Archive for March, 2012

Glee The 3D Concert Movie (Kevin Tancharoen) 2012

Posted in G on March 22, 2012 by moviemoses

This is the second time in two weeks where I have screwed up a box office bomb review.  I thought I did my due research in finding out that Glee bombed at the box office when I put this movie in my movie queue.  However upon finishing the movie and looking at my sites to get the numbers to write it down another one factored in more overseas numbers pushing it to my cut off limit of double its budget.  That means I A: wasted my time B: should do more thorough research before putting it in my queue and C: I don’t need a “C“ I am wasting my time watching and reviewing a Glee concert movie.  So because I can’t seem to go a week without doing something embarassing, you can read my review of Glee.

Now to complete the humiliation of having to review this I have to make a confession.  I like Glee.  In fact, it is one of the few current shows I regularly watch.  Those statements are sure to have many a head shaking in horror because short of Twilight, Glee seems to bring out some of the more viscious bile on the Internet.  And honestly, I have no idea why.  Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why people would not like the show.  I can easily understand it not being to their taste, but to hear some people bitch its as if the show teabagged their grandmother while setting your house on fire or something.  I’ve read several threads and discussions and I still have no idea why it brings on the hate.  One of the most common things I hear is hate over the creator Ryan Murphy.  Apparently he comes off as arrogant and thinks he is doing some great service to humanity/music and that rubs people the wrong way.  I say this in rebuttal; I DON’T CARE.  I don’t care if David Simon were the biggest asshole in the world, it doesn’t change the fact The Wire is pure awesome.  I don’t care if Christopher Nolan were the most egotistical vain man alive it doesn’t change the fact to me The Dark Knight is a movie orgasm.  I don’t care that Sean Penn is very vocal about his opinions on matters because the man is a phenomenal actor.  I don’t know why people get so hung up on what actors/directors/whatever do or why it should affect their art.    The art is seperate from the man (or woman) who works on it.

And now that I’ve played devil’s advocate for the past few half page or so,  let me go back to devil’s prosecutor.  This is one of the most shallow money grabs I’ve seen in a while.  A question that always has to be asked when you make a movie from a TV show is “What are you selling me that I can’t already get for free on television?“  Sometimes we get an extension or a conclusion to a show that has run its course (Sex and the City, Serenity, etc.) and sometimes it is a story that couldn’t be done on TV for budgetary reasons (The X-Files).  In any case the promise of a television show turned movie is that you are getting more than you would for free TV.  In the case of Glee The 3D Concert Movie, we are getting much less.  You see, in the TV show we actually get a plot and characters along with our music.  In the concert movie, not only do we cut out all that crap about plot and characters, but how about we now charge 3D ticket prices for a 70 minute movie?  How bout a big heaping helping of go fuck yourselves 20th Century Fox?

Now that being said, this movie is exactly what you would expect from a film titled Glee The 3D Concert Movie.  It is the cast of Glee singing some of the hits from the TV show during a concert tour aka the cast working off its indentured servitude contract with Fox.  Now granted I didn’t spring for the full 3D experience however I have no idea why the 3D would be interesting in this movie.  There is no messing around with the depth of objects ala Hugo or even the cheap tactic of just shoving things in your face.  It is shot like a standard concert pic.  In order to get this movie to wheeze past and die the finish line of an exhausting 70 minutes we get some small vignettes about real life fans and how their lives have been changed by Glee.  Whoopde fucking do.

Most of my problems with this is probably due to the fact this was released in theaters.  Had this been some hour long special they aired during sweeps week (or whenever I don’t care) I wouldn’t really care.  I’m sure many people would be casually interested in seeing the stage show and seeing the actors behind the scenes and whatnot.  There is nothing wrong with the product they present.  Its the fact they charge 3D ticket prices for less than what you would get for free TV and all the other reasons I stated which is why this movie SHOULD HAVE been a box office bomb.

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Surveillance (2008) Jennifer Chambers Lynch

Posted in S on March 19, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $3.5 million

Worldwide Gross: $1.1 million

At the end of my Boxing Helena review I mentioned something to the effect of that being her only real attempt at filmmaking.  I was being dismissive and I guess I should go a bit more in depth about my feelings of Jennifer Lynch.  I don’t believe in holding one movie against a director;especially a first time effort.  Everyone has their bad days and many directors are barely learning the trade when they start out.  I remember David Cronenberg talking about how fought to get his debut with Shivers and when he finally got behind the camera he realized he had no idea how to make a movie.  Fortunately Shivers was a good movie but the point is it was a starting point and he is now one of the best directors working.

