Archive for the N Category

No Escape (1994) Martin Campbell

Posted in N on June 9, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $20 million

Gross: $15 million

Set in the future, Robbins (Ray Liotta) is sent to a super max prison which is an island in the middle of nowhere and the inmates fend for themselves. This is done after Robbins shoots his superior in the head. Robbins is a master escape artist and obviously has his sights set on leaving the island. Complications arise when he becomes entangled in the struggle between two groups on the island. There is one group (headed by Lance Henriksen) who tries to work together peacefully to make the best of their situation, and the other (headed by Stuart Wilson) is just out to murder and steal. Robbins has to decide whether his priorities come first, or whether he should help Henriksen’s tribe.

Yet another bomb I saw in theaters when I was a kid. I could sure pick em when I was a kid. I don’t know how I remembered to watch this again since I haven’t seen or heard ANYONE talk about this movie since. It certainly is an uncharacteristic movie for Ray Liotta. I can’t say I’ve seen too many ‘action scifi thrillers’ in the career of ol’ Ray. To my surprise though he actually does a pretty good job. I think the key is the fact for the longest time he plays more a dark anti hero. He is a violent man who you aren’t quite sure of his motivations. Even when he rejects working for Wilson’s character, it seems more out of frustration for dealing with such a clown than with any moral objections. It is only until later that you find out more about why he does what he does and what he wants.

I was actually liking No Escape for a good portion of it. I enjoyed the acting of Liotta (as mentioned before) as well as other good supporting character actors like Lance Henriksen, Ernie Hudson, and Ian McNeice. The action is well done overall and I enjoyed the plot. Robbins has to figure out how to escape the island (as well as the high tech security net which detects boats leaving) as well as keep himself safe from an island of criminals. Everything was going rather well…until we meet the main villain…

Stuart Wilson ruined this movie for me. Don’t know who Stuart Wilson is? He is the main bad guy from Lethal Weapon 3. Yeah, he sucked in that movie, and he sucks in this one too. Imagine how Wilson looked in LW3 except dressed almost exactly like Terl in Battlefield Earth (dreadlocks and all). My main problem is everyone else in this movie is actually trying to sell this as a serious movie and he is the only person chewing the scenery. And when I say ‘chewing the scenery’ I mean eating so much he will be crapping dry wall for a month. He is just prancing around with this shit eating grin on this face and delivering one liners so hammy Rodney Dangerfield would shake his head in shame. It is such a horrible tonal shift having Ray crying his eyes out in one scene, only to have Wilson jumping around in the next like some court jester. Consequently, there is also no tension in any of the battles between Liotta and Wilson’s character. It would mean a little more if you had an actor that could build on some menace and make us want him to get his comeuppance. But no, we recognize him for the utter buffoon that he is and I realize he can do nothing to harm our main protagonist. Well done, you single handedly killed this movie Wilson. *stands up and applauds *

Overall, No Escape is an…aiight movie. The setting is good, the plot is interesting, and most of the actors really try to sell it. But the main villain is so bad he had me wanting to turn the TV off every time he was on screen. Don’t get me wrong, this movie did have other minor problems. It’s not like if you got rid of him this would have been a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. But his role in this movie turns it from being maybe a cult B movie people should check out, to a missed opportunity.

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Newsies (1992) Kenny Ortega

Posted in N on March 27, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $15 million

Gross: nearly $3 million

Newsies is loosely based on a true…okay, stop. It’s bad when cliches are so repetitive even I think of adding a yada yada yada to my reviews. Suffice it to say, don’t come to this movie for historical information and let’s focus on the actual movie.

Newsies was an attempt to bring back the musical. Music was actually developed for a script which was a drama bout the newsies strike in 1899. Alan Menkin, who did music for Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, wrote the songs for the movie. Let’s also get out of the way the fact that the Dark Knight himself, little Christian Bale, is also in this movie. The story is about Jack Kelly (Bale) who is an experienced newsie who longs for a better life out in the west. He takes two new kids under his wing to teach about selling papers. Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall), in an attempt to earn more money, raises prices for the newsies to buy papers in order to distribute them. This puts an unfair strain on the newsies who go on strike. The movie was one of the lowest grossing live action movies Disney has done but I think has done much better on home video.

I remember seeing this as a kid when it first came out and really liking it. I remember though I was the oddball of the group I went with and my parents still couldn’t get over the initial premise of making a musical about a strike. I guess if you could tie a certain thing to the reason this failed, I suppose that could be it. This isn’t your typical princess love story or even inspirational sports movie. This is a movie about strikes which I’m sure still has sharply divided opinions [insert Glenn Beck/Fox News/Rush Limbaugh joke here].

