Archive for the J Category

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) Bryan Singer

Posted in J on March 5, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $195 million

Gross so far: $40 million

Yes, like my John Carter review I am jumping the gun with calling this a bomb.  But coincidentally, seeing as how people are already likening this to the studio crippling disaster that was John Carter, I think I am safe in my prediction.

I think the lackluster opening is at least partially to blame by the trailer.  I don’t believe I am alone in seeing the trailer complete with shit CGI and being put off.  I’m pretty sure I made audible “Ugh” by the time it was over.  You may be thinking at this point I came into this movie expecting shit and got the same.  In reality, my expectations grew a bit with the reactions coming out of it.  Sure, Jack got a 50-something percent on Rottentomatoes but some reviewers were glowing over it and audience reactions have been more favorable than overall critical reception.  I wasn’t expecting a great movie, but an entertaining movie.

The question now being bandied about is “Did we REALLY have to make a $200 million dollar movie about Jack and the Beanstalk?”  Any movie can be done it is just a matter of how well its done.  If this was a fun childrens movie that was exciting and cleverly written people wouldn’t care what the subject matter was.  Last year we had a movie about Snow White but it was done well enough that sequels are now in production.  I think I have a more relevant question which I think relates to the quality of this film.

If you are going to make a movie that is 95% CGI and 5% real things like people, then why don’t you just make a completely CGI film?

I mean, what’s the point?  Do they really think they are fooling us this this Phantom Menace level CGI dreck?  Okay my question has turned into three but they all mean the same thing.  I don’t think anyone would have a problem if Jack the Giant Slayer were an animated film.  You can make Jack in whatever style you want and the success of the movie would depend on the content of the story and characters.  Instead I am constantly being taken out of the movie because I can’t stop thinking:

That’s a green screen.

That’s a green screen.

Jack is talking to a tennis ball.

Those characters are climbing up a 6 ft tall green thing in front of a green screen.

That character is pretending to ride a horse in front of a green screen.

I’ve never seen Ian McShane more embarrassed.

Now Ewan McGregor is talking to a tennis ball.

Now the princess is in a cage surrounded by a green screen.

And so on.  In an animated movie you can immerse yourself in the world.  But when you have real people in an animated world your suspension of disbelief is being shattered all the time and it makes it so difficult to ever get into it.  None of the action did anything for me cause all I saw in my brain was someone doing combat rolls in a completely green room dodging nothing.

However even looking beyond that there is not much for me to be interested in.  The whole movie has a been there, done that sort of feel to it.  All of the characters are stock and one dimensional: Jack wants to be a knight, Isabelle wants to marry for love instead of being a princess, etc.  Now I get these characters and story come from a simple fairy tale but the trick is to build on that.  Instead Jack is a void of charisma off the rescue the cinematic equivalent of Princess Peach.  I just didn’t care and the writers don’t give much more than the most basic of motivations.

The only person who injects any kind of personality into his character is Ewan McGregor doing a more flamboyant version of his Obi Wan.  It’s not great but compared to everyone else he is Errol Flynn.  Even Stanley Tucci, who usually revels in hamming it up for these bad movies, feels so boxed in by the lackluster writing.  You have to seriously question the writing when the height of humor is a fart joke.

This movie’s target audience probably are the same children that would listen to the original story.  The stock characters would be fresh to them, the simple story won’t challenge them, and the bodily humor is right up their alley.  I think the older you get the less mileage you will get out of it.  I thought the characters were bland and uninteresting, the plot is bare bones, and the effects will take you out of the movie constantly.  I didn’t hate this movie, I was just bored by it.

John Carter (2012) Andrew Stanton

Posted in J on March 15, 2012 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $250 million (plusadvertising budget)

Gross so far: $106 million

Yes I am jumping the gun quite a bit.  After all, I am writing off this movie after a whole week.  But with the rosiest of projections about the bloated production and ad budget, this movie will need at least 400 million to break even and at worst well over 500 million.  This movie will need a lot of help overseas to even break even.  However, if this movie does pull it out, I will retract this from the bomb list in a flash.  I have one final note for this before getting onto the main review.  I have not read any of the John Carter series so I do not know how faithful the movie is to the book.

I’ve tried several times to write something witty about how lifeless this movie is but John Carter has even warped away my enthusiasm for playful banter.  It tries to be a successor to the spectacle of Avatar but instead feels like other Disney dud Prince of Persia.  Both have a bland  leading man chasing after a bland love interest in a mediocre story set in an over CGI-d desert fighting a bald protagonist that might as well be Ben Kingsley.  You know it is bad when you are thinking of cheap exploitation movies that you would much rather be watching than this expensive pile of blah.  I could be watching Yor Hunter from the Future or even the Ator movies.

