Archive for the I Category

Inchon (1981) Terrence Young

Posted in I on November 15, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $46 million

Domestic Gross: $5 million

When I first started doing this I had difficulty with some of the bigger ones due to the fact they were not given a proper release.  Some, like Hearts of Fire, I had to purchase my own VHS copy.  Some, like our film today,  I could not get at all. Thankfully someone transferred a television broadcast of this movie to YouTube and I had the pleasure of finally reviewing this movie.

Inchon was almost entirely funded by Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church.  Why make a movie about the battle of Inchon?  Well, it was apparently a choice between making a movie about Jesus or Elvis.  I’m not kidding.  Then a fortune teller advised Moon she spoke to MacArthur and he gave the personal go ahead for Inchon.  Still not kidding.  The end goal of Inchon was to be the start of a series of 10 or so movies about the Bible.  I’ve already stopped trying to grasp the logic of these people and I suggest you do the same if you want to avoid a headache.

Moon wanted Inchon to show a pivotal moment in South Korean history as well as show how Gen. MacArthur was a deeply spiritual man.  The production was an absolute debacle.  Moon wanted to keep his involvement a secret since the Unification Church is perceived as a giant cult.  All of the actors and crew were paid in cash, including Sir Lawrence Olivier who was paid $1 million in deposits of several briefcases full of dollar dollar bills.  Still not kidding.  Sets were destroyed by hurricanes, Olivier’s poor health meant some scenes had to be re-shot in other countries (costing millions), and there were several bouts of pure incompetence which pervaded the shoot.  The US military initially gave troops as extras, but when the cat was out of the bag about the Unification Church they pulled the troops out.  The producers struggled to find a distributor and when they did, the movie was savaged by critics and bombed at the box office.  When I say savaged by critics, I mean they not only call it the worst war movie of all time, but one of the worst movies of all time.  And when I say bombed, I mean adjusted for inflation they lost about $173 million dollars. (info by Wikipedia and IMDb)

So yeah, this one is big one.  But I am far enough away from the film’s production to give this movie a fair shake.  This is what I do after all; I cut through the irrelevant stuff and give my assessment independent of all that.  One final note before proceeding, I saw the TV cut which is about 140 minutes and not the 3 hour Cannes version which I think is lost forever.

I think I will start by saying this is nowhere near the worst movie I’ve seen or even the worst war movie I’ve seen.  Now part of that might be helped by the cut of the movie I’ve seen and how I’ve seen it.  I have heard the 3 hour cut had ludicrous scenes like a rumored scene where Jesus appears in a cloud to tell a pilot to bomb some North Koreans.  This is the edited television cut where some of the worst parts are on the cutting room floor.  I have also heard complaints that the special effects for the battle scenes are among the worst.  Now, keep in mind I saw Inchon on a YouTube transfer of a television copy on my tiny iPhone screen.  I could have been watching an Ed Wood movie and wouldn’t be able to see the strings so I will punt the ball on visual effects this time.

The plot is supposed to be primarily about MacArthur but it really follows three plots.  The first plot is about Maj. Hallsworth (Ben Gazzara).  He is having an affair with a Korean woman while his current wife Barbara (Jacqueline Bisset) is near the northern border buying furniture (I don’t get that either).  Hallsworth first is on a mission to get Barbara to safety and later in the film is leading a covert mission prior to the attack on Inchon.  The second plot is about Barbara as she tries to make her way south with five Korean children.  The third story is about MacArthur as he plans the attack.

I realize I said this was not among the worst movies ever but that certainly doesn’t make this movie good or even slightly less bad.  It really isn’t helped by the bad writing; both of the plot and the dialog.  One example is when MacArthur is told he will be commander of the armed forces in Korea.  He gets up from the dinner table and says matter of factly to his wife “Well, time for me to save the world again.“  It might not be so bad if we established MacArthur as having an ego the size of Jupiter or if he said that is some kind of joking tone, but it is said like he really is a superhero going to put on his tights.  Crap, now I put the image of 70-something year old Olivier in tights in my head.

