Archive for the L Category

The Ledge (Matthew Chapman) 2011

Posted in L on October 19, 2011 by moviemoses

WARNING: This review comes with strong religious discussion.  If you don’t care for that sort of thing you were warned.

I really don’t want to take the piss out of this movie because I really believe in what the director wants.  However I do have to be honest and if there is any consolation is that I am giving criticism and not straight up hating on this movie.  Okay, time for my usual pre-review tangent.

I remember Kevin Smith talking about how he came to make Chasing Amy or more specifically about making a movie for homosexuals.  Smith has a brother who is gay and who told him how crappy it was that 99% of all movies had hetero romantic relationships and Smith remarked on how lousy that was for him.  Well in the same way, you really don’t know how crappy it is to be an atheist and have the majority of movies that in some way cater to the religious crowd.  It is not that religious people have movies.  I understand that theists are the majority so I don’t have a problem with people catering to that market.  I have a problem that Hollywood has a problem with catering with the atheist demographic.  Why is it the only atheist protagonist I can think of on TV is House?  Why is it the only characters in films that are atheists (at least that I can think of) are Woody Allen characters?  I think what bugs me the most is not just the fact Hollywood doesn’t cater to our demographic, but that there is such a negative stereotype associated with us.  Movie atheists are usually bitter and angry.  They don’t believe in God, not because they just don’t believe, but because they are angry with God.  It’s just so condescending.  Awwww, these atheists don’t believe because they lost a family member or because God didn’t answer a prayer.  Give me a freaking break.  I could go on for much longer but I will spare you of this for the sake of this movie review.

I guess I should temporarily stop this tangent to explain what I mean by making atheist friendly characters.  I know it is hard to make characters that are based on a non-belief.  It is like making a protagonist who is a non-stamp colector.  I guess what I mean is someone who is a skeptical thinker and skepticism does naturally extend to people’s theological beliefs too.

Anyway, back to my tangent.  So I really like where Chapman is coming from when he makes a movie for atheists.  Much like how Sweet Sweetback opened the door for black filmmakers, I would love to see a film come out that opens the door to a whole new market.  Science and reason FTW!  So with all that out of the way, let’s get to The Ledge.

The Ledge is about Gavin (Charlie Hunnan) who one day gets up on the ledge of an office building.  Det. Hollis (Terrence Howard) is sent to talk him down.  Gavin tells Hollis  that he is forced to stand out on that ledge for two hours then he has to kill himself.  This leads the movie to a series of flashbacks about how he got there.  The flashbacks explain how Gavin fell in love with Shana (Liv Tyler) despite being married to her fundamentalist Christian husband Joe (Patrick Wilson).  Joe naturally hates Gavin who is an outspoken atheist.

Director Chapman explained in an interview that he wanted this film to be the Brokeback Mountain for atheists.  While I can understand the comparison in how Brokeback opened the door for homosexual romances, it also shows how Ledge fails in actual execution (unlike Brokeback).  In Brokeback Mountain did you ever see the characters stop and have an extended discussion about whether gay marriage should be legal or not?  Did you ever see them have any real discussion about homosexuality?  No.  The movie did not need to go into some kind of logical debate because it was able to strike the audience on a core emotional level.  We knew the characters love each other but that society was being cruel/potentially violent because of their prejudices.  While it may not be intellectually stimulating it worked emotionally and for the purposes of showing a great movie.

So believe me when I say it really interrupts the flow of the movie when every so often, the characters get together to have a long disussion about belief in God.  It grinds the story to a halt and is not as intellectually stimulating as reading a book or even seeing a theological debate on YouTube.  I mean, there is a lot of emotional things you can highlight about being an atheist.  How about the fact I have had relationships end on a dime simply because they learned I was an atheist.  Not to mention all the marriages that end because over problems like that.  How about discrimination?  Atheists are currently the most hated minority in America.  How about people like Christian scientists who don’t give health care to their kids who eventually die because it violates their faith?  Those are just a few examples which I think are more effective than what was in The Ledge.

There are things I like about the film.  For one the performances are enjoyable.  Terrence Howard only has a small role but as usual he makes the character very endearing.  Patrick Wilson also does a good job with the extremely fundie Christian.  I’m sure there are those that would say his character is too much.  I will simply say I have a friend from high school whom I have debates with who sounds just like him.  He thoroughly believes I cannot be good because I’m atheist and that it is perfectly moral that I am going to hell forever.  But I’m not going to name names nor is this movie about him.  This character is not representative of all Christians but is simply a character representing one belief structure.