This movie does have much in common with the Disney formula though. You have the poor protagonist who raises himself up to a higher status, you have cute kid characters to root for, and you have a David vs. Goliath type inspirational story. When you look at it like that, Newsies accomplishes what it does rather well. It is rather refreshing to have a new take on an old storytelling convention. I like the fact this sort of story has not been done in a musical before. You become attached to the kids and want to see they succeed in their efforts.

The cast does a very good job. Considering the majority of the cast are kids (when most times kids are the worst actors in a film) they actually found some good talent. The best performance of course, goes to Christian Bale. Even at that age, he is still capable of carrying almost every scene he is in. He does a great job. Musicals though, either win me or lose me, by the music (obviously) and in this case I really like the music. There are a few memorable numbers and the choreography by Ortega makes the musical scenes really fun.

There are some bad parts to it. For one I didn’t really like Duvall as Pulitzer. He hams it up too much in trying to make Pulizer this over the top Disney villain when it really didn’t warrant it. There are also a few scenes where they try to shoe horn some Ann-Margaret numbers in there but her character does not fit. She serves no real purpose in the movie and her character could be cut out completely with no problems to the story.

This is a movie I have rediscovered due to the blog. I had not really seen it since it was first release and I don’t know why I haven’t seen it sooner. I think Newsies is a solid musical many people will enjoy and it was an undeserving bomb. This is an underrated Disney movie (a rarity) that I think people should check out.

 

 

The Nutcracker in 3D (2010) Andrey Konchalovskiy

Posted in N on December 7, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $ 90 million

Gross so far: $65,000

Yeah, this movie isn’t out of theaters yet so I’m kind of jumping the gun. However I don’t really expect this movie to make over 179 million soon after this review. Call me a pessimist.

Why am I jumping the gun on a review like this. I’m sure you haven’t heard of this movie, cause I hadn’t. At least, you had not heard of this movie until you may have read some of the reviews for it. Reviews that say things like:

“From what dark night of the soul emerged the wretched idea for “The Nutcracker in 3D”? Who considered it even remotely a plausible idea for a movie?”

“One of the most misguided children’s films ever made.”

“One of the most wretched, misguided extravaganzas ever mounted on the big screen…”

With that kind of talk, I had to see what all the fuss was about. After all, it isn’t often you hear stuff like “abomination” and “travesty” without it being in regard to a Friedberg and Seltzer movie. I’ll admit my cultural ignorance and say I’ve never seen anything about the Nutcracker, but I don’t see how anything could suck that bad. No, that’s not right. I’ve been doing this for far too long to be that naive.

So this movie isn’t a ballet. Instead the writers change it up to be this strange dark fantasy movie. The movie is set in 1920’s Vienna and focuses on Mary (Elle Fanning). Her parents neglect her and she is lonely. On Christmas Eve her Uncle, Albert Einstein (Nathan Lane…and yes. THAT Albert Einstein) visits and brings her toys; among them a nutcracker. During the night, Mary is brought into the Nutcracker’s world where toys are brought to life and they are in a war with the Rat King (John Turturro).

This movie is weird. Like, Roberto Begnigni’s Pinocchio type weird. You know, the kind of wide awake nightmare that makes you wonder what exactly the director was smoking when he came up with some of the ideas in this movie. Why is Albert Einstein in this movie? Why is Nathan Lane in a Don King wig singing ‘The Theory of Relativity’ in a terrible accent? Why is there a Jamaican stereotype in The Nutcracker? Why are there rats with jet packs flying around? I have to admit, this movie surprised me. I can’t exactly show pictures of me watching this, but I think they can be summed up by the text emoticon o.O I was flat out befuddled by the odd crap I was seeing. I literally facepalmed seeing Nathan Lane in the most ridiculous goddamn wig I have ever seen.

But all this stuff is just stupid. I can deal with stupid. I don’t see anything really offensively stupi-oh shit they made the rats Nazis. Yup, they went there. The major conflict in this movie is the Rat King wiping out toys in his own concentration camps. I am not kidding. There is a toy concentration camp, where toys are being thrown into ovens. You can’t tell because of dry text but I seriously had to pause after typing that to marvel at the idiocy of that. Even Jerry Lewis had a last minute call of common sense to get him to realize The Day the Clown Cried was probably a bad idea.

