Archive for the G Category

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Neveldine/Taylor) 2011

Posted in G on June 18, 2012 by moviemoses

This was close to being part of the box office bomb list but depending on what site I go to the production budget fluctuates so I am giving it the benefit of the doubt.

I wasn’t in a real rush to go see this movie.  The original Ghost Rider was a horrible movie that didn’t have much of a chance from the start because of the strange casting of Nic Cage.  Now I love me some Nic Cage (as evidence by my worn out copy of Deadfall) but he doesn’t need to be around any comic book territory.  I send a gift basket every year to Warner Brothers for not casting Cage as Superman as they were initially very high on him.  But even with somone else in the Ghost Rider role, the rest of the movie was very annoying.  So when I saw Ghost Rider pissing fire on the trailer my brain right away threw any idea of seeing it in the Recycle Bin in the Windows desktop of my brain.  But like a record people kept saying the same two things “But the Crank guys are doing it!“ and “Crank was fucking awesome!“ (which it is).  So when it finally came out on DVD I said “Screw it.“ and brought it to see with my friends.

Things actually started out promising for this movie.  This movie has the same whacked out frat boy innane humor that we know from Neveldine/Taylor and there was a scene early on which, in the hands of everyone else would piss me off, in their hands I ket out a chuckle.  Normally I would be more frustrated a superhero being played for laughs, but I don’t mind as even the directors take shots at how silly the whole concept of this comic is.  This is a motorcycle riding demon with a flaming skull for crying out loud.

However the pacing and humor of the Crank movies doesn’t last long in Ghost Rider.  You see, Crank was actually helped by the fact it had about the bare minimum of what you would need to constitute a plot.  Crank was free to go off in any random stupid direction and wasn’t hampered that much by explaining shit.  Ghost Rider on the other hand has to actually tell a story and explain a character and when that happens, the movie grinds to a screeching halt.  The director’s greatest strengths are action scenes with frantic edits and off the wall humor.  Their weakness is when characters sit around having boring conversations explaining what’s going on which goes on far too much in this movie.  And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this movie has some overcomplicated plot or anything like that.  This movie has a relatively basic plot.  I’m saying anything the directors really can’t handle anything normal and make it interesting.  It is like getting kids on a massive sugar high and asking them to do anything that requires concentration or patience.  Can’t happen.

Ghost Rider is a confusing comic book character and even after watching two movies, I’m still not clear on what all he can do.  I just chuckle at the fact that at least twice in the movie the writers have to collectively sit the audience down and explain the many things he can do and what he is about.  It is not helped when the writing is inconsistent as all hell (pun not intended).  In one scene, Ghost Rider is knocked out by a grenade and in another he takes a missile to the face and he pretty much shrugs it off.  The changes in character between the first and the semi-sequel/reboot are rather jarring.  In this movie Ghost Rider is more like the Hulk.  He is this destructive force that takes down everything in his path where in the first movie Blaze had more control over it.  They try to explain it as the darkness taking over, but again it feels too jarring of a shift in character and adds to the confusion of what Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider can do.

One thing that has remained from the first movie and continues to be a crippling problem is that lack of a good villain.  There is absolutely zero tension for me in any of these movies because Ghost Rider is apparently the John Cena of Marvel superheroes.  Rider no sells any damage done to him and he squashes all his opponents without any real trouble.  Why should I care about any of these conflicts if it feels like nothing can hurt the Rider?

But I know the other reason why people would want to see this movie.  Does Nic Cage have any good Nic Cage moments?  Not really.  He has one scene where he is kinda goofy but for most of the movie he is pretty reserved.  Of the times he does scream out stuff it feels really forced.  Trust me guys, this is not the Neveldine/Taylor equivalent of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.  Truthfully, he really looks like shit in this movie and it seems like he is tired of doing this crap.  I know his character is supposed to look tired and worn out, but I got more of that vibe from the acting than anything else.  Idris Elba continues his streak of bad American roles.  Idris actually gets edged out of the Waste of Talent award by Christopher Lambert.  He just shows up, you say to yourself  “What the fuck is Christopher Lambert doing in this?“ and he leaves.  Seriously, what the fuck?