The Ledge isn’t a bad film.  It is horribly horribly mediocre.  As I mentioned before the acting is good, the story is servicable, and the movie is even handed with the characters.  For example the atheist in the movie has his problems, and other characters in the movie who are religious are not bad people.  The debate is what matters and not necessarily the people that represent them.  With that being said though, there just isn’t that much enjoyment to be had with this film.  The debates grind the pacing of the movie to a halt and the story doesn’t have as much resonance as you would like.  Overall it feels bland.  It is a movie that to which there is not much for either theist or atheist.  I appreciate the effort and I wish there are more movies (I paid my $15 dollars for this DVD anyway), but I found this was a failed experiment.

Love and Death (Woody Allen) 1975

Posted in L, Woody Allen Retrospective on August 15, 2011 by moviemoses

Love and Death is set in Russia during roughly the time of Napoleon’s invasion.  Nebbish Boris (Woody Allen) is trying to woo Sonja (Diane Keaton) but is caught up in the events of the time.  First he has to serve in the military despite being a pacifist, then is swept up in a plot to assassinate Napoleon.

This movie has been reported to be Woody’s personal favorite and I can easily see why.  It is clear to see his familiarity and love of Russian culture as he parodies psychology, literature, philosophy, and history.  He is doing more intellectual comedy and, even though it is still a little wacky, you see a lot more of Woody sorting out his own personal beliefs.  It is a nice meshing of his comedy writing, his philosophical musings, and his personal interests.

I kept wanting to really love this movie because it has a lot of things I should find really funny.  All during it I found it amusing, however I wasn’t finding it funny.  Part of that is most likely the fact I am doing a 40 movie re-visiting of Woody Allen so some weariness could be expected.  I mean, as good as it is too much of anything is no good for you.  It might also be that this is still something of a transitional period for Woody; going from screwball comedy to the intellectual comedy many are familiar with.

Personally I am chalking this up to being in something of a bad mood.  I say that because, for as little as I was laughing during the movie as it was playing, much of the movie has remained in my mind in the days since I have seen it.  The dialog is very witty and smart while in the same breath delivering ‘wah wah’ level puns.  And this quote by Diane Keaton,

“To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love, but then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love, to be happy then is to suffer but suffering makes one unhappy, therefore to be unhappy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you’re getting this down.”

That has to be one of my favorite quotes from a Woody Allen movie.  Love and Death is a movie that grows on you and despite my less than enthusiastic initial reception, this will be a movie I re-review before any other Woody Allen movie.  This movie probably isn’t for everyone or at least people unfamiliar with Woody.  Some of the earlier movies are better jumping on points.  To anyone that loves the intellectual comedy Woody does later in his career, I think there is a lot to love about this movie.  This review was short but up next in the retrospective is the classic Annie Hall.

Legion (Scott Charles Stewart) 2010

Posted in L on May 4, 2011 by moviemoses

This movie pissed me off. It’s not like I go into a movie about angels fighting with machine guns to be high art, but I expect it to be even mildly entertaining. Legion is an incredibly boring and horribly written movie that almost felt like penance for earlier sins in my life.

This movie makes no sense. And again, I know people are going to jump on me by saying “Oh, the logic in a B movie about angels fighting with machine guns doesn’t make sense? Boo hoo.” The difference is, I am not critiquing this movie by saying it has to conform with reality. I’m saying this movie doesn’t make sense even within the bullshit fantasy world the writers set up for us. When the internal logic of a story doesn’t make sense, then the audience is going to be lost.

In this case, God apparently gets fed up with humanity and decides to kill off all of humanity. In order for his plan to work, he has to kill this specific child who is going to be born in some roadside diner in the middle of the desert. Why? I don’t know and the movie doesn’t tell us. Who is this kid? Is he Christ reborn, is he some new prophet? I have no clue. Why does the child have to be killed? Does it matter if it is killed in the womb or when it is born? I don’t know and the movie doesn’t tell. Plus, this is the god of the Bible we are talking about here. This is the same god who flooded the Earth and sent all kinds of plagues and whatnot. Are you saying this all powerful god can’t make another disaster to kill these schlubs in the middle of the desert? I don’t even need to think so big scale. Why doesn’t he cause the mother to miscarry? Why send scores of angels to come and kill this mother? And even if I granted that ludicrous concept, why doesn’t he send literally millions of angels to this diner to kill the child. We only see about 30 angels at a time attack this diner when before we see thousands upon thousands descending from heaven. Are you saying on the most important part of the mission of destroying mankind you can’t send a few more soldiers to make sure the job gets done? Oh, but of course he doesn’t REALLY mean to kill mankind. You see, god changes his mind on the whole killing humanity thing and it was all a test. That’s nice. It was really nice that you killed billions of innocent men, women, and children so you could teach Gabriel how to be merciful. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Now compare this to a movie I was wishing I was seeing every second this piece of shit was on my TV: Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight. Here you have a similar style of movie. This is a grindhouse style B-movie about a servant of God under siege by demons in some run down hotel in the middle of nowhere. We are told about who he is, what he is doing, and why he needs to survive the night. We are also told the villain and what his powers are. All of the rules of how they can fight/interact are established and they work within the confines of those rules during the movie. So you see, even with a movie with a silly concept, you can have an entertaining film which does not confuse it’s audience. That movie makes sense in it’s own made up universe. Not to mention you had very entertaining performances by William Sadler and Billy Zane.

