Archive for the A Category

Another Woman (Woody Allen) 1988

Posted in A, Woody Allen Retrospective on May 17, 2012 by moviemoses

It’s time for a completely random comment about Woody Allen because that is how my swiss cheese brain operates.  If there is a thing I appreciate about Allen is that he does not needlessly fluff his movies.  It has become the standard that a movie has to be at least 90 minutes to justify a theatrical release but if Allen’s story only goes 80 minutes then that is what he gives you.  I gotta think that has to come from his experience as a stand up comedian.  Even in today’s case of a dramatic movie, I think he realizes what his audience will sit for and how much a certain concept will go.  This is strange coming from me because I can sit through some rather, shall we say, slow paced movies.  It is just a nice change to have someone who is confident and competent enough to know how much milage he can get out of an idea even when it is on the short side.

Another Woman is about Marion Post (Gina Rowlands) whom she says right off the bat that by all outward appearances she has a very good life.  Marion has a good job, good husband, and is very comfortable in her life in New York City.  Marion is writing a new book when she realizes she can hear through the walls of a neighboring psychiatrist and his troubled patient Hope (Mia Farrow).  Hope problems make Marion think about her life and how her happiness could be a lie.

I mentioned in my September review how it was a stock Woody Allen character film but it failed because the writing (the main focus of the film) was crappy by the standards I have grown accustomed to.  Another Woman is the Jeckyll to September’s Mr. Hyde.  Allen brings his A game as I was fully invested in this character study.  Marion’s life unravels, and this forces her into deep introspection.  We are given kind of interactive flashbacks where we see turning points in her relationships with family, friends, and lovers.

Despite the somber tone through much of the film, this is not a complete downer.  Marion does come through this with wisdom and a renewed outlook on life.  Once again I have to give credit to the writing which seems so much more relaxed than shoe horned as was the case in September.  Marion interacting with her past gives everything so much more freedom and Allen doesn’t confine himself (both physically and artistically) in one location.  Allen can bring up memories and points in conversation that wouldn’t have been easy to do with two people talking.  Of course the performances sell the movie and true to a Woody Allen movie they play well against type.  Gene Hackman is downright cuddly as Marion’s former lover and Gina Rowlands is low key but powerful as the controlled Marion.

This gets many comparisons to Bergman which isn’t out of line since Allen has tried copying him throughout his career.  However my point is this comes close and is endearing in its own way.  I had not seen this film prior to my retrospective so it was a surprise.  If you are a fan of Allen’s dramatic work, I think it would be worth your time to give this one a shot too.

American Reunion (Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg) 2012

Posted in A on April 11, 2012 by moviemoses

Before I start I just have a question; aren’t reunions kind of an outdated oncept nowadays?  Granted I lead a sheltered life and I don’t have many of the same experiences or I don’t have “friends“ but just hear me out.  I figured the appeal of reunions were to see people you haven’t seen in high school right?  Well, doesn’t the advent of things like Facebook utterly kill that notion now.  You don’t need to wait ten years or fly back to your home town or do anything extravagent.  You can contact (or stalk someone on their profile) whoever you want; whenever you want.  Just a thought.  Anyway…

Now I’ve had the “pleasure“ of seeing all the American Pie movies (exlcluding the DTV shite) for one reason or another.  Unlike most movie series, the American Pie movies to me never had a real rise or fall in quality.  Each one felt like generic/meh/amusing entertainment mainly because they were all the same movie.  There wasn’t really much experimentation with these films so I guess it wasn’t a huge shocker that Reunion feels like every other Pie movie before it.  The only thing that has changed is time and oddly enough, that made a difference in how I saw the humor.

