Archive for the F Category

Funny People (2009) Judd Apatow

Posted in F on December 12, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $75 million

Worldwide Gross: $71 million

George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a comedian who has hit it big with his movie career.  When he discovers he has a terminal illness he reflects on how lonely he is and how unfulfilled he is in his career.  He goes back on the improv circuit and takes on Ira (Seth Rogen), a young green performer, as a protege.

Funny People isn’t really a movie about coping with an illness such as, say, 50/50 which came out this year.  Instead, the illness is merely a way to provide George with self-reflection.  While I don’t know how much of Apatow’s real feelings are a part of this movie, it is partly based on Sandler (whom he lived with early in their careers) and Rogen.  Funny People is seemingly a reflection of fame and the especially cutthroat comedy industry.  Fame itself is cutthroat, but there is something about the way characters in this movie (and potentially in Apatow’s own experience) act especially dog-eat-dog when it comes to being “funny people“.  No one thinks about collaborating with other comedians as they want to protect their jokes like diamonds.  Ira and his friends are on a small surface level, happy of each other’s success, but are incredibly bitter and resentful on the inside.  There are a lot of barbs thrown at one another which could be seen as playful ribbing, but to me it seems more malicious.

There is also this belief that great comedy comes from great tragedy.  So not only is George a loner because he is a greedy, self-obsessed a-hole, but almost because he has more of a desire to keep his comic edge.  I doubt if this was intended, but it is a strange feeling I got about George.  It seems like he is so obsessed about being funny that he subconciously sabotages everything meaningful for some good material.

Funny People took me a while to get to.  This was due to the rather ‘blah‘ reviews coupled with the long running time.  This is just my personal belief of course, but it is a rare comedy that can be great over two hours.  Comedies are at their best when they are streamlined and hit you with their best stuff.  It is hard to keep audiences on that high energy level as you have to with comedies.  Hell, I could go to a comedy show with all of my favorite comedians of all time and I would still get burned out at around the 100 minute mark.  There is only so much hilarity you can take in one sitting before you need to chill out.

Is Funny People one of those rare exceptions for me where it stays great during its 146 minute run time?  Sadly no.  I was actually really liking it through the first two acts before tiring out completely at the two hour mark.  The last act is about George trying to win back former lover Laura (Leslie Mann) from her husband Clarke (Eric Bana).  It is strange that I lauged quite a bit during this act and really liked the performances of Mann and Bana, but still felt this plot line could have been almost completely cut and would have helped the movie.  The romance feels like an afterthought as Laura really has no character or any development despite her screen time.  The point of it all is to show that George didn’t learn anything from his near death experience and is still a selfish ass.  That point really didn’t need to be stretched to over 30 minutes and shows that a few edits would have made this a great movie instead of a good one.

The acting is very good overall.  I have grown to loathe Adam Sandler comedies so I appreciate any time he doesn’t do one of his Happy Madison bowel movements.  He does a fine job although I will say there were times where he was struggling with the dramatic material.  He was asked to do a little too much at times and it comes off as really strained.  The rest of the supporting cast and Rogen in particular are really good though.

As I said before, I was enjoying Funny People quite a bit for a lot of the long running time.  Apatow is able to make these characters, who can act pretty dickish at times, charming and likable at others.  There were many funny moments as there was a good balance of written jokes and seemingly some good improv moments.  I also felt like there was some good depth to the movie with the dramatic elements.

That being said, the movie does lose a ton of steam as it keeps going on and on and on to its two hour and thirty minute end time.  The pacing is way too leisurely, some plot threads meander too much, and some are downright unnecessary.  Apatow does great with the comedy and has some good dramatic ideas, but he falters in actually executing them.  Funny People could have used a few more re-writes and a good editor to tighten everything up.  If you are a fan of Sandler’s usual type of comedy then I don’t think you will like it.  If you like Sandler’s more dramatic turns, then you may want to check it out.  Overall, it is good, but it could have been much better.