One thing I will mention as a reason (and I will give full credit to Spill.com where I heard it first) for why it feels so bland is because it hasn’t changed in the 100 or so years since it came out.  John Carter was the inspiration for most of the ideas for scifi that came after it.  But now in 2012 most of those innovative features have been played out or are commonplace.  It’s like if you came to me with a movie pitch saying “We have a movie where there is a cop who doesn’t play by the rules.“  My follow up would be “And?…“  Indiana Jones was a throwback to adventure serials of old, but Lucas changed them and they evolved into the product we now have.  I feel the same way about John Carter.  It is strange that all during this movie I was thinking about how much this reminded me of Flash Gordon.  Hell, even the climax where Carter busts up the marriage between the princess and the evil king reminded me of Flash flying a ship into the wedding of Ming the Merciless.  The audience must have thought I was weird singing Queen during the middle of the final battle.  I guess my point of this is Flash Gordon’s special thing was its sense of humor.  John Carter was seemingly lacking a good sense of humor during the film.  The movie is about a Civil War Captain becoming the Conan of Mars.  If you can’t have a tongue and cheek sense of humor about that you have no pulse.  Now I will say in a possible defense (again since I haven’t read it) is that John Carter may have a personality of its own that was watered down by Hollywood.  If the mangling of the Conan  books in the films are any indication, it is quite possible John Carter was watered down; kinda like when the Tang got low and you just added more water to replentish it but you just made slightly Tang flavored water.  Anyway…

This movie cost a lot of money obviously.  The problems being A:  this movie didn’t/shouldn’t be this expensive and B: you really aren’t impressed by the final result.  James Cameron usually has an excuse for why his movies are so goddamn expensive.  It is because he is trying to invent new technology or break new ground in special effects.  John Carter doesn’t seem to have that issue.  It is strange that at times this movie feels cheaply shot and at other times way too overdone with special effects.  Much of the time John Carter is just walking around the desert and it leads you to wonder where all the money went.  Then at other times the movie is so full to the brim with CGI it feels like a SW prequel.  Characters are clearly in front of a green screen where rather poorly rendered (at least for this day in age) CGI settings fly by and the action scenes feel like cartoons.  In fact, it makes me wonder why this movie wasn’t purely an animated film.  It would actually make the movie cheaper and it would give it an overall better look.  Technology still hasn’t reached the point to where you can seamlessly put together humans and completely CGI settings and supporting characters.  It still looks way too fakey and I feel they either needed to go all animated or cut out all the CGI aliens.  I can live without four armed aliens.  They are not necessary for my enjoyment of the story.  Just give me a look that works one way or the other.

The story is both too simple and at times too muddled for its own good.  For the most part John Carter is a simple adventure story with sword fights and princesses.  And then it seems like the writers lose their train of thought.  There are long stretches where I was very bored where I was wondering what Carter was up to and when we finally meet our villains their motivations are very convoluted and not clearly explained (or maybe they did and I was in too much of a funk to notice).  Once again, this wouldn’t be as bad if we had charismatic characters we cared about.  John Carter is mainly carried by its titular character but he simply doesn’t have the charm to keep our interest.  Now I’m not going to rag on Taylor Kitsch since there wasn’t a lot of material for him to work with.  John Carter is a stern character who doesn’t have much of a personality nor does he portray any strong emotions at all.  There are supporting characters to Carter such as the princess or the aforementioned four armed aliens, but none of them are given any depth or time to develop.  They are all flat, stock characters.

As you can tell this movie wasn’t for me.  While nothing about this movie flat out sucked, everything about it smothered me with boredom.  The characters were flat, the story was something I’ve seen a million times before, the acting was blah, the action was too cartoony (as well as few and far between), the writing was inconsistent, the pacing was off, and the direction was lackluster.  I was waiting the whole movie for something, anything to come along that was new or inventive or interesting or charming and it never came.  While some may get some enjoyment out of a stock adventure story that doesn’t really do anything wrong, John Carter was adull slog through an endless sandstorm.  Sandstorm…sandstoooooorm…

Jonah Hex (2010) Jimmy Hayward

Posted in J on December 21, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $47 million

Gross: $10 million

 

I’ll apologize in advance for the poor quality of this review. I had actually seen this movie a few months ago and for some reason I didn’t write a review for it. Maybe it made so little of an impression I forgot to do it after I saw it. But that being said, I won’t be able to really remember all that which happens in the movie as I would directly after seeing it (obviously).

