Archive for the L Category

The Last Stand (Kim Jee-woon) 2013

Posted in L on May 1, 2014 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $45 million
Worldwide Gross: $48 million

The Last Stand is about the leader of a drug cartel breaking out of federal custody and making his way to the Mexican border. The last stop in his path is a town with Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his inexperienced deputies.

Something that is only a problem for me is I usually watch these bombs on their opening weekend (cause I have no life) and it is only months later that I find out they bomb. By then I have to watch it again to refresh my memory to write a review. Again, this is only a problem for me (especially for the really bad movies) and I am essentially complaining to the open air.

Anyway, The Last Stand is the tale of two halves. The first half is so painfully dull I got so close to turning the movie off. You see, it takes nearly half the movie to get this ridiculous plot underway. We have to explain how the most notorious drug cartel leader in history escapes from federal custody, escapes road blocks, escapes helicopters, escapes every police agency and the military, and the ONLY person able to stop him is Arnold Schwarzenegger. A killer robot from the future is frankly more plausible after seeing the things the writers pull out of their collective asses. But the worst part is none of it is interesting. We know this is the dirty work of getting the plot underway and there is no chance of the bad guy getting stopped prior to getting to the town so we are just sitting as the movie goes through the motions.

It might ease the pain if the characters are interesting or if the dialog were fun but outside of Arnold, there is no one I care about. Forrest Whitaker has the thankless role of barking out feeble administrative lines like “Talk to me people!” or “Get so and so on the line!” or “I want this guy caught yesterday!” Every once and a while we check in on Arnold and he gives his usual cheesy line reads that make you wax nostalgic or laugh at Peter Stormare who I think is trying a Texan accent but if it is it is officially the worst attempt at an accent ever. But all of that is fleeting as we have to sit through another scene of tension-less driving from the bad buy or another scene of boring exposition about how an attack helicopter couldn’t blow this guy’s car off the road. I don’t care.

It is not until the halfway mark that we finally get our main characters in an action scene and I let out an enormous sigh of relief. The movie spent a long time establishing the climax and when it comes, it thankfully does not disappoint. The action is fun and Arnold does enough badass things to make you squee. There is a good dose of self-deprecating humor and all in all it is a well choreographed action scene. If it is one thing the director got right, it is how to effectively use Schwarzenegger in action at his age.

The Last Stand is solely for those who are Arnold fans yearning for his comeback. And even on those terms, your mileage varies. While I had a blast with the climax of the movie, it is incredibly hard to muck through the slow and uninteresting first half. Really, I want a Phantom Edit made which starts off in the second half and you can just open with a title card that explains “Bad guy has to escape through town to get to Mexico. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the sheriff of the town. Don’t ask about what the feds, military, or state police are doing because crappy writing. Enjoy.”

Lucky You (2007) Curtis Hanson

Posted in L on November 11, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $55 million

Worldwide Gross: $8 million

A very talented poker player Huck (Eric Bana) is trying to win the World Series of Poker. In the meantime he is trying to work out a relationship with Billie (Drew Barrymore) and his daddy issues with poker grand master L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall).

Yeah, this movie is generic schlock. As I was saying to friends after seeing the trailer, I would have bet good money Eric Bana would say “I’m all in…with my heart.” during the emotional climax of the movie. But in terms of exploitative chick flick schlock, you could do a lot worse than Lucky You. This movie was brought out to kind of cash in on the success of televised poker. While this movie has that poker flavor to it, don’t expect some serious take on the subject matter. These characters could be injected into any movie. We have Huck, who is the impulsive ‘Maverick’ of the poker world. And if he could only work out those pesky emotions could be the bestest poker player ever. Meanwhile we have L.C., who is cold and calculated (an Iceman as it were) and the person Huck has to beat to be Top Gun. You see what I mean? This could be about competitive Scrabble and you wouldn’t really change anything.