Boxing Helena was a bad movie there is no doubt about that.  However, that does not mean I would not necessarily watch another Jennifer Lynch movie (well, obviously, since I’m reviewing another one).  My issue with Boxing Helena was not so much with the technical aspects of her directing.  My issue was with the crap story, the uneven tone, and  horribly forced symbolism.  It seemed she was trying too hard to be quirky like her father when I more wanted her to find her own voice.  So long story way short I was actually looking forward to Jennifer Lynch’s return to filmmaking after 15 years.

Surveillance is about two FBI agents (played by Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond) who go to a small town to investigate a series of murders.  Three witnesses survive the latest incident, and the agents interview them about the events which lead up to the killings.

I left Surveillance puzzled and in this case it is not a good thing.  I was puzzled by the tone and what exactly Lynch was going for in this movie.  I got the feeling she was trying to emulate her father once again ala Blue Velvet.  There is that same attempt at quirky/stilted dialog, reversal of the ideal small town vision, dark humor, and gritty violence.  It is here though that you see the difference between an innovator and someone trying to imitate that person.  The things that happen in this movie may sound David Lynchian, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.  There is a sub plot about a pair of quirky gung ho cops.  What do they do in this movie?  They shoot the tires of speeders as they drive by, threaten and assault them with their guns,  proceed to abuse them in various ways, and then let them go.  Why don’t any of these hundreds of witnesses report them or sue the department?  I dunno, maybe because the cops give them a break on their speeding tickets I guess.  I can only blindly speculate this was supposed to be some kind of dark humor (especially due to the fact one of the cops is played by an overacting French Stewart), but it doesn’t feel that way.  This is an awkwardly handled subplot that frustrates more than anything because this is so unbelievable (as well as not making any goddamn sense) given the tone of the rest of the movie.

I also feel as if Lynch is trying to do a Rashomon style movie about several people with different stories about the same event but even that doesn’t work.  Every once in a while they try to throw in something that subverts the narrative but when the witnesses start giving their statments it immediately goes to an objective omnipresent narrator.

One big flaw for me is the lack of any kind of a protagonist.  Everyone in this movie ranges from flat out unlikable to evil prick.  Because of that I really didn’t care what happened to any of them.  There are some big name talent in this movie (Pullman, Ormond, Michael Ironside) as it seems daddy called in some favors of his old casts.  Unfortunately none of them are given anything to work with.  Both Ironside  and Pullman are charasmatic but aren’t allowed to express that as they are given flat stunted dialog and nothing characters.  The story was actually alright for the most part, but in what seems now typical Jennifer Lynch fashion, she has to include a bullshit twist ending that doesn’t work.

I wanna be fair with Surveillance in that there were things I liked about this movie.  I actually did like much of what Lynch was doing on the technical side.  The movie was shot well with a nice bleak appearance.  The tension was built up well at times and she has a better feel for dramatic timing.  This was a well made movie.  I would still like to see Jennifer Lynch direct a movie without that terrible screenwriter she always drags along also coincidentially named Jennifer Lynch.  Seriously Jennifer, fire her as your screenwriter and have someone else write your movies.  Surveillance is a better movie than Boxing Helena but it still is not a good movie.  Lynch gets an A for effort and I enjoy the look and when she actually sticks to the thriller feel.  However the writing lets her down yet again as if she learned to write a screenplay from the Ed Wood school of creative writing.  Jennifer needs to learn she is not her father as stuff like the French Stewart subplot was one of the more grating experiences in quite a while.  Finally, and most importantly, STAY AWAY FROM TWIST ENDINGS!!!

John Carter (2012) Andrew Stanton

Posted in J on March 15, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $250 million (plusadvertising budget)

Gross so far: $106 million

Yes I am jumping the gun quite a bit.  After all, I am writing off this movie after a whole week.  But with the rosiest of projections about the bloated production and ad budget, this movie will need at least 400 million to break even and at worst well over 500 million.  This movie will need a lot of help overseas to even break even.  However, if this movie does pull it out, I will retract this from the bomb list in a flash.  I have one final note for this before getting onto the main review.  I have not read any of the John Carter series so I do not know how faithful the movie is to the book.

I’ve tried several times to write something witty about how lifeless this movie is but John Carter has even warped away my enthusiasm for playful banter.  It tries to be a successor to the spectacle of Avatar but instead feels like other Disney dud Prince of Persia.  Both have a bland  leading man chasing after a bland love interest in a mediocre story set in an over CGI-d desert fighting a bald protagonist that might as well be Ben Kingsley.  You know it is bad when you are thinking of cheap exploitation movies that you would much rather be watching than this expensive pile of blah.  I could be watching Yor Hunter from the Future or even the Ator movies.

