Archive for the B Category

Bernie (Richard Linklater) 2011

Posted in B on October 22, 2012 by moviemoses

Bernie is based on the true life story about a small town Texas mortician who is known as Bernie (Jack Black) to everyone.  All the townspeople generally consider Bernie to be practically a saint.  He is kind and compassionate to everyone, he donates all his time and money to charity, and goes above and beyond in giving family the best funeral experience for their loved ones.  Bernie meets up with elderly widow Marjorie (Shirley MacLaine) who is generally considered by the townspeople to be the most bitter and hateful (but wealthy) person on the planet.  Eventually the bitterness is too much for nice Bernie who murders Marjorie and tries to hide the murder from the public.

Bernie is kind of like half mockumentary and half docudrama/comedy.  The mockumentary comes in with the story being broken up by talking head segments where the townspeople give their two cents on all the people involved, the trial, and general gossip.  The docudrama-ish part is actually seeing things unfold with Bernie, Marjorie and the subsequent murder trial.

Bernie is half an inspired movie which comes from the mockumentary angle.  I’m sorry to say that in this true crime story, the true crime isn’t all that interesting.  In this movie, the crime isn’t as important or as funny as everyone’s reactions to the crime.  Much of the satire is derived from these simple small town people trying to make sense and rationalize what is going on.  Some of them believe Bernie is railroaded because he is a living saint, and some believe anyone would have murdered Marjorie if they had to live with her.  It is funny to see the prosecutor (played by Matthew McConaughey) losing his mind as everyone in the town is praying for Bernie and asking if he could get probation for murder.  One of the funniest bits to me is when the fake interviewer asks if Bernie was gay and one woman responds by saying that Jesus too wore sandals all the time and hung out with men and if it didn’t make Jesus gay it was good enough for Bernie.  This crime blew the collective community’s mind and they are doing their best to make sense of it all.

The parts involving Bernie and Marjorie just aren’t as interesting despite the best efforts of all the good actors.  It is just that Linklater decides to play this rather straight instead of going full ahead into dark comedy territory.  All we have to entertain us is Black’s performance which is like a muted version of Zach Galifianikis‘ character in the Campaign.  In the end the murder of a rich woman in a small midwestern town ends up rather banal.  I would have preferred if Linklater had pushed the boundaries and made it a darker comedy about this patient loving saint brought to a murderous rage by the most annoying woman ever.

The best I can muster for Bernie is that it is an amusing movie.  It does not go far enough to be a funny movie but the faux documentary segments are the most entertaining part.  I saw this movie as a die hard Linklater fan and while this was an overall good movie, it is not good enough for me to recommend you go out and rent this.

The Bourne Legacy (Tony Gilroy) 2012

Posted in B on August 16, 2012 by moviemoses

My initial reaction to a movie pitch like this would be that it is a cheap Hollywood cash in to keep a franchise alive.  Which this is, but I was still somewhat looking forward to it.  It is directed by Tony Gilroy who wrote some of the previous installments and directed the excellent Michael Clayton.  True, he did then go onto direct Duplicity but I’m willing to chalk that up to sophomore slump.

Unlike The Bourne Legacy, I will get to the point rather quickly.  This film takes way too long to get to where it is going and where it ends up isn’t all that interesting.  The writers had two problems when they were drafting this movie.  First was how does Aaron fit into this universe (and the Bourne storyline) despite no one in any of the previous three movies even hinting at this program.  The explanation is long and drawn out and doesn’t even completely fit once you know everything.  And which seems like the easier solution to your problem: simply recast Bourne with Jeremy Renner, or spend forever during your movie explaining another super secret sect of the government that wants to chase another rogue agent that totally has to do with Bourne but doesn’t?

The second problem is what the hell do you have Aaron do in this movie?  I’m not really spoiling anything by saying the government tries to kill Aaron in the beginning and they think they do it.  The issue comes in when our protagonist really doesn’t care to get revenge.  All things considered he would be happy at being ghosted since he didn’t like being in the program at the time of the movie.  It is not until we are well over half way in the movie do we figure out what Aaron is going to do for this movie.  Yes, we know he wants these mysterious “pills“ but we are not explained why until that point and we therefore don’t care until that point.  See how unnecessarily complicated this is?  In the Bourne trilogy, Bourne had very clear goals outlined from the start whereas in Legacy we spend over half the time with the writers justifying why we should give a crap about not-Bourne Aaron.  Just make Renner Bourne already!

Keep in mind that during all of this there is hardly any action.  The other Bourne movies were able to cut quickly between the action scenes and the talky intrigue scenes and it all flowed smoothly.  Here it feels like we are trapped in a board meeting with Edward Norton followed by Renner and Weitz putzing around their respective work places.  Even the final action scene feels like Gilroy felt obligated to throw in an action scene for this since it’s a Bourne movie.  It seems like it is chucked in there at the last minute so fans wouldn’t be pissed at a non-action Bourne.