Flyboys (2006) Tony Bill

Posted in F on March 23, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $60 million

Worldwide Gross: $17 million

Flyboys is based on the true life story (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA) story of the Lafayette Escadrille. They were a group of American pilots who volunteered to fly for the French in World War I before the US entered the war. We follow a group of new recruits headed by Blaine Rawlings (James Franco) as they go through training and the early stages of the war. They are led by Capt. Thenault (Jean Reno) and are mentored by grizzy veteran Cassidy (Martin Henderson).

Yeah I’m not going to hammer the obvious point that you shouldn’t expect this to be some serious historical film about World War One aerial combat. Whenever you hear the words “Based on a true story” you should more think “six degrees of separation from the actual true story”. In this case, put all generic war stereotypes, add a sprinkle of Disney, and boil it in a WWI airplane flavor and you have Flyboys. This is another movie where all the characters should be named after their stereotype. So Hunky Protagonist is trying to be the ace of the squadron, but Grizzled Vet with a Heart of Gold keeps ragging on him. So Hunky becomes close friends with his fellow squad mates Burn Out, Dead Meat, Religious Stereotype, Sir Not Appearing in this Film, and Has no Dialog but is a Really Close Friend…Honest. Nothing about it is necessarily bad, but you can tell it is generic plot filler. It is actually quite funny when they try to tell what happened to the characters after the war and it doesn’t quite mesh with the tripe they fed us in the movie before. All during the movie we are given this romance between Blaine and a French girl and it is built up like they are destined to be together forever. And in the final text blurb they just throw out “and they never met again” hoping that we don’t notice.

The story also seems to lose focus of what it is trying to say. I saw the writers trying to push out the message that air combat was not some easy escape for people that didn’t want to serve in the trenches. This is not about magnificent men in their flying machines but a portable death trap. Cassidy is bitter because he knows the longer you fly the greater the chance is of you dying a horrible death (and your odds aren’t that good to start with). But it doesn’t help when for the most part our main characters do well and aren’t affected too much by the war around them.

Alright, enough bashing about the plot. We all know it is the bare essentials in order to move from one action scene to another. To the movie’s credit, I found the flying scenes to be the best part. The special effects were good and the scenes shot well enough that they put you in the middle of the dogfights. They were enjoyable although they certainly are not enough to recommend this movie to anyone.

The acting is pretty much bland all around. I won’t bash on Franco since I don’t think anyone could have made his material all that great. He tries his best, but it is just not a well written role. As much as I also like Jean Reno, you don’t see much of him either. You see him in about three scenes and none of them are memorable. The best actor and the person with the best role is Martin Henderson (who was in another bomb Battle in Seattle). I liked him in that movie and I found him charismatic in this movie as well. I kind of wish he would get out from box office bomb hell and get in a good movie. I say that, and looking at IMDb, I see I will probably be reviewing his latest bomb in Torque.

Overall, I can’t really hate on this movie. It is made competently enough with good action and alright acting. But the plot is so generic and there just isn’t anything special to make this movie stand out among all the other action movies out there. This will be a forgotten film (if it isn’t already) and justifiably so.

 

Firestorm (1998) Dean Semler

Posted in F on April 26, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $19 million

Gross: $8 million

Hey everyone, Howie Long’s performance in Broken Arrow was not embarrassing!  That clearly means he is the next big action star!  Let’s throw him immediately into a movie of his own.

Firestorm is about deranged killer Shaye (William Forsythe) who plans to escape from prison and collect his stolen millions by orchestrating a massive forest fire.  His plans are in jeopardy because of a fire jumper (Howie Long) who goes in alone to save people trapped by the fire.

