Archive for the T Category

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson) 2011

Posted in T on January 3, 2012 by moviemoses

TTSS is set during the Cold War and involves the MI6.  George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is brought out of retirement for one last case by Control (John Hurt).  An agent (Tom Strong) was exposed in an operation and Control believes it was in an attempt to get the name of a mole at the very top of MI6.  Smiley has to determine if it is one of four men.

I suppose I will tackle the complaint I hear most often from people.  I keep hearing people bitch about the fact the movie is too “complicated“.  I really don’t understand this at all.  This movie is densely packed with exposition.  I mean when you take something that normally takes a miniseries to unravel and put it into a two hour movie, then scenes are going to be packed with info.  Look, I really am no Rhodes scholar and I have my share of movies which I get confused over.  But all I had to do in this movie was just pay attention to what the characters were saying.  Seriously, what the hell are so many people getting hung up on?

I’m not going to get into any spoilers so this review may be shorter than usual.  TTSS is a very well crafted spy thriller/mystery.  Alfredson does a great job recreating the time period and establishing the paranoid atmosphere of the movie.  The movie is packed with top Brit stars who do a good job despite some really thin roles in some cases.  The plot also has many of the natural swerves which makes the mystery interesting.  Really, I think most of the hate I am seeing is a backlash to the earlier glowing reviews (some placing it at #1 of the year).  This movie is just a spy thriller.  It is a well made spy thriller, but at the end of the day it is a spy thriller.  When they come out and find it is not some grand statement on Brittain or the Cold War or paranoia they get pissed off.

I do have my issues with TTSS.  It does feel like the plot is compressed with the two hour time span.  Some scenes are jam packed with dry exposition and even with the expert talent here, it still feels like an audiobook rather than a movie.  The majority of the characters, especially the four suspects, are completely ignored.  We never get a good feel of them as characters so there is not much impact when we find out who the mole is.  This movie needed more time for us to get to know the characters and to pace things out better.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a good movie.  It is not the best movie of the year, nor anywhere near the worst.  It is good, and I’m fine with that.  It is a well written spy movie with good acting and director with an eye for detail.  It has its problems mainly due to the constricting of the dense source material, but it doesn’t ruin the movie.  If you were interested in this movie I would still give it a shot.  Maybe this is best suited for home viewing.

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Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (Eli Craig) 2011

Posted in T on January 2, 2012 by moviemoses

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie.  The cover looks like DTV crap but I was battered down by so many positive reviews I had to see what the hub bub was all about.

The movie is a clever twist on very worn down horror cliches.  At first it plays itself as an Eli Roth horror film about snotty teens who are going to the woods to “ party“ when they are hunted down by a pair of hillbillies.  They are driving to their cabin when they cut off the titular character on the freeway and the teens think the hillbillies are gunning for them.  The clever turn is when we find out Tucker and Dale are really nice good ole boys who are just looking to fix up an old cabin so they can have a permenant vacation spot.  This sets up several funny misunderstandings about the teens thinking they are getting hunted down.

For example, Tucker and Dale are fishing when they see one of the girls fall and hit her head.  They decide to rescue her but what the rest of the partying friends see are these guys dragging an unconcious girl on their boat yelling “WE GOT YUR FRIEND!“  Or there is another scene where the group comes across Tucker and Dale’s Evil Dead style cabin they are fixing up and Tucker (while cutting wood with a chainsaw) accidentily cuts into a bees nest.  This sends him into a frenzy where runs around blindly with a running chainsaw.

The writing is very good in that it has many variations on essentially one joke.  I think they also realize how it can easily get repetitive because they don’t overstay their welcome.  T&DvE barely clocks in at 80 minutes but this is a good thing because of the thin premise.  I also like how Tucker and Dale aren’t overwritten as Larry the Cable Guy “Get er done!“ broad stereotypes.  Yeah they have some redneck traits but they are not overdone cariactures.  Both are really nice guys who have a really nice friendship.  What is surprising is this almost touching friendship and small message about believing in yourself.  This is helped by actors Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk.  I mean come on, you can’t beat Wash from Firefly.