You see the way I understood it, the sex humor of American Pie worked (for lack of a better term) because it was about inexperienced teens humiliating themselves in their quest to learn about sex.  Most of the kids in that movie never saw a boob so you got the awkwardness when Jim prematurely ejaculated or when Finch spent a night with Stiffler’s mom.  Sex is an embarassing and exciting subject at that age so it follows you have some goofy shenanigans that ensue.  When a person is 31 however, sex isn’t all that new or embarassing (at least for most and isn’t at all for some twenty something nerd who writes a blog about movies when he could be dating and I’m so lonely I’M SO LONELY I CAN’T STOP I CAN’T STOP!)  Okay, I’m better.  So Jim sees porn when Michelle isn’t around.  So what? So what if Stiffler’s mom is still on the prowl?  It is no longer this high school sex fantasy; it’s just dating.   It’s really hard to come up with raunchy sex humor for a bunch of grown up men who probably know it all now.  The big thing in this movie is that Jim has the opportunity to sleep with an 18 year old but Jim doesn’t want to cheat on Michelle.  You want to know the solution to your problem Jim?  JUST SAY FUCKING NO!  I’m sorry, I’m flying off the handle more than usual.  It’s just seeing Three’s Company humor kind of sends me in a rage lately.

Speaking of age being the enemy of this movie, I have a problem with the characters of this movie now.  You would figure in a movie like this it would be about the characters learning to let go of the past and becoming responsible adults.  You would think that, but it’s not really handled.  I mentioned in my Project X review that I believe what happens in high school means fuck all for who you are in the rest of your life.  In the case of this movie, all these characters peaked in high school and cannot get out of thinking about the “glory days“.  Of the times I had to stop and think about this movie, it got a tad depressing.  You are seeing a group of people in their 30’s who cannot stop living their high school memories.  It’s rather pathetic that these people haven’t done anything in the past 13 years they think is so much better than their pie fucking days.  Wow.

The plot is a mish mash of sub plots about the gigantic cast all doing something.  Stiffler has an uninteresting job, Jim and Michelle don’t have an interesting sex life, and Oz still has the problem of having no personality.  Seriously, it’s been four movies and Oz is still as interesting as a Senate hearing on CSPAN.  Everything works out as predictibly and as dull as ever with no major conflict or tension.

I swear I want to be fair to this movie.  Every once in a while this movie would remember to do something funny whether that ben letting Eugene Levy on set, having Stiffler do something stupid, or maybe the writers would wake up out of their coma every 5-10 minutes.  I will admit I laughed a few times during this movie and I never flat out hated it.  This isn’t a movie I would watch again nor would I recommend it.  I’m saying this movie didn’t piss me off and made me chuckle sporadically.  Take that for what its worth.

Act of Valor (Mike McCoy Scott Waugh) 2012

Posted in A on February 29, 2012 by moviemoses

I’m certainly not going to say the popular thing after hearing what my friends had to say about this movie, but it wouldn’t be the first time I suppose.  I wanted to save my full review because my feelings for this need a complete dissection.

Okay so I suppose I will tackle the elephant in the room and discuss the thing which made this movie notable in the first place.  The big selling point for this movie is they use real life active duty Navy SEALs in this movie as the main characters as opposed to actors.  I oppose this on a few grounds.  For one, I really don’t see why this movie *needs* real SEALs in it.  On a discussion on another board someone brought up the fact martial artists aren’t really actors but we kind of tolerate them in those roles.  I believe there is a difference though.  Martial artists are specially trained in a physical role that cannot be done by actors.  For example, I don’t think there are many (if any) that can do the physical stunt work and choreography that Jackie Chan can do.  However when we are talking about SEALs doing genuine SEAL stuff, we are talking about procedural minutae and not anything uniquely physical.  By that I mean, a SEAL would know how they hold their gun, how they engage a threat, how they clear a house etc.  You can have actors do the things a SEAL needs to do on screen (hiring them as off camera advisors) with the added bonus being they can actually act.

I bring this up because the acting in this movie is EMBARASSING.  I’m sure the people in this movie are nice and charasmatic people in real life but I let out audible groans every time one of them had to deliver a line.  What made things worse was it seemed they picked the person with the most robotic and unemotional line reads and gave him the narration for the movie.  There is no reason for SEALs to be in this movie other than it is a cheap gimmick to draw attention to the film.  This leads me to my second point about all this attention to detail.

