Archive for the A Category

Annapolis (2006) James Wan

Posted in A on October 3, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $26 million
Worldwide Gross: $17 million

Annapolis is about Jake (James Franco) who gets accepted to the US Naval Academy. Jake is having trouble especially under the strict instructor Cole (Tyrese Gibson). Jake is an amateur boxer who joins the academy boxing tournament in the hopes of beating champion Cole.

This movie received absolutely rotten reviews, garnering a 10% on Rottentomatoes. Most of the reviews seemed to focus on the similarities between this and An Officer and a Gentleman and even Top Gun. Now I’ll make a confession that I have not, as yet, seen An Officer and a Gentleman. But despite that just by reading the plot description I can’t see it being a rip off. Yes, both are about a Naval academy and a tough drill sergeant type character. I personally don’t care if Lin was remaking or ripping off An Officer and a Gentleman as long as he does it well. It just strikes me as odd that is front and center in their dismissal of this movie. I have my problems with Annapolis but it has nothing to do with that.

Right off the bat though I will say this isn’t nearly as dreadful as the tomatometer would have you believe. At the very least Annapolis is a functional movie. It is surprising that despite being about Annapolis the movie doesn’t bash you about the head with ‘Rah Rah America Fuck Yeah’ rhetoric. It is focused on a guy getting through a boot camp which could have taken place just about anywhere at anytime. I really didn’t see anything to indicate Annapolis is any different or any more difficult than any other basic boot camp. But at the heart of it is a simple story about a loner learning to accept help from friends and about the power of teamwork.

Everything is basic but functional from the plot elements to the acting. It is mediocre, but none of it flat out sucks. That might be an even worse thing to say really. People can laugh at a movie that sucks but being forgettable may be a worse crime. It doesn’t help that the acting is all so bland. James Franco is just so unbelievably bland. He gives you absolutely no reason to care about our main character at all. That might be forgiven if he had a good antagonist but Tyrese Gibson is in a competition to see who can give less of a screen presence. Gibson is supposed to be the ruthless drill instructor. This is a part begging for scenery chewing but all Gibson can manage is his constipated face to everything. Jordana Brewster exists. That is about all I have to say about that. Okay, in all honesty she’s fine, rather her character is non-existent. I like she started out as an empowered female character but by the end the movie does the lame predictable thing by making her the token love interest. Keep in mind this is not due to anything in the story really showing a relationship growing but just because we need a romance I guess.

Now I said everything is basic but I will give a few more flaws with the overall movie. You notice my initial plot synopsis? You notice how it seems disjointed? You know, in the first sentence I mention boot camp and then in the next I’m talking about both doing some boxing tournament. Well, the movie plot is just as disjointed. Now I know what the writers were trying in theory but in execution it fails. In theory instructor Cole is supposed to be Darth Vader in dress whites. I mean we are supposed to hate him with a violent passion. Normally you can’t go around slugging your superior but in this tournament there is no rank. So the events of the film are supposed to lead up to Jake (and subsequently the audience) getting so pissed off at Cole that he will do anything to take a shot at him in the ring.

But much of the movie is spent with Jake trying to get through boot and getting over his own problem of accepting help from others. The conflict comes from Jake himself and the challenges from boot aren’t all that crazy. That’s another thing too; it’s because of that I don’t consider Cole all that bad of a character. We are supposed to think he is evil incarnate and he deserves to be knocked out but he doesn’t really do anything any other instructor would do. So in the third act we switch gears to a Rocky training montage and the tone also switches with an audible thud. To use Top Gun as an example, it would be like going through the Top Gun tournament complete with Iceman winning and then instead of the regular third act, Maverick spends 20 minutes training for a squad kickboxing tournament. It would be something poorly established and I wouldn’t consider Iceman to be someone who needs knocking out. They are rivals yes, but they take it out in flight exercises and in volleyball games; not real fighting though. Point is, the third act doesn’t mesh with everything that has happened so far in the film.