Believe it or not, this movie gets even goofier. The cherry on top has to be John Turturro’s role in Nutcracker. I thought Transformers 2 was the low point in his career. Well, it turns out I was wrong yet again. Picture John with an Andy Warhol type wig, prosthetic rat teeth protruding out of his lips, and in full Nazi garb including the boots. Now picture all that, and imagine him tap dancing to Mariachi music while making little children cry. Frankly I’m stunned. I know actors do things for paychecks, but I have to wonder how much is enough to take some of this direction. “Yes John, glad you could make it on set. Now, your SS uniform is around the corner along with the rat teeth and platinum white shock wig. Now, in this scene you are going to be singing about your evil deeds to a jazz band in the background and it culminates in you killing a shark. No, I’m not kidding. John, this is my vision. I have been planning this movie for twenty years…stop laughing. Look, here is another pile of money. Just shut up and play the damn part.”

I suppose I should address the 3D part of this movie. It sucks. Okay I’ll go in a little more detail. They do absolutely nothing with it. Despite being made specifically for 3D, this feels like a 2D movie which had the 3D slapped on in post. There was nothing at all that necessitates you seeing this in 3D. The CGI is also shit. I will say I kind of liked the design of the Nutcracker character. It was actually kind of cute at times with its blocky features. That is probably the only nice thing I will say about the graphics. The rest of the CGI ranges from bad to god awful. The CGI used for the rat king is some of the worst CGI in movie history and I don’t throw that stuff around lightly.

The acting is over the top and hammy. Nathan Lane mugs in front of the camera every chance he gets and as mentioned before, John Turturro is downright embarrassing as the rat king. The only one that even gives a somewhat good performance is Elle Fanning. However her role is lousy and she isn’t given good stuff to work with.

The final thing I’ll mention are the songs. These are not anything from the Nutcracker. Sure, they are inspired somewhat by the Tchaikovsky ballet, but they are made new for this movie. None of them are memorable at all. They are all half ass clap trap about love and wonder and they are so bland I expect an apology from the actors after they are done singing.

Oh, I lied about the songs being the final thing. I have one last thing I remembered. For some odd reason Nathan Lane chooses to break the fourth wall despite no one else doing it ever again in the movie. Dear writers of The Nutcracker in 3D…fuck you.

Is this movie as bad as critics say it is? It’s pretty bad. I mean, at first you have a rather bad kids movie. But when you decide to thrown Nazi’s in your bad kids movie it does raise it that extra level. That being said, I’m not sure I can talk bad movie aficionados out of seeing this movie. After all, where else do you see a Planet of the Apes ape crush Nazi John Turturro’s head in between his thighs? Where do you see jet pack wearing rats driving motorcycles with Gatling guns on the front? Where do you see a shark killed with fluorescent lighting as a means of highlighting the Nazis plan to kill toy-kind? The festive holiday world of Nutcracker in 3D that’s where!

 

 

Nine (2009) Rob Marshall

Posted in N on May 18, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $80 million

Worldwide Gross $32 million

Nine is a Broadway remake (which I never heard of) of the Fellini film 8 ½.  We follow Guido (Daniel Day Lewis) as he is going into production on a new film.  The only problem is he has no idea what it is about and cannot get started.  In this time he reflects on the many women in his life.

Since I can’t think of a clever way to really start this review I just wanna fling myself on a tangent and ask something.  When the hell are they going to make the musical Les Miserables?  Why are we scraping around the barrel for minor Broadway hits when you have one of the most memorable musicals that no film director has ever done?  I would rather talk about this, then try to rack my brains describing why Nine is about as dull as watching the Weeping Meadow at half speed.  I take it back.  This movie is nowhere near as dull as the Weeping Meadow (that is a physical impossibility).  No this movie would rank maybe near Ghost in the Shell boring.  Yeah, I went there.

I suppose one of my big gripes is that it betrays the point of the original.  8 ½ is essentially a deeply personal portrait of Fellini’s own life and feelings.  Through his trademark circus veneer we see Fellini dealing with issues of high artistic expectations, mother issues, religious issues, and his fascinations with women in his life.  At the same time he has severe writers block and it could be argued his personal problems are feeding his work problems and vice versa.  It was genuine because it was the artist coming out and laying his heart out for the audience to see.  In Nine, we don’t get that feeling at all.  Instead, Guido’s problems are almost that of a silly sitcom.  Guido is like a cartoon character chasing after skirts and everything else seems to go to the back burner.  The movie feels like it is in a test pattern until about the hour and forty minute mark when we finally get our conflict.  Guido’s wife (played by Marion Cotillard) finally gets fed up with Guido’s childish sh*t and wants him to change.  The resolution of which is so sudden and forced I was literally thinking to myself “What!?  That’s it!?”