One thing I will mention as a reason (and I will give full credit to Spill.com where I heard it first) for why it feels so bland is because it hasn’t changed in the 100 or so years since it came out.  John Carter was the inspiration for most of the ideas for scifi that came after it.  But now in 2012 most of those innovative features have been played out or are commonplace.  It’s like if you came to me with a movie pitch saying “We have a movie where there is a cop who doesn’t play by the rules.“  My follow up would be “And?…“  Indiana Jones was a throwback to adventure serials of old, but Lucas changed them and they evolved into the product we now have.  I feel the same way about John Carter.  It is strange that all during this movie I was thinking about how much this reminded me of Flash Gordon.  Hell, even the climax where Carter busts up the marriage between the princess and the evil king reminded me of Flash flying a ship into the wedding of Ming the Merciless.  The audience must have thought I was weird singing Queen during the middle of the final battle.  I guess my point of this is Flash Gordon’s special thing was its sense of humor.  John Carter was seemingly lacking a good sense of humor during the film.  The movie is about a Civil War Captain becoming the Conan of Mars.  If you can’t have a tongue and cheek sense of humor about that you have no pulse.  Now I will say in a possible defense (again since I haven’t read it) is that John Carter may have a personality of its own that was watered down by Hollywood.  If the mangling of the Conan  books in the films are any indication, it is quite possible John Carter was watered down; kinda like when the Tang got low and you just added more water to replentish it but you just made slightly Tang flavored water.  Anyway…

This movie cost a lot of money obviously.  The problems being A:  this movie didn’t/shouldn’t be this expensive and B: you really aren’t impressed by the final result.  James Cameron usually has an excuse for why his movies are so goddamn expensive.  It is because he is trying to invent new technology or break new ground in special effects.  John Carter doesn’t seem to have that issue.  It is strange that at times this movie feels cheaply shot and at other times way too overdone with special effects.  Much of the time John Carter is just walking around the desert and it leads you to wonder where all the money went.  Then at other times the movie is so full to the brim with CGI it feels like a SW prequel.  Characters are clearly in front of a green screen where rather poorly rendered (at least for this day in age) CGI settings fly by and the action scenes feel like cartoons.  In fact, it makes me wonder why this movie wasn’t purely an animated film.  It would actually make the movie cheaper and it would give it an overall better look.  Technology still hasn’t reached the point to where you can seamlessly put together humans and completely CGI settings and supporting characters.  It still looks way too fakey and I feel they either needed to go all animated or cut out all the CGI aliens.  I can live without four armed aliens.  They are not necessary for my enjoyment of the story.  Just give me a look that works one way or the other.

The story is both too simple and at times too muddled for its own good.  For the most part John Carter is a simple adventure story with sword fights and princesses.  And then it seems like the writers lose their train of thought.  There are long stretches where I was very bored where I was wondering what Carter was up to and when we finally meet our villains their motivations are very convoluted and not clearly explained (or maybe they did and I was in too much of a funk to notice).  Once again, this wouldn’t be as bad if we had charismatic characters we cared about.  John Carter is mainly carried by its titular character but he simply doesn’t have the charm to keep our interest.  Now I’m not going to rag on Taylor Kitsch since there wasn’t a lot of material for him to work with.  John Carter is a stern character who doesn’t have much of a personality nor does he portray any strong emotions at all.  There are supporting characters to Carter such as the princess or the aforementioned four armed aliens, but none of them are given any depth or time to develop.  They are all flat, stock characters.

As you can tell this movie wasn’t for me.  While nothing about this movie flat out sucked, everything about it smothered me with boredom.  The characters were flat, the story was something I’ve seen a million times before, the acting was blah, the action was too cartoony (as well as few and far between), the writing was inconsistent, the pacing was off, and the direction was lackluster.  I was waiting the whole movie for something, anything to come along that was new or inventive or interesting or charming and it never came.  While some may get some enjoyment out of a stock adventure story that doesn’t really do anything wrong, John Carter was adull slog through an endless sandstorm.  Sandstorm…sandstoooooorm…

Hannah and her Sisters (Woody Allen) 1986

Posted in H, Woody Allen Retrospective on March 13, 2012 by moviemoses

I will apologize for the shortness of this review as I got busy after watching it and the review was delayed.  It is probably more of a shame with this one because Hannah and her Sisters is one of my favorite Allen movies.  This may be the culmination of many things Allen had been trying to perfect up to this point.