I…DON’T…CARE.  I guess I am talking about me personally because all my other friends seem to get hung up on all this realism.  They scream at the screen when someone salutes wrong or an emblem is out of place or a real army guy wouldn’t do X, etc.  I don’t care.  To me the story and the characters and the message are what matters.  And I’m not being hypocritical either, I don’t care if my career is portrayed wrong on the screen (my career being movie reviewer of course).  It’s all just window dressing to me.  It doesn’t matter to me because it doesn’t matter to the plot.

I’m going to go off on a mini-tangent while we are on topic about the realism of the movie.  I’ve heard people note about how good the sounds of gun shots are becuase they used live ammunition on set.  All that means is the sound editor wasn’t doing his job before.  There is no reason why anyone should be firing live rounds on a movie set.  Period.

The plot for this movie is practically non-existent.  It is the bare minimum of getting SEALs to point A to shoot bad guy B.  In fact, I think it is less than minimum because there was a moment in the third act where the SEALs are shooting up an African village and I had no idea why they were there.  Now maybe I wouldn’t rail on this so much if this was any other bland actioner.  But there is something different when the filmmakers are flat out telling you this is a recuiting tool.  Yes, this is jingoistic, xenophobic, flag waiving piece of  military porn.  It is a touch hypocritical that in a movie touting the “realism“ banner that it uses cheap emotional cliches, stock plot devices, and paints everything in the most simplistic black and white way.  The SEALs are white hats all the way, not even using “enhanced interrogation“ which is approved but wouldn’t want to damage the image of the military.  Look, I am not talking shit about the military nor am I even making a statement about our current engagements over seas.  But the comments I heard coming out of this movie were about how this felt so much like a video game and how much fun it would be to join up.  I’m against the filmmakers basically fooling people into enlisting.  War is bloody, the politics are complex, and psychologically damaging to the people that endure it.  I respect the people that do that job but wish more people actually considered the consequences before they did (or before anyone even considers war).   Now that I’m off my soap box I’ll move on.

Despite all that, I could still get into this movie if the characters were at all interesting.  They aren’t.  This is one of the biggest cast of forgettable characters ever.  In the third act one of the team makes a noble jump on a grenade and I swear I didn’t know who that guy was.  I guessed he was the guy who’s wife was expecting simply because in a war movie if you have a baby on the way you’re dead meat.  Let me put it to you another way.  I didn’t know who was narrating my film.  Isn’t that sad?  I mean, I recognized the guy every once and a while by his robotic voice but isn’t it sad I don’t know who my main character of the film is?  It’s bad when you can only recognize people by the smallest of details, like one guy has a beard or another always has a toothpick in his mouth.

This movie is loaded with action, and I simply did not care because I did not care about any of the characters.  The one character’s death in the third act is supposed to be really emotional but I didn’t care because I still don’t even know this guy’s name.  I never felt any tension when these guys were on a mission.  I know a rebuttal will be “Well, these guys are SEALs.  There wouldn’t be any tension because they are that damn good.“  Yeah, I know.  But part of drama is overcoming adversity and even SEALs encounter adversity.  The writers were trying to impart some drama by the end by having the local police say something to the effect of “You are dealing with the cartels.  Prepare yourself for a fight you were never expecting“  But still they role into the compound like nothing is different and your reaction is just “whatever“.