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was better to me than the first one but that was a really low bar.  It doesn’t even mean it was a good movie because it’s not.  The positives are the special effects are better and Neveldine/Taylor do a slightly better job with the action and with the campy humor.  That being said, I still didn’t like this movie and I can’t recommend this to anyone.

Glee The 3D Concert Movie (Kevin Tancharoen) 2012

Posted in G on March 22, 2012 by moviemoses

This is the second time in two weeks where I have screwed up a box office bomb review.  I thought I did my due research in finding out that Glee bombed at the box office when I put this movie in my movie queue.  However upon finishing the movie and looking at my sites to get the numbers to write it down another one factored in more overseas numbers pushing it to my cut off limit of double its budget.  That means I A: wasted my time B: should do more thorough research before putting it in my queue and C: I don’t need a “C“ I am wasting my time watching and reviewing a Glee concert movie.  So because I can’t seem to go a week without doing something embarassing, you can read my review of Glee.

Now to complete the humiliation of having to review this I have to make a confession.  I like Glee.  In fact, it is one of the few current shows I regularly watch.  Those statements are sure to have many a head shaking in horror because short of Twilight, Glee seems to bring out some of the more viscious bile on the Internet.  And honestly, I have no idea why.  Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why people would not like the show.  I can easily understand it not being to their taste, but to hear some people bitch its as if the show teabagged their grandmother while setting your house on fire or something.  I’ve read several threads and discussions and I still have no idea why it brings on the hate.  One of the most common things I hear is hate over the creator Ryan Murphy.  Apparently he comes off as arrogant and thinks he is doing some great service to humanity/music and that rubs people the wrong way.  I say this in rebuttal; I DON’T CARE.  I don’t care if David Simon were the biggest asshole in the world, it doesn’t change the fact The Wire is pure awesome.  I don’t care if Christopher Nolan were the most egotistical vain man alive it doesn’t change the fact to me The Dark Knight is a movie orgasm.  I don’t care that Sean Penn is very vocal about his opinions on matters because the man is a phenomenal actor.  I don’t know why people get so hung up on what actors/directors/whatever do or why it should affect their art.    The art is seperate from the man (or woman) who works on it.

And now that I’ve played devil’s advocate for the past few half page or so,  let me go back to devil’s prosecutor.  This is one of the most shallow money grabs I’ve seen in a while.  A question that always has to be asked when you make a movie from a TV show is “What are you selling me that I can’t already get for free on television?“  Sometimes we get an extension or a conclusion to a show that has run its course (Sex and the City, Serenity, etc.) and sometimes it is a story that couldn’t be done on TV for budgetary reasons (The X-Files).  In any case the promise of a television show turned movie is that you are getting more than you would for free TV.  In the case of Glee The 3D Concert Movie, we are getting much less.  You see, in the TV show we actually get a plot and characters along with our music.  In the concert movie, not only do we cut out all that crap about plot and characters, but how about we now charge 3D ticket prices for a 70 minute movie?  How bout a big heaping helping of go fuck yourselves 20th Century Fox?

Now that being said, this movie is exactly what you would expect from a film titled Glee The 3D Concert Movie.  It is the cast of Glee singing some of the hits from the TV show during a concert tour aka the cast working off its indentured servitude contract with Fox.  Now granted I didn’t spring for the full 3D experience however I have no idea why the 3D would be interesting in this movie.  There is no messing around with the depth of objects ala Hugo or even the cheap tactic of just shoving things in your face.  It is shot like a standard concert pic.  In order to get this movie to wheeze past and die the finish line of an exhausting 70 minutes we get some small vignettes about real life fans and how their lives have been changed by Glee.  Whoopde fucking do.

