Archive for April, 2012

Atlas Shrugged: Part I (Paul Johansson) 2011

Posted in A on April 25, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $20 million

Gross: $4.6 million

Let’s get this out of the way right now; I hate Ayn Rand and I think Objectivism is bullshit.  I think Ayn Rand is to philosophy what Glenn Beck is to journalism.  And no, I don’t want to have a debate on Objectivism because I find those as enjoyable as my latest kidney stone.  So why bring it up?  Well I figure I wouldn’t drag it out and you can (if you so choose) stop reading right now.  You can label me as being an ignorant hater who just doesn’t get it and that I’m being bitter in this review.  You can do that, but I disagree that it would necessarily cloud my judgment of the movie.  For one, I have seen several films which differ from my political and religious views yet I find them entertaining or at least interesting movies.  Just because I may disagree with a particular point doesn’t mean I can’t laugh at your comedy or find some situation dramatic.  Also, maybe this movie would do it’s job and convince me (maybe not completely) at least on a few of its points.  I don’t necessarily see a point in a film that is set on preaching to the choir.

If I had any reservations about Atlas Shrugged, part of it was because of the source material, but a good percentage had to do with the fact this was a rushed production.  There have been talks of doing an Atlas Shrugged movie since the 70’s.  Many of the talks have been based on making a miniseries which isn’t a bad idea based on the writing.  There were years of discussion and deals being made and later falling through of making a feature film of Atlas Shrugged with big name directors and actors.  It isn’t that hard to see people wanting to make a film on a very popular book.  The problem all along I suspect is how you make a feature film (and not a miniseries) interesting at all.  My personal feelings aside, it is hard to make a good film based on a book the size of a cinder block and it doesn’t involve wizards or something.  Also, (and I don’t think I’m going too far on a limb simce many Rand fans agree with this sentiment) many would agree that Rand’s “strengths“ were as a philosopher rather than a good storyteller.  The lenghty monologues alone have garnered her much ridicule.  The point is no one was too keen on doing a project like this, deals were being cut all the time, and the producer was going to lose the rights if he didn’t make a film soon.  A new script was written, a cast was rushed together, and director Johansson was brought on nine days before shooting was set to start (wikipedia).  It should also be noted the director’s previous efforts only include some episodes of One Tree Hill.  So yeah, excuse me if I don’t get as excited for this as I would if this were some great director’s dream project.

The film is set in the not too distant future where apparently where everything has turned to shit.  The government is a corrupt system that beats down the hard working innovators while giving the profits to lazy freeloaders.  Dagny Taggert is the VP of a railroad who is trying to turn things around by replacing her track with this untested super-steel which she buys from Hank Reardon.  Dagny has to deal with her competition as well as the eeeeeeeeeevil government in order to get her tracks replaced.  All the while, the smartest members of society are disappearing and everyone is asking the question “Who is John Galt?“

Again, I know nobody is going to believe this, but my main problem isn’t with the philosophy.  I still don’t like the philosophy but that’s still not my main problem.  No, my main problem is this movie is unbelievably boring.  I honestly could not care less for these boring fucks and their boring trains.  The characters are all flat in that they are either moustache twirling villains or Ayn Rand’s uninteresting Mary Sue’s.  Dagny and Hank are both “perfect“ people with no flaws which means there is no drama because they don’t really have any obstacles to overcome.  They are also written like Vulcans because they show no emotion about anything and they seem detached from the real world.  Scrabble games have more emotion and intensity than when these two have sex.  The actors don’t help either as they cast two bland lumps of wood.