As far as movies to start an actor off with, Firestorm isn’t the worst.  It is your standard Die Hard one against many plot.  It plays to the few strengths Long has and doesn’t ask him to strain himself too much acting wise.  He does a lot of semi stunt work like parachuting and zipping on lines and using several articles of firefighter equipment as weapons.  One thing that is amusing though, is the producers seemingly have a hard time making Long look like a badass.  Shaye has a gang of people that helped him escape and, like John McClane, Long’s character has to take on each member.  At least, that is how it is SUPPOSED to go.  In Firestorm, Shaye picks off members of his own gang one by one.  He does this so that he gets all the money and doesn’t have to split it.  Now while that idea makes sense from the greedy villain, it is absolutely moronic that you would do that while Long is still hassling you.  Couldn’t you, oh I don’t know, wait until he is dead and then kill your gang for the cash?  I mean to use Die Hard as an example again, what kind of a movie would it be if John just chilled out in the air ducts until Hans killed off his whole gang and then had a showdown with him?  It doesn’t really make John come off as a badass.  Prudent? Yes.  Badass? No.

The action scenes are pretty bland.  As I mentioned you have scenes where Long is parachuting around and driving around on a dirt bike.  But that stuff isn’t interesting.  Not even James Bond can make parachuting exciting.  There is just no danger to it and no way to make it exciting cinematically.

Howie Long isn’t terrible in this role, but he is not that good either.  You think his lunky meathead character in Broken Arrow was simply an act?  No, he’s really like that.  The movie tries to play him off as being knowledgeable but his delivery makes him sound like Dauber from Coach.  Then we get those moments where the movie tries to be funny.  How do I describe the humor?  It is like the humor from an episode from Walker Texas Ranger.  Enjoy as one of Long’s crew takes a test in Cosmo to see what kind of a lover he is.  Die of laughter when the resident Gomer Pyle has a running gag where he constantly drops his Polanski (or what we normal people call an ax).

This is a bad movie, but its one of those bad movies you can laugh at.  You have the terrible WAH WAH humor, the hilarious overacting from Forsythe, and some generally stupid moments.  My favorite has to be Shaye’s death though.  Long is escaping the legendary firestorm by flipping a boat over on a lake and living in the oxygen bubble until it blows over.  Shaye (after getting an ax buried in his chest) shoots a hole in the boat and springs up in typical slasher villain fashion.  Long grabs Shaye by the butt, forces Shaye’s head through the hole and he gets melted like that guy in Batman who was killed by Joker’s hand buzzer.

This certainly is an interesting film in the line of ‘athletes turned actors’ series but it is not agonizing.  I found myself chuckling a few times at the absurdity of the movie.  Not for everyone, but definitely a riffable movie.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) Hironobu Sakaguchi and Moto Sakakibara

Posted in F on April 7, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Costs: $137 million
Worldwide Gross: $85 million
Subsequent Earnings: $79 million

The Final Fantasy game series has always been the most popular RPG game series, especially after the seventh installment of the franchise.  It was only a matter of time before SquareEnix tried to branch out in other markets.  Square Pictures did not want to do a simple anime style picture.  They wanted to create something never before done: a computer animated movie with photo realistic CGI humans.  It was a gutsy call that ultimately didn’t pay off.  It ended up being the second biggest animated bomb of all time.  I guarantee you that you will not guess the all time #1 animated bomb.  I will make it another trivia question but I don’t think any of you will get it.

The movie was ambitious, but very difficult to actually make.  The movie took four years to make.  Sometimes single frames would take hours as people would have to hand animate backgrounds and CG render the human characters.  As soon as the final shots were completed, the earlier shots had to be re-done because they looked different.  The script was re-written over 50 times.  Square did hire big name actors to voice their characters; Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Donald Sutherland, and James Woods.  The story did not follow the usual Final Fantasy plots.  This one takes place in the future where a alien spirits invade and destroy everything in sight.  Dr. Aki must unlock the secrets of Gaia to stop the invasion.  Before the release of the film, the animation was being highly praised and many companies were talking about making films like this.  It was a different story when the movie was released.  The movie only made about $32 million in North America, bankrupting Square Pictures.  The critics who gave it bad reviews disliked it for the story and how wooden the animated characters looked.  Since then Square has only made one other movie (Final Flight of the Osiris).