This was a pleasant little surprise.  I was expecting something very lazy but got a clever little comedy.  The actors are having fun with the material and the writing does as much as it can with the thin premise.  This flew under my radar but thankfully the positive reviews dragged me into seeing it.

2012 (Roland Emmerich) 2009

Posted in T on August 2, 2011 by moviemoses

If I may indulge in some pointless theater experience bitching.  I know its annoying.  It’s like friends who have to tell you about dreams they had last night but I just have to unburden.  If you don’t care you can skip to the next paragraph which is the review.  Okay, I’m sitting in the theater and we are at the scene where Ejiofor’s character is giving his passionate speech about humanity and whatnot.  And next to me this dude starts eating his plastic bottle of soda.  He is holding it like a corn on the cob and is literally chewing on it as if he didn’t know the way to get to the drink is to unscrew the top.  This loud crumple crackle is going on for I shit you not five minutes and not only is he still doing it but everyone else is not saying a word.  Eventually I said “Stop that please!” and he finally got the concept that maybe sort of behavior is just a bit odd.  But really, did I miss something here?  Is this normal behavior to eat your bottles and I just haven’t noticed it by now?  Is this some east coast fad like fur boots with short shorts that is just coming to Arizona.  I was just floored by this rather cro magnon behavior by this dude.

Anyway…

2012 follows much in the same tradition of Irwin Allen disaster movies of the 70’s: a big cast of veteran actors, paper thin characters, cliché story lines, and (in metric terms) a shit ton of special effects.  I can appreciate a good B grade disaster movie like anyone else and I certainly won’t write off Emmerich just on the name.  To his credit, 2012 is a solidly made movie of the same mold.  The effects are incredible and he really does push it all out as he destroys the entire freaking world.  It really is a spectacle.  Aaaaand that is about where my glowing positives end.

Because 2012 is so much like the 70’s disaster movies of old, it also shares many of the same flaws.  Primary among the flaws is its ass cramping length of 2 and a half hours.  Again, this is not unique; Towering Inferno and Poseidon Adventure (just two examples among many) are also two and a half hours or even over.  Towering Inferno is probably my favorite among the genre because of the pairing of Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, but even that does not make me love it.  By the end of that movie, I was sure if I saw another shot of that building in flames I was going to put my head through the wall.  I RARELY watch that movie and that is (without thinking too hard on this) my favorite disaster movie.  The length just kills it for me.  I have often wondered why all movies like this are so freaking long.  After all, this is a movie by its very definition of all style and no substance.  The only thing I can figure is that the director thinks people will not go for a short action packed movie.  They want to give people their money’s worth and by god they will throw in everything and the kitchen sink to make an epic people will not feel jilted in paying their 10 dollars for.  I highly disagree with that.  If you made a tight 1 hr and 40 minute movie where its nothing but “shit blews up reeel good” then I would be satisfied with that.  But this is not Shakespeare and we don’t need to dedicate 2 hrs and 30 minutes to this mindless crap.

But length is not everything if there is other stuff to keep the audience interested.  This falls into the second problem with 2012 and the 70’s disaster movies it follows.  Half of the movie is devoted to one dimensional characters and cliché plot lines.  Cliché is actually being too kind to this movie and I wish I could think of a word that somehow takes cliché to a new level.  I have seen these stories a billion times before (really, I’ve counted).  We get the main story of a divorced couple that it takes the end of the world to get them back together.  We get the children that hate their dad and call them by their first name until the end where they exclaim “WE LOVE YOU…DADDY!!!”  We get the young lovers storyline and the old codgers that forget their past intolerance and reach out to their family in times of need.  Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the noble sacrifice plot thread either.  This type of material is tolerable AT BEST but after two hours I officially reached the “I don’t give a fuck” stage.  They could have easily cut 30 to even 40 minutes to make this more manageable.  There is no excuse for this.  I also love how w get the same chase scene THREE TIMES of a plane outrunning a crevice.  Its strange we could come up with a drinking game for the action scenes.