And I know I hate when people pepper reviews with boring this and boring that but I am really struggling here in trying to describe the plot.  It is one scene after another of these lifeless drones that make Taylor Kitsch seem like Al Pacino going from board meeting to board meeting to business dinner to lame society function.  They just sit and have long conversations about steel or some New Mexico line or trade deals with X or interest rates with Y and when they are done with that, they go have another meeting with someone in their company and discuss the uninteresting shit they just spoke about in the last meeting.  This is stuff that would be hard to pull off under great circumstances let alone with bad actors, uninteresting characters, and dialog written by seemingly the Bizarro clone of Aaron Sorkin.  There is no sense of movement in this plot either as this was planned as a 3 part film so the movie just fizzles out.  The characters putz around, play with some trains, and then leave.  The philosophy presented is ham fisted to say the least.  The protagonists drone on in long speeches about how they are right and the antagonists are clowns who have nothing to say for themselves or have any meaningful conversations.  There is nothing stated that would be more sophisticated than “The Guv-ment sucks and keeps the workin‘ man down.“

You know this is bad when you can’t even appeal to your fan base with your movie.  I know there are some that stick up for it somewhat, but I still don’t see many that see it as a great film.  This was a last minute rush job with a bad script, an untested director, and a cast of untalented nobodies.  There has been a trailer released for Atlas Shrugged Part II which makes me chuckle because a sequel in light of this one’s bomb is antithetical to what Rand would believe.  I’m kind of torn on how well it should do.  Normally I would wish it well but I don’t want to see this series continue but then again I don’t want to watch two and a half more hours of trains for this box office bomb thread.

Wrath of the Titans (Jonathan Liebesman) 2012

Posted in W on April 12, 2012 by moviemoses

I’ve seen all of Liebsman’s films and seeing as how people are calling him the current hack de jour, I guess I should give my brief opinion on him.  Of the action hacks working today Liebsman is still bad although not as bad as some of the others working today.  Granted we are talking about different definitions of bad here.  You see with Michael Bay you have an incoherent plot and offensive/juvenile humor, with Paul “The Man“ Anderson you have even more incoherent movies along with some abusive slow mo, but with Liebsman I guess his main fault is that he is boring.  Movies like Battle LA or even today’s review Wrath of the Titans aren’t horrible movies.  The action for both of them are well staged and watchable unlike most shakey cam nightmares today and the plots are not incoherent messes.  The problem is they are both some of the most cliche, no thrills, generic, take no chances stories you will come across.  So honestly, even after saying that, I’m not sure if Liebsman is better.  At least some of the other directors you can watch their movies in a ‘so bad its good‘ way.  It is almost worse to make a movie so painfully generic you forget it as soon as you leave the theater.

Wrath of the Titans is a better movie than the first movie, but seeing as how the first set my expectations so low I could crawl over the bar set, I am damning it with faint praise.  The plot, as alluded to earlier, is painfully basic.  The father of the gods is going to break out of his prison and threatens the world.  Perseus has to go to place X to get superweapon Y to kill the latest big bad guy.  Every ten minutes or so the teduim is interrupted by Perseus fighting some mythological beast.  Really, it’s best if you don’t think too hard about the plot because of some of the potential holes.  For example all the gods are afraid of Kronos and there is a lot about gods betraying each other to gain favor with Kronos.  Yet at the end all it takes is the combined weapon of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades to kill him which leaves you to wonder why they didn’t just do that in the first place?  I guess it can be handwaived by the fact Hades is a douche but come on!  Kronos is chained up and you can’t put aside your differences for two seconds to stab him in the chest with this superweapon?  The only real excuse is we wouldn’t have a movie if the characters acted rationally.

I guess part of why I didn’t dislike this film as much as the first is because I think there is more time devoted to the veteran actors.  Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes get a meater subplot where they essentially work out their differences and you get some smaller performances from Danny Huston and Bill Nighy.  They were a welcome breath of fresh air from all the stale Perseus main plot.  The Perseus scenes are still painful as the writers have no clue as to how to make him interesting.

The action scenes are slightly (very slightly) interesting.  I think this movie had a slightly bigger budget and I think the CGI was better done than the first (and no, I didn’t see this in 3D).  You have varying monsters and Perseus having to do different things to take them down so it made things a little more interesting.  Yet once again, without a reason to care about our main characters then I don’t really care about what is going on with the action.