I remember Woody Allen being confused as to why so many people thought of Manhattan as a comedy.  Sure, there were comedy elements in it, but it was more of a romance than a comedy.  That may be part of his overall disappointment for the movie.  In Hannah, it is clearer that this movie is a drama first, and it has some comedy elements thrown in.  Since I am apparently in the mood of comparing movies, this feels like Allen trying to make a better version of Interiors.  Both are dramas about a group of sisters with varying ambitions and problems trying to find some happiness or meaning.  But while Interiors may have had Allen scared of doing any humor by fear of falling back on his comedy, here this feels like he has grown comfortable with all elements of his game.

Nothing feels too morose and  the comic relief is just that.  Interiors may have gotten bogged down by the non-stop drama, there is much needed relief in Hannah.  Elliot (Michael Caine) may be cheating on his wife, but there are moments of levity when he is trying to orchestrate a chance meeting between him and Lee (Barbara Hershey).  Holly (Dianne Wiest) is insecure and nervous, but it is funny when she is competing with her sister for a date with David (Sam Waterston).  Woody Allen is in a supporting role in this movie, and even though he is hitting some common Allen themes (life/death/mortality/god) his role is primarily comic relief.

The drama is front and center though, and it is very good.  This is helped by having some of the best acting in any Woody Allen film.  It speaks to the strength of the cast when Barbara Hershey and Mia Farrow aren’t the best female performers in the film.  Michael Caine brilliantly plays opposite his usual cool persona and earned himself an Oscar nomination.  Max von Sydow is also in this movie and given any more time might have stolen the movie.  They sell all the dramatic elements of this movie whether it be about a cheating husband, competing sisters, looking for love, or the drama floating around that certain member of your family that can seemingly do no wrong.

As I said before, this feels like Allen at his most confident and natrual.  He doesn’t feel like he needs to emulate Bergman or Fellini or anyone else.  He doesn’t feel like he has to do all wacky comedy or completely serious drama.  This is Allen drama, comedy, writing, cinematography, and acting.  It is a must for any Woody Allen fan.

Project X (Nima Nourizadeh) 2012

Posted in P on March 13, 2012 by moviemoses

I’ve heard some extreme positions on this movie ranging from one of the biggest pieces of shit to a truly awesome party movie.  So with such a broad range of opinions I have to throw in my two cents I guess.

Project X is another in the dead and rotting carcass of found footage movies where a group of high school losers are planning the mother of all parties for one of their friends.  The found footage angle is from one of the friends filming the massive party.

I can actually see both sides of the argument for this movie.  Being such a negative person I guess I will start with that position.  Firstly, the ‘found footage‘ aspect of this movie is complete bullshit.  There is no reason why this movie needed to be found footage other than the producers wanted to make a cheap movie.  The director doesn’t stick with it, it does not matter to the plot, and does not contribute anything at all.  Another reason they may have went with found footage is because it means the writers can forgo having to write a plot for this movie.   Project X kind of has the spirit of a John Hughes story with it’s loser characters trying to achieve high school glory, but the finished product is almost insulting in its simplicity.  This is as little as you have to do in order to see crazy party shit and it really hurts the first half of the movie when they are building up to said crazy party.  Whenver there isn’t a little person in an over it is dreadfully slow.

What may hurt the movie the most are the characters.  These are not likable characters such as in a John Hughes movie or even in Judd Aptow movies.  They are not even likable jerks; they are just plain unlikable.  Scratch that, they are complete assholes who grate on your patience throughout the movie.  They don’t even get their commupance by they end and, in fact, it’s the opposite.  These characters are somehow popular for the rest of their lives for this party when we all know what happens in high school means less than nothing for who you are the rest of your life.

On the positive side, if ALL you are looking for are crazy party shenanigans, then you are probably going to enjoy the movie.  There are little people in ovens, there are flamethrowers, there are houses being destroyed, and so on.  When the party gets started, they put everything including the kitchen sink in to make you laugh.

And even though I said I would be positive now, I have to go back and be a wet blanket.  Even though the party is crazy, all of the best parts are absolutely spoiled by the trailer.  To me, that is pretty much the killer of this movie.  If I knew all the best parts were in the trailer, I would not want to pay full price to see this movie.

Project X has its target demographic, and if you are it then you will probably like it.  It pretty much promises one thing and it delivers just that.  To anyone looking for anything more than used up Hangover humor, they will not find it.  There is no plot, the movie is slow to get going, much of the best parts are spoiled by the trailer, and the characters are very annoying.  Movies like Project X I think are quickly forgotten as movies as they simply play the game of “Can you top this?“ with the toilet humor.  And even though this claims to be the most extreme party movie ever, how much you wanna bet in the next few years you will have a string of movies that try to top it?  This movie is a ‘skip it‘ or at least wait until it is on DVD.