There are some hilarious moments and most of them are unintentional.  Woody Harrelson gives one of the most goofball performances of this year as conspiracy theorist/mountain man/radio host.  His overacting is so shameful it somehow made me put my head in my hands.  Someone also forgot to tell Ejiofor what kind of movie he was in.  I love this actor and its a shame he wasted so much talent on this.  He is spouting these lines like he’s going for the Oscar and its almost funny in the context of everyone else’s histrionics and overacting.  Oliver Platt plays the token Republican dick, Danny Glover looks like he wants to kill himself he has so little energy, and we are surrounded by stock characters and insipid stereotypes.

In the end I can’t really recommend watching this in theaters.  I know why people want to see it because it’s probably the same reasons I did: the special effects and the “so bad its good” storyline.  I will say that the effects are great and that the plot is so ludicrous and stupid it will give you plenty of fodder for mocking.  But that being said, this movie is still way to damn long.  This would probably be better suited for DVD where you can skip past the more boring parts.  So it was okay, but it should have been a lot shorter.

Take the Money and Run (Woody Allen) 1969

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

Now we get to Allen’s true debut as a director. In actuality, Allen didn’t want to direct this movie but eventually did take control when he couldn’t get the director he wanted. Continuing with the innovation he showed with Tiger Lily and its format, in this movie he makes what is cited as the first widely released “mockumentary”. Now I’m not sure about that claim but I will say he was one of the first. The movie is shot as a documentary about Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen). He is an inept criminal but the narrator plays like he is one of the most ruthless bank robber in history.

There really isn’t much of a plot to be had as this feels like a string of comedy shorts. I’m actually not saying that as a bad thing. The mockumentary approach works well as it feels natural the fake filmmakers are highlighting the big moments in Virgil’s life. It also works well in a comedy sense in that the jokes are told in a rapid fire pace so if one bit doesn’t work we quickly move onto the next sketch.

We also for the first time see Allen’s trademark “nebbish” behavior. I think its so trademark I swear the word “nebbish” was created just for Woody Allen cause that is the only time I hear it. This character is a true love him or hate him, and the people that hate him REALLY hate him. I will admit, the prototypical Allen character was a reason I stayed away from his movies for so long. It took me a while for me to warm up to that brand of comedy and where he was coming from. To me, it is the comedic equivalent of an acquired taste.

Even though we get Allen’s nebbish character, Take the Money and Run doesn’t have the usual intellectual humor we come to expect from Allen. This movie is more general with its humor with puns, verbal humor, and even physical humor. Again, this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I found much of the movie to be hilarious. As I mentioned earlier, the movie is so quick with it’s jokes that even if you don’t care for a few, Allen throws about ten in the span of a minute. It kind of feels like a Monty Python Flying Circus themed episode with all the sketches matching a loose theme.

This movie isn’t perfect. It is his first movie and it does feel very raw. Allen still has a lot to learn before we get to the likes of say Manhattan. I also hear the movie had to be saved by the editor because the initial cut was getting very bad reactions. Allen would then retain this same editor for many of his next movies. Overall this is a very fun movie. It is an unpolished gem from Allen who shows his talents as a comedy writer. Accessible to everyone and runs at a blistering 80 minutes I recommend this movie. Next up on my review of Allen’s filmography is Bananas.

13 Assassins (Takashi Miike) 2010

Posted in T on July 12, 2011 by moviemoses

13 Assassins is set in the final days of the samurai. Aging samurai Shinzaemon is hired to kill an evil lord before he gains any more power. He gets together a group of assassins to strike when he is en route to his home kingdom because his protection will be at his weakest (relatively speaking anyway).