All this could be forgiven though if the songs were any good.  They aren’t.  I know I am not a big fan of musicals (although I liked Marshall’s Chicago) but there were only about two songs out of the bunch that were any good.  Marion Cotillard absolutely steals the show with one single number.  It woke me up out of my boredom induced coma and wonder where the f*ck the rest of the intensity was in this movie.  Seriously, if you just wanna see that song on YouTube and screw the rest of the movie, by all means.  The majority of the songs sound like typical Broadway doodling that might as well be white noise.  Fergie does alright with “Be Italian” but the song context wise is so forced it is almost painful to watch.  It just doesn’t fit in the narrative.  And for a movie about showing love of Italian cinema, it does seem a bit odd that all the songs are done on a theatrical stage.  It almost seems like Marshall loved the Broadway production so much he didn’t want to change the look of it for the screen.

The actors have nothing to do here.  Yeah you have a star studded cast, but the women have so little time they don’t have a chance of developing any kind of character.  They are simply window dressing.  That’s not the worst thing in the world.  I mean, you see pretty much all of them in their underwear (except Judi Dench thank god).  But it is a shame that you essentially waste all that talent just for some eye candy.  I love Daniel Day Lewis, but he contributes nothing to the film.  Maybe the blame has to fall once again on the writing though because I can’t imagine anyone making this role work.

Now I am no snob touting 8 ½ as movie perfection and I am actually pretty accepting of remakes (or reboots as it is apt to say nowadays).  I personally didn’t enjoy 8 ½ as much as the majority of its fans do.  I just really don’t see the point of this movie.  It seems tailor made to not appeal to any audience.  Fans of 8 ½ won’t want to sit through a lousy attempt at a Hollywood cash in, and most of the mainstream have no idea what 8 ½ or even Nine is so they aren’t that enthusiastic to see it in theaters.  It works as a kind of niche attraction on Broadway, but it certainly doesn’t have national appeal.  But even overlooking all that Nine is just not a good musical.  The writing is dull, the acting is non-existent, and the songs are generic crap.  There really is nothing impressive about this movie and no reason to check this out.  Chalk up another bomb for the Weinstein Company.

Nothing But Trouble (1991) Dan Aykroyd

Posted in N on April 7, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $40 million
Worldwide Gross: $8 million
Subsequent Earnings: ???

Chevy, Chevy, Chevy. It gets hard to defend you.  I love many of your movies.  Hell, I even love Fletch Lives.  But then you go and do things like the Chevy Chase Show, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Cops and Robbersons, The Karate Dog, and Caddyshack II.  And then you star in this.  This…this $%*&$% piece of dog$%&$!  Calm down Moses.  Breathe.  Okay.

This was Aykroyd’s vanity project, and after achieving success with the Blues Brothers, I’m sure he wanted to do something darker.  This movie is based on a bad experience Aykroyd had with a Sheriff once.  The movie is about a businessman and his friends who fall victim to a sadistic judge when he speeds through the small town of Valkenvania.  The cast looked very good with Chevy Chase, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, and Demi Moore.  Much of the budget went to creating the large mansion and the town of Valkenvania.  The film feels more like a horror movie, but with Chevy Chase making his usual snide remarks at everything.  You can tell Aykroyd was enjoying the fact he could be disgusting and crude.  But being crude doesn’t mean it’s funny.  I think that dark comedies are the hardest kind of comedy to do.  It is hard to be both edgy and dark and at the same time be hilarious.

The movie was seen by no one (maybe not even the Razzie committee) the only person to take home a Razzie was Aykroyd.  This movie hurt everyone’s career and while the movie can be found on DVD, I doubt many have seen it.

Is it any good?  There is nothing worse than a comedy that is not funny.  With movies like Plan 9, Bloodrayne, Waterworld, and On Deadly Ground, at least you can mock the film with friends.  But with unfunny comedies, what can you do?  Unfunny comedies are about as interesting as watching paint dry.  This movie may call itself a comedy, but I found no jokes.  There were things which resembled jokes, but they weren’t jokes.  I can see what Aykroyd was trying to do.  He was trying to make a Tim Burton-esque  type dark comedy.  But it’s not funny.  John Candy in a dress (while it sounds funny on paper) is just nasty.  Chevy’s usually funny remarks immediately fall flat when he says them.  I did not laugh once during this movie, and that’s hard to do.