Most of my problems with this is probably due to the fact this was released in theaters.  Had this been some hour long special they aired during sweeps week (or whenever I don’t care) I wouldn’t really care.  I’m sure many people would be casually interested in seeing the stage show and seeing the actors behind the scenes and whatnot.  There is nothing wrong with the product they present.  Its the fact they charge 3D ticket prices for less than what you would get for free TV and all the other reasons I stated which is why this movie SHOULD HAVE been a box office bomb.

The Grey (Joe Carnahan) 2012 Some spoilers

Posted in G on February 6, 2012 by moviemoses

Ottway (Liam Neeson) is a security man for oil drilling team in Alaska.  On the way home, the plane carrying him and the rest of the crew crash.  Ottway and a few other survivors must try to make it to safety but they find themselves in the middle of the killing zone of a pack of fierce wolves.

I guess it is that rare time when I have to be contrarian to all the glowing reviews for this movie.  I can’t say I hated this movie but I certainly didn’t love it like most others seem to have.  And to counter something right off the bat it is not because I thought the movie would be more action packed (although the trailers do give you the extremely wrong impression about what it will be).

All during this movie I kept thinking of how this movie was failing where The Edge did things right.  You remember The Edge right?  Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin fight a giant bear in Alaska.  Am I one of the few that loved that movie?  Anyway, the Edge made better decisions about storytelling that didn’t work as well in the case of The Grey.  I suppose I’ll start off with my old man, most curmudgenly complaint in that I prefer a real life scary as hell looking bear as opposed to rather crappy looking CGI cartoon hell hounds.  I know this seems really petty but to me this was more a distraction than menacing.

A more substantive complaint is about the characters.  The Grey has none.  Well okay, that is a bit of an overstatement.  The Grey has a collection of completely forgettable, one dimensional characters.  Short of Liam Neeson, I could only identify people by the loosest of ways: that guy has glasses, that guy is a dick (for no real reason), that guy has long hair etc.  It’s really bad when we are about 10 minutes from the end and I seriously don’t know a thing about one of the few remaining survivors.  I’ve been with this guy for the course of the whole movie.  I should know SOMETHING about this man.  Liam Neeson’s character is the only one that is given anything to his character, but even that feels like table scraps compared to a full course meal.  Compare this to The Edge where we had three characters stuck in the forest.  Hopkins and Baldwin’s characters especially were fully mapped out characters.  I knew who they were, what brought them there, and what their motivations were.  I knew them so well there were no surprises in how they acted because I could see it coming from the way they were before.

This leads me to the dialog.  The Edge was written by David Mamet.  The dialog was cleverly written in that the characters had interesting things to say as well as revealing character traits.  The best part was none of it was very forced or unnatural.  My biggest complaint about The Grey is the dialog.  I really don’t mind that this movie has limited action or that most of it is about the characters huddled around fires talking.  I have a real problem when most of your movie is talking, and the characters have absolutely nothing interesting to say.  The banter between these people is so stock and unoriginal that it matches the characters.  It is all predictible blather about how one wants to see his kids or how another wants to get laid when he gets back to civilization or bitching from the dick character for no real reason given in the script other than the character is a dick.

The Edge had the characters dealing not just with the bear, but in surviving in the wilderness with no equipment.  The Grey eventually tries to get around to that, but that also fails in my opinion.  In the third act we get a scene where one of the characters jumps off a cliff to tie a rope between a tree and the cliff face, and the rest of the characters try to get across on this rope.  In a movie that is seemingly grounded in realism this scene seems way too unbelievable and Hollywood compared to the rest of this pic.  It’s also a bit of a plot hole in that the wolves somehow beat the characters down a cliff face despite the characters using a shortcut.