I guess this film can be most likened to Seven Samurai, in which the first half is establishing the environment, assembling our team, and constructing a plan. The second half is the confrontation but instead of bandits, it is a lord with army protection.

I hate to say this is Miike’s most mainstream film cause it may sound like he is phoning in this movie. I only mean it in the sense the plot is more straightforward than anything else Miike has done so far. Even though the story is straightforward, Miike uses all his talents to make it as enjoyable as possible. The landscapes are beautifully shot, the action is perfectly staged, and there is still that gore you come to expect from a Miike film.

The best part of this movie is, by far, the climactic end battle between the 13 assassins and the massive force the lord has. This action scene goes on for a long time and is just great. There are so many downright badass scenes as Shinzaemon’s plan comes together. Everything is just shot so well and the scene is established so precisely that it is exciting from beginning to end. Miike does a hell of a job here.

If I were to have gripes about 13 Assassins it would be mainly stemming from the first half. It does drag just a tad and without seeing it again I can’t really explain why so I’ll apologize for not being as descriptive as I usually am. I also feel like they don’t do as well as they could in developing the characters more. We spend so much time finding the titular 13 assassins that we don’t really get to know them as people before the main showdown.

Those complaints are relatively small compared to the film as a whole. Overall this is a beautifully shot, well acted, and very exciting samurai film. I think this film is accessible to everyone and is well worth the watch. Highly recommended.

 

The Trial of Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) 1974

Posted in T on July 11, 2011 by moviemoses

Up until this point I had only seen the first Billy Jack movie (technically the second movie featuring the character but whatever). Billy Jack is probably what you would have gotten if you had a slightly nuttier Steven Seagal start directing films in the early 70’s. The movie had fun action with its titular hero kicking racists in the face and it also had it’s ‘so bad it’s funny’ moments. Director Tom Lauglin’s extreme political views are on parade and it is hard not to laugh at a person who is to the liberals, what Tea Partiers are to the conservatives. When we aren’t seeing Billy Jack kick ass, we get funny asides to the Freedom School, which is a group of hippies putting on terrible shows and singing horrible songs. It is a pleasant B movie and I can see it’s appeal with bad movie aficionados.

I really can’t see how anyone can enjoy The Trial of Billy Jack. The success of Billy Jack (the highest grossing independent film of the time) made Laughlin think people cared about his paranoid delusional fantasy (instead of Billy Jack kicking mass amounts of ass) and decided to make a three hour movie where Laughlin gets on his soap box and berates you non-stop through the entirety of the run time. I told this to Michael Bay and I’m going to tell it to Tom Laughlin; your movies do not need to be three hours long! This is the main problem with the movie. This is like, again, Steven Seagal making a three hour movie and it is him saying how evolution leads to Nazism, 9/11 was an inside job, and how people don’t have to pay their income taxes. It’s funny at first, but after two hours you wish he would take his tin foil hat and go home. In the case of Trial of Billy Jack, there are a lot of funny scenes in this movie. For example we get Billy Jack pimp slapping Jesus, we get the hippie lie detector (which oddly enough ISN’T a bong), and even more horrible singing including an ode to Billy Jack.

The problem is despite there being lots of unintentionally funny stuff, it doesn’t change the fact I am watching a three hour movie. Not even a scene of pimp slapping Jesus can make you forget the fact your ass is numb for sitting in your chair for so long. It also doesn’t help that there is not much action in this film. Can you guess when the first fight scene is in this movie about an ass kicking Green Beret fighting for hippies? An hour and fifty minutes! And overall there are probably two fight scenes in the whole movie.