Nomad: The Warrior (2007) Ivan Passer, Sergei Bodrov, Talgat Temenov

Posted in N on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $40 million
Gross: $79,000

First off, look at the goddamn DVD box cover.  Look familiar?  I wonder what movie they are trying to emulate with that box cover.  Hmmmmm 300?  Nah, that can’t be it.  My money is on Cinderella Man.  Now from a cover like this you may be expecting Z grade action exploitation trash.  But oddly enough this was probably the biggest Khazakhstan movie production and their entry into the 79th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Picture.  It wasn’t picked of course, because it sucked.  But this is just to illustrate the point this is not some cheap trashy movie.

The movie started production in 2004, but due to financial and weather problems was shut down halfway through.  The Weinstein Company (in their infinite wisdom) bought up the rights, added action scenes, completed the love story subplot, and also finished the English dub of the movie in 2006.  Critics panned the movie, especially the rather sh*tty subtitles present on the early release.

The story is set in 18th century Khazakstan.  Since the death of Genghis Khan, the tribes have scattered and have warred against one another.  One has become especially brutal and bloody.  There is a legend that a newborn will rise up, unite the tribes, and destroy the evil warlord.  The warlord tries to kill the newborn, but he is hidden away by a wise man until the time where he is needed most.

Is it any good?  To give Nomad just a smidge of credit, you do see the money on the screen.  There are some big army scenes and they do not use any CGI.  Some of the action scenes are fairly decent  You also get a musical score that is actually pretty good.  The biggest problem is with the story.  Does it sound familiar?  Exodus?  Star Wars?  Any one of a thousand of movies and books in between which Joseph Campbell would highlight as the Power of Myth.  This story is bland, it has been done a million times before, these directors don’t do anything new with it, and the “legend” undercuts all the tension in the movie.  Seriously, when you make this kid protected by God to be the Khazak version of the Kwisatz Haderach then where is the tension he will die or lose?  The acting from Kuno Becker (who was also a mythical God child in Goal! The Dream Begins) and Jay Hernandez is also bland.  Although it is nice to see Chairman Kaga from Iron Chef America (Mark Dacascos) kick some ass.  Allez Cuisine bitches!

There is nothing inspired about this movie though.  It is a stale and lifeless historical epic.  It is not horrible, but it is uninspired, average, and frankly dull.  Nothing stands out as new or good.  I do not recommend this movie at all.

New York, New York (1977) Martin Scorsese

Posted in N on January 27, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $14 million
Worldwide Gross: $13 million
Subsequent Earnings: $6 million

Believe me, this was a bigger disappointment than the numbers let on.  The movie was released two times theatrically so those are the combined numbers.

NY, NY was the first major production by Scorsese after his big success with Taxi Driver.  The movie is modeled after the style of 1940’s musicals and is both an homage and a critique of the genre.  The story is inspired by another 40’s musical about two musicians whose artistic ambitions get in the way of their relationship.  The story of NY, NY is about Jimmy (Robert DeNiro) who is a jazz sax player and Francine (Liza Minnelli) who is an accomplished singer.  They fall in love but they struggle to stay together when their own artistic endeavors pull them in different directions.  The movie was initially dismissed by critics and audiences.  The original intended cut was almost four hours but Scorsese but it got trimmed to two and a half hours.  The film was re-released in the 80’s to a better reception as critics were now understanding what he was aiming for.  But this was Scorsese’s first major flop.

I have watched this film twice back to back.  Once just with the movie and the second was with the director’s commentary to hear his thoughts on the movie.  I think New York, New York is an ambitious failure.  I understand what Scorsese was going for here.  You have two independent, artistic personalities.  They love each other, but they need their independence in order for their art to flourish.  That is the main conflict in this movie and it should be a very psychological drama.  The big misstep (and I hate to say it) is with the casting of Robert DeNiro.  DeNiro is a physically imposing character actor and he essentially plays Jimmy like Raging Bull with a saxophone.  This needs to be a drama with people psychologically tortured and a war of words and when you have Jimmy lording over Francine and physically assaulting her we lose focus of what’s really at stake here.  We immediately side with Francine on any argument because we are not going to take the side of an abusive asshole in any case.  Scorsese is the worlds biggest movie nerd and you can see the love of musicals pouring in every frame.  But he is just not the right person to tell this kind of story in this kind of movie.  Not everyone gets how to direct musicals it doesn’t matter how many you watch.  There is a difference between studying them and translating that same energy in your movie.  Its a shame because I almost recommend this movie, but I think there are problems really holding it back from being a really good movie.  I don’t recommend it unless you are a big Scorsese fan.