All of this stuff is making the movie a rather painful experience and then the last act of the movie comes up.  And all of a sudden its like they realize the mistakes they made and try to correct it.  The writers give Neeson’s character an actual, you know, character and not just a gruff voiced tuff guy persona.  The overall message of the movie becomes clear and the tone of the movie comes into sharp focus.  The characters are given some really powerful scenes and the tension is fully present.  It’s strange that a movie suddely being very good had me pissed off but seriously; what the hell!?  Why the hell did it take 90 minutes into this 120 minute movie for things to finally get going?  Sadly it wasn’t enough to fully turn my opinion around on this movie.

The Grey is a frustrating movie for me.  On the one hand, director Carnahan is really giving his best efforts here.  The atmosphere is bleak and depressing as all of nature seems to be conspiring to kill these men.  While I personally didn’t like the CGI, he films the wolves mostly in shadows to make them more of a silent but deadly threat which is always nearby.  Neeson gives a very good performance and the ending is very exciting.  That being said, 90 minutes of this movie was a painful slog.  Besides Neeson, everyone else is a faceless nobody with nothing to contribute to the movie.  The plotting is too slow for the limited material, and the dialog is absolutely horrible.  While the third act is very good, the rest of the journey is bad enough that it almost makes the ending not worth the trouble.  The Grey ends up being just barely good when it could have been much much better.

 

PS Watch The Edge

Green Lantern (Martin Campbell) 2011

Posted in G, G on June 23, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $200 million

Worldwide Gross: $219 million

 

It’s ironic that a movie based on a superhero who’s power is derived from his imagination, is so derivative and unimaginative. I also like producers are scrambling to cover up the lackluster box office of this movie by saying it is because the movie is based off of a smaller read superhero. Maybe it is because despite spending $300 million dollars on this movie, you still can’t make this movie any more interesting.

I was just bored sitting through this. I know when I’m bored when, in the middle of a movie, I stop focusing on the movie and try to think of all the ways the movie is losing me. Let’s start with the story. The story is a big ball of evil is coming toward Earth. That’s about it. Usually in better superhero movies, we have a a larger theme which gets us into the story. Spider-man has Peter going through his tough teenage years and all the struggles therein to become a better man. This latest X-Men movie was about the struggle for equality and a battle of ideals personified as Xavier and Magneto. In Green Lantern we don’t really get any of that. True in the story Hal is trying to fight his fears in addition to fighting a monster feeding off fear, but again there doesn’t seem to be any effort behind it. It doesn’t feel like Hal learned anything of value except to nut up and act like a man. It’s not exactly on par with “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Another thing which hurts this movie are the lack of compelling characters. To use other superhero movies as an example, in Batman you have Harvey Dent, Joker, Alfred, etc. In X-Men you have Xavier, Magneto, Wolverine, Cyclops, etc. Hal Jordan doesn’t have anyone to play off of. His villain is an expressionless ball of evil, he has no real friends, and his love interest is a cardboard cut out. I thought that void would be filled with other lanterns such as Kilowog, Sinestro, and Tomar-Re, but they are barely in this movie to provide any kind of personality. They also seem to tone down the usually wacky Ryan Reynolds

I did like when Hal actually got to use his powers. I don’t think the action scenes had too much tension behind them, but hey, at least something is happening. The lantern effects looked good and I liked any attempt to take the story into outer space (which had more interesting things than the dull Earth scenes). And also for $200 million for the production, the special effects SHOULD look good. Frankly I wouldn’t care if they made this at a quarter of the cost as long as it had a good story.

Now maybe I’m being too harsh on it. I’ll admit that. It’s true that I can’t look at this movie and tell you anything that is dreadfully bad about it. At best this is a serviceable origin story for Green Lantern. This movie introduces all the characters, establishes the universe, and does everything it can to get the franchise going. At worst, if you have seen ANY other superhero movie, then you have seen this one. This movie takes no chances, and follows every other cliché superhero script line for line and note for note. It is dull and uninteresting. By the end, I was not excited to see the further adventures of Hal Jordan, I was not interested to see what new villain was around the corner, and I was not interested in seeing this film ever again. I don’t think Green Lantern fans will really like this movie, nor do I think the general public will accept this half-hearted attempt at DC trying to shove their way into a genre already dominated by Marvel.