Most of this movie is carried by the actors. Eric Bana plays a gambler with a golden tongue who also has a serious addiction. He does a good job at being a charming guy but also a dick when he needs to be. And of course Duvall is comfortable as ever playing Robert Duvall. He earns his pay sitting at a poker table throwing out pieces of homespun wisdom about knowing when to hold them and fold them and whatnot. The script is also tailored to have the characters have fun with the material. The script offers no thrills and goes through familiar motions. You really can write the script out from seeing the trailer. But the fun is through the interaction of the characters and the script.

I was dreading seeing this film, but really it wasn’t that horrible. I can’t really defend the movie since it is generic and sappy at times. However the dialog is written well enough and the actors try their best to make it fresh and new (including a surprising cameo from Robert Downey Jr.). If you were forced to watch this movie on date night, it would be an alright experience. Sadly there isn’t anything to recommend people go out and rent this movie. This is an utterly forgettable follow up for Hansen, who directed one of my favorite movies in L.A. Confidential.

Lifeforce (1985) Tobe Hooper

Posted in L on October 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $25 million

Gross: $11 million

Lifeforce is about a space shuttle mission to Haley’s Comet in which the astronauts find a space craft hiding in the tail. In the ship they find the perfectly preserved bodies of one female and two males. On the way back to Earth, all of the crew member dies with the exception of Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback). The three bodies are actually a kind of intergalactic space vampire who sucks the life force out of people. The victims turn into zombies who also try to take people’s life force.

This feels like the most expensive B movie ever made. Everything about it screams “big budget sci fi thriller”; which the producers were really trying for. But when you actually describe what is in the movie, you wonder who this ever got past the initial pitch. It’s like Hooper was trying to make 10 different types of horror movies and smush them into one awesome package. Okay, at first we have this completely naked hot chick who sucks the lifeforce out of you (scifi vampire movie). But then let’s have zombies and a kind of plague theme (zombie/outbreak movie). But then this naked chick is really just a spirit who can take over people (shapeshifter/”Fallen” type/”The Thing” type scifi movie). But then the plague gets out of control and it turns into a kind of disaster movie. But we can’t forget the tits!

This kind of ‘throw it against the wall and see what sticks’ approach is what makes this movie bad but also awesomely bad at the same time. It’s like the Mad Libs of horror movies. Lifeforce wants to be an erotic horror movie and it is interesting to see how Species (being made ten years later) seemed to get it right. The set up is simple and only takes about ten minutes to explain to the audience. Lifeforce is so convoluted that even with a few minutes left, characters are still expelling exposition like diarrhea and I am repeatedly asking “Why?” to my television expecting some kind of reply. Now this could be because production was cut off (due to going past schedule) and there were big cuts to the running time, but I doubt it. This movie doesn’t make much sense and you really aren’t supposed to examine it that critically.

This movie is a guilty pleasure, if for the simple reason you are watching Mathilda May walk around naked for two thirds of it. When you are not looking at that, you are given your share of the funny and the bizarre. Let me put it to you like this. One of the most tension filled scenes is probably when the vampire entices Carlsen to kiss her while in Patrick Stewart’s body. Really, there is not much more I can say about that.

As I mentioned before the budget for this movie is impressive. A lot of work went into this movie. The effects for the zombies are great and the scope is large scale. And at times the plot about tracking the Space Girl is interesting enough on its own. However I will say this movie did start to drag for me after a little while. I think campy movies are best enjoyed at a brisk pace where all the crazy can be condensed in a tight package. At 2 hours, Lifeforce does tend to drag a little at certain points.

On the whole I enjoyed this movie. It is by no means supposed to be taken seriously. This is the very definition of ‘so bad it’s good’. While I would have liked for it to be a little shorter, there is more than enough to keep me entertained throughout.