Even though Wrath is better than Clash, it is still not a good movie.  There are small improvements but that doesn’t change the fact our main character is an unintersting lump of wood, the plot is bare bones at best and utter shit at worst, and it is all wrapped up in a million cliches.  If you are desperate for an action movie then maybe wait for it to come out on DVD to rent.  Otherwise if you didn’t like the first one there is no reason to come back for the sequel.

American Reunion (Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg) 2012

Posted in A on April 11, 2012 by moviemoses

Before I start I just have a question; aren’t reunions kind of an outdated oncept nowadays?  Granted I lead a sheltered life and I don’t have many of the same experiences or I don’t have “friends“ but just hear me out.  I figured the appeal of reunions were to see people you haven’t seen in high school right?  Well, doesn’t the advent of things like Facebook utterly kill that notion now.  You don’t need to wait ten years or fly back to your home town or do anything extravagent.  You can contact (or stalk someone on their profile) whoever you want; whenever you want.  Just a thought.  Anyway…

Now I’ve had the “pleasure“ of seeing all the American Pie movies (exlcluding the DTV shite) for one reason or another.  Unlike most movie series, the American Pie movies to me never had a real rise or fall in quality.  Each one felt like generic/meh/amusing entertainment mainly because they were all the same movie.  There wasn’t really much experimentation with these films so I guess it wasn’t a huge shocker that Reunion feels like every other Pie movie before it.  The only thing that has changed is time and oddly enough, that made a difference in how I saw the humor.

You see the way I understood it, the sex humor of American Pie worked (for lack of a better term) because it was about inexperienced teens humiliating themselves in their quest to learn about sex.  Most of the kids in that movie never saw a boob so you got the awkwardness when Jim prematurely ejaculated or when Finch spent a night with Stiffler’s mom.  Sex is an embarassing and exciting subject at that age so it follows you have some goofy shenanigans that ensue.  When a person is 31 however, sex isn’t all that new or embarassing (at least for most and isn’t at all for some twenty something nerd who writes a blog about movies when he could be dating and I’m so lonely I’M SO LONELY I CAN’T STOP I CAN’T STOP!)  Okay, I’m better.  So Jim sees porn when Michelle isn’t around.  So what? So what if Stiffler’s mom is still on the prowl?  It is no longer this high school sex fantasy; it’s just dating.   It’s really hard to come up with raunchy sex humor for a bunch of grown up men who probably know it all now.  The big thing in this movie is that Jim has the opportunity to sleep with an 18 year old but Jim doesn’t want to cheat on Michelle.  You want to know the solution to your problem Jim?  JUST SAY FUCKING NO!  I’m sorry, I’m flying off the handle more than usual.  It’s just seeing Three’s Company humor kind of sends me in a rage lately.

Speaking of age being the enemy of this movie, I have a problem with the characters of this movie now.  You would figure in a movie like this it would be about the characters learning to let go of the past and becoming responsible adults.  You would think that, but it’s not really handled.  I mentioned in my Project X review that I believe what happens in high school means fuck all for who you are in the rest of your life.  In the case of this movie, all these characters peaked in high school and cannot get out of thinking about the “glory days“.  Of the times I had to stop and think about this movie, it got a tad depressing.  You are seeing a group of people in their 30’s who cannot stop living their high school memories.  It’s rather pathetic that these people haven’t done anything in the past 13 years they think is so much better than their pie fucking days.  Wow.

The plot is a mish mash of sub plots about the gigantic cast all doing something.  Stiffler has an uninteresting job, Jim and Michelle don’t have an interesting sex life, and Oz still has the problem of having no personality.  Seriously, it’s been four movies and Oz is still as interesting as a Senate hearing on CSPAN.  Everything works out as predictibly and as dull as ever with no major conflict or tension.

I swear I want to be fair to this movie.  Every once in a while this movie would remember to do something funny whether that ben letting Eugene Levy on set, having Stiffler do something stupid, or maybe the writers would wake up out of their coma every 5-10 minutes.  I will admit I laughed a few times during this movie and I never flat out hated it.  This isn’t a movie I would watch again nor would I recommend it.  I’m saying this movie didn’t piss me off and made me chuckle sporadically.  Take that for what its worth.