I didn’t hate Annapolis as I was watching it. Keep in mind I do this for a review blog so I’m kind of forced to sit though this. Just because I don’t object to having to watch it doesn’t mean I would recommend it. It has its problems but none of it amount to it being a horrible movie. If you were interested in the trailers and caught it on TV then go ahead. But really the movie is too bland and generic for you to take time out of you schedule and watch it.

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) Des McAnuff

Posted in A on August 25, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $76 million
Worldwide Gross: $35 million

Yeah, I know the reaction. I think everyone who sees the poster or trailer have the same reaction. Well, now that I think about it, there were two reactions. The first was: has Robert DeNiro done anything more embarrassing than this? The second was either “oh god…” or “Why?”. Because it is just one of those concepts that shouldn’t be made into a movie.

For one I don’t know why this had to be made into a live action film period. I know in Hollywood there is a perceived hierarchy of movies and doing something live action is somehow better than an animated movie. It is why Akira can never be left alone and every year we get the “AKIRA is being made live action!!!” news headline. But in an age where movies like Finding Nemo are crushing other live action movies (or in the case of an already existing franchise The Simpsons animated movie) I don’t get what the fetish is. People just haven’t learned. There are things you can get away with in cartoons that you just can’t in real life. The real life Scooby gang looks friggin’ stupid, the Flintstones looked hideous, and a real life Homer Simpson would be a wide awake nightmare.

But even overlooking the big picture of live action animated movies in general, Rocky and Bullwinkle still shouldn’t have been considered for a full length movie. Why? It is the same reason I gave a shudder when The Three Stooges came out as a film. I’m sure the Farrellys wanted to be faithful to the material; I had no problem with that. It was because most times the Stooges were best taken in small doses which is why the shorts were great. They got in and out fast and the Stooges never overstayed their welcome. Rocky and Bullwinkle was really a 20-ish minute show and it wasn’t even completely filled with Rocky and Bullwinkle. Remember Dudley Do-Right? Peabody’s Improbable History? Fractured Fairy Tales? In the show things played off like a variety show which made things fresh and interesting. But when Rocky and Bullwinkle don’t even fill 20 minutes of their own cartoon, how in the hell are they going to fill 90 minutes? I don’t think I can hold your suspense on whether this movie is bad. But the real question is how bad? I gauge the absolute worst on the level of the Rocky and Bullwinkle NES game which I actually played btw.

If I were to praise this movie it would be that, in terms of other cartoons turned live action movies, this one does stay more faithful to the source material than most. We don’t get the other segments like in the cartoon, but the overall bad puns and self-referential humor of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon is present.

But then that transitions to the big problem of this movie. This movie only really has one note and it hammers it and hammers it and hammers it for 90 minutes. You are going to be bludgeoned with cheesy lines and puns that should all be followed by the “WAH WAH WAHHHHHH” over the soundtrack. Just look…

R: Bullwinkle, you weigh 400 imaginary pounds. B: Yeah, but it’s all moose-le.

‘Bullwinkle, can you rappel?’ ‘Sure. I’ve been repelling viewers for years.’

Cappy: Bullwinkle, allow me to be frank.
Bullwinkle: OK, allow me to be Bullwinkle.
Cappy: I’m Cappy Von Trent.
Bullwinkle: I thought you said your name was Frank.
Cappy: Shut up Bullwinkle.
Bullwinkle: All right Frank.

You get the gist. Now I’m fine with a cheesy pun every now and then. But after sitting through an entire movie you get fed up. I actually made a note. There was a moment where I had to look at the timer because that was just about where I got bored. It was the moment where the plot went about as far as it could go, and the humor was overstaying its welcome. I still had an hour to go at that point.

I could even have forgiven the beyond bare bones plot and the lame humor if there was any kind of characters in it but there is not. I know, I am bitching about characters in a Rocky and Bullwinkle movie but hear me out. Having character arcs or having something for the characters to overcome is not limited to serious dramas. Take the recent Muppets movie for crying out loud. They actually have a similar story in that both acts are struggling in a world where they have lost their relevancy. But the muppets had their own problems of getting along and the human characters had to deal with moving their relationship to the next level and whatnot. I’m not asking for deep insight here but you have to give the characters SOMETHING to do.

