Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard – 98Min – R

There are times when you are in the mood for just one long car chase, story and plot be dammed, just blow stuff up. BOOM BABY!!! Well you can’t go wrong with choosing this movie to relieve that need. It is just what it says it is. Even if the person I went with fell asleep and missed a third of the film it was not as bad I thought it was going to be. When I compare it to the others it’s much better than Die Hard 2 but not as good as Live Free or Die Hard. I have to look at it from that stand point and give it a yellow light at best.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is still a rough and tumble New York Cop. He uses his police contacts to keep track of his son Jack (Jai Courtney) who is in Russia. He tracks his son down and finds him hip deep in trouble with the Russian terrorists but that’s what happens when you are a spy. Father and son work on building broken relationships as they are breaking faces. Somewhere there should be an eCard with a father and son saying “The family that commits acts of violence together stays together.” Long story short, the father and son team cause a huge swath of destruction across Russia and get the bad guys in the end.

John Moore was at the helm of this film. He did a decent job, but the bar was not set very high. It is an action flick. If you destroy most of what you are filming, you will do fine. I wonder if this is a handoff from the father to the son in action movies franchises? Jai Courtney certainly has the screen presence to handle an action film, but I also wonder if this should be the last in this franchise. Meh, who am I kidding? As long as there is stuff to blow up they will always make this kind of movie, so why not keep the franchise going?

They really enjoyed the fact that they shot this in Russia, because every chance to use a long shot to show off the setting was used, so much show that at one point I was not sure of what I should be looking at. I was looking at a long overhead shot of a Russian urban setting and two small figures running out of a roof access. This was a bit distracting but if I was using a great setting I would try and get as much out of it as possible too.

The touching father and son reconciliation was put into the film almost as an afterthought to appeal to people who need a bit of substance in their action film, but not a lot. If you are looking to this film for any sort of depth of story or complex characters, keep stepp’n because this movie is not going to satisfy you.

Warning Spoilers!!!! Only people who have been cleared by Russian customs are allowed to look under this link!!!!!!!

I do have to give them the credit for the double, double twist I did not see that coming but I have to admit I was blinded by explosion 46 to see it coming.

When the bad guys you are chasing all take time to don hazmat suits, I think your t-shirt and leather jacket is a wee bit underdressed for the visit to Chernobyl where the bad guys have hidden their plutonium. I was reminded of the game Fallout , my mental Geiger counter was clicking like mad.

It’s true that my brother from another mother fell stone asleep during the first third of the film. The shaky camera and the high speed chase were enough to lull him to a sound sleep. That either says something about this movie or something about my brother. Perhaps it says something about them both. He does not do well with just sheer action for action sake. He does need to have some substance to go along with the action, so that, I think, is the real reason he was unconscious.

What was the last action movie you saw that was nothing but action, and do you think that movies like this are fine or do they need to pepper in some deeper story?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dark Skies

Dark Skies- 97min – PG13

I am very sad that there are not more good horror movies out there. I love the type of horror movie where I am holding my breath and sitting very still because I am scared that I might be found out by the big bad. Horror movies of today have not worked out for me at all. Dark Skies is another in a long list of poorly executed horror movies that have no clue as to what building tension is. They depend on the shadowy figure jump tactics that real put me to sleep because the frightening bits are so telegraphed, HEY EVERYONE WE ARE GOING TO BE SNEAKY HERE AND SCARE YOU, COMING UP, ITS RIGHT HERE, ALMOST THERE… NOW!!!!Were You Scared? What is scary is that I have yet another film that rates a Red light.

Lacy and Daniel Barrett (Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton) live an average life trying to make ends meet, Daniel is out of work and Lacy is in real estate, they are struggling because of the recent recession. Their two boys, Jesse and Sam (Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett) live normal lives. Things start to change when the family starts experiencing some strange events like all of the food in the kitchen suddenly being stacked up around the kitchen. When the boys are asked about it Sam says it was the “Sand Man”. Three different flocks of birds all kamikaze the house from three different directions, strange injuries appear on the family. The family loses control over their bodies and their minds.

The problems with this movie are all stem from the fact they are taking a standard horror movie haunting and trying to give it a twist. Most of the set up is very clichéd, but I am glad they have moved away from the found footage plot device but they did mix in a lot of the security camera elements.

It seems that you have no control over your body is a big draw from horror filmmakers. As horrifying a concept as that is, if you do not lead your audience through the process and give them the needed information as to why it’s going on it comes off as creepy but doesn’t truly grip your audience.

Scott Stewart wrote and directed this movie, his track record as the lead of a movie is short but he has a lot of industry experience. As hard as this is to believe he is getting better at his craft, it’s not where it needs to be but there are improvements over the last film Priest, but not much.

Warring Spoilers!!! Caution a larger than normal amount under here, Click here to see the ranting!!!!

Ok, problem one: if the aliens take control of the people and they are powerless to do anything, fighting like Edwin (J.K. Simmons) tells them to is pointless. This is a problem with the script; if you set down ground rules play by them. If the aliens have the power to make Daniel stand out in the cold like a freak staring at the stars and Lacy Walk over to the plate glass window and make her bash her head over and over again, you have no hope of fighting them with a dog and a shot gun.

As a side note when Keri started bashing her head over and over again, I thought to myself, “Honey I know how you feel.” My head felt the same way. They should have given the characters a way out of the all overpowering control the Aliens had over them. Something that was painful but necessary to keep the aliens at bay.

The second problem I have is the very condescending wrap up at the end. When a movie feels it has to give you a montage of all the hints they gave you leading up to the hook the just sprang on you. You are not telling your story right or you are underestimating your audience. For example In Sixth Sense the call backs to the hints as the character is making the realization is blended into the story. In this movie they give the hook and you then get a lesson in where the hints were. It did not play as well because it was mostly shots back to Keri Russell who is doing the same thing, no action to take us along the thought process.