Is it any good?  You know, I haven’t seen this film since it came out.  So I am not the best opinion on this.  But I thought it was alright when it came out.  The movie does look gorgeous.  If there was one thing I remember, it’s that I thought the story was weak: aliens hate how we hurt nature and we must love nature to stop evil.  The characters are two dimensional: James Woods (sneering evil guy), Aki Ross (goody two shoes).  But, like I said, it was alright.  I might check it out again to see if my opinion has changed.

From Justin to Kelly (2003) Robert Iscove

Posted in F on February 1, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $12 million

Domestic Gross: $5 million

I have sat in front of my word processor with a blank screen for I don’t know how long. From Justin to Kelly. Do you really think this had the potential to be any good? No! You want to me rant on the movie kind of like Glitter or The Sunchaser. But here’s the thing; this movie isn’t anything to get angry about. I am in no way saying this is good, but this movie also didn’t piss me off. I was just left in some kind of fugue state where I was conscious I was watching a piece of sh*t but I really didn’t think too hard about it. It’s just *shakes head* I still have no idea where to begin with this. I suppose I’ll talk about the plot of the movie.

You have several teens coming to Florida for spring break. From the boys side you have stereotypical nerd, frat guy, and Justin (Justin Guarini). Yeah, I know they technically have names but you will find yourself referring to their stereotype than there name since they have no personality of their own. On the female side you have token black girl, heartless backstabbing bitch, and Kelly (Kelly Clarkson). The girls are there to just have fun while the boys are apparently there for business. They run a kind of Girls Gone Wild enterprise and they also have a bit of a rep as playaz while on Spring Break. But will Justin go for Kelly when he discovers she does not hook up?

It may seem like this movie would be thin on plot (and it is) but where it lacks in any quality, they make up for in quantity. Every damn character gets a storyline on roughly the same screen time as Justin and Kelly. Nerd has a storyline about meeting an internet date, frat guy keeps getting into goofy shenanigans with a female cop, token has an affair with a bus boy at a local restaurant, and heartless bitch is a heartless bitch. It’s like the producers said “Let’s not kid ourselves here. We have two reality TV stars as our movie leads. Make sure you minimize the damage as much as possible. Just give them as little acting wise as possible and let them sing.”

I guess the word that best describes this movie as “childish”. This seems like a movie that appeals to kids below 10 years old. Cause really, that is how I describe every aspect of this movie. The characters are just stock one dimensional (hate to use this word again but) stereotypes. The nerd in this movie has a floppy hat with thick glasses (just white paste on the nose and a pocket protector away to complete the visual package) always talking about his internet connection and typical dorky things. Frat guy is always bumbling around and getting into trouble with a hottie female cop. Oh the wackiness! Oh BTW, I didn’t know exposing yourself in public was only a $75 dollar fine. Florida must be very accepting of sexual predators.

The plot is also very Three’s Company-ish where if any of the characters actually talk with one another, the “big misunderstanding” is completely resolved. You see, Justin gets Kelly’s phone number from Heartless Bitch (thinking it’s Kelly’s number). Justin thinks Kelly isn’t interested because HB is sending messages claiming to be Kelly and to be not interested and HB is telling Kelly that Justin is just out for the nookie.

What I love is there is a misunderstanding where Justin thinks some dude has the hots for Kelly so the guys get into a fight. How do they settle their differences? Fight? Guns at 20 paces? No they do competitive fan boats. The rules are they have to do five passes of one another and throw sandbags at each others hovercrafts. Whoever gets the most sandbags in the other’s craft is the winner (I don’t even want to know what happens if there is a tie). Couldn’t we just kick each others a**es? And this “action scene” makes the game of tractor chicken in Footloose seem like Bullitt.

Every five minutes or so a song breaks out and if it is not some bastardization of the Go Go’s “Vacation” or “That’s the Way I Like It” it is some generic crap about how they are so close yet so far and blah blah blah. If you offered me a $1000 bucks to remember or hum any of the songs I honestly couldn’t do it. They are all bubblegum crap that has a drum beat from a Casio keyboard. I just got so bored here. I mean, if it is not some generic plot crap, it is some generic music crap.