Anyway, it doesn’t help that I don’t get to know any of these characters despite spending so much time with them.  Ben Gazzara is in this love triangle but he hardly spends any time with that problem.  Does he want to be with Barbara?  Does he want to be with the Korean woman?  I have no idea because we are given nothing to work with.  Ben Gazzara seems so bored with everything going on and he goes about his mission of finding Barbara with all the emotion of someone looking for a set of lost keys.  No screw that comparison.  At least with lost keys there is some tension the person won’t be able to go where he/she wants to go.  Ben Gazzara had a deeper love story for Jimmy in Road House then he does for either of these women.  That leads into the snoozefest which is Barbara’s story line.  Barbara takes five refugee children south to safety and encounters almost no resistance along the way.  Thank you for wasting a third of the movie on something so incredibly boring.

That leads to the befuddling plot involving MacArthur.  I say befuddling because it is an odd performance for an odd character.  This is a role that won Olivier a Razzie, but at the same time Olivier contends that is how the real MacArthur acted.  I am not so much concerned with the voice he used as how his character is portrayed.  I have perceived MacArthur much like Patton in that they are both larger than life figures.  MacArthur’s persona was probably such that he would say with a straight face he was out to save the world but in Inchon we see him as a feeble old man.  That is probably cause in real life Olivier was a sick man who could barely get on set.  But if that is the case you shouldn’t have hired him to begin with.  When he walks into a room, time should stop and he should be the focus of everyone’s attention.  Instead when he is in briefings he looks like he needs nurses on either side and all the generals are looking at each other as if to ask “Who let grandpa out of the nursing home?“  They try to throw in a line here and there about MacArthur questioning whether he still has what it takes in his old age, but it never amounts to anything.  MacArthur never goes through any struggles or challenges and we don’t see him really agonizing over this.

I am not going to forget to mention some of the other top billed actors despite the fact the writers seemed to forget them.  Richard Roundtree (Shaft) is in this movie and no he doesn’t do anything cool.  He drives a jeep for people.  That’s it.  He drives Ben Gazzara around and then Bisset and then Gazzara again.  Way to waste Shaft motherfuckers.  Toshiro Mifune is in this movie and this man absolutely cannot act in English.  It is simply a fact and he should not have been in this movie.  David Jansen is in this movie briefly simply to deliver a few lines about how badass MacArthur is and most of his scenes were cut out of the TV version.  Thanks again.

Now I can’t speak to the visual effects of the battle scenes but I can speak to how the battle scenes are done overall in the movie.  In the first half we aren’t really told what is going on in these battles and what is at stake.  So we are seeing footage of random tanks driving around and people running places followed up by explosions of things and random people dying.  I don’t know how the battles are going, what this battle means in the grand scheme, and again what the stakes are.

Believe me I could go on about this movie.  I could talk about how it is not historically accurate or how it only gives the pro American side of the conflict.  I could ramble more about how characters don’t have arcs or this story line leads nowhere and that is dumb but you get the point.  While this isn’t near the worst, this is still pretty awful.  I think that speaks more to the crap I’ve seen rather than the quality of this movie.  When all is said and done this movie bored me.  The dialog, while crap, is not bad enough to be laughably bad, the acting is phoned in/bad, the battle scenes are poorly done and uninteresting, the characters are dull, and nothing about the writing makes me care about anything.  I actually would have preferred if it was dumber because then I could recommend it in a ‘so bad its good‘ way.  Instead it is the kind of bad that bores you to tears.

Idlewild (2006) Bryan Barber

Posted in I on May 8, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $15 million

Worldwide Budget: $12 million

Idlewild is about a speakeasy in Idlewild during the Prohibition era.  Two lifelong friends, Rooster (Big Boi) and Percival (Andre Benjamin) work for the club: the former as the manager and the latter as the piano player.  Local gangster Trumpy (Terrence Howard) kills off the competition in town and owns all the connections for illegal booze.  Rooster now has to pay off the club as well as pay a heavy price for this new supply of booze or else Trumpy will come after him.