What do you want horror film makers to do? Do you feel that we are in the golden age of horror movies and nothing needs to change; or do you think they could do a lot better than they have been?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Identity Thief

Identity Thief - 111Min – R

I am a Jason Bateman fan. I have followed his work from "It’s Your Move" on TV. I enjoyed Arrested Development and many of his other film projects Like Juno, Paul and Hancock. I say all this because I feel I need to clarify I love him, but I did not like this movie. It was flat and not very funny, primarily because the trailer has all of the good bits and the emotional connection is handled poorly so we don’t have any time to really get to know the characters. They run from gag to gag to gag and then I gagged. The only thing that gets stole is your time; this is a very red light film.

Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) lives with his wife (Amanda Peet) and his two kids, Fanny (Mary-Charles Jones) and Jessie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). He is going about his business when he gets a call from con artist, Diana (Melissa McCarthy) who convinces him to give her his personal information. She assumes his Identity, because Sandy is a unisex name, and goes on a wild spending spree in Miami. Sandy is arrested in his home in Denver because she was arrested and missed a court date. The police say their hands are tied and he can only clear his name if the person who stole his Identity comes to Denver and confesses. Sandy takes control and goes to Miami and tries to bring her back and hijinks ensue.

I said that all the good bits were in the trailer and perhaps that was a little harsh. There are other good things in the subplot of the movie but it was really too long a walk. I think the biggest problem with the movie is pacing and trying to add too many elements to this simple story. There is a sub plot with Robert Patrick playing a Bounty Hunter and some gangsters also chasing Diana, but all it does is take away time for us to start developing a relationship with Diana so we feel for her during the emotional moments. They just don’t give us time to start empathizing with her.

This should have been a good medium for the stars to really work their magic -- Bateman as the straight man McCarthy as the comedian -- that is a recipe for comedy gold. Maybe they didn’t take into account the altitude when cooking the story at the Denver.

Warring Spoilers!!!!! Please enter your social security number in the space provided to see them!!!!

I don’t like it when characters do not stay true to their character throughout the film, and if they change they need to suffer the consequences. Sandy decides to embrace the dark side and give his very deserving boss a little bit of his pain and steals his identity. He is now doing the thing that he is fighting against. What I don’t care for is how easy he jumped sides. He was in a tight spot but there are other methods of getting by. Then he is magically exonerated because Diana says it’s all her fault. I think he is still an accessory to the crime.

There is a bit where a snake bites Sandy on the neck and Diana beats him to death. The snake, not Sandy. The Snake was so CG-ish that I was distracted. The gag was just not as good and if you needed to get Sandy to start feeling something for Diana you could have had him fall or pass out from hitting his head on a branch. Then you can still have Diana looking like a hero for carrying him a half a mile to the road. It would have been better to watch her carry him as opposed to just saying she did. Having her rant about how heavy he is for the half mile would make for better comedy. Melissa McCarthy does some excellent comedy riffs in this movie and should have been give more space to just role with it.

Who are your favorite comedic comedy duos? Mine is Stallone and Russell. Tango and Cash is the best comedy ever.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Oz: The Great and Powerful Movie

It is dangerous to use classic stories in telling new stories. The Wizard of OZ is a film standard revolutionalizing film and bring color to its own on-screen.  The children stories are beloved by many.  Knowing this you need to bring your A-game to pass fandom muster.  This film checks all the boxes and has the right touches of CGI, and each character does a good job of playing their parts.  I wish the story was just as magical.

As a family-friendly move, younger ones may be scared as there are some intense battle scenes, it's an adequate film. However, the main character, Oscar Diggs (James Franco), is not good.  I mean that he is flawed and in ways that are not charming or engaging.  He is a charlatan and a scoundrel.  He only improves himself because he is trapped in OZ and now needs to defeat the two evil witch sisters.  His change of heart is only because he wants to survive. 

Theodora (Mila Kunis) has the potential to become a strong character, but she is a shallow set dressing who falls for Oz quickly and because of her heartbreak (with the help of a magic apple) turns evil.  Evanora (Rachel Weisz)  is a villain of the highest order as she manipulates events and turns her sister, Theodora, in the green-skinned witch we know. Both roles are played perfectly but written flatly.

Michell Williams has a dual role as Annie, Oscar's love interest in Kansas and also Glinda, the good witch.  This detail seems too convenient I am sure they are calling back to the original in that Dorthy's real acquaintances become characters. She plays it well but again is written with a one note instead of having more depth.

Maybe my problem is that all of the females are there to move Oscar on his journey of "discovery."

The writer Micthell Kapner has had a string of films that met a mixture of reviews, my favorite is The Whole 9 yards, but this one seems to be one of the flat ones. The characters are not very engaging, plus it seems to rush from element to element.  It will get good box office return because of the family film aspects, but It may not rate a sequel.

What makes it troubling is that it does nothing to expand the original story, but it also doesn't do enough to stand out as a new product.  This product is just a yellow light kind of film.  Not good enough to be outstanding but not bad enough to be a bad movie.  The writing rises to the level of fan fiction.

Sam Raimi has a stunning eye for fantastical and mythic characters, and he has to have Bruce Campbell in every film.  His cameo is as a guard this round according to the credits.  He needs to be a square on the Sam Raimi bingo card. A game played by writing down some of the tropes and signature shots of a director on several cards and you play bingo.

My take away from this film is that it is eye cotton candy, looks good on the screen but once consumed it melts away leaving a sweet taste that is quickly forgotten. You should just go watch Wicked you'll have a better time.