The only thing I can hope for is that now they got all the dirty business out of the way, if producers do decide to continue the series, they can just get on with it and deliver the action fans want.  I can’t say I hated this movie.  I like Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weitz and would like to see their characters return.  The action scenes, when they actually came, were fun of the time they lasted.  Everything else is just so flat and uninteresting.  The writing has to bend over backwards to both justify its existence in this universe and provide something for our protagonist to do and it gets bogged down in endless uninteresting exposition dumps.  I think anyone going in looking for the same action in the previous Bourne entries will be severely disappointed and should wait (if they haven’t gone already) for DVD.

Buffalo ’66 (Vincent Gallo) 1998

Posted in B on August 16, 2012 by moviemoses

Buffalo ’66 follows Billy (Gallo) as he is released from prison.  During his stay, he lied to his parents he was going away for a great job and had married a beautiful woman.  Upon his release and wanting to impress his parents, he kidnaps Layla (Christina Ricci) and has her play the part of his wife.  Along the way, Layla falls for Billy.

I think dark comedies are some of the hardest to accomplish in the whole genre of ‘comedy‘.  When a director attempts one I feel he is walking a very narrow tightrope.  Go even a little too far and you turn off your audience by being too dark and if you don’t go far enough then your comedy has no teeth.  And you need to have some deft comic writing for the audience to forgive a main character who is a violent kidnapper and to think Layla falling for her is anything but Stockholm syndrome.

I must be in the minority (most of the IMDb reviews are glowing) as I don’t think Gallo pulls that off at all.  I seriously wonder if I saw the same movie as everyone else becuase all the other reviews love this movie and praise the romance.  They will proclaim it as one of the few honest stories about romance.  They will say Gallo’s character is not perfect (unlike all those other fakey Hollywood romances) and Layla falls for an imperfect person which makes it all the more romantic.  I am fine with a story about imperfect people falling in love and will happily give those people recommendations for movies better than this.  My problem is we are given no reason at all for why Layla would find this person likable in the slightest.  When we meet him he is rude, angry, physically violent, a kidnapper, and socially awkward to everyone he comes across.  And the way he is presented, I don’t even see Layla being physically attracted to someone like Billy.  Layla will profess Billy is the nicest person she ever met but all we ever see is him being an asshole and talking down to her.

There are movies of emotionally cold people being romanced, and there are movies about jerks being turned around.  It helps to have someone who can play a funny dick like Bill Murray or James Spader (Secretary sprang to mind) and it helps to have any kind of redeeming quality for our protagonist.  But for 105 minutes he is an unfunny, unrelenting asshole and in the last five minutes turns on a dime to decide he won’t be an asshole anymore.  What the hell does Layla see in this person?

I don’t even have  a problem with the concept of the movie.  I think just about anything can be done comedically if done right.  The Ref is about a guy who kidnaps a dysfunctional family for Christmas and is starring another funny dick Denis Leary.  That’s a funny movie.  Maybe because I have Woody Allen on the brain from my retrospective that I thought this material would be fine in Allen’s early days.  I could totally see a Bananas type movie where Allen is so beat down by his domineering mother that the only way to impress her is to do this plan.  Woody Allen is unthreatening and clever though; Vincent Gallo looks and acts like a rapist.

It also doesn’t help that Layla is an underwritten and IMO an unbelievable character.  She has no backstory or character development because apparently she doesn’t matter.  And, as mentioned before, her only response to any kind of verbal abuse is something to the effect of “He is the nicest guy I ever met.“, or “He is so sweet and handsome“, or “I love him.“.  It is a smidge misogynistic we don’t have to know anything about her but she must be giving unconditional love at all times to her abusive kidnapper.

Most of this hinges on finding the writing or Vincent Gallo to be funny and I don’t think either pull the job off.  Gallo does a fine job directing as he keeps the visuals interesting but he just doesn’t not click with me as a comedic actor.  As I said before, you can have lovable jerks and losers, but with Gallo you have a pathetic jerk.  I know I haven’t mentioned everything in this movie like Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston, Ben Gazzara, or the subplot of Billy trying to murder a former Buffalo Bills kicker.  However, Gallo is the person that is supposed to carry the movie comedically, and when he fails, the whole movie ultimately fails.