Do I really need to go into the politics? It is some of the most inane, delusional, contradictory nonsense ever spewed out on screen. It’s bad when I’m a liberal and you are making me want to vote for Nixon.  Basically the evil “government” is responsible for all evils in the world short of throwing babies in a woodchipper (and that’s only because we don’t know about it yet due to the government keeping it hush hush). In explaining the contradictory tone of Laughlin, a perfect example is in the very title character. The main characters do nothing but preach pacifism and how fighting drags you down to a lower level. You are told that for the whole three hours but how is every problem resolved in this movie? By violence or the threat of violence. Now I personally don’t have a problem with someone defending him/herself so my objection isn’t with Billy Jack fighting. No my problem is with the hypocritical nature of Billy Jack kicking someone in the face and literally in the next breath berating a fellow hippie for “sinking to his level” by trying to punch him. It was something Laughlin could never reconcile when he wanted to make a movie about peace and love, and simultaneously make an action climax to appease his core audience. That is just one example of how Laughlin’s ideas make no sense in the context of this movie.

In it’s day, Trial of Billy Jack was a huge success but now is being rightly classified as one of the worst movies of all time. Even many of the positive reviews I read, are more saying it is a funny bad movie instead of saying Trial is a good movie. For me, this movie is far too long to say it is ‘so bad it’s funny’. The movie transcends hilariously bad and moves into the horribly dull. But my torture was not yet complete, because immediately after I put in the end of the trilogy; Billy Jack Goes to Washington.

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (Michael Bay) 2011

Posted in T on July 4, 2011 by moviemoses

I know an instant rebuttal for me is that I came into this movie with a sore attitude and am therefore predisposed to disliking it. Believe me when I say I really want to love the Transformers movies. I practically bent so far backwards trying to find good things for this movie yogis were calling me up asking how I got so flexible. Transformers 3 is the best of the three Bay made Transformers movies, but that is damning it with incredibly faint praise when the first two (as redlettermedia would say) has your expectations so low they are near fucking dinosaur bones.

All of my praise for this movie is predicated on the fact that “Well…this doesn’t suck as bad as Transformers 2.” The racist/misogynist/offensive humor is not as bad as TF2. Yes, Skids and Mudflap (the resident Jar Jars) are gone, the decepticon testicles are gone, and we don’t have to see John Turturro’s ass anymore. Yes, we do get more action in this movie than in TF2. And by that I guess I should clarify that this is action I can actually understand now because after three movies Bay has finally learned to pull his camera back so we can see the whole picture. I don’t care if you have the world’s longest fight scene if the camera is so close we are practically in Optimus Prime’s butthole.  Rosie Huntington-Whitely is not as annoying as Megan Fox.  Leonard Nimoy does a great job rather than Megatron (who is MIA in the last and this movie) Yes, this movie has a plot unlike TF2.

I can keep going on but you get the gist. The problem is even though all the problems are not as bad as they were in one of the worst movies ever made, they are still problems which ultimately cripple the movie. One of my biggest problems is that of the comic relief. As I explained somewhere else, Bay doesn’t seem to know the difference between ‘comic relief’ and completely killing the tone of your movie. For the most part, Dark of the Moon is the darkest themed of all Bay’s TF movies. We get several autobots dying as well as some shocking imagery of the decepticons killing humans. But present throughout this movie is wacky comedy which would almost be out of place in many comedies let alone this film. One scene which really is the best highlight is when the decepticons hold Sam’s girlfriend hostage and will only release her if he betrays Optimus Prime. This is a scene which is very intense and has a lot of drama behind it. I will admit, I was interested to see what Sam would ultimately do and if he would betray those people he loves. In the immediate next scene, Sam is doing Three Stooges type prat falls and “comically” feeling everyone up while making goofy faces. This completely kills all drama or tension and ruins what little emotion I had for the character. It is like having pie in the face humor after a rape scene. And this is not an isolated incident, this is the whole movie. This is it. And when your movie is two hours and forty minutes long, you have to wonder at what Bay was thinking when he left so much of this crap in.