In fact, one of the only slightly interesting things was the female protagonist FBI agent Karen Sympathy, who was driving the plot along. I’ll give it to the actress Piper Perabo, she was acting the shit out of this movie. And for a movie like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, she didn’t have to give much effort. Of all the real actors playing the cartoon characters, the only one I felt did a decent job was Rene Russo as Natasha. I say that and she is the only actor to get a Razzie nom for this was Rene Russo. DeNiro is just kind of in this movie and doesn’t contribute much besides embarrassment. Jason Alexander is actually really bad in his role. Most of the time he reverts to George Costanza and he has these prop teeth that he wears that was extremely distracting rather than amusing.

This isn’t the worst thing ever. I’ll admit there were sparse moments where there was a self referential joke or a pun that even got through my defenses. Although for each of those moments there was another that was painfully embarrassing. Take, for example, one of the few times this movie actually goes “modern” and Bullwinkle gets “jiggy with it”. And the less said about DeNiro doing his “You talkin’ to me…” shtick in this movie, the better we will all be. Really, this movie is just a chore to sit through. By the time the cartoon would have been over Rocky and Bullwinkle runs through all its best material and you still have to sit through another 70 minutes. There is no plot, no characters, and there is nothing else to distract you from the monotony like the show would have. And really, why the hell do we have to have a $76 million dollar Rocky and Bullwinkle movie? At the end of the day, that is the question investors should have been asking. But no, this isn’t as bad as the NES game as there are few things worse than that. The movie is dull but not offensive and far from the worst thing ever.

Anything Else (2003) Woody Allen

Posted in A, Woody Allen Retrospective on July 4, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $18 million
Worldwide Gross: $13 million

I don’t know about the world at large but I had no idea about this movie being released when it first came out. I remember first seeing it in the Blockbuster and by the box cover thought it was a lame Direct to Video cash in on the mild success of the American Pie films. Then I looked on the back and saw it was done by Woody Allen and then thought “How far has he fallen that he has to do DTV films now?” Well, it got a theatrical release and despite initial bomb status, has found a cult following. Sure, there are many that hate it, but it does have its defenders. Quentin Tarantino has it as one of the best movies in the last 25 years and even Allen considers this as one of the best movies he’s done that best represents him.

Anything Else is about young comedy writer Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs). Jerry is trying to come into his own despite a bad talent manager (Danny DeVito) with the help of older mentor David Dobel (played by Allen). During this he has a tumultuous relationship with his girlfriend Amanda (Christina Ricci).

I would have played “Stop if you’ve heard this before” but you would have stopped me at “Set in New York…” before even getting to Annie Hall, writers, intellectuals, actress, jazz score, relationships, evil women, etc. So okay, this is a modern “Greatest Hits” of Annie Hall. Clearly this movie has found its fans and maybe initial press was bad because of recent failures. Once again, the point of this is to find hidden gems. Sorry to disappoint you guys but I will not be in agreement with Quentin Tarantino.

One of criticisms for this movie is the portrayal of women; mainly Amanda. No longer are the women in Allen’s movies just slightly neurotic or finnicky but now straight up evil harpies. Amanda doesn’t just do wrong, but he seemingly has malicious intent. As I mentioned in a previous review, in the past Allen was much more able to take as well as he gave. In Annie Hall, Annie may have issues, but Alvy was just as bad if not worse. In Anything Else, Amanda is evil and Jerry is as innocent as an angel.

Now I could forgive this if the writing were better. I could see a movie about a shy door mat who meets a brash mentor who teaches him to take control of his life. In that case, you can play the humor more broadly and have the characters be more shallow. Anything Else kind of plays like that in how Jerry has David who dispenses wisdom at the drop of a hat. The problem is that relationship isn’t fully capitalized on and the comedy isn’t as wacky as it should be. All David does is state the obvious: you should dump your agent, you should dump Amanda, etc. He should be putting Jerry in wacky situations to build his confidence. There is one scene like that where David comically beats on a bully’s car with a tire iron but the whole movie should have been like that. I’m thinking more Trent from Swingers, and Woody is thinking more like a nebbish Qui Gon Jinn.