But I can’t complain about anything being offensive or just god awful. This is just crap. Boring crap. This is a lazy but safe cash it to quickly make some bank on the American Idol craze. But this is so dull it is not worth anyone’s time; not even really for mockery value.

Funny Games (2007) Michael Haneke

Posted in F on February 1, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $15 million
Gross: $1.5 million

Funny Games is a shot for shot remake of the original Funny Games by the original director.  When I say shot for shot I mean Gus Van Sant ain’t got sh*t on this shot for shot like Haneke does.   The movie follows an upper class family of Ann (Naomi Watts), George (Tim Roth), and their son Georgie.  Shortly after they arrive they are held hostage in their home by a pair of preppy looking killers.  The killers make a bet with the family they will be dead the next 12 hours.

Funny Games is an incredibly polarizing movie as is the case with most of Haneke’s work.  I’ve only seen three of his movies (Funny Games, The Piano Teacher, and Cache) but I seem to recall that all of those movies have that love it or hate it quality to them.  Funny Games is intended to be both a statement on the media’s portrayal of violence and a deconstruction of the horror genre.  Our two seemingly upper middle class killers fill the role of media killers by spouting out every excuse given by the media for their behavior: bad parenting, drug addiction, middle class ennui.  I’m surprised they also didn’t mention video game violence and rock music.  Although we are given screeching metal in the intro so who knows.

Haneke breaks several conventions of movies in order to deconstruct the genre.  Almost all the violence happens off screen denying the audience its thirst for blood.  There is also a scene where Naomi Watts is forced to strip for her killers to stay alive where they focus of the camera stays on her face.  Despite the disturbing nature of the scene (Watts stripping to save her child from being murdered) Haneke knows most people would watch the scene for pure titillation and denies the viewer that.  The killers break the fourth wall, also making the audience complicit in their murders.  Some have cited that as a reason to hate the movie, but I feel it does work as the killers are seemingly going further in their “games” only to pleasure us and our need for violence.

Another issue people have faulted the movie for is its slow pacing and long static shots.  I felt those shots were almost like that of Pasolini in Salo.  The camera is merely us being another observer in the room.  We are not meant to have an omniscient view or flashy techniques to spice up the tension.  The acts are shown right in front of us and we have to deal with it.

The last and probably biggest flaw people latch onto is the remote control scene.  [spoiler]There is a scene where Ann grabs a gun and shoots one of the killers.  The other killer grabs a remote control, rewinds the movie, and prevents his partner from being shot.  That, in many people’s views, are a big steaming pile of bullsh*t.  I however did not have a problem with it as Haneke makes it quite clear from the beginning he is f*cking with us.  So when he does this act by the end I do not feel betrayed.  Haneke wanted to give the audience a last glimmer of hope this movie would degenerate into another typical horror movie where the female protagonist goes all Ellen Ripley on her would be killers.  [/spoiler]

People really don’t seem to get what Haneke was trying to achieve with this movie.  Many of the reviews on IMDb and even Phelous of TGWTG make many of the rather dumb complaints that its “not bloody enough”, “the violence happens off screen”, “the victims deserved it”, and so on.  Now I can understand someone like Phelous not liking it, but to use those reasons makes you the same moronic sadistic dullard Haneke is preaching against in this movie.  I think he needed to be more thoughtful of his review instead of mugging for the camera with his own skits. But this isn’t about TGWTG.  The point is, this isn’t torture porn and you are not supposed to be entertained by mindless sadistic torture.

