Monday, November 28, 2011

The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary - 120m – R

Hunter S. Thompson is a writer that I have never really understood. Perhaps he speaks from a different age or perhaps I don’t use enough drugs to really get in touch with his message. This story was probably the most coherent of all of the movies that have been based on his work. This story was his first book but it was not published until later in his life. I really got the sense that this was his first character that received a call to arms to fight against corruption and people who abused power. As a movie it was not bad. I enjoyed seeing the younger version of Thompson; I think he bases his main characters on himself. I look back on it and I was surprised that it was a complete and understandable story. I liked the journey of the character but it did not speak to me as a viewer. This movie receives a yellow light.

Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) is a new reporter at a small Puerto Rican newspaper. He is getting to know the politics of the island and also the paper. His new boss, Lotterman (Richard Jenkins), has him start out writing the daily horoscopes, but he gets involved with a local businessman by the name of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) and his girlfriend Chenault (Amber Heard). They are involved with the power players who are making money exploiting the locals. They want Kemp to write the travel brochures to bring tourists to a new resort they are building. During his stay on the island, he starts to learn how the people are mistreated and makes a choice to stand up to the people who are abusing the privilege they have been given.

The director, Bruce Robinson, does a good job of making the story come to life. He pays homage to Thompson’s book and does a good job of translating it to film. He has a good eye for keeping the focus on the actors, he lets them do their work. His brand of storytelling does not involve flashy tricks but he lets the scene and the actor blend in a natural flow of the individual scenes. When Kemp is exploring the poverty stricken areas of Puerto Rico, the scenes are not heavy with dialog but we see what Kemp is thinking in his reaction to what he sees. The problem with this movie is that the scenes don’t seem to blend together well. The parts are masterfully done but they seem to be blocked together poorly.

Thompson’s work has been hit or miss with readers. Either you love him or hate him: there seems to be no in-between. This is not like the Gonzo journalism of the previous films. This one is more of a story about a young man learning about who he is. This seems like a story of where he got his calling for his style of journalism. I am more interested in reading this story than his other books. This movie does peak my interest in reading more from him. I hope his books are not laced with LSD…

Spoiler Warning!!! Freaks only beyond this point!!! Click here to see them.

One of the best lines in this movie is from Kemp’s drug hallucinations from a lobster. “Human beings are the only creatures on earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one.” It’s the line that sparks the voice of Ink and rage against the bastards of the world.

This movie leads off with a promise of a drug and alcohol induced romp very much like Thompson’s other films but does not indulge in he over the top and the WTF just happened story telling. I think that some fans of his might feel let down, but this story does not really lend itself to that kind style.

Another great scene is when Kemp’s roommate, Moburg (Giovanni Ribsi), trades his high powered hallucinogens for a quick look at his penis, he calmly asks. “Is it the clap?” Kemp replies, “It’s a standing ovation.” Sick and wrong but it gave me a giggle.

What movie have you been looking forward to and was let down, because it’s just not the same. This Thompson story was one unlike his previous films.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers – 110 min - PG13

Take a story that has been done a few times, and add in a new mix of pre steam punk and you have the new Three Musketeers movie. The mix of archaic futuristic technology (I think I made up a term there) and the very stylized fight scenes make this the visual extravaganza that you expect. I was mildly entertained by the CGI shininess but overall this movie left me with a Wild Wild West feeling and that’s not a complement. I wonder what Mr. Dumas would have thought about the result of his work. Could he sue for defamation of character? As much as this story has been redone, just being the eye candy explosion is not enough to make this story worth wile. Other people have done much better with this same story. Red light is the best their cutting wits can muster.

I am sure that everyone is familiar with the story by now. D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), a young boy with some skill with a blade goes to Paris to join the Musketeers. He runs into Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans) and challenges each to a duel. He finds out that he has challenged the famous three Musketeers and is now in a tight spot. Luckily the Cardinal’s (Christoph Waltz) men come and arrest all of them. They join forces and take on the guards and become fast friends. The cast did a good job with what they had to work with and Walz did a great job as the bad guy again.

The main story line is the same but the sub plots are quite different and varied: they uncover a plot by the cardinal to split up the royals; they get revenge on a person from their past; start a war with England. None of these are very interesting and are nothing more than an excuse to use more CGI effects.

Paul W.S. Anderson was the director for this and it is one more in his resume of eye candy blockbuster films. It seems like he feels that a story is that wee little thing that you deliver gratuitous visual effects on. It’s a shame because he does have a good eye for the large effects. He needs to join forces with someone who can tell a good story. Andrew Davies has plenty of writing credits under his name but his touch seems to be absent from this film. Alex Litvak has only two works that I can find so his experience at writing still needs to be explored. I am hoping this is not a representation of his future potential.

Spoiler Warrning!!! Only The Musketeers are welcome here. Click on these words to reveal the spoilers.

It was fun watching some of the theoretical machines of Leonardo Da Vinci. I am a Sci Fi fan so suspension of disbelief is one of my strong suits. It was hard for me really get into the tech aspects of the weapons and air ships. It was fun but only for a bit and not enough to really base a movie on.

The almost super powers of the musketeers were hard for me to enjoy. It seems less like someone who is very skilled with fighting skills and blades and ore like they had superhuman powers. It was almost like a super spy movie than a swashbuckler.

One person who I thought could have done better was Orlando Bloom. I think I did not like him because of his character more than the acting. It was a flat performance -- almost like he was trying to be overly flamboyant. He can do better than this.