Legion is also a movie that doesn’t really deliver on the campy fun. Yeah, you get the foul mouthed demon grandmother and the evil ice cream truck driver. Much like a crappy comedy, what you see in the trailer is all there is that is fun in the movie. Most of the movie has our characters moping around a dark diner bickering at one another. These characters are all annoying and I did not care if any of them lived by the end. The action scenes are few and very far between and even when we do get to them they are not any good. Maybe this also goes back to the characters but I just did not care. By the time Gabriel shows up I just wanted the movie over rather than see some lame fighting scene.  The acting doesn’t help this movie either.  I usually love Paul Bettany, but here he has nothing to work with.  Here he is delegated to grumbling out stupid cliches and has no character to develop.

I really don’t see why anyone should see this movie. No matter how low you set your bar or what you are going into this movie for you are going to be disappointed. What may be worse is we are getting a double dose of Paul Bettany and director Stewart in this years Priest and that movie looks even dumber.

The Last Airbender (M. Night Shyamalan) 2010

Posted in L on July 2, 2010 by moviemoses

You know, I have defended Shyamalan a lot prior to this movie. Whatever you want to say about the films, you can tell he is a technically proficient filmmaker. The man is talented. He knows how to frame shots, how to build tension and suspense, and works well with actors to get good performances. If I had to pin down a problem, I would say it was his ego. He got labeled pretty early on as being this new master of suspense; like a modern day Hitchcock. People were so blown away by Sixth Sense that it got overwhelming. Since that time, it’s like the pressure has been on to top that twist with another twist, and another twist, and another. Then he went off the deep end with his anti-critic bitchfest which was Lady in the Water, then his anti-general audience bitchfest with Happening. I kept saying the problem was with Shyamalan doing the writing. If you gave him something where he could just focus on the technical aspect you could have something really great. Well, I got that with The Last Airbender and by “that” I mean one of the one of the most inept movies of the year.

The biggest problem is that they try to fit an entire season of a television show into a 103 minute movie. Now I’m not saying material can’t be shortened for the purposes of a movie. To go back to an example I use often is the LOTR series. By no means can you fit three dense books into three movies. Even running at 3 hours you are going to miss a lot that an author can expand on in detail in written form. However the director/screenwriters take the most important core concepts and try to translate that into an effective and exciting movie experience. It is not the same as the book, but I don’t think it should try to be. What the writers of the Last Airbender did, was almost string together the episodes of the season, cut them to 10 minute Cliffs Notes version, and make it the movie. So what you get, is scene after scene of character puking out exposition trying to back build all that happened before and everything that will happen. Tension is also immediately killed off. There are three different occasions where Eng is captured, and almost three minutes later he has escaped and onto the next episode, I mean scene. This movie is lacking a three act structure with a primary conflict to move the build up an effective climax. The climax just comes out of nowhere not because the story led there but because the writers just needed to wrap it up.

I can’t complain enough about this. Where it really hurts is the characters. Now I’ve only seen a part of Avatar (the TV show) but one thing that was really striking was the characters. Everyone in the TV show is a different person who is likable and funny in their own way. Even the bad guy Prince Zuko is compelling at times. But because we are rushing from episode to episode spouting nothing but exposition we get absolutely no character development. Katara and Sokka are just blank slates. They stand around and do nothing but gape at what the Avatar does. Our main character has been so gutted that we know nothing about him. The only character we get to know anything about is Zuko, and that can be written on a postage stamp. They had so little time for actual character interaction, that Katara gives a bland voice over to tell us what each person is thinking and feeling. I love when she blandly groans out something to the effect of “Sokka and the Princess quickly formed a close relationship” without hearing one line of dialog exchanged between them to even hint at that. And we are expected to believe they are deeply in love with one another? Puh-leeze. One of the things that make the show is its humor and light hearted attitude. But here it is dark, completely humorless, and lethargic.