Jonah Hex is based on a comic book of which I haven’t read. The movie is about a Hex, who’s wife and child were murdered by General Turnbull (John Malkovich). Hex was scarred and nearly killed which somehow gave him the ability to talk to the dead (don’t ask, cause they don’t explain). Hex is now a bounty hunter who is hired by President Grant to stop a plot to take over America by Turnbull using what appears to be Dragonballs.

I simply don’t know what happened to this movie. Apparently the original script by Neveldine/Taylor (writers of Crank) was quite good. Something must have scared the producers or something drastic happened because the movie was deformed worse than Hex’s face. There is no way in hell they would release a 73 minute movie in this day in age when even Yogi Bear (traditionally a five minute cartoon) is over 90 minutes. Yeah, you heard me right. This is barely over 73 minutes. I have read many reviews slamming this movie but frankly, I’m not sure how you can slam something which is so short. Like I mentioned earlier, I forgot to write a review immediately after seeing it.

There isn’t anything really god awful or crappy because we barely have a movie. We have barely enough to establish this anti-hero’s back story, set up the plot, establish some kind of a villain, and wrap things up. I could complain about a lot of things: Hex really isn’t given anything to work with, there are huge plot holes when it comes to his powers, his relationship with Lilah is completely glossed over, Turnbull is almost completely forgotten (which with Malkovich’s acting style is almost criminal), and the story is a watered down version of an even more watered down Crow remake. I could complain about all that, but somehow I feel all that would have been addressed in an original cut. I’m not saying it would have necessarily been good, but it would have been addressed. It feels like the movie should be 40 minutes longer and when you cut that much off, any movie will suck.

There’s not much I can say about the story. It is a basic revenge story. Very basic. Insultingly basic. There are times when the writers try to inject some personality by making it over the top; almost Wild Wild West-ish. This comes with the talking with the dead power, the dynamite crossbow, the gatling guns on Hex’s horse, and the odd Dragonballs/cannonballs which are Turnbull’s devastating new weapon. But as I mentioned, almost every instance of personality is cut out.

Brolin is alright as the title character, but I feel bad for the guy. I know the character has a deformed face, but it doesn’t do well to have your actor grunt all his lines through mashed teeth. I love Malkovich when he overacts but he has nothing to work with. He does absolutely nothing in this movie. A lot of people want to bash on Megan Fox in this movie but she is not the worst thing in this movie. I don’t even hate her in this movie. She just exists. Speaking of completely wasted I’ll finally mention Wes Bentley. American Beauty was a long, long time ago eh Wes?

This movie sucks but this isn’t exactly a movie I hated. Nothing was horrible or really laughably bad but it was horribly gutted. Although, I think even if the unedited cut came out, I don’t think this movie would be any good. It would be just plain bad. As it is on DVD, I would not recommend this movie to anyone. For fans of Hex this will most likely piss you off, for bad movie aficionados there is nothing hilariously bad, and for the general movie going public this is barely a movie. This is a skip all around.

 

Judge Dredd (1995) Danny Cannon

Posted in J on January 19, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $90+ million
Worldwide Gross: about $110 million

Yeah I know NC reviewed this movie which would give you a pretty good indication of what to expect.  I personally have not read much Dredd.  I bought a few books like Dredd vs. Death but haven’t quite gotten around to them yet.  However I’ll wager a guess the movie doesn’t quite follow the comics faithfully.  Juuuuuuuust guessing.  As much as I do enjoy the camp of some of these movies, I can’t feel a little bad for the writer of the source material Hollywood teabags.

Now the reason to watch this movie is the campy acting.  You don’t get just one person chewing the scenery, you get a whole cast doing it.  Stallone is always reliable as the beefcake who blurts out one liners.  The special boobie prize goes to Armand Assante as Rico.  His scene chewing is the stuff of legends.  Al Pacino called and he thinks he was overdoing it.

It can’t all be good though.  The worst part of this movie (as is with any movie he’s in) is Rob Schneider.  Good god is he unfunny.  When I think of the role he is trying to play, I think of Seann William Scott in the Rundown.  He starts off the same way, but I wanna say there is some catharsis to his annoying personality when he gets beat up and humiliated.  It makes us feel better when he gets his comeuppance.  And later on the movie Scott does tone down his performance somewhat.  Contrast that with Schneider who is bouncing around like a 5 year old on crack going “LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME!!!” from the beginning of the movie to the end.  There is nothing redeeming about his performance; he is needles in your ears and eyes painful.

Over all it’s a ‘so bad its good’ movie.  I break it out every once and a while.  Makes me want to see what the real Judge Dredd is like however it’s surprisingly difficult getting trade paperbacks of his comics.