What movie would you like to see remade with some eye candy effects?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tower Heist

Tower Heist – 104min – PG13

I try not to judge a movie before I have seen it but I was sorely unimpressed with the trailers for this film. This movie suffers from poor trailer representation. It was a much better film than the trailers made it out to be. However, that does not mean it was a good film. There was some enjoyment for the ride but it did not deliver on great entertainment. I have mentioned in in the past that I am a science fiction fan so I have a good suspension of disbelief skill, but I had some serious issues with this movie from a plausibility standpoint. It was nice to see some old names back on screen. I just hope they do something better next time. I was expecting to give this movie a red light but I have to move it up to a Yellow.

The story is about Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), a mastermind of a Ponzi scheme. He has stolen the money of all of his investors; among them is the entire staff of his building. Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) the building manager who performs his duty extremely well. Charlie (Casey Affleck) the concierge. The last two people of interest on the staff are one of the maids Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) and Enrique (Michael Pena) the elevator operator.

Josh decides to get their money back and enlisted help of two other people. Slide (Eddie Murphy), a street wise thief and Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) a former tenant who was fired from his Merrill Lynch job and evicted from the tower.

Together they start to plan a robbery of the nest egg that Mr. Shaw has in his apartment. This unlikely team has asked Slide to teach them how to steal, and the movie takes on a feel of training them to perform the tasks needed to pull off this robbery.

This story has a few twist in it that I did not expect, and some that I do not believe. If it were written better it might have been an excellent film. This was a great idea that was executed poorly. The writers on this all seem to be new and if not new they have a disastrous credit list. The rogues gallery of writers consists of Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage. With so many people you would think they could have spotted some of the plot holes in the script. The director (Brett Ratner) has done a few hits in the past but he has also had his share of misses. Perhaps he should stick to producing.

The main problem in this movie is the disjointed ending that seems to be rushed because they ran out of money or time. It’s like they ran out of steam in story telling or realized they wrote themselves into a corner and said ”and they all make it out and everyone was ok, the end”.

Spoiler Warning!!! Employees Only beyond this point.!!!!

The end should have been about everyone at the tower helping the robbery go down after things went sideways. The end just magically happened. What really went down is the better story. The ending was the only reason this movie falls into the yellow light category.

Instead of having Josh pay for the crime to have a failed attempt at a lesson that someone must pay for this act of vigilantism. It should have been just like a heist film and the real bad guy does get his just deserts. If you have a two ton car resting on an elevator you can stretch the disbelief to make a happy ending.

I enjoyed Tea Leoni as Special Agent Claire Denham. Her character was done well and I liked her no nonsense approach to the character. She has always struck me as someone who brings realism to the roles she plays. It’s enjoyable to watch her work. Eddie Murphy on the other hand did nothing memorable for me in the movie. He should have played it more rough edge as opposed to the stereotypical street criminal.

What was your favorite Eddie murphy role and your least favorite? Let’s talk about the ups and downs of his carrier.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Real Steel

Real Steel – 127min – PG13

The trailers made me wonder if I wanted to see a movie based on Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots. My biggest fear was that it was going to be another CGI eye candy extravaganza. Well, I am pleased to say it was not. There is a lot more story than just the robots fighting. The effects were a compliment to the story and not the main reason for the movie. In the near future boxing is taken over by robots. People who once boxed are moved out for people who can use the robots to do the same kind of combat. With the robots doing battle the fights can become a fight to the death only without the death. The story is about a washed up old boxer who is struggling to make a living and also reconnect with his son. This is a green light film.

Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is an old boxer who has adapted his skill to the robot boxing arena. He is joined by his son Max (Dakota Goyo) who recently lost his mother. Charlie is working out of an old style boxing gym turned robot repair shop run by Bailey (Evangeline Tilly). Together they find out more about each other and learn about themselves.

The best part about the journey is the transformation of Charlie. He starts out as a reprehensible character and one who has lost sight of himself. Through the journey he learns to become a boxer again and also to become a better man. Max is an excellent example of how much our children are like us and how they can reflect all of our best qualities. His drive to be the best and his faith in his robot are unshakable. He has the spirit his father had before life took its toll on him.

This movie has elements of some of the greatest Boxing movies. It has the underdog tenacity of Rocky. The robot Atom is overlooked and thought to be a pushover like the main character in Cinderella Man. It has the father and son connection like in The Champ. It has the violent brutality of open combat like Raging Bull. It’s kind of odd how the violence seems alright when it’s not humans fighting. This movie shows us robots losing limbs, crushed heads, and splattering of coolant, and brutal as it was, it all seems ok when it’s a robot. It was interesting to watch the audience cringe at the boxing scenes just as if they would at human boxing.

The effects were done well, there were no overly campy CGI effects and it all seems to work together well. The film makers infused a spirit into Atom that made you want to cheer for the little guy. This story was predictable in some parts but I am willing to overlook that because of the wonderful character development. Shawn Levy directed this film and has most of his background come for television work. He has done some comedies but I think his most notable for Night at the Museum. He is developing his art from the small screen to the big screen, and is showing progress. Keep it up Mr. Levy.

Spoilers warning!!!! Only members of the WRB beyond this point.!!!!!!

The best scene in the movie for me was when Max and Charlie are at the Zoo and they have just won the first round and max doubles down on the next round. Charlie pleads with Max, “I really need the money”, Max replies” I know, let’s get to work”. Good stuff.

Watching Ricky (Kevin Durand) get his come comeuppance we great, he plays a complete jerk in this film. He seems to do the heavy well, but I liked him as Little John in Robin Hood. He should think about expanding his role options.

Another memorable scene was in the final battle when Atom punks Zeus with that “come on, come on” gesture. That made me laugh out loud, it was a great humanistic gesture that gave the robot more likability.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It was a wonderful ride that needs to be looked at for more than just its cool effects. If you were thinking about seeing this film, please do.