The Limey (1999) Steven Soderbergh

Posted in L on June 22, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Costs: $9 million
Worldwide Gross: $4 million

An ex-con (Terence Stamp), fresh out of prison, goes to L.A. to try to learn who murdered his daughter. However, he quickly finds that he is completely out of place with no understanding of the culture he finds. His investigations are helped by another ex-con (Luis Guzman). Together they learn that his daughter had been having an affair with a record producer (Peter Fonda), who is presently having an affair with another young woman (Amelia Heinle). An aging actress (Lesley Ann Warren), who also knew his daughter, forces him to look at his own failures as a father. The movie does focus on the drama of the situation and the inter-relationships of the characters and seldom slips into an action piece.

This was a movie I highlighted in the first thread but didn’t really talk about. I got this movie cheap as a blind buy when I was first getting into movies and it has been a great investment.

The main reason for this movies utter badassery is because of Terrance Stamp. This whole movie is a loving character study of Stamp. The character in Limey is based on one of his iconic roles in the 60’s. Wilson is a career criminal who has lost most of his life in prison. He is a man who has missed out on most of his daughter’s life and now has no friends or family. But he also has a fierce intensity to him. Wilson would be just as likely to headbutt you and throw you off a cliff than talk his way out of a situation. It is a multi-layered performance that is probably my favorite of that year.

I kind of misrepresent this as just about Stamp. This brings in other icons of the 60’s such as Barry Newman (Vanishing Point) and Peter Fonda (Easy Rider). Fonda has a very interesting spin on his iconic character. He is someone who has become a corporate sell out and is capitalizing on the 60’s zeitgeist as they say in the movie. Fonda does a great job as a real smarmy coward.

The movie is a mystery but not in the traditional sense. We are not trying to find out who murdered Wilson’s daughter. We find that out pretty early. The mystery is about why she was murdered. It is through Wilson’s back story and flashbacks we learn several key plot points. The final reveal is something which is so subtle but takes you by surprise.

The direction by Soderbergh is solid. The narrative jumps around in time which works very well in revealing key plot points and parts of Wilson’s character. Limey has a great blend of mystery, humor, action, and interesting character development. This is one of Soderbergh’s best movies but does not get any attention. Check this movie out, if only for the wonderful performance by Stamp. You will not be disappointed.

Les Miserables (1998) Billie August

Posted in L on May 26, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: unable to fine accurate numbers

Gross: $14 million

Les Miserables is the story of Jean Valjean, a man who spent 20 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread.  He tries to change his life and be a good person but is relentlessly pursued by an Inspector Javert.  Javert is someone who is hopelessly convinced people can’t change and Jean is and will always be a criminal.

I actually fell in love with Les Mis in my teens. It wasn’t through the musical or any film adaptation, but with an old time radio adaptation by Orson Welles. That is a true testament to Welles’ power not just as an actor, but as someone who understood storytelling. This guy took a story which spanned over a 1000 pages and with voice actors only made an adaptation that was emotionally moving to me. I guess the point is when you see a two hour adaptation of an epic book, you tend to notice more the flaws with the storytelling.

Take for example the very beginning. We are supposed to follow Jean Valjean (in this movie played by Liam Neeson) through his epic fall and eventual redemption through the bishop. He steals a loaf of bread out of hunger and spends the next 20 years in prison. Prison breaks Jean both physically and mentally. When he is released he is nothing but an animal who doesn’t have many compunctions about stealing from the one person who showed him kindness on the outside. But the Bishop shows unbelievable mercy on this wretched beast and gives Jean a new outlook on life. The part where the Bishop explains how he has bought Jean’s soul should be a gut wrenching moment, as well as the very reason for Jean’s behavior the rest of the story. In the movie though, we immediately cut to Jean going to the Bishop’s house and the first line he says is  “I am a convict. My name is Jean Valjean.  I spent 19 years at hard labor.  On my passport I am identified as a thief.” Five minutes later we get him stealing the silver. It is almost unbelievable that a good chunk of the novel is just tossed away with a throwaway line of exposition.

