Archive for the E Category

Enemy at the Gates (2001) Jean-Jacques Annaud

Posted in E on May 4, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $70 million

Worldwide Gross: $96 million

Enemy is about Russian soldier Vassili Zaitsev who fights during WWII. Command quickly learns he is an excellent sharpshooter and is presented in propaganda as a hero of the war. Zaitsev does such a good job the Germans send Major Konig (Ed Harris) to hunt him down.

Enemy is a strange movie for me to pin down. I’ve seen it several times but haven’t owned it. Leading up to seeing it again (for the purposes of this review) I thought it was going to suck. After it was all done I asked myself “Why did I think I hated it before?” I ended up liking this movie quite a bit. The cat and mouse game between Zaitsev and Konig is especially fun if a bit implausible. What is also interesting is the shaky relationship Zaitsev has with the military. Zaitsev knows he is outmatched by Konig but can’t really admit to it because the Russians would just as well kill a coward.

The movie is produced well and they do a good job with the battle of Stalingrad. You see completely devastated sections of the city and see some large battles take place. Now I read this movie is based on a book which is in turn based on a real life person. I already dismissed any pretense this was based on real life by the time I popped the DVD in my player. Yes, I know this has been put through the Hollywood ringer to be more ‘action packed’ and whatnot. I am not judging this as a historical epic but as a war theme action movie. In that regard, it does pretty well.

That is not to say it doesn’t have problems. The one that stuck out the largest for me was the “love triangle” between Zaitsev, his friend Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), and Stalingrad resident Tania (Rachel Weisz). Any romantic subplot is out of place in a movie like this and a love triangle doubly so. It is a waste of space, I hated every second of it, and the only purpose is to draw some people out by casting the sexy Rachel Weisz. Also, I’m not all that keen on the casting of Jude Law. He does fine I guess, but all during it I just didn’t feel he completely fit the character. I suppose it also has something to do with being up opposite Harris. You see the contrast when Harris can inspire fear in a few facial expressions, while Law is struggling to keep up with the material.

But overall I liked this movie. I think much of it comes from your expectations from it. Mainly, don’t expect too much from it. If you want to see a good action movie and an interesting villain by Harris, then I think this would be worth checking it out. If you expecting some sprawling war epic or some serious account of the real life Zaitsev then you will be disappointed. Enemy at the Gates does just enough for me to enjoy it.

Evan Almighty (2007) Tom Shadyac

Posted in E on April 20, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $200 million

Worldwide Gross: $173 million

With comedy bombs, and especially this movie (the most expensive comedy ever made), it is obvious why it fails.  There is no reason…at all…under any circumstance why this movie should have cost $200 million dollars.  Your comedy should not cost more than a Lord of the Rings movie, or Star Wars, or any comic book movie.  Sure, it is in the realm of possibility that a comedy can gross over $400 million but you are going to lose your movie studio quickly if you live by that philosophy.  What is probably the most insane part of this whole situation is this movie didn’t even need to be $200 million.  The first movie was $81 million (a healthy chunk due to Jim Carrey’s massive salary) and it was really just Jim Carrey doing wacky shenanigans with god like abilities for a few hours.  Really with the up and comer Steve Carrell coming in for less money, this movie should have been, in fact, much cheaper.  Just have him do his usual Office routine opposite Morgan Freeman and you have a mediocre comedy that was cheap to produce but high on profits.  However the  producers felt the need to load the movie with animals (ask how that worked out on the set of Doctor Dolittle) and completely unnecessary CGI.  But I am yammering too long without getting to the story.

So this movie follows Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell) who has left his job as a news anchor to become a Congressman.  He is visited by God (Morgan Freeman) and instructed to build an ark because of an upcoming flood.  Everyone obviously thinks he is crazy for going on a mission from God.

Now I’m sure it is no secret (I do nothing to hide the fact anyway) I am an atheist.  The scarlet A on the side of my blog is part of the Out Campaign.  Now this is not going to get me going on a tirade on religion and don’t be expecting me to go on some rants because I know it would not be welcome on this platform.  Suffice it to say, I only bring it up because I’m sure the criticism could be leveled I am already biased against this movie and just came in with a bad attitude.  That is not true.  I try (although granted it is not always possible) to go in with a clean slate and judge the movie on its own merits.  And while in my personal life I have my own beliefs, in the fictional movie world I can accept magic, aliens, gods, and any number of a things I may not accept normally.  Point is, if it is entertaining, I really don’t care.  So, that being said, this movie is not entertaining.

