enough. But when the rest of the movie is shite, then I can’t exactly overlook it. The horror doesn’t work because like I said, you either hate the characters or are so frustrated with their actions that you don’t care what happens.

Oh god, I was about to forget to comment on the acting. It sucks too. Gina Holden is absolutely dreadful in this movie. Again, I know this is a DTV movie, but even by those standards she is terrible. I also think we all need to give up on the idea of Lance Henriksen “starring” in any movies anymore. The man is the John Carradine of the new millennium. He will just show up for five minutes to any movie offering craft services. Chuck a few free tacos his way and BAM he will show up to your nephew’s bar mitzvah. I just assume he is in every crappy Scifi movie from now on. Yeah, as you can guess, he shows up for five minutes grunts out a few lines and collects his paycheck (despite being top billed).

There is nothing redeeming to this movie. Everything about this movie is uninteresting (at best) or frustrating and shitty (at worst). Its the rare movie that pisses me off and it succeeded. So, congratulations. So this movie sucks…um, the end.

The Green Hornet (Michel Gondry) 2011

Posted in G on June 16, 2011 by moviemoses

I don’t like Seth Rogen. Let’s just get that out of the way. At the best of times he is tolerable while at the worst he is an intolerable pratt. His whole shtick is this annoying stoner man-child and while that works in small doses, after seeing him in starring roles doing the same thing over and over and over again I am done with it. So I guess in the interests of fairness I have to admit to my biases.

The Green Hornet is yet another Set Rogen comedy. Basically a Green Hornet movie is playing in the background while Rogen interjects with his man-child routine. In fact all the sections of the script could be ended with “and Seth Rogen acts like a jackass…” and that would be a fair assessment. Now whether you go in for that sort of thing is completely up to you. Comedy is a more subjective genre than anything else and I’m not saying it is bad to like Seth Rogen. It is just not my cup of tea. And to be fair his antics were a little toned down and were more tolerable in this case. I think it helped you had the character of Kato (who doesn’t really care slapping Brit down a peg or two) to balance things out. As far as these comedies go it is fine I guess. I suppose I was more disappointed that they really couldn’t do anything more with the source material.

I could see traces of a much better movie behind the surface. Once example (probably added by Gondry) is a way to explain why Kato is so badass. Essentially when his adrenaline is up he can process information faster. He can identify threats almost like a terminator and plan a battle strategy accordingly. It is something you need to see rather than having it explained but it was rather nifty. Jay Chou does a good job and the action scenes overall are very well done. This could have been a fun action adventure film but it seems they settled for the easy money. This has quick cash in written all over it. This movie was forgotten as soon as I took it out of my DVD player and I can’t recommend it.