The Green Hornet (Michel Gondry) 2011

Posted in G on June 16, 2011 by moviemoses

I don’t like Seth Rogen. Let’s just get that out of the way. At the best of times he is tolerable while at the worst he is an intolerable pratt. His whole shtick is this annoying stoner man-child and while that works in small doses, after seeing him in starring roles doing the same thing over and over and over again I am done with it. So I guess in the interests of fairness I have to admit to my biases.

The Green Hornet is yet another Set Rogen comedy. Basically a Green Hornet movie is playing in the background while Rogen interjects with his man-child routine. In fact all the sections of the script could be ended with “and Seth Rogen acts like a jackass…” and that would be a fair assessment. Now whether you go in for that sort of thing is completely up to you. Comedy is a more subjective genre than anything else and I’m not saying it is bad to like Seth Rogen. It is just not my cup of tea. And to be fair his antics were a little toned down and were more tolerable in this case. I think it helped you had the character of Kato (who doesn’t really care slapping Brit down a peg or two) to balance things out. As far as these comedies go it is fine I guess. I suppose I was more disappointed that they really couldn’t do anything more with the source material.

I could see traces of a much better movie behind the surface. Once example (probably added by Gondry) is a way to explain why Kato is so badass. Essentially when his adrenaline is up he can process information faster. He can identify threats almost like a terminator and plan a battle strategy accordingly. It is something you need to see rather than having it explained but it was rather nifty. Jay Chou does a good job and the action scenes overall are very well done. This could have been a fun action adventure film but it seems they settled for the easy money. This has quick cash in written all over it. This movie was forgotten as soon as I took it out of my DVD player and I can’t recommend it.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Daniel Alfredson) 2010

Posted in G on February 14, 2011 by moviemoses

This series has been a roller coaster for me so far. In relating this to another movie series, Dragon Tattoo is probably the Manhunter (or Red Dragon for the remake crowd), and Girl Who Played With Fire was the Hannibal Rising for me. So where does Hornet’s Nest fit in? Sadly I can’t think of a Lecter comparison because none of those movies are as dull as a CSPAN marathon.

The plot picks up where the last one immediately left off. Lisbeth is in the hospital and is awaiting trial for the attempted murder of her father. The evil shadow group who supported Lisbeth’s father is trying to get her committed instead of a long drawn out trial because that would expose their secrets. And Mikael is trying to print a special edition of his magazine exposing those secrets in order to get Lisbeth free.

The reason this movie is so dull is because we know everything as soon as the movie begins. Unlike the last two movies there is no mystery to unravel. All of the secrets have been revealed to us. There is nothing more to learn. The movie is literally about Mikael getting his sources straight in order to print his friggin’ magazine. I’ve never seen a movie spin it’s wheels for two hours and thirty minutes in order to tell me what I already know. I take it back, I can make a Lecter parallel. It would be like making a movie that takes place after Hannibal in which Clarice is arrested for the murder of Paul and the whole movie is about finding out that it was in fact Hannibal Lector who made Paul eat his own brain.

The movie tries to inject some kind of suspense in the movie by having this shadow organization try to scare Mikael but I just don’t care. The group comes off as clown shoes when for the longest time the best they can come up with are spam emails. Congratulations, you have graduated to 4chan levels of annoyance. What’s next; flaming bags of dog poop on Mikael’s door step? Near the end we do get an attempt on Mikael but it is too little too late.