For one, Steve Carrell really isn’t allowed to do what made him so popular.  He plays the quirky buffoon/prick rather well.  In this movie he is a bland loving parent with no real funny lines of his own.  The main gags just seem to be him playing around with animals and doing stupid slapstick by falling off his construction site and smacking himself with a hammer.  Because the movie is a PG inoffensive Christian romp, he isn’t allowed to do anything, well, funny.  Really anyone could have been in this role and it wouldn’t have been any different or more funny.  In addition to stupid slapstick, the writing continues to scrape the bottom of the barrel with poop jokes and lame puns.  While I can’t say the humor is terrible or offensive, it is nothing special either.  Speaking of wasted talent, Lauren Graham and John Goodman are also not allowed to do a damn thing.  Wanda Sykes gets a few good lines in and Jonah Hill is painful as Baxter’s top aide.

The story, frankly, is stupid and should be ignored.  God in this movie is a dick.  The movie is supposed to be about Evan being some major asshole and through his experience of building the ark he is supposed to get his comeuppance and grow as a person.  In some cases like The Santa Clause that works.  In Evan Almighty though, the problem is that Evan really isn’t that bad of a guy.  Sure he misses some time with the kids but it is no real malicious intent.  He is a loving husband who supports his children and has a genuine interest in helping his fellow man.  While he may make some mistakes that could be corrected, he is generally a good guy.  But God in this movie takes it upon himself to personally f*ck over Evan taking away his job, money, friends, associates, and also to punish him in a myriad of ways for his own personal jollies.  Evan really doesn’t deserve all this crap and it is odd that I feel sorry for this sad pathetic man who really doesn’t deserve a tenth of what he is really getting.  That’s not the sign of a good movie is it?  Feeling bad for the person who is supposedly getting their much deserved lesson/comeuppance?  If I were being a real prick, I would ask why God is saving some 20 people from a flood in the suburbs and he let Katrina go no problem?  Also if Baxter is playing out the life if Noah, wouldn’t we have as the end chapter Baxter getting drunk and cursing his son for seeing him naked?  I’m just saying recreating a story where God kills almost all of humanity is not, at least in my opinion, ideal storytelling for a family movie.

The final act of the movie is one big money splurge.  We get the flood scene and you can almost literally see the money flowing by.  And I will say the effects look nice but again this scene is entirely pointless.  This scene is not funny at all.  It is just the characters riding around shouting out one liners like “look out!” or “hold on!” or “get down!”.  I’ve just never seen such a frivolous spending of money like that in a movie.

Overall this is a bad movie.  I can see the average family watching this and just thinking it is just some mediocre comedy.  I mean we are not talking about a really painful movie.  I’m sure there are some families that can watch it and it will distract the kids for a few hours.  For me though this is a bland and forgetful comedy that didn’t make me laugh at all.

Event Horizon (1997) Paul W.S. Anderson

Posted in E on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $60 million
Gross: $46 million

Paul Anderson was handed Event Horizon after the success of Mortal Kombat.  The condition handed to Anderson was he had to complete the project on a set date which meant he had to cut post production from 6 weeks to 4 weeks.  Anderson also wished to create a hard R film after the PG-13 Kombat.  The plot focused on a ship of the same name which tested a theoretical space folding technology.  The ship disappeared for seven years when it just re-appeared with no word from the crew.  A rescue team is sent in to determine what went wrong and of course things quickly go tits up (technical term of course).  The place becomes a Lovecraftian hellhole that plays around with the entire crew.

The movie was longer initially, but Anderson had to cut 20 minutes of the “hell” scene because test audiences didn’t react well and to make the R rating.  The movie failed at the box office but has a strong cult following on DVD which also has a new 2 Disc edition.  Most of the original footage was destroyed since production, but Anderson made a Director’s Cut using what he could find on old VHS transfers.

Is it any good?  I’m usually not the person to give Paul “The Man” Anderson credit, but I actually liked Event Horizon.  Anderson does a good job of creating a dark twisted atmosphere and some damn creepy images which are still freaky even today.  The story has some of the usual horror cliches but it helps when you have the likes of Sam Neill and Lawrence Fishburne to execute it all.  The story isn’t great but the movie has atmosphere and it has it in spades.  I recommend those wanting a horror fix because it has great atmosphere, gore, and special effects.