This leads into the acting. It sucks. I’ll quickly discuss the issue of the casting before moving onto the performances. A lot has been brought up about the casting of white actors. Now while I’m not opposed to multi-ethnic casting, the way they did it was just weird. Take for example the tribe where Sokka and Katara come from. Everyone in that village is of an Inuit descent. But for some reason Sokka and Katara are white. How does that work? It is like that way with all the tribes and it is more confusing than anything else. Now onto the acting. While I mentioned before they don’t have much to work with, the actors are no good either. Many of the fire nation actors ham it up like they went to the Shatner school of scene chewing. Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) is terrible as he grunts out all his lines through gnashed teeth. The rest of the cast are bad kid actors or just blank slates. There is not one good performance worth noting.

The direction is simply lousy. The action has no intensity to it. There is no tension to the scenes (through the crappy script) and it seems more like they are doing dance routines than actual combat. Contrast that to the anime which is actually interesting to watch and inventive. Shyamalan continues to frame actors in EXTREME CLOSE UP which really bugged the hell out of me in this movie. The effects were alright, but for the money they spent on this movie it should look a hell of a lot better. Also the editing is horrendous. It seems like Shyamalan shot a lot more footage for this movie but a ton ended up on the cutting room floor because there are even times when continuity seemed FUBAR.

This really sucks because I was actually looking forward to seeing this movie. But it almost takes an epic level of incompetence to f*ck something up this badly. There really is nothing good I can compliment this movie on. You know me, I bend over backwards to give a movie the benefit of the doubt and to highlight something worth noting but here I got nothing. This movie just plain blows.

The Losers (Sylvain White) 2010

Posted in L on April 28, 2010 by moviemoses

A lot of people seem to be remarking that the Losers is an attempt to cash in on the A-Team or that its A-Team lite.  I personally am looking forward more to The Expendables but no matter.  This is apparently based on a comic that yet again I have not read.  That seems to be a general motif for these reviews.  If it isn’t Superman, Batman, or Sandman Mystery Theater (look it up) it is a good chance I haven’t read it.  Not that it seems to matter in this case.  Not even people who have read the Losers comic seems to have been all that enthusiastic of it being made.

The story is about a group of soldiers assigned to take out a drug cartel.  When they don’t follow orders (to save some kids) a CIA big wig only known as Max (Jason Patric) tries to kill them.  The Losers have no way to find Max until the mysterious Aiysha (Zoe Saldana) comes to them with intel on how to kill him.

The story is typical action movie fare.  The team gets betrayed, the go on a mission of revenge, they have to get MacGuffin X before killing Y yada yada yada.  Nothing we haven’t seen before, but then again, nothing too bad as to screw up the movie.  The story does just enough to showcase the action and the stars and not to be too much of a burden on credibility.  Although if there is one thing that is stupid, its that the main villain is after some quantum string theory multiple dimension piece of Star Trek technobabble bullshit that really seems out of place in a movie about killing people and Zoe Saldana in her underwear.  Is it too much to ask that Max is after a nuke or something?

The acting is what really carries it for me.  Chris Evans is usually the annoying comic relief but I have to admit that here he is pretty entertaining.  His scenes (especially during a scene of Don’t Stop Believin) is a breath of fresh air in a movie a little too bogged down at times with intrigue.  Jeffery Dean Morgan (The Comedian in Watchmen) is really a charming leading man.  He has a lot of natural charisma and makes his material probably a lot better than it deserves to be.  I also found the very underrated Jason Patric to be fun in this movie too.  Some have commented that he is too over the top, but when you go in expecting this movie to be goofy cornball action then I don’t think its that bad.  I found him entertaining at least.

The action is alright but at times you see a bit of the director’s incompetence shine through.  Hand to hand fight scenes are up way too close and the cutting is too spastic.  Losers drags a bit in the middle as we seemingly have scene after scene of Clay telling his troops “This is a suicide mission.  If you want to leave I’ll understand” followed by everyone having a group hug.  Once is cliche enough, any more is crap writing.  Oh, and the movie has the massive balls to make the ending a set up for a sequel.  Which, looking at the box office right now, doesn’t look like that will happen anytime soon.

Overall this is an alright movie.  If you check this movie out on a slow day or rent it down the road I don’t think you will have wasted your money.  For what it is it is mildly entertaining.  There is nothing there that will make this movie memorable a year down the road but it is a fair time waster.  I know, this is such a glowing review.