I feel like I should say something positive.  Well some of the cinematography is inventive by having cameras on the helmets to give the impression you are part of the team (also the feeling you are in a video game).  Although the flip side is I thought at other times the plot scenes were shot too close and even partly out of focus (it MAY be the theater projector but I doubt it).  I won’t even go into all the cheesy as hell slow motion used in many of the dramatic scenes.  There are also plenty of action scenes in this movie.  This movie did entertain the party I went with.  However, this party was very much the movie’s target demographic and if you haven’t seen it by now you probably aren’t the movie’s target demographic (nor would they listen to anything I say).  If you aren’t sure or have been on the fence about seeing it then I wouldn’t bother.  At the very least I would say wait until it is on DVD.  The best I can say is that it is a forgettable action movie that can scratch some people’s patriotic military movie itch.  But once you strip away the gimmicks and artifices all you have is a bad exploitation movie.

The Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg) 2011

Posted in A on January 3, 2012 by moviemoses

There are a lot of comparisons with this movie and Tintin and Indiana Jones and it is easy to see why.  It is a lighthearted jetsetting treasure hunt movie set to the music of John Williams.  In fact, it seems like the adventure movie Spielberg wanted to make but got wrangled into with Indiana Jones 4.  The storyline was done, Harrison Ford was way too old, and Lucas was ever present with his dumb ideas.  Plus (and I’m not going to blame Lucas for this), Jones got too silly which was in contrast to the series we already came to know.

With Tintin, Spielberg is able to correct many of those problems.  The movie is about investigative reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy.  Tintin (Jamie Bell) finds an old model ship which has a part of a clue for hidden treasure.  Tintin finds continually drunk Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) who is part of the family of sailors who lost the treasure.  They are trying to find it before the evil Sakharine (Daniel Craig) does.

As I mentioned, many things which soured the Jones series was able to get corrected here.  For one, we have the teenage Tintin who has all the youtful exuberence that Ford was lacking.  This movie is family friendly, but it works here mostly because of the motion capture universe.  I don’t really feel into getting into the psychology of it all, but you are willing to go along more with stuff in an animated setting than you would with real people.  In Tintin, you don’t mind there is a super smart dog who practically has a telekinetic link with his master, you don’t mind a man powering a plane with his drunk belches, etc.  You do mind when Shia Lebeouf is swinging around on vines like freaking Tarzan.

The motion capture gives Spielberg freedom of camera movement and character movements.  There is one of the final action scenes in particular where the camera continually follows Tintin chasing Sakharine for the map.  Everything is happening from buildings collapsing, Snowy chasing map pieces, and characters zipping around everywhere.  It is great to look at and would have been impossible in live action.

The voice acting in this movie is very good.  Jamie Bell does a good job giving the rather blandly written Tintin a personality.  Andy Serkis does the best job as Haddock and steals the movie.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost also do a good job with the small roles they have.  The weakest performance has to go with Daniel Craig which is sad.  It’s not that he is bad, but compared to everyone else he is very bland.  With this kind of movie, you want a villain who can deliver more of a hammy performance like a Tim Curry.

My only real complaint is that you aren’t given much of a character of Tintin.  Now I know nothing about Tintin so I can’t make any comment about how well it translates or whatnot.  I am just talking about in terms of being exposed to this character for the first time.  We aren’t really told much about Tintin and why he is a special character.  It comes off more like anyone could fill this role of generic treasure hunter.  It seems like there will be sequels and hopefully in the second one we get more of a focus on Tintin’s background and his overall character.

This was a fun movie.  Personally I feel bad I saw War Horse first instead of this.  The characters are charming, the writing by Moffat and Wright is clever, and the action set pieces are well done.  It is, as I said before, more family oriented so I guess some could take issue it is too kiddy.  But I had a good time with this movie and would give it a recommendation.

Annie Hall (Woody Allen) 1977

Posted in A, Woody Allen Retrospective on September 12, 2011 by moviemoses

What can I really say about Annie Hall that probably hasn’t already been said? It encapsulates the very best of Allen and is an all time classic. This is the movie that beat out Star Wars at the Academy Awards for Best Picture (one of the few comedies to win Best Picture), and unlike Ordinary People beating Raging Bull, I don’t hear people bitching about that. I’m sure though I immediately damned myself to endless bitching now about how Star Wars was robbed but I’m not here to debate that. The point is Allen moved past being a great comedy writer to making a truly classic film.