D-Tox/Eye See You (2002) Jim Gillespie

Posted in D, E on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $55 million
Gross: $79,000

Not much to say about this production wise.  It was produced in Canada in 1999 and was originally slated to be directed by Ron Howard (who skipped in order to do the Grinch movie).  Frankly I think Howard made the wrong choice.  Anyway the movie was sidelined and eventually disowned by Universal and give a minor theatrical release resulting in its pathetic box office take and given a better DVD release under the American release title of Eye See You.

The plot is about Malloy (Sylvester Stallone) a cop who loses it when he witnesses a brutal murder.  He checks himself into a law enforcement rehab center that’s apparently in the South Pole but is supposed to be Wyoming.  The killer Malloy was pursuing before kills one of the patients and takes his place picking off the patients one by one.

You know I actually really liked the concept behind this movie.  Its sad that the execution held this movie back from being great.  You had the potential to have a suspense movie like the Thing where you don’t know who to trust (and if you’re going to rip something off, rip off the best).  And to his credit, I really like brooding Stallone.  The problem is we don’t get enough of the man.

As I said the problem with the movie is in its execution.  It has all the elements in a compelling character, a creepy setting, and the potential for a scary killer.  But the movie just kind of plods along.  There are too many characters (in order to fuel the “who do you trust” theme) but they crowd out Stallone who is the reason to watch it in the first place.  That’s like moving away from MacReady to focus on the relationship between Childs and Palmer.  We never really get the feeling of isolation, the creeping terror of the cold, and the fear of anyone being the killer.

This is a shame because I am a fan of Stallone and this was actually one of his more earnest efforts than say Rhinestone.  Its not worth renting, but its not a piece of shit.  Just skip it.  What I want to know is what did they spend the 55 mil on?  Its a one location shot with no special effects or stars other than Stallone.

Extreme Measures (1996) Michael Apted

Posted in E on January 19, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $38 million
Worldwide Gross: about $20 million

Hugh Grant plays Guy, a doctor in an overrun New York Hospital.  He gets a homeless patient with symptoms that would make House’s head explode who eventually dies.  The patient then disappears from the morgue and so do all the records.  Guy then tries to track the patient down which eventually leads to possible experimental surgeries being done.  Uh, a few notes before diving in I suppose.  This was produced by Elizabeth Hurley’s short lived production company.  It should also be noted Hurley and Grant had been together during that time.  I suppose a rule of thumb should be don’t hire your hubby for your movies.  Another note: this was written by Tony Gilroy who later did Michael Clayton.

The movie tries to pose a moral quandary to the viewer.  Namely, is it alright to inflict a little pain for a greater good?  But like with most movies trying to portray a moral gray area they tend not to blur the lines; instead they do quite the opposite.  Guy is a white knight and Hackman is Dr. Mengele doing experiments while almost cackling maniacally.  It’s like those vigilante movies that try to broach the subject of taking the law into your own hands but degenerate into good guy blowing away Satanic rapists who also torture puppies.  Entertaining?  Yes.  Thought provoking?  Not quite.  For more thought provoking I would recommend Gone Baby Gone.

Also to make it an interesting thriller, you can’t have it just being Hackman doing these things.  No, it has to be a grand conspiracy including a wealthy consortium, several Nobel type doctors, and the police.  Kind of strains the limits of credibility doesn’t it?  I won’t deny the parts where Guy is being hunted is pretty exciting.  But the moment I take more than a second to consider the plot I realize it’s just a tad silly.

The acting is okay but disappointing in some areas.  Hugh Grant does an alright job I think mainly because he tones down his usual Hugh Grant-iness.  The main disappointment comes that Gene Hackman shares billing with Hugh but has about ten minutes tops in the movie.  No way movie.  You do not promise Gene Hackman as a villain and do not deliver big heaping helpings of lovably villainous Hackman.  David Morse (who I also like) is in this movie and also does not have a hell of a lot to do.  Oh, and JK Simmons: two minutes.

Now I’ve bitched a lot about this movie, but I didn’t hate it.  I saw this in the theaters and on re-review and I wasn’t pissed off at it.  As I said, some of the thriller elements are exciting, the acting is fine, and the overall direction is well done.  The finale, despite implausibility, is entertaining.  In fact, if you were to catch this movie on tv, I would think you would be pleasantly surprised.  This movie though is plagued by faults.  The morality is black and white and the plot gets ridiculous at a certain point.  So while I can’t quite slam the movie, I can’t quite recommend it either.  It’s just middle of the road for me.