This leads to crippling problem number 2 which is making this movie be about the humans. In a movie called Transformers, I do not expect the characters to be essentially the subplot of the film. I can somewhat understand why a character like Sam is in the movie even though I hate the character. Sam is a ‘fish out of water’ character that the audience is supposed to relate to and to whom all the characters explain what the hell is going on. Somewhere along the way that message got screwed up and instead of making us relate to the autobots more, the autobots are supporting characters in a movie about Sam working out his various issues. It absolutely doesn’t help that Sam is still an annoying prick of a main character. This is a man who has the Transformers as best friends, has an underwear model as a girlfriend, and has been involved in several battles with an alien race. Yet in this movie he feels like he is owed more from everyone else and does nothing but bitch and moan about his oh so horrible life. As one of my exes would say “Cry me a river, then build a bridge and get over it.” Everyone in this movie is selfish, arrogant, or unbearably annoying and I don’t want to spend one minute with them let alone 160 minutes.

You notice I’ve spent so long talking about the humans because we still don’t know all that much about the autobots or the decepticons. Again, I will admit they do a little more (by that I mean, more than nothing at all) to introduce these characters to us. I was able to recognize some of these characters because they give them a little more screen time. That being said, I have had several discussions with other people who have watched it trying to figure out what happened (if anything) to Starscream. Some think Sam had a fight with him, others think Bumblebee got in a fight, while I am not so certain Bay didn’t just forgot about him. That’s a good sign of a movie isn’t it? When you can’t even figure out what, if anything, happened to one of your main villains. Is it such an unreasonable expectation that I can get to know these characters and what motivates them? For those that think I may be too snobby and am somehow expecting Transformers to be Citizen Kane let me use another kids movie as an example; the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In that movie, anyone that watches it can identify all the different turtles, can tell me who they are and what motivates them, and can say how they are unique by how they act. In Transformers we get none of that. I can only identify characters in the loosest of ways: he’s the NASCAR with an Irish accent, he’s the red car who is a Spaniard, that decepticon is the big worm thingy, and so on. What should be our main character in Optimus Prime probably has a quarter of the screen time of the useless character of Sam.

The action in this movie is great and the fights with Optimus had the audience giving multiple fangasms. In what can only be described as selective memory, I think the majority of people that will like it will have the uncanny ability to forget all the crap in order to focus on the 15 minutes of pure awesome. Simply put, I cannot do that. I cannot forget about two hours of useless filler, unlikable characters, and everything else described above to get excited about Optimus making Megatron his bitch. If you haven’t guessed, my crippling problem #3 is the length. Now I don’t have a problem with long movies, but a movie should only be as long as necessary to tell the plot. While I was being nice in saying this movie had a plot, this really isn’t the kind of story that needs two hours and forty minutes to tell. Because of that, you have useless scenes of comic relief and even useless scenes of action. In our third act, we have probably a twenty minute sequence where the humans are being terrorized by a giant worm thing. I will admit the scene looked great but at the end of it the whole sequence was completely useless. The characters achieved nothing, the plot was not advanced in any way, and it was all just a waste of time. I can understand people forgiving many of the faults of the movie if it was a quick 90 minutes, but when you are trapped in a near three hour movie, all the faults seem to inflate to monster proportions.

I feel I could dedicate a book to all the ways Bay screws up in the process of movie making but I think you get the point. Despite all I say I’m sure there are still going to be people who think I’m asking for too much or that I just can’t appreciate a ‘turn off your brain’ type movie. As I mentioned before I and everyone else *want * to love a series like Transformers. A concept like giant fighting robots that also turn into cool cars seems hardwired into our brain and an Earth shatteringly awesome thing. It is so ball explodingly manly that people are willing to forgive just about ANYTHING if they get even a whiff of Optimus Prime. I want an awesome Transformers movie just like anyone and I think in the right hands it could be an action classic but I am simply not able to overlook the near criminal flaws which are the albatross around the series neck. Despite the cool scene here and there and being the best of the Bay series, this is still a very bad film. Now give JJ Abrams a chance at the series or something. Anyone other than Bay.