Annie Hall is partially about Woody’s real life relationship (as many later works are pseudo autobiographical works) but it was always surprising to me how much they resonated with me. I’m not saying I’m like Woody’s character or that I have done anything in the movie but how the same feelings resonate. We go through the life and death of Alvy’s relationship with Annie Hall through all the good, bad, and all the weird moments in between. Even though I’ve never done the wacky things Alvy does, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel the same things he did during some of my relationships. For example, when Alvy and Annie break up (what they think is mutually) because they think there are greener pastures only for Alvy to practically immediately regret his decision. There is that broad sway of emotions to being excited around one another to being pissed off at all the little things. In the end you look back at the whole thing with a wistful perspective. I realize that my relationship would never have worked and memory has a way of making you diminish the bad parts while having you recall more fondly the good parts. In the end, you realize it was fun while it lasted, close that particular chapter in your life, and move onto the rest of your life.

Of course all that introspective crap is made hilarious by Woody’s great writing. Whether it is about couples arguing, or existential drama, or those petty everyday annoyances, Woody has a great gag about it. One of my favorite scenes is when he gets in an argument with someone in line at a theater and to prove the person has no idea what Marshal McLuhan was saying, he brings out the real person to tell him he is full of it. Recently I’m seeing someone who asked if I could come over and kill a spider to which I replied “Is it the size of a Buick?” and was met with a lengthy silence reserved only for those who make a reference which flies directly over the person’s head. Anyway…

If you need no other reason than it is funny, you should watch this movie. Allen was on top form as he delivers one liner after one liner; all that are memorable. Of course, how could I not mention Diane Keaton? She was in previous Allen movies and I always thought she was a great foil for Allen’s manic routine. Here she delivers a wonderful performance and is a truly memorable character.

I hope this review was alright but I always have trouble spelling out why a classic is great. I also hate further hyping up a classic as I know expectations can be a bitch. That being said, if you haven’t seen Annie Hall, just go out and do it. I don’t know how a Woody Allen fan (or even a non-fan) can go this long without at least checking it out. In addition to being extremely funny, it is also a sweet and thoughtful romantic comedy. Up next on the Woody retrospective is Interiors.

American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (Cedric Sundstrum 1989

Posted in A on April 11, 2011 by moviemoses

The American Ninja series was that odd series that like UPN would play for the weekend when they needed an action movie to fill some afternoon.  What’s odd is I saw American Ninja 5 first and I had never seen the first movie until about a year ago.  American Ninja 2 is just great.  You have genetically engineered ninjas fighting against an American Ninja.  It’s because he’s American is why he is so awesome.

The Ninja series also had an odd thing with the stars too.  In AN3 we get a new star David Bradley who plays Sean Davidson.  Then in 4 we get both Bradley and original star Michael Dudikoff teaming up.  Then in 5 we get David Bradley again, but here he plays Joe instead of Sean.  Huh???  Yeah, I’m going to need to see those movies again to see exactly what the hell they were thinking.

But anyway, let me explain the plot.  I realize this is an American Ninja movie so our expectations shouldn’t be high for a plot, but this plot sucks.  We have an evil general who is engineering a deadly disease he can sell off to terrorist groups to make a boatload of cash.  He has also hired ninjas for protection because apparently you can just rent them out like temp workers I guess.  How a Cuban general got in touch with the ninja I dunno, but let’s move on.  The general wants to test this new disease on our American Ninja because he believes he is the strongest man in the world.  What does that have to do with anything?  Well apparently the general is under the impression that physical strength means the same as the strength of your immunity and so if our American Ninja can’t karate kick off the ebola virus it should be strong enough for the general population.  I shit you not that is what he thinks.  I guess the cure for cancer is to lift more weights.  So the plan is to lure our ninja to a karate tournament, capture him, and subject him to the virus.