Probably the most important thing about a musical is, of course, the music.  Now I haven’t listened to much Outkast but of what I had heard I wasn’t a huge fan.  So I was a little surprised that the musical numbers were enjoyable.  I would even go as far as say the music and choreography are the best parts of the movie.  That being said, I still have to criticize some things.  For one, the songs do not serve the traditional musical role of advancing the plot or giving us insight into the characters thoughts.  Instead these feel like music videos thrown into a gangster movie.  While they are enjoyable, they serve no purpose at all.  My second criticism I’m not sure how much I am really going to harp on but what the heck.  This movie is set during the Prohibition where the music was jazz and yet all of the songs are either hip hop or rap (which weren’t around).  Now like I said, I am not sure how much this matters as other movies had anachronistic music and the music here is good.  But it is strange that you make a movie about an era and you don’t have that music ANYWHERE at all in the movie.  The final thing I will say about the music is I don’t think there was enough musical numbers given the length of the movie.  It was a little too few and far between.

The plot of the movie works alright (if a bit stock), but like much about this movie, there are things that make me scratch my head.  I get the impression Idlewild was sort of the Purple Rain for Andre 3000.  The music stems from Andre’s character and it is ultimately about finding love and finding his calling as a musician.  Seems straight forward, but in the movie it is almost like Percival is delagated to the role of subplot.  The majority of the movie is about Rooster managing the club and keeping the psycho Trumpy off his back.  We learn more about Rooster, we follow him as he tries to pay back the debt on the club, and the tension in the plot deals with Rooster being threatened by this mobster.  When the focus turns back to Percival you almost forget he should be a bigger part of the movie.  There isn’t much of a conflict compared to Rooster and you don’t feel as much depth as compared to Rooster.  Big Boi is a singer which is why he has a big role in the film, but he is not a singer in the movie which is why the time devoted to the characters is a bit confusing.  Trumpy’s is also a bit baffling as a character.  Rooster is a productive club owner who rakes in the cash for Trumpy but Trumpy gives Rooster unworkable demands and threatens to kill (for all we know as) one of his main sources of income.  This doesn’t make any sense at all as Trumpy is seemingly the worst businessman/gangster ever.  I’m just saying I would prefer a conflict with a little more depth than the bad guy is batshit crazy.

I’m kind of surprised that the most annoying thing about this movie is the direction.  It really says something when directing calls enough attention to itself to be called annoying.  The director tries to be flashy and cool but it comes off as distracting and confusing.  I’ll give you some examples of what I mean.  Rooster has a hip flask which he drinks from that has a rooster printed on it.  When he drinks the Rooster comes alive (in cartoon form) and says something ala Skids and Mudflaps in Transformers 2.  Why?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if Rooster is insane or if there was some hallucinogen in the whiskey but all I know is I audibly said “What the fuck?“ when it happened.  When Percival is writing music, the notes become stick figures and dance and laugh.  Why?  Does it look like I know?  And the thing is these aren’t some isolated examples.  It seems like every few minutes there is something that is so confusing and nonsensical (although the director probably believes its brilliant) that pops up on the screen.  The movie will rewind and fast forward with little record scratch sound effects put on the soundtrack, some random CGI will pop in (like a Matrix gun fight), or some cartoon voice or sound effect will pop in.  Sure enough every couple minutes you will be frustratingly exclaiming “Why?“ and getting no response from your television.

Idlewild is a mixed bag of a movie.  The acting is fine (especially from Paula Patton and Terrence Howard), the story works, and the music is actually fun.  For all those good things, there are an equal number of questionable or annoying things about the direction and choices with the movie. Overall I enjoyed it although it is frustrating because it actually could have been really great.  I would give a recommendation if you were ever interested in it but for everyone else I think the flaws drag it down from a must see to a maybe see if you are bored.

Inside Out (2011) Artie Mandelberg

Posted in I on February 23, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $2 million

Gross: Unknown on exact figures

We return with our old friends WWE Films.  Now I actually don’t go into these automatically disposed to hating them (well, most of them I suppose).  In fact the last one I reviewed (That’s What I Am) was good.  Well, maybe not good but decent.  Well, it didn’t make me want to kill myself like The Chaparone.  Anyway…