In the second half we get a few more slip ups. (Caution spoilers) Marius is not the leader of the student movement, nor is the romance as hammy as its played up in the movie. Also Cosette is the embodiment of innocence, not a typical modern teen. She shouldn’t be giving hissy fits to Valjean, and Valjean should never EVER hit Cosette. Speaking of inconsistent Valjean actions, they change things up where Javert commits suicide in front of him. That makes no sense because Valjean has saved him several times before and would just save him again. Let’s not forget a surefire sign of Hollywood asshattery: the main character who is supposed to die lives. That’s right, Jean Valjean lives at the end of the movie.

Now I have been negative this entire review but I did like this movie. This is primarily due to the strong acting by Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush as Javert. Rush almost steals the show with his downright powerful performance. Uma Thurman actually does alright as Fantine, but the weak point is Claire Danes as Cosette. Part of this is explained by the poor writing for her, but Danes also does a bad job bringing her to life. The movie does try to stay true to the source material and the director does an alright job framing the action. This movie has gotten a following since its release and I can see why. This is an entertaining movie. The acting is superb, the running time is relatively brief, and despite my gripes isn’t that horrible of an adaptation of the source. I would recommend it to people interested in Les Mis. There are adaptations which are better including a 1934 version by Raymond Bernard but this is probably the most accessible to modern audiences. This is a good movie, but it could have been truly wonderful.

Land of the Lost (2009) Brad Silberling

Posted in L on February 10, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $100 million
Gross: $49 million

I really don’t like Will Ferrell.  He is the very definition of taking an idea and beating that dead horse till it’s a soft red mush on the ground.  Yeah, he was funny and fresh on SNL.  Anchorman is an incredibly funny movie.  But that’s when the charm and hilarity started to fade.  Talladega Nights, while still a little funny, was the marked moment where Ferrell jumped the shark as it were.  The joke suddenly began to be how many permutations of movies he could make on his screaming man-child formula by simply changing his clothes.  We started at screaming man-child as a weatherman, to man-child as a race car driver, to basketball player, to an elf, to a children’s soccer coach, to finally there were no more clothes and he’s just a loud man-child in Step Brothers.  I’m just waiting for the inevitable Quantum Leap solution and they turn Ferrell to a woman.  But that didn’t bother me none, I simply ignore the unfunny oaf much like I ignore Tyler Perry movies.  However, where Ferrell started simply ruining his own ideas he is now ruining other people’s good ideas in Land of the Lost.  Of course, we can make Ferrell a screaming man-child scientist!  Brilliant!

Now I’m not going to scream childhood rape on account of ruining Land of the Lost because frankly I don’t remember a single episode anymore.  It was lost in a muddle of children’s shows like Camp Candy and Beetlejuice: The Cartoon that I simply lost track of it.  However I will say that we did not need to torpedo a good movie idea in order to make yet another forgettable Ferrell comedy and to throw an unbelievable $100 million dollars at it.  I guess you could say part of the charm of the old show was how it worked despite the cheesy effects and if you going to make a parody you could make a parody of that.  But instead its Ferrell running around a green screen taking off his clothes…again.

The story (such as it is) has Ferrell as a scientist who somehow creates a machine that can jump people sideways through time and space.  Yeah, I don’t know I kinda zoned out when they tried to explain anything.  Anyway, Ferrell, his love interest, and a white cracker (played by a character actor who specializes in playing an annoying white cracker in every movie) get sucked through a time warp to the Land of the Lost.

Land of the Lost is, at its heart, a stoner comedy.  It features a constant barrage of sex, drug, munchy, and toilet humor that would have been worn out 20 years ago.  The film is a misfire because you really don’t expect a stoner comedy out of a show like Land of the Lost.  It’s like having an episode of Little House on the Prairie and having it be about mime rape.  Oh wait, there was an episode where one of the characters got raped by a mime.  Anyway, you get what I’m saying.  Now maybe (and that’s a big maybe) if you are big in to stoner humor, then maybe you will have a good laugh at this.  I’ll admit that stoner humor really isn’t my bag and it’s a select few of that genre that I think are genuinely funny.  But even then, I don’t think the writers do anything really new to stand out above other stoner movies.