The second major flaw in this movie is that Lisbeth has absolutely nothing to do. The appeal of this series is seeing this unique character interact with the world. Here she is shut away while bland side characters bicker endlessly about what they are going to do. So the one character I actually want to see is made to essentially sit in the corner and have a time out. And just to hammer this point home, this movie is two hours and thirty minutes long. As much as I hated Girl Who Played With Fire for being completely ludicrous, at least stuff happened. It was moronic, but at least it didn’t evoke the memory of waiting at jury duty.

As much as people are weary of remakes, I think the series has nowhere to go but up by having David Fincher make an American version. The last two sequels had the problem of directors with no vision or imagination adapting books which are as dull as white gravy. To anyone that is interested in seeing this series, see the first movie then run far far away from the other two sequels.

 

The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski) 2010 Minor spoilers

Posted in G on September 28, 2010 by moviemoses

The spoilers are more in line with discussing the theme of the movie.

A ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) is hired on to help finish the memoirs of former Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan).  There was a previous writer that did most of the work, however died under mysterious circumstances.  Lang is a highly controversial figure and is in trouble with the World Court.  The Ghost starts to find revealing facts about Lang and is caught in the middle of a mysterious plot.

I, of course, can’t reveal too many details about the plot because this is a thriller and a mystery about a conspiracy.  While Polanski never mentions such names as Tony Blair, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove or mention a little thing like the War in Iraq, it is hard not to get the pointed inferences.  However, this is not your usual (what some would classify) liberal Hollywood ramblings against the War in Iraq.  Even though Adam Lang is pale cover for Tony Blair, Pierce Brosnan is not trying to do an impression nor are their any direct comparisons between the two careers.  The message is more directed in general at the brand of political leaders Polanski sees nowadays.

Lang is a playboy actor and a competent speaker.  He is not someone who has an incredible intellect (he is no dummy, just not a scholar) but can charm voters over with his demeanor.  However he is simply a mouthpiece for the many interests behind the scenes.  It is an indictment of politics as a whole instead of just saying “Cheney is the devil, Tony Blair is a dick.”  On the whole the movie is far enough from reality that we don’t feel lectured and not far enough that the conspiracy plot is complete horseshit.

For the most part the conspiracy plot works.  Now conspiracy theories usually aren’t credible.  I am simply talking about in the context of this movie, the plot never does something so radical that would have you calling bullshit.  The movie ends with a bit of a hiccup, but not anything that would ruin the movie.

The movie, for the most part, works as a thriller.  There is a nice atmosphere of paranoia going around that while there isn’t anything terribly shocking going on, you get the sense that something bad is around the corner.  By that I mean it doesn’t descend into typical action movie tropes.  The tension is slow building and the fear is that of the unknown: both in the men behind the scenes and what could potentially happen to the ghost writer.

Pierce Brosnan does a good job as Adam Lang.  He is not playing James Bond nor Tony Blair.  Brosnan does a good job of being a charming guy while at the same time carrying an undertone of menace about him.  The other really good job is by Olivia Williams who plays Lang’s wife Ruth.  She has to do a lot of different things with her character and they all feel natural.

There were some problems I had with this movie.  As I said, the ending is not quite what I hoped for.  Again, it isn’t a deal breaker but…I’ll just say its rushed in comparison to the rest of the project.  My main problem is that with the character McGregor plays.  The Ghost (simply titled on the credits) is not a character we fully get behind because his character is a little erratic.  At one moment he is a writer with no morals or qualms about what he writes about, and the next he is a crusader, one minute he is meek, the next he is challenging people, one minute dumb (sometimes when the script necessitates) and the next brilliant.  In fact, part of the reason the ending doesn’t work is because The Ghost does something that I don’t completely see his character doing (at least not without some more characterization).  And as I alluded to earlier, at times Ghost is as dumb as a post only because the script needs him to be to keep the intrigue going.

That may seem like some harsh criticism but I really did like this movie.  These types of movies usually crumble upon heavy examination but aside from some cracks I think it does hold together (again in movie logic).  The suspense was well done, the mystery was interesting, and overall it was very entertaining.