The point is I’m not opposed to Vince McMahon getting into the movie business but I suppose I’m befuddled as to what his goals are.  Keep in mind, this is a person who runs a professional wrestling organization who has deluded himself into thinking he is running a “sports entertainment industry“.  McMahon seemingly wants to plug his pro wrestling product without actually acknowledging he does pro wrestling.  Inside Out is a perfect example of this schitzophrenic thinking that is going on here.  Inside Out is a “psyhological thriller“ about an ex con who wants to live a clean life but is drawn in by his screw up violent friend.  To have a person who dresses as Conan and who’s gimmick is he spits water be anywhere near something labeled “psychological thriller“ is a recipe for disaster.  I must have said every time I review one of these films that I don’t mind having wrestlers in films so long as you play to their strengths.  See No Evil may have sucked donkey balls but that is not the fault of Kane.  I believed he could play a freakishly large psycho killer.  I recently saw Scorpion King 3 (which is not a WWE Film) which had Batista as an undead gladiator.  I have no problem with Dave Batista being a roided up sword swinging gladiator.  I do have a problem though when you get Triple H and put him in the Matt Damon role from Rounders.  You need to choose one Vince: either produce good independent movies with no ties to the WWE, or make Z grade action schlock starring your non-acting muscle heads. It’s one or the other here.

Now to be way more fair to Triple H than I probably should be, I will say his performance is not embarassing.  Working for so long in the WWE has taught him to deliver lines somewhat natually and to have a sliver of personality.  This performance ceratinly could have been worse.  However, that by no means is a statement that this is a good performance.  Whenever Levesque has to go beyond his limited range things do get a bit laughable.  There is a scene where Arlo‘s (HHH) friend Jack (Michael Rappaport) shoots someone right in front of him.  This is supposed to be a really dramatic scene because Arlo has been trying to stay clean and Jack has put him square in the middle of covering up a murder.  Arlo should be in complete shock yet the emotion on HHH’s face I can only describe is mild irritation.  I would expect the same kind of reaction if Jack were to spill his soda on Arlo’s jeans.  It never feels like Arlo’s life is spiraling out of control so much as it feels like he misplaced his keys and he has to beat morning traffic.

The wrtiers try to make a serious thriller, but there are some really questionable decisions.  Okay so the story is supposed to be that Arlo is trying to lead a clean life but Jack tragically lures him back in.  That’s all well and good but the way they write it is almost comedic.  Arlo is at a bar where Jack is shaking down someone who owes him money.  Jack pulls out a gun to scare the guy, Jack sneezes, and the gun goes off killing the man.  To quote another wrestler “Are you serious bro!?“  The movie also tries to be realistic and not have any action scenes or over the top stuff.  Yet for some reason there is this female mad bomber ninja who goes around kicking everyone’s ass.  I can’t believe I just had to type that.  You also have this extremely out of place fourth wall breakage by Jack’s character despite the fact this is Arlo’s story and they never do anything with it.  Really after the mad bombing ninja the fourth wall breaking narration doesn’t seem as bad.

Don’t let that all that stuff fool you though, this movie is boring.  The dialog is horribly flat, there is no action,  the story is uninteresting, and the entire movie is predictable from the box cover.  There is no intrigue, there is no reason to care, there is no reason to stay awake.  The whole movie is supposed to be driven by the fact we like Arlo and want to see him get out of trouble but he is so lifeless and dull.  All he does is lurch around the house grumbling about how prison sucked and makes pickles.  Yeah, that is the biggest character trait we are given about Arlo; he makes pickles.  I could talk more about the annoying performances by Parker Posey and Michael Rappaport or about the drab direction or any number of things but I don’t care anymore.  No one cares.  I don’t even think the actor’s families were polite enough to watch this for them.  This is a movie that has already been forgotten and rightfully so.  There is no reason for anyone tobother with this bland crap.

Immortals (Tarsem) 2011 SPOILERS!!!

Posted in I on November 16, 2011 by moviemoses

I REALLY wanted to like this movie.  You have no idea how much I wanted to like it.  There is so much on the surface of it that can be appealing.  For one, this movie does have a gorgeous art scheme.  If there is one thing you can depend on with Tarsem, it is that the movie will have good visuals.  You also have Mickey Rourke giving a badass performance as the lead villain.  Lastly, with a movie about gods and mortals in a war, you expect to have tons of great action in it.  Too bad the rest of the movie sucks ass.