Well I guess the egg is on my face because the American Ninja actually cures himself of the deadly mutaba virus.  How?  Mind over matter.  Of course!  Tell that to all those stupid AIDS patients “It’s all in your heads dummies!”

The action scenes are sooooo slow.  I swear I see the ninjas punch and then hold their position so the actor can throw their counter punch/kick two seconds later.  They either drank a quart of NyQuil before fighting or they have the reaction speed of a box turtle.  I especially love when the female ninja tries to kick a ninja over the railing and the railing only breaks halfway so she has to kick him again.

This movie is kind of campy but not as much as the rest of the series.  Now I need to Netflix the rest of the series.

American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (Cedric Sundstrum) 1990

Posted in A on April 11, 2011 by moviemoses

So with American Ninja 4 we are reintroduced to Sean from AN3.  What’s odd is in the last movie he was just a Karate champion.  That’s it.  That’s all there was.  He was a Karate champion and that was all to his character.  In this movie he is some kind of international super spy working for the US Army and he has his own Dick Tracy watch to prove it.  Furthermore, Joe from the first two movies, was also apparently a super spy despite being told he was a lowly Army grease monkey in the motor pool.  I just can’t believe I know the continuity better than Sundstrum who has worked on 2-4.  Series sidekick Steve James is not present in this movie.  I don’t know if his not returning was due to a contract dispute or the fact he may have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (which was the cause of his death in 1993. RIP) but here we get saddled with a semi Urkel replacement.  Well, it’s like if Urkel went into his transformation machine and became a half soldier/half comic relief character.

The plot has Sean going in to stop some terrorist from getting his hands on a nuke.  This terrorist, of course, has somehow found the ninja temp agency in the local newspaper and that is the reason Sean is on the case.  Joe is embracing his own inner Rambo and has gone MIA with the Peace Corps.  These ninjas even capture Sean which draws Joe out of retirement to save his bacon.  It makes me wonder what the kind of backstage politics were going on at the American Ninja movies of all places.  David Bradley is a slightly better actor/performer than Dudikoff.  It seems though AN3 tanked though and they needed the original star to draw in the old fans.  Dudikoff was in the position to get paid more for doing only less than half of the movie.

Dudikoff gets some of the best kills though like in one instance where he catches an arrow with his teeth and stabs a guy in the neck (arrow still in his mouth) with it.  Brutal.  The action is choreographed much better than in 3 although that is a low bar.  The consistency of the ninjas are a little off too.  One minute they are literally dodging bullets, and the next they are waiting for punches from the slower Dudikoff.  We also get multicolored ninjas.  I’m starting to get Pierre Kirby flashbacks.

The bad guy is just surreal.  He is this smarmy Brit who is like some sadist and perv.  He is an equal opportunity molester of little boys and women (and has gone to the Torgo school of fondling).  He is soooo over the top too it’s so funny.  When a minion comes up to him stating he saw a priest in the camp (Joe in disguise) he says “YOU FOOL, I SHOT ALL THE PRIESTS AGES AGO!!!”  And because it’s an American Ninja movie, we have to have an offensive stereotype as our main villain.  Our main baddie is some Arab terrorist with no clear motivation and his only lines seem to be alternating between “DEATH TO THE INFIDELS!!!” and “PRAISE ALLAH!”  I’m surprised we couldn’t work in some gay bashing at the same time.  Well with our heroes in the Army I guess the policy is ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’.

The part where the plot goes off the deep end is when Joe decides his best way to save Sean is to side with some rebels in the mountains.  These rebels, I kid you not, are a bunch of rejects from the Mad Max movie complete with leather outfits and trashy cars with spikes on them.  When did this become Warrior of the Lost World?  And where exactly is this country with Arab terrorists, Japanese ninjas, and a multi-racial rebel force?  Oh, the country of California; of course.

This is a movie so stupid I enjoy it.  There is so much to bash and laugh at it is great.  A good riffing movie.  Now to complete the series.