The plot is almost non-existent.  In fact, we finish the movie at about the hour mark.  The characters then putz around doing nothing for another 10 minutes when it almost seems like the writers realized

“Shit! We can’t end this movie at 70 minutes!”

“Well, we already got our characters out of danger and just about wrapped up the main conflict”

“I know, but, damn!  Write some padding about them getting high for about 15 minutes.  Then we’ll have the bad guy come back one more time for a final FINAL fight.”

I will admit, I chucked a few times during this movie.  The rest of the movie though is a series of drawn out jokes that almost made me yearn for a season of Family Guy.  Most of the jokes you have already seen in the trailer so it is almost a waste of time.  Scratch that, the whole movie is a waste of time.  Normally, I would have ignored this, but because of the title (and of course the fact it bombed) I had to review it.  Just ignore it, and it will eventually be banished to the $1 bin where it will never be heard by anyone again.  One last thing:  Why Leonard Nimoy?  WHY?

Leonard Part 6 (1987) Paul Weiland

Posted in L on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: Unknown (trust me, it’s a bomb)
Worldwide Gross: about $5 million
Subsequent Earnings: $10 and a piece of lint

Bill Cosby was the man during the 80’s.  Between his earlier success with Fat Albert and his later success with the Cosby show, Cosby was one of the highest paid actors around.  But Cosby never really made it big on the big screen.  He was in movies (Hickey & Boggs, Mother, Jugs, and Speed, Uptown Saturday Night), but often he was the second or third banana to bigger stars of the time.  Now that he was an established star, Cosby wanted to make his mark on Hollywood.  Columbia was all too happy to oblige since they wanted to make money off of the massive popularity of Cosby.  Cosby originally wanted to write, produce, and direct Leonard, but because of his busy schedule, had to let others handle the writing and directing.

Leonard is supposed to be a parody of James Bond.  The story revolves around Leonard Parker, a former secret agent who quit when his wife left him seven years ago.  When an evil vegetarian discovers a way to control all the animals, Leonard is brought back to save the world. The “Part 6” is supposed to mean there were 5 other stories, but they were classified for security reasons.  I think they added that to spice the title up and, hey, if it’s successful we could make Leonard Part 1 through 5.

The movie was a disaster from start to finish.  Bill Cosby was very upset and let EVERYONE know about it.  He did not like how the movie was going.  He only stuck around because he was contractually obligated to stay.  The script was re-written many times and the humor was wildly inconsistent.  Looking at the movie, it makes you wonder what they were smoking, snorting, or shooting up in those meetings.  Okay, let’s have Cosby carry around a magic queen bee, let’s give him underarm rockets and have him ride an ostrich and have him dance like a ballerina.  Meanwhile, let’s have killer rainbow trout and vegetarian birdmen who have adverse reactions to beef.  Sheesh.

Cosby was contractually obligated to publicize the movie.  They didn’t say how he should publicize the movie.  He went to talk shows and told people that the movie was crap and that no one should watch it.  The public took Cosby’s advice as the movie only made $1 million its first weekend.  Cosby personally accepted the Razzies Leonard won and he also bought the tv rights to the movie so that the movie could not offend anyone’s eyes.  Classy.  What movies have Cosby done since?  Ghost Dad.  Yeah, we’ll just forget about that.

Is it any good?  I should have taken Cosby’s advice.  Absolutely horrid.  I think they were trying to do the same thing Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai was trying to do.  Leonard was a jack-of-all-trades (millionaire, restaurant owner, spy, commando, ballerina) and he faces extremely goofy situations.  But where Banzai was funny, this was painful.  I have said before that the length of a movie does not necessarily make a movie boring.  I have sat through the Extended Editions of LOTR no problem.  This movie was only 80 minutes long and it felt like years.  This movie makes baby Jesus cry.  Don’t see this.