What is my problem with the story?  It is that the story is entirely pointless.  Let me put it to you like this.  Let’s pretend our protagonists didn’t exist in this movie.  Let’s imagine they completely disappear at the beginning of the movie.  If that happened, it would not have any effect on the ultimate outcome of the movie.  The main villain has free reign to do whatever he wants and nothing would change.  I really don’t ask a lot of my movies but one thing I do ask is that you don’t waste my time.

I’m sorry if I harp on it but frankly I can’t believe it.  They build up the whole movie that our main character is the only hope and that he has to prevent the Titans from escaping.  In the end, he doesn’t prevent the Titans from escaping and the gods come down and end the entire conflict.  I suppose you could say he kills the main bad guy but so what?  Who’s to say the gods couldn’t have killed him too after he released the Titans from prison or when the mountain came down?  It’s like if Luke Skywalker failed to blow up the Death Star at the end of Star Wars, and then a big asteroid comes and crashes into it and destroying it.  You would be sitting there like “What the fuck dude!?“  I am also brushing past several plot inconsistencies and holes as the writers are seemingly making the rules up as they go along.

That leads me to my next failure that the characters are dull and uninteresting.  Theseus really has no character arc.  When we meet him he is a flawless fighter and when we leave things he is exactly the same.  He has no real struggles or challenges to overcome.  There is some crap thrown in about Theseus finding faith or needing faith but even that point is torpedoed when the gods come down and chat with him.  How exactly does one get faith when he is given clear and unambiguous evidence that gods exist?  Isn’t that…oh what’s that term…A CONTRADICTION!?  The only other characters of note are Stavros (Stephen Doriff), a character even the writers don’t find interesting enough to write for and Phaedra (Freida Pinto), who is only around so we can see her bare ass (not complaining about that mind you).

I wanna say this movie is all flash and no substance but I’m not even sure I can go that far.  I saw this movie with some friends with whom all they wanted was some dumb action movie ala 300 and they thought it blew ass too.  As I mentioned in the first paragraph there are some nice aspects to the movie but ultimately this was a dull experience.  I didn’t care at all about the characters, the plot was bad to say the very least, and the action was actually few and far between.  This movie pissed me off which is actually hard to do.  So yeah, if you didn’t get the hint already I don’t recommend the movie.  My only hope is the filmmakers don’t follow through on their threat at the end of the movie of a sequel.

The Informers (2009) Gregor Jordan

Posted in I on January 20, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $18 million
Gross: $300,000

Apparently L.A. in the 80’s was a pretty sleazy place.  I did not know that.

Informers is a slice of life film set in LA in the 80’s with many different plot threads.  One thread is about a boozer father taking his apathetic son to Hawaii.  Another is about a movie producer (Billy Bob Thorton) who is trying to stay with Kim Basinger’s character after sleeping around with Wynona Ryder’s reporter character.  Another thread is about a stereotypical drugged up Brit-pop singer who falls into the spiral of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.  There is another thread about Mickey Rourke and Brad Renfro kidnapping kids for some kind of sex trade.  And yet another is about a bunch of brooding 20 somethings doing drugs and moping about life having no meaning.

In short, all these characters are evil, unlikable fucktards who get shit on by life and by the end of the movie their lives are even more terrible.

I get what this movie is saying.  I really do.  These people live in absolute excess where they have all the power, sex, and drugs they could ever have.  Despite all that they are emotionally dead and money doesn’t buy happiness and they no longer have any moral compass and blah blah blah blah.  This story and its themes have been done to death.  American Psycho took a tired theme and did something completely new and interesting with it.  Movies like this are like the inbred third cousin of movies like L’Avventura.

This movie is dark and depressing and by the end is even more dark and depressing.  There is absolutely no wit or charm though and the messages is nothing new.  So not only am I depressed, but I’m bored on top of it.

There are some decent performances.  Brad Renfro (in his last film role before dying of an overdose) gives a great performance.  There is no story though, no story arc.  Most importantly though we are given no reason to care.  There is nothing to hold our interest throughout.

Hate to hammer this point through (like this movie did) but there is no reason to waste your time with this movie; it’s a thin message, endlessly restated.  Informers is a depressing movie with nothing to pique your interest.