I got fed up with the characters in this movie. Amanda is obviously the antagonist so you can’t be interested in her. But Jerry is so pathetic we don’t care about him either. It doesn’t help that we never get that big a turnaround in his character or that the antagonists don’t get a proper comeuppance. Because of all that I could never really get into the movie or the comedic situations.

I will give both credit and criticism for the casting of Jason Biggs. The credit is that Biggs isn’t like all the other non-Woody castings in that he doesn’t try to do an impersonation of Woody. I am so sick of other actors trying stutter and wildly gesticulate trying to make Woody happy and here Biggs just plays a nice kid. It is rather refreshing to just have Biggs seemingly be himself which comes off as more casual. The criticism comes in more about the writing of Allen in that Jason Biggs cannot deliver the lines. Biggs has to give the same pretentious lines about Dostoevsky and deliver the same witty banter Allen would and he just can’t do it. It is not in Biggs’ character to say those lines so his prattling about existentialism or whatever goes over like a lead balloon.

Anything Else didn’t do much of anything to keep me interested. At best it can be amusing especially with the relationship between Jerry and David where the chemistry really comes through. But most of the time the humor was played too tame for it to either be witty or zany. The characters hurt the movie the most by being either being so passive or malicious that you can’t be invested in what happens to them. This isn’t among the worst Allen has done (although his recent work has really lowered the bar) but it is not good either. This is only for those extremely forgiving of Allen’s lesser works.

Alex Cross (2012) Rob Cohen

Posted in A on March 7, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $35 million

Worldwide Gross: $30 million

One for the Money wasn’t the only botched attempt at bringing a beloved book series to the big screen.  I consider the Alex Cross to be the bigger botch because not only was there a bigger audience for the books, but the Cross character was already established in two movies starring Morgan Freeman.

I won’t even bother to ask why this movie underachieved.  Instead I’ll tackle the elephant in the room with the casting of Tyler Perry in the title role.  On the one hand, I understand what the producers were thinking in casting Tyler Perry.  Alex Cross has the potential to be a major franchise and you want to guarantee the most money you can.  Tyler Perry is probably the current most successful black star.  So naturally, Perry will bring in his demographic while the action will draw in everyone else.

But there is a problem with Perry too.  He can’t act.  I’ve seen enough Tyler Perry movies to believe I can accurately judge.  Sure, he has a good character with Madea, but that doesn’t make him an all around good actor.  It would be like saying since Jim Varney can do Ernest movies, he is a clear choice for Sherlock Holmes.  People were making Madea jokes when Cross came out, but I guarantee you if Perry were a strong enough actor, he would have given a powerful enough performance to make you forget that character.

This is the movie that should have done that.  In this movie Cross‘ wife gets murdered and he is driven to the point where he no longer cares about justice but about bloody revenge.  When it gets to the point where Cross is embracing the dark side you don’t buy it.  Perry is gasping out lines about meeting the bad guy at the gates of hell but with his soft puffy face and soothing voice it comes off more like John 3:16 rather than Ezekiel 25:17.  Too Biblical?  Okay.  Instead of thinking he’s comin and hells comin with him I’m thinking he’s coming and cookies are coming with him.  It’s just so strange you have this tall muscular man who should be so physically imposing and scary but he comes off like a teddy bear.  I didn’t buy for a moment this was a dark tormented character who was on the edge.

There are other problems to Alex Cross besides the acting.  The first is that this is a really cheap movie.  I know $30 million dollars is a lot of money but in terms of Hollywood you see that kind of budget for an independent movie rather than a big screen thriller.  To put it in perspective, one of the latest Woody Allen movies cost around $20 million dollars and Allen movies are nothing more than characters talking to one another.  Now budget is not an indicator of a movie’s success but there is something else to keep in mind.  There are dozens of cop shows that are on TV right now that not only tell a decent story but have a budget behind them.  I believe one episode of any CSI show is well over a million dollars.  So with all that competition on free media, why release something with what appears to be the same production values as a sweeps week CSI show.  Hell, I even prefer the Tarantino directed CSI two parter rather than Alex Cross.  The filmmakers needed a little bit more spectacle to give the audience a reason to pay for this rather than see any free cop show.