That’s not to say the movie isn’t critic proof.  Not at all.  You could make the argument Haneke failed in his message or failed in executing his message.  I will admit that at times I wish he learned the word subtlety.  Its one thing to make a brilliantly subtle movie that deconstructs a genre while at the same time entertains an audience.  Its quite another thing to essentially duct tape someone to a chair, pry their eyes open like Alex DeLarge, get out your soap box, and brow beat someone for an hour and a half.  At a point you just become preachy and didactic and people don’t like that.  Of course, I say he should be more subtle, but it appears reading many IMDb comments maybe he was still being too subtle for some of these crowds.  And I still don’t quite know why Haneke did a shot for shot remake for Americans.  Maybe he wanted to head off other directors before it turned into a PG-13 remake like Prom Night.  Haneke already kind of figured the movie would bomb.  He said somewhere that if the movie was a commercial success he knew he did something seriously wrong.

Overall I think the movie is fine.  I have now seen it twice essentially with the original and the remake.  Its good, not great.  It has its flaws but it entertained me overall.  Which one should you see?  I usually say the original but I really don’t see a problem going either way here.  This still is and always will be a polarizing film so I kind of hesitate to say anyone should see this.   I think if you read this review and kind of see where I’m coming from in my analysis then you should also appreciate it.  For everyone else its a boring pretentious mess.

The Four Feathers (2002) Shekhar Kapur

Posted in F on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $80 million
Worldwide Gross: about $20 million

The Four Feathers is based on a book of the same name which was printed in 1902.  Harry (Heath Ledger) resigns from the army when he discovers they are shipping out to fight rebels in the Sudan.  Harry cites personal reasons but his friends believe he is a coward.  The friends give Harry three feathers which are a public mark of cowardice.  Harry’s fiancée Ethne (Kate Hudson.  Ugh.) also pulls his man card and gives him another feather.  Harry decides to go to the Sudan covertly and help his comrades who fall into trouble.  At the same time, one of Harry’s comrades Jack (Wes Bentley) tries to court the young Ethne.  Oh, and because we need an African American actor to play Harry’s companion in Sudan, we have Djimon Hounsou.  Hounsou is great, but its a little ridiculous he is the only actor that can play “African” roles in the eyes of studios.

The movie was originally intended for three hours but somehow got in trouble for its anti-imperialist message directly after 9/11.  Studios pressured Kapur (Elizabeth) to cut the movie down to an unbelievable 2 hour run time.  Sometimes real life events have a nasty knack of f*cking up perfectly good movies.  Funding for advertising was also cut which meant not many people knew about it.  The movie got alright reviews but was a bomb at the box office.

Is it any good?  I hate to dismiss this movie as simply good, but I have to.  I hate to say it because simply being “good” isn’t enough.  There are a million movies out there that are just “good” you could be watching.  Its better to be really awesome or really sh*tty than to be better than average.  I liked Four Feathers for what it was and I might actually watch it again down the road.  However its nothing to really write home about.  I guess if I had to cite a reason for why it isn’t great, I guess its because we aren’t really immersed in the movie world.  It kind of tries to go into Lawrence of Arabia territory but the editing is so quick that we never linger on the landscape or anything for any given period of time.  We are grabbed by the arm and led quickly from plot point to plot point.  Its like we are getting the Cliffs Notes version of the story “Oh, I’m a coward, have some feathers, crap now I have to be a man, cut to Sudan, my friends are in trouble, I save one (that’s one feather), another gets in trouble, I’ll save him…”  Four Feathers should be an epic portrayal of a man’s several year journey to redeem himself in the eyes of his friends.  Instead it seems like Ledger spend his summer vacation getting his friends out of some scrapes.

The acting, especially from Ledger and Bentley are extremely good.  Kate Hudson, well, she didn’t make me want to punch my tv so I guess that’s commendable.  The cast is also rounded out by many veteran Brit actors who play there roles like they’ve done it a million times before.  The music and the cinematography are all top notch.  I just think the editing killed this movie and unfortunately I don’t think the 3 hour version is available to compare.  Some may be disappointed its not a swashbuckling adventure and I will just say the story was never anything like that.  That doesn’t mean the story isn’t exciting and intense at times.  So as I said, overall the movie is just good.  I enjoyed it and would watch it again especially for the performances.  But could I necessarily recommend it to everyone else.  Ehhhh, not so much.