The Hunger Games (Gary Ross) 2012

Posted in H on April 2, 2012 by moviemoses

Short review: The Hunger Games is the American version of Battle Royale.







Okay, just had to quick piss off Hunger Games fans all over the Internet (I feed off of hate and tacos).  I’m sorry, I’ve had it explained to me like a student held after class but I guess I’m still too thick to see it.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rip off or I’m not claiming any theft.  There are differences between the two stories. I’m just not seeing the vast differences Hunger Games fans see when they let out a frustrated groan and rattle off that I’m just trying to troll people.  But all that being said, I don’t see what the big deal would be if Hunger Games were actually a remake of BR for American audiences.  If the remake does it better than I don’t care if it does come second.  I loved The Departed even though Infernal Affairs came first (and is a great movie).

I was unsure of what to think of Hunger Games going in but I was won over by the end of it.  The storytelling is well done as we are immersed in this new world with a long history and we get to know it all.  I was surprised we go for almost half the movie before even starting the hunger games.  Up to that point we get to know the characters, the world, and everything around them.  It really pays off when we do get to the games because we know the stakes and we are invested in the characters.

On the flip side of the coin, I did feel there were some pacing issues.  As much as I was appreciating the info and the characterization, some times in the first and second act it felt like the movie was spinning its wheels.  I was frankly wondering if we were ever getting to the hunger games at a certain point because we spend too much time practicing and wooing sponsors; something which really isn’t paid off as well as I thought it would.  The sponsors do play into the story, but not to the extent you feel based on all the time they spend building it up.  I thought it would actually be a great movie if even 20 minutes were trimmed.

The look and feel of the setting is memorable and different, however at times it feels like they went a little overboard.  Showing the difference between the malnourished dirt poor underclass and the effete richies are one thing, but it spoiled the mood at times when a child is murdered and we cut back to Stanley Tucci in a blue wig or Elizabeth Banks doing a Lady Gaga impression.  Speaking of child murder let’s go to the PG-13 rating.

I completely understand why this movie is PG-13 however I do think it diminishes the movie in a few ways.  I personally believe having it be more violent would have upped the intensity and the horror of the situation.  Blood and gore do not make a movie necessarily better, but I do feel it can dimnish a movie by sterilizing the horror.  By definition, if you are making it PG-13, then you are saying it is not as bad for kids to see and thereby glossing over some of the consequences of the violent act.  However this isn’t a deal breaker for me.  As I said before, I get it.  While it may not be completely to my tastes this is made with the larger crowd in mind.  What frustrates me more is the shakey cam.  Again, I get they use shakey cam to cover up some of the more horrific elements and it is a stylistic thing.  I have said before I don’t immediately hate shakey cam (as I love the Bourne movies and the latest Batman movies) so when I say it is bad, to me it is horrible.  I don’t know what the fuck is going on and it feels like they put the cameral in a paint mixer while the action was happening.  At times I couldn’t look at the screen; not because of the horrific killings, but because I was getting a migrane.

Now to bring this back to the positive I will say one of the things which I like better about Hunger Games is the protagonist Katniss.  I thought the writer would make the mistake of making Katniss her Mary Sue in that she would be some unstoppable amazon who is absolutely perfect.  Katniss is an independent woman with good hunting skills, but she does get in trouble a few times and relies on other characters quite a bit to help her.  She has her challenges she has to overcome which is good for an effective story.  I thought Jennifer Lawrence was great since her first role in Winter’s Bone so it is nice to see her in what will be a strong franchise.

I really liked The Hunger Games by the end of it.  It did have some flaws with me such as the pacing, some of the story elements, and some of the directing choices.  However I think it succeeds overall in exactly what it set out for with the general audience.  I recommend this movie and I look forward to the eventual sequels for this series.