And even looking past all that, the execution of the story isn’t good either.  The dialog is filled with ham fisted exposition and the plot would have been generic in the 80’s.  It is a typical cat and mouse style thriller with Cross chasing some killer MMA fighter.  Even after seeing this movie I had a hard time seeing why Cross is so special a character.  They initially try to paint him as a black Sherlock Holmes, but he doesn’t really do anything during the movie to showcase his talents.

Many reviews have trashed Matthew Fox’s performance as Picasso because he is over the top and chewing the scenery.  I actually welcomed his scene chewing because I think he realized this was a plodding generic cop thriller with lame dialog and there needed to be something to spice it up.  His performance was hilarious and was the only entertaining thing in this slow film.

Despite all my complaints I didn’t hate this film.  Maybe because I never read any of the Patterson novels I can’t cry out betrayal.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a bad film.  However, this is only because there is nothing in this movie that really stands out.  This really does feel like any filler episode of any gritty cop show except with some spotty acting.  There is nothing howlingly awful but nothing to make it special.  If you really want a great modern take on Alex Cross go watch any two episodes of BBC’s Luther.  Idris Elba was originally supposed to play Cross but bowed out.  His performance of the tortured DCI Luther is great and you will wonder why this guy hasn’t made it big in the US already.

Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike (2012) John Putch

Posted in A on February 27, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $10 million

Gross: $3.3 million

Previously on my Atlas Shrugged Part I review:

“I hate Ayn Rand and I think Objectivism is bullshit.“

Well okay, that is more my general opinion on the philosophy behind the movie but I suppose I need to clarify that to those reading this review first.  More specifically about the movie I thought it sucked.  The movie had uninteresting robots spouting out ham fisted uninteresting dialog in an uninteresting story about trains and steel.

It failed and we moved on.  Well, not everyone apparently because Part II is now out.  I find it amusing that not even the producer believes in the Rand philosophy that he puts on such a pedestal   The free market should be making the ultimate decision on what goods it wants so you would think that with the disastrous bomb Part I was the free market chose against the Atlas Shrugged series.  Ignoring that we have Atlas Shrugged Part II which bombed as well.  The free market has told the producer John Aglialoro they don’t want any Atlas Shrugged but apparently he has responded back with essentially “Fuck you, we are making Part III!“.  I guess he’s believed the moochers have taken over but personally I would prefer he go to his own private island rather than subject us to this.

Okay, okay.  I need to be fair to this movie.  I can realize that the first movie had its own problems.  After all, the producer was up against the wall with losing the rights to Atlas and had to make a movie quickly.  A script and a director had to be rushed and the relatively small budget had to limit the kind of actors they had.  These were external problems for the first movie and I need to approach Part II with a clean slate.  True the budget is about half of what the first one was but maybe things have calmed down and they had more time to get the production they truly wanted.  They have…actors in this movie so they have that going for them.  What director did they get? John Putch?  Never heard of him.  What has he done?  American Pie Presents: The Book of Love.

We’re doomed.

Trust me, it is not very long before that statement is confirmed by the rather mind boggling decisions you see right off the bat.  In the beginning we see Dagny walking through a train station with Robert Picardo and the trains are CGI.  BAD CGI.  I am seriously not overstating it by saying my PS2 made better animated scenes.  Now I understand this movie has a small budget so it is not like I am trying to compare it to The Lord of the Rings.  My question is; why the fuck do you need to make a CGI train in the first place!?  Real trains exist! Go to any major metropolitan city and film in front of a goddamn Amtrak!