Battleship (Peter Berg) 2012

Posted in B on May 28, 2012 by moviemoses

Before you think I was set from the beginning to hate this movie, I actually thought this concept had more milage than most other people.  Many of my friends were set on seeing this movie and believe me, it was not because they were yearning for some Michael Bay hand me down script.  Whenever they spoke about the movie it was always about the comic potential this movie had.  Everyone envisioned a stern faced Liam Neeson hunched over a computer table trying to use his particular set of skills to sink that tiny boat that only took up two spaces on the board and culminating in him saying in the most serious tone “They sunk my Battleship.“  They knew it was a stupid concept, I knew it was a stupid concept, and the filmmakers should have known it was a stupid concept.  This film should have had its tongue firmly planted in cheek but unfortunately Peter Berg took this thing far more seriously than it ever deserves.

There are times when this movie is so dumb it almost falls into that satirical category.  The best example is when our protagonist Alex (Taylor Kitch) enlists the help of a bunch of crusty veterans to run the only battleship left to fight the aliens all to a montage of ACDC’s Thunderstruck.  It is that overload of sheer ridiculousness that makes you laugh out loud and at the same time makes you regret the route the movie actually took the rest of the run time.  The majority of the movie are tedious effects sequences with no sense of tension or fun.  For example we get the destruction of Hong Kong and Hawaii which have little to do with anything and feel more like rejected carnage scenes from a Roland Emmerich movie rather than a Bay-ish action scene.  The ship combat scenes are boring as we have no investment in the characters and we are seeing nonstop CGI fly at the screen.  We finally get to the point where Berg actually does sit everyone down and plays a variation on the board game but instead of being a hilarious send up, it is as boring as seeing people actually play Battleship.  It is stupid that it does not fit the action movie set up by Berg, but not stupid enough to be the funny send up we want it to be.

We also get a bait and switch as to the actors we want in this movie and who we actually get.  This movie was sold on the star power of Liam Neeson and he is in the movie for about five minutes.  I actually really liked the performance by Alexander Skarsgard who made a compelling character out of the same shitty writing every other character had.  But guess what?  He leaves the movie very early too.  What we get is ever wooden Taylor Kitch and a supporting cast of non-actors.  So the acting we actually get is downright horrible.  Some of the line reads are absolutely embarassing.  It really doesn’t help that Kitch’s character is rather unlikable.  The writers hammer home the point he is a loser, so much so that his decisions kill many people.  The writers try to make Alex likable by going through adversity and changing, but by the time his actions have cost dozens of people their lives, it is a little too late for the audience.

What also kills this movie is the running time.  This would probably be a more fun and easy going experience if not for the fact I have to sit through 131 minutes of this crap.  I can handle bad, but when you drag out the pain for over two hours that’s when I become bitter.  This movie could have easily (EASILY!!!) cut to 90 minutes and you would not miss a thing.  That is how much pointless crap there is in this movie.

I think you know where I stand on this.  If there is one tiny thing I can give Michael Bay credit for, it is that he knows the ridiculousness of some of his movies and goes along with it.  The idea of oil drillers going up into space to nuke an asteroid is freaking moronoic but Bay just wants to have fun with it so you go along for the ride.  The idea of making a big budget summer blockbuster based on a board game with no plot is equally as stupid and Berg should have had the same attitude in reveling in the stupidity.  Instead we get a movie that comes off without any charm or sense of humor and painfully crawls through its over two hour running time.  There are moments where the stupidity is too much and you can’t help but laugh, but there are not enough of those moments for me to endorse this as a ‘so bad its good movie‘.

Blubberella (Uwe Boll) 2011

Posted in B on May 22, 2012 by moviemoses

The short lesson you need to learn about Boll is that not everything he makes is comedy gold.  Not everything Boll churns out is the same cheesy consistency as Bloodrayne or Alone in the Dark or In the Name of the King.  When Boll actually “tries“ with a movie things are actually worse.  I have seen movies like Seed, Stoic, 1968 Tunnel Rats, Attack on Darfour and they don’t even have the benefit of being so bad it’s good.  Those movies just sit on your head for two hours.  But you know what’s worse than Boll trying to be serious?  What’s worse is when Boll is trying to be funny.

Where Tunnel Rats will sit on your head, stuff like Postal and Blubberella will sit on your head and shit on your face.  There is nothing worse than a comedy that isn’t funny.  Remember House of the Dead The Funny Version?  It was basically House of the Dead with stupid comments and effects put on the screen.  Blubberella is like what happens if you took a Rifftrax commentary of Bloodrayne The Third Reich and actually filmed a new movie.

Blubberella uses the same sets, the same action scenes, the same actors (with the exception of Blubberella), and the same basic story as Bloodrayne 3.  These films don’t just feel like they were filmed around the same time, it feels like Natassia Malthe finished her scene and they immediatly did “the funny take“ for Blubberella.  Most of the “funny“ comes from the fact Blubberella is fat.  Har har har.  Despite being a vampire, in most scenes we see her eating cotton candy, meat, etc.  I know, I am pointing out plot holes in Blubberella.  I will just slap myself for that right now.