And I know you are going to say something like “Come on Moviemoses!  That’s nitpicking.“  But really this is a symptom of a larger problem which is incompetence.  Take for example another scene where we establish Dagny’s smarmy jerkface brother who has no talent but hogs all the credit.  He is a supposed multi-millionare but he goes into what appears to be a Circle K and is buying a tie for a piano concert next to the fucking Slim Jims and anti freeze.  And you are just sitting there with this WTF look on your face thinking way too hard about things you shouldn’t be in the middle of this movie.  Did they have really no more money left at that point and threw a tie rack in the middle of a QT?  Is this some future thing that wasn’t established well?  Kind of like how Taco Bell became fine dining in Demolition Man fucking Exxon’s have now become superstores where you get everything from Armani to Hostess Snoballs?  Does the director think I’m an  idiot and won’t notice they are shooting there?  If mistakes like these are coming up on minor things like location shooting, what do you think the rest of the movie will be like?

So Part II picks up where the last left off with no recap of what happened before.  I’ve seen Part I and I can barely remember anything from that.  There was something about a guy making steel and endless discussions about building a railroad.  I honestly didn’t remember if anything got settled or any major developments happened.  The movie doesn’t help that fact that I was even 30 minutes into the movie and I wasn’t entirely sure what our main plot was.  Dagny has some mysterious motor from the first movie (which I didn’t remember) which, if she figures out the secrets of what it runs on (be it cold fusion or love), will end all dependency on foreign oil.  Henry is now successful due to his new steel and the evil guv’ment is now trying to take their FAIR SHARE.  Dum dum duuuuuuuuum.  But what are we honestly working toward?  If I was bored by the first movie, what does it say when I’m 30 minutes into the second and I have no idea what the plot is?  Boy I’m asking a lot of questions in this review.

Again, I don’t really care to get into the philosophy of Objectivism as I still consider debates with  Rand followers as enjoyable as my kidney stone.  But I guess if I had to mention anything as to why I don’t buy into it is how everything is so black and white.  There is no gray area in Rand’s philosophy.  There can’t be any exceptions to the rule or qualified statements such as “The government can be a force for good, but…“ No, it is either black or white, good or evil, hero or parasite.  You need to be wary of any philosophy that is so simplistic or tries to so easily lump others in the ‘us‘ or ‘them‘ camp.  And when the majority of your movie is people getting up and giving long-winded reproaches of obvious straw men, I just don’t care.  I don’t feel like I’m learning anything so much as being brow beaten for two hours (four through both movies).  Feeling angry at those “moochers“ in the government Henry?  Feel angry that they are keeping you from making your money?  Who built the roads and rails you use to ship your steel?  Did you fund that all by yourself?  Do you pay for your own private police force to protect your stuff or your private fire department in case it catches fire? See what I mean that even the slightest bit of effort shatters this black and white universe?  I’m not someone advocating communism and in fact I’m not advocating anything really.  I’m just not buying the kindergarten philosophy you are trying to sell me.

It goes on forever too.  I mentioned before it takes 30 minutes to set things up but after that nothing changes.  Like I said, Henry Reardon is doing well and the evil government is trying to take their share of the profits.  Here is the movie.  Some government guy comes up to Henry and tells him to give the government some steel and Henry tells him to piss off cause capitalism.  Then Henry complains and someone asks “Who is John Galt?“ and someone disappears like there is some Objectivist Batman running around or something.  Another person comes to Henry asking him for steel and he tells him to piss off.  Henry complains and someone tells Atlas to shrug.  Then another person tells Henry to give the steel, then lather, then Henry has the court asking him for steel, then rinse, then more government people ask for steel, then repeat.  I had it all wrong a few paragraphs ago.  This movie isn’t slow in telling a story, it is an endless loop.  Ayn Rand is Selena Gomez, she loves this plot point like a love song, and she keeps hitting re-peatpeatpeatpeatpeat.  Oh god, this review has me quoting Selena Gomez.  This is the moment when I looked at the timer on my DVD player and realized I had a whole other hour and I felt all hope drain from me.  It is only till the hour 45 min mark that Dagny gets just as fed up with this plot as I do and leaves.  Part II ends with Dagny flying to an island and finally meeting John Galt.

There are some slightly better actors in Part II but it doesn’t make much difference.  I guessed that the actors in Part I probably wasn’t all that bad, but were hamstrung by horribly dry dialog.  It is no different here.  The actors are slightly more charismatic but they still have to sound like Vulcans as they talk about how greed is good and how fairness is illogical.  If it isn’t already clear as to who this movie appeals to you see through the cameos in the film.  Sean Hannity appears as Sean Hannity talking about the free market and we even get Teller from Penn and Teller in a brief speaking role.  If you think it would be interesting seeing Teller talk its not.  I found it incredibly sad to see an otherwise smart person with the glazed over look of a person who has drank all the Kool Aid and can’t see this poorly produced dog shit for what it is.

Part I sucked, Part II sucked, and Part III will suck.  I know Part III hasn’t been made yet and 99.9999% of the time you can’t make a judgment without seeing the product.  What can I say?  This is the .000001%.  These movies no longer have the excuse that they were rushed or whatever.  These are the movies they wanted to make and Part III will be more of the same.  I foresee another two hours of characters lecturing me about free market and moochers.  Well, probably three hours because we haven’t reached the point where Galt gives a 70 page speech.  Oh, and I’ll probably see a train too.  I know I’ll have to review it too because this movie will bomb even worse than the previous two.  This movie is horrible.  Part II has a plot that goes nowhere featuring characters I don’t care about saying horrible dialog in a world of horrible CGI and shoddy direction.    Who is John Galt?  I don’t give a fuck and I don’t see how anyone else does either.

Alice (1990) Woody Allen

Posted in A, Woody Allen Retrospective on June 20, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $12 million

Gross: $7 million

I could only find domestic numbers for the gross so there is a possibility that overseas numbers pushed it over the top.

Alice (Mia Farrow) is an upper class housewife who’s happiness is called into question when she falls for sax player Joe (Joe Mantegna).  Alice goes to a chinese herbalist for health issues who gives her magical herbs which do anything from making her invisible to letting her speak to dead ex-boyfriends.  These help her sort out the troubles Alice has with her love life.

I wanted to like Alice a lot more.  Woody Allen can be a lot of fun when he goes into fantasy territory with movies like Zelig, Midnight in Paris, and even Purple Rose of Cairo.  So I was expecting a very cute but funny fantasy movie that just might have been overlooked by most people.  By the end though, while I was not hating this movie, to me this was one of his weakest efforts.

I know I’m going to be arguing very subjective things like funny and not funny but to me the biggest problem was this movie wasn’t funny.  I like when Allen does these kinds of movies because with all these fantastical elements he can put them in extreme situations which heighten the comedy.  It was great in Oedipus Wrecks when Allen’s character not only had mother issues, but when it became a giant floating head over New York City.  It was funny when Gil in Midnight in Paris met his literary heroes like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway and pitched his book to them.  In Alice, while there are fantastical elements with the different herbs, none of them are really exploited to their fullest potential.  One of the herbs makes Alice invisible which allows her to spy on Joe to see if he is a player.  While that was a practical move on Alice’s part, it just doesn’t allow for that much hilarity.  Another herb bring back a former lover who died (played by Alec Baldwin).  Again, while it serves a purpose in that he gives an honest appraisal of Alice and her lovers, it isn’t used to its potential for comedy.  It would be better if he could embarass her more with his dialog or somehow interact with Alice’s men in her life but he doesn’t.  It’s scene after scene after scene after scene of an interesting set up along with a disappointing follow through.  Speaking of Allen having an off day with the humor a shining example is Dr. Yang.  Other people give Allen a pass but if I have to complain about Skids and Mudflaps being racist, then I might as well rage against Woody for this too.  Yang is an herbalist who speaks in “funny“ broken Engrish who runs an opium den and has mocking stereotypical Chinese music playing whenever he shows up.  He is one pair of buck teeth away from downright offensive.  I won’t harp on it too much but, as I mentioned earlier, it is a shining example of Allen having a major off day with his humor.

I also have to admit Alice as a character is hard to get behind.  It is hard to get invested over a beautiful rich woman who is wondering if she should sleep with Joe Mantegna.  Near the end of the movie they try to turn this into an Another Woman search for self identity but by the 90 minute mark it is a little late for that.  Mia Farrow also wasn’t given a very good role to play either.  Alice talks a mile a minute and complains non-stop.  It feels like a very Woody Allen type role, but where Allen can  make that character ultimately lovable, Farrow comes off as annoying.  The dialog isn’t witty enough to support Farrow and fails to win her over with the crowd.

This movie was a misfire for me: the humor misfired, the dialog was bland, the characters weren’t up to par with other Allen films, and it ultimately wasn’t interesting.  While I didn’t hate this movie and it is far from the worst Woody Allen movie, I will have no interest in revisiting this movie in the future.


The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) W.D. Richter

Posted in A on June 14, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $12 million

Gross: $6 million

I don’t know why it took so long for me to get to Buckaroo Banzai seeing as how this seems to be what my topic was made for.  This was a film that could not find an audience during its box office release but since then has developed a strong cult following.  Its box office failure has not stopped people from loving it and keeping it alive to other media such as comic books.

Banzai is a kind of satire/comedy of pulp sci fi.  The protagonist, Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller), is a kind of jack-of-all trades who does brain surgery one minute, then pilots a rocket car to another dimension, then does a concert with his rock band.  During his rocket car test, he goes to the 8th dimension and the evil 8th dimension alien Lizardo (John Lithgow) wants that technology to go back to his home to conquer it.  Banzai has to stop Lizardo before full scale war errupts between Earth and the 8th dimension.

As much as I hate to write this (since I know this will kill my nerd rep) I have to be honest and say I did not love Buckaroo Banzai as much as I probably should have.  I still liked it, however this was not the cult classic that was probably built up to me by other people.  There are things which didn’t quite work for me and things that didn’t exactly meet with my expectations.

One of the people I follow on the Internet brought this point up and I’m surprised I didn’t consider it till now.  As much as I love Peter Weller (cause he is the motherfuckin‘ man!) I personally don’t see him as a Buckaroo Banzai.  I see Banzai as like a more badass version of Ferris Bueller or I guess more appropriate would be a Bruce Campbell.  We are talking about a guy so charasmatic and badass that people gravitate around him hoping that some of his cool will rub off on them.  Peter Weller is too dead pan and seemingly bored with everything that is going on.  Now someone tried to argue that Banzai has done so many cool things that Weller plays it right that he would be kind of ho hum at that point because to him, the extraordinary has become ordinary.  But I still say that when you portray the guy as having fan clubs and mobs of people wanting to just hang out with him, it has to be because he has a super cool personality and Weller does not exude that.

Speaking of quibbles about the cast let’s talk about John Lithgow.  Oh no, I don’t have a problem with John Lithgow.  In fact, I feel quite the opposiite; John Lithgow is awesome.  My problem is I wanted more of him.  We see him in the beginning, then he disappears for the majority of the movie, and stumbles back on for the final action scene.  The other aliens‘ roles needed to be cut back in order so we get more Lithgow goodness.

And I hate to pile things on but the story is not as tight as I’d like it to be.  The middle of the movie is not as interesting as the bookends when a lot of stuff is happening and it is more crazy.  I will also parrot some of the other critics in saying I wish they put more in the movie to make Buckaroo more of a badass.  I realize it is a hard balancing act because you don’t want to make your villains seem feeble compare to your hero but I didn’t feel like it was enough of a showcase of his supposed many talents.

I know I spent a lot of time complaining about things I didn’t like but in this instance it is not because I hated it.  These are complaints of someone who liked it  but there were many minor things that kept me from loving it.  But despite all that I would still recommend that people go see this movie.  There is a good reason why this movie has a strong cult following and even though I didn’t love it as much as everyone else, I think everyone should try it.  It is harder to judge someone’s tastes in satire and this kind of ‘out there‘ crazy movie so I would just have you give it a shot.