Let me give you an example of humor that is not fat related or homophobic (there is a limp wristed lisping gay stereotype named Vag).  The scientist is explaining what a vampire is and he says something to the effect of: “This creature is an unbelievable discovery.  The only things that can kill it are a stake through the heart, sunlight…or making him watch the Rocky sequels!“  Really?  That’s the best line you can come up with?  The answer is yes, that is the best he can come up with.  Bloodrayne is being riffed on by the unfunniest man on the planet.

Scene after scene rolls on and with every attempt at humor I let out an audible groan.  I’m glad no one else was with me because I’m sure they would kick my ass for the number of times I let out either a groan or an exasperated sigh.  That’s just what this movie makes me do.  Blubberella goes on a Jewish dating website (in 1942 Germany for some reason).  Why?  I don’t know.  There is no punchline to this joke.  I guess it is just funny that a vampire would use a Jewish dating website.  Sigh.  Let’s have Blubberella do a Precious spoof.  Why?  I don’t know.  I’m sure it has a ton of relavance in a spoof vampire movie.

Like I really need to say this but I will anyway.  Don’t watch this movie.  I’ve been to funerals with more humor than this movie.  And if you are not into this movie for the humor, then there isn’t any other reason to watch.  There are no fun performances, there is no plot, there is no anything.  There is no reason to watch this movie.

Broadway Danny Rose (Woody Allen) 1984

Posted in B, Woody Allen Retrospective on December 1, 2011 by moviemoses

Danny Rose (Woody Allen) is a talent agent dealing with the absolute bottom of the barrell talent.  Danny has a chance to finally have one of his singers Lou Canova (Nick Forte) make it big when there is a revival for old lounge singer acts.  Canova’s big opportunity will be at singing for Milton Berle but Canova says he needs his mistress Tina (Mia Farrow) there to get his best performance.  Danny goes to get Tina, but there are complications when Tina doesn’t want to go and when a mob boss thinks Danny is stealing Tina away from him.

Broadway Danny Rose is actually a very simple road movie.  It is no more complicated than say, a Harold and Kumar go to White Castle.  Danny has a short amount of time to get Tina to the gig and wacky shenanigans ensue.  I’m not saying that is a bad thing.  It is just odd that in this period where Woody is at his most creative and close to the time where he said he wanted to do more serious work that he would do a simple road movie.

Broadway Danny Rose is almost completely carried by the performance of Woody Allen.  Here he is probably at his most nebbish.  He is always flailing his arms around, tossing out one liners like they are going out of style, and not a second goes by that he is not stuttering.  For those of you that hate the typical Woody character, you will absolutely hate this movie because he cranks it up to 11 here.  This is all Woody, all the time.  Hell, I love Woody Allen but there were moments even I wanted him to take his meds.  Allen does ultimately make this movie work as he does have some truly funny lines and makes the character lovable.

I know this one is a very short review but that is because there is not much to this movie.  And again, I don’t mean that in any negative way.  If you love Woody Allen’s characters then I think you will find this a funny movie.  There are one liners a plenty and Allen puts it all out there for a funny performance.  While I didn’t love it, it was a funny little movie.

Bananas (Woody Allen) 1971

Posted in B, Woody Allen Retrospective on July 19, 2011 by moviemoses

Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) falls in love with a ditzy activist who quickly dumps him. Mellish, trying to prove himself to her, moves to San Marcos and joins a rebel force set on overthrowing the corrupt president.

This is another of Woody’s screwball comedies. Some want to place this among his best of the wacky comedies he does, I think this is a little more inconsistent. This is going to be a little hard to talk about since comedy is a more subjective experience than anything else. Some people prefer Bananas, some love Take the Money and Run more, some love Sleeper, and so on. I think I’m picking nits when discussing why I didn’t like this movie as much as other Woody movies of this type.

To me this movie feels a little more inconsistent than Take the Money and Run. The humor seems to go even broader as Woody will go from paying homage to Chaplin and Buster Keaton, to sex humor, to slapstick, to light political satire, to screwball and so on. I mentioned that the mockumentary style helped tie everything the comedy scenes nicely together, while the plot of Bananas seems more meandering. There are also some bigger dry spots in the comedy than in Money. I also found the soundtrack to be more annoying than cute.

That being said, Bananas is an enjoyable film and, again, I can see this is more a matter of personal preference than anything else. There are some really memorable moments like Howard Cossel doing play by play of a political assassination and the trial of Fielding at the end. Also at a very quick 80 minutes, Woody knows not to overstay his welcome and delivers his routine at just the right pace. Another funny movie from Woody that is recommended. Up next is Every Thing you Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask.