Saturday, August 31, 2013


R.I.P.D – 96min – PG-13
I want to start by apologizing to the filmmakers. When I saw the trailer, I was completely convinced that it was rip off of Men in Black. It is not. It does, however, borrow heavily from the buddy cop movie archetype and when you add an urban fantasy setting it does look a lot like the same movie only with a different cast. There were enough differences in this story from MIB that I retract my earlier assumption and apologize.

I did not have high expectations for this film and it did not disappoint. It also did not impress. I didn’t have a big problem with this movie just a pile of little ones. I was told that if you give feedback make sure you sandwich them, have 2 good things with every bad thing. I am going to have a hard time doing that so I am just going to give you my thoughts as is.
I guess even great directors have bad movies. RobertSchwentke did an outstanding job with Red but his momentum could not carry this movie. It’s another comic book movie and unfortunately those are hit and miss. What works with aliens does not fly with the dead.

The performances were fine but Ryan Reynolds still has not hit his stride. He really is talented but has not found his vehicle. I think his performance in Green Lantern was again a miss. He needs to stick to romantic comedies. That’s where he performs the best.
Jeff Bridges really likes his cowboy voice. His voice is a distraction in this film. It was fine in True Grit but completely overused here. I can see where he had fun with this movie and the character but it kind of grates on you after a while.

The other problem I had with this was how little they did with the effects. The ghosts… err “Deados” were sketchy and poorly done CGI effects. When a movie has very little to say it needs to have strength someplace like good effects. These effects help distract from the poor writing. When both are weak it’s a disappointment and hard to watch.

So we have newly dead Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is teamed up with Roy (Jeff Bridges). Their boss is Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) who has a thing for Roy. She needs to stop getting these roles where she is falling or old guys. She is way too attractive for that relationship. Their onscreen chemistry does not feel right, forced almost. She should stick to Bruce Willis, they look good together. On a side note the whisker chewing… (erp) I just threw up in my mouth a little.

It seems the dead are allergic to cumin because Indian food makes them bust of the living façade they put on. They look normal until they are confronted with a curry. I have no idea what that says about the creators and whether they love or hate Indian food, but it’s an extremely silly test to include as the main way to root out dead people.
The big dead bad guy seem to have a plan to open up the afterlife’s waiting room and have all of the dead people reside on earth after they gather and assemble all the incredibly hard and complicated parts of an artifact. They have obviously been working on this for a while, if only the script had so much attention.
Dead headquarters, like the MIB head office, has a typical a police station feel with the alien..err dead walking around for color. We have the grizzled older cop showing the new recruit the ropes and life as we know it is just a veneer over the real world that is happing around us.
I never read the comic book but it seems to be a mix of styles that really lend this story to be kind of a humorous story. It was either too comic like and then it tried to be more like real life. It could not make up its mind what it was going for. I found the completing styles just a bit distracting and too silly.

The plot was also very predictable. Perhaps I have seen too many movies. I am beginning to spot the foreshadowing or the formula way before the reveal. It’s kind of ruining my movie going experiences. I know I am not supposed to look for the plot twist or points just enjoy the movie and let it happen. Well I can’t, when its subtlety applied with a sledge hammer.

Peter Suderman wrote an article about that the formula studios use as a Mad Lib template instead of a guide. Blake Snyder and his book Save The Cat! is the blueprint for writing and every big budget blockbuster uses it like scripture. This is why I am not getting the same enjoyment I used to get form movies. After reading that I finally understood why I was getting a feeling of Déjà vu.

I really hope this one does not get three movies like MIB. With MID, they did well on the first one poorly on the second and pulled it back out on the third one. If they decide to do something more with this they need to skip the second movie go on to the third and end there. Really they should have ended before doing this one but the genie is out of the bottle -- nothing you can do for it now.

What other movie failed like this and turned out to be a comic book movie?
Here is the Trailer for MIB...Err R.I.P.D (sorry)

RED 2 - Posted on Movie Review World

Red 2 – 116min – PG-13

Please read this review on Movie Review World  a wonderful website you need to consult daily to be well informed about movies. 

What other Sequel could stand by its self and was not a rehash of the original?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013) – 131 Min – R

What we have here is a failure to let things be. The original Evil Dead was perfect. It may not be as horrifying as the producers wanted but it was beloved because of its campiness. The update strips away anything from the original that might give the slightest hint of humor. Writer/director Fade Alvarez replaces all the fun with some over the top gore and mutilation. If you fell in love with the original you will probably be sucked into see this one but don’t. It’s a disappointment. Same cabin and book different victims. The only thing terrifying about this movie is how bad it is.

Bruce Campbell is my hero and a cult icon because of this franchise. He stepped in as a co-producer of this movie so with his blessing, I gave it a shot. I have to admit I was saddened. This is a simple formula; even first year film students understand the premise. The problem here is a newish director has a classic product to work with and he overcomplicates it by trying to showing off.

They spent way too much time trying to explain some of the history of the cabin and the evil that roams the forest. You don’t need to go deep here. It’s a cursed book and you have some person who is too smart for their own good read it and unleash hell on earth: simple to the point. We don’t need a long backstory on the victims. We know that all of them are going to die except one, so we are going to place bets of who is going to last the longest.

I have to give them credit for creatively and creepily incorporating a sacrifice scenario for each victim but they should have cut to that sooner. After we finally get to the gooey parts the amount of violence and gore change this from a boring teens-in-the-woods story to a boring splatter-porn-in-the-woods story. I think that it wastes some of its over-the-top gore for no other purpose than to say ooooo! Look what we just did! Did you see that? Let me show you again. Look how gross!!!

I have often criticized Michael Bay for only focusing on the explosions in his film and not focusing on the characters enough. Well, Alvarez does focus on the characters and then the gore, but he needs to work on blending the stories instead of putting us into a coma though the boring parts to get to the payoff. Alfred Hitchcock was a master at building suspense. He did that by giving the viewers information but didn’t tell the characters. Alvarez needs to try some of this because he could be really good -- he just needs to work on the pacing and tone of his style.

Alvarez is talented but lacks refinement. This is only his third major film so he has some time to develop his craft but I am really sad that he had to take one of my favorite old horror movies as a stepping stone to greatness. Maybe it would have been better for him to get a few more projects under his belt before taking on something that is so beloved by the fans… Or at least this fan.

The next generations of moviegoers are probably going to see this movie before seeing the original and that is unfortunate. People should watch the original to understand where this franchise came from and then move on to the new ones, or skip it altogether, so that they can appreciate the source material. If you do it in reverse order the movies that started it all seem really way to tame.

Maybe that’s what they wanted. Forget the originals. We are going to start fresh at a new depth. This movie made me uncomfortable, but not the way that the producers intended. Problems plagued every aspect of this film and the ending is the cherry on top of this skink burger. I am going to spoiler talk so avert your eyes if you are squeamish.

The overly complicated death and rebirth of Mia (Jane Levy) was really a stretch. She was possessed by a demon and needed to die to get “cleansed”. Her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), buries her alive and digs her up and then uses an improvised defibrillator to revive her. Really? Defibrillator? Have you been watching too many Wile E. Coyote cartons?

She is brought back only to see her brother die and “The Abomination” rise from the earth because all of the victims needed to die to release her are now dead. Mia, after being beaten through this entire movie, finds the strength to wield a chain saw like a giant penis and jams it into the evil spirit’s mouth and splits it in two.

Let’s take score here. I know that women are always the victims of moves like this but I thought we were progressing beyond this. The trees are still raping women and all of the females died first. We get a long shot of the abomination on her knees in front of Mia while she gives a few hip thrusts. I am pretty sure it’s still considered victimization of women if a woman is doing the abuse and the one receiving it is really just a demon in a woman’s body? Was I the only one who was uncomfortable at that scene? When am I going to see a good horror movie that can scare me? Not by its atrocious abuse of women or tainting the good name of a beloved franchise but by the power of its story?

What movie would you suggest I see that might fill my scare needs?

Now You See Me

Now You See Me – 115min – PG-13

Now You See Me is a great reimagination on the heist movie genre. Instead of taking you through the plan and build the tension as the night of crime draws near, you are given a front row seat to the heist and experiences along with the dumbfounded FBI agents who are assigned to the case. The pace and tension of this film make excellent entertainment. Even when you are given the answer you are still unsure of you knew the right question.

I might have a skewed view of this movie as it was the first movie that I saw while I was in London. We went to the VUE Theater. As a movie buff I make it a point to go to as many movies in as many different theaters as I can, just to see what the experience is like. This will be my first movie in a different country. HUZZAH LONDON!!

I recommend if you are ever in Westfield Mall and you are looking to go to a movie, go to the Vue and at least once splurge on the VIP seats. They are comfortable and in the sweet spot of the theater (seven rows up and eight across) and you can reserve them. I will have to do an IMHO on my global movie going experiences.

What I like about this movie is how it blends traditional magic and a wee bit of mysticism. You get an answer to some of the tricks but you are still just not quite sure if they are witches that need to have their hearts boiled.

My advice on movies with a hook is to never look for it. Looking just removes the splendor of what you are watching. The same holds true for magic tricks: don’t think, just enjoy. If you are working so hard trying to out think the spectacular illusion you are going to miss the magic. This movie is well written and a prime example of missing the point if you are too busy trying to leap ahead of the story. Just hang on and enjoy the ride.

The movie starts off introducing us to different magicians coming from different back grounds and different disciplines. They are all called together by a mysterious figure who presents them with a tarot card and a date and a location. J Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is a young performer playing smallish shows making a name for himself like a David Copperfield young flashy magician. He has a high opinion of himself with an “its not bragging if you can pull it off” mentality and he can. Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), is a mentalist and hypnotist working at resorts. His character uses hypnosis to present his marks with a choice, expose their secrets to their loved ones or give a large tip. Kind of harsh but he is exposing the letchy guy, so it’s all good. Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), a woman escape artist holding her own in the magic field. She is tough and can perform just as hard at the men in her field. She’s had a past relationship with Atlas, but nobody is perfect. Rounding out the pack is Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), a street performer in the vein of David Blane before Blane had his stints as a sideshow in a box .

They are sponsored by Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and are now named The Four Horseman. They pull off a bank robbery halfway around the world. FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) tries to catch them with the help of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a magic expert.

Louis Leterrier has a great understanding of how to balance all the complicated elements of this story. I have enjoyed his work from the start. Leterrier’s Unleashed is one of my favorite movies. He understands that an action movie is about the characters more than the explosions. We have to feel a part of what is going on. If we can’t get behind your characters we are just watching empty images. Most action movies seem like a long string of death and destruction. Now don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy that but it’s empty without the emotional connection.

Another person worth mentioning is the actress Mélanie Laurent who plays a member of Interpol assisting with the case. The last time I saw her, she was running from Nazis and burning down theaters. Her performance in this movie is like the beautiful girl assistants in a magic trick. You are looking at her and not the trick. She is beautiful and talented but keep your eyes on the things going on around her.

There’s a slight technical gaff in the scene where The Horsemen are switching out the money. They pop out of the bottom of the truck like nothing is on them -- except a few million Euros. Large bundles of money have to weigh about as much as a pallet of paper and that’s heavy. They would not be popping out of anywhere except the hospital. Oh wait I know, I know…it’s Magic.

Oh and I saw the bridge they were at in France. Very cool.

What is your favorite Leterrier Film and why?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pacific Rim - *New Format*

Pacific Rim – 131 min – PG-13

As a kid I loved the Godzilla movies, they were the one thing that I can look back on with fond memories. They would show a monster movie every Saturday at noon I never missed a one. Pacific Rim brings me back to those same moments with its spectacular visuals. This is what Ishirô Honda imagined when he made some actor dress in a rubber monster suit and trample on a model of Tokyo. Our technology has finally caught up with the scope of his imagination. I wonder what he could have done with the story if he had this technology at his disposal. I am giving this a green light because of the stunning beauty of this film and not the depth of its story. Great looking film about as deep as a teaspoon. But I am not going to let the grown up in my head ruin this movies experience.

Let me get a few things out of the way. One bit of gossipy news that caught my eye before this movie released was the feud between Michael Bay and Guillermo del Toro. As it turns out Michael Bay said something at a speech he was giving that was along the lines of these “Rip- off” robot movies not standing up to his real robot movies. He was referring to the Transformers Franchise and as a point of personal privilege, Mr. Bay, your movies peaked at the first one. So far your sequels have fallen far short of the standard you set with the original film. The first one was a balanced blend of action, comedy, drama. It was perfect. BUT just because you had that perfect formula on the first one does not give you the right to lay clam over the “robot” genre.

Guillermo del Toro’s response to Michael Bay’s comment was classic:

“We are far, far, far away from that in a very willing fashion. For good or bad, this is my movie. This is my universe and my creation, and I do not create through comparison.”

In Martial arts we call this a block and now comes the counterstrike… he continued:

“The fights don’t occur in well-lit, supercool, car commercial-looking environments. They occur in the middle of a raging sea storm or in a savage snowstorm. They happen in a universe that is incredibly saturated.”

POINT-Del Toro

As it turned out, Michael Bay says he was not talking about Pacific Rim when he made the comment but as it was the only movie in the hopper, you can see where we could make that mistake. He and Guillermo del Toro spoke on the phone and they have assured one another that they are still friends and offences were unintentional on both parts.

Visually, this film was great to watch, not just from a very cool action and spectacular effects but in the craftsmanship that Guillermo del Toro has with shot composition. He can blend several elements in a shot that make it wonderful to look at. He knows what people are looking for and can deliver the goods but does not make the over the top explosions the central aspect of the film.

The kid in me completely loves this movie but there were issues with the story over all. I am going to talk about some spoilers so you need to stop off here. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

A movie that is based on this much visual stimuli could be weighed down by too much plot. It’s a good thing it did not have any of that extra baggage. If you took every hot-shot pilot movie and blended them in with a Godzilla movie and added just a hint of environmental message you have an exact blueprint for this film.

Even if you can read the plot points way before they show up, it does not take away from the enjoyment. Giant Monsters called Kaiju have attacked and the world has set aside all of its petty squabbles to put all of our resources into building giant robots called Jaegers. The robots are so big that one pilot can’t handle the mental load of running it. It takes two pilots that synchronize mentally, called drifting. Each person pilots one half of the robot and because of the drift they act as one.

During the previews, I was wondering what the deal was with two people in a robot doing synchronized piloting. They did a great job of explaining it. With two people who are mental linked they are inside each other’s heads while drifting so they are actually one person…it made better sense in the movie.

The hot-shot misunderstood ragtag pilots for this movie are Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). They are the unlikely pair who have just enough loss in their lives to make them the perfect match. The down side is Mako is the adoptive daughter of Jaeger base commander, Stacker Pentacost (Idris Elba) He does not want his little girl to get hurt, but changes his mind in the end -- all very rote. It was not a distraction from the very cool scenes where the two pilots were testing each other out in the sparing ring. They play well off one another and look great.

Idris Elba completely dominates the screen and he seems to fit the role of Stacker Pentecost like it was written for him. Stacker is no end of bad-ass. His performance is spot on with this air of calm power. The typical motivational speech at the end of the movie is packed with enough emphasis to rally human kind in the final last ditch effort.

I only had a few minor problem with this movie. One is why did they not bring out the sword in the weapons arsenal right off the bat. Seems like a no-brainer but what do I know? I am not a Jaeger pilot. “ I am going to beat you to death because slicing your head off just doesn’t seem to be fair. It’s over too quickly and I don’t get the enjoyment of bludgeoning you with a tanker ship”.

The second point that I really had an issue with is when Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) discover that the big plan won’t work after they drift with a monster. They have no way of contacting the Jaeger control other than hoofing it and catching a helicopter. You go through all the trouble of brining a crap load of equipment to hook into a Kaiju brain but no one thinks to bring a cell phone? Weak!

My wife and I have this thing where we raise our hands when we watch a movie that has a science problem in its story. We like to point out when something doesn’t ring true. She wanted to point out the bad science fact dribbled out by Dr. Newton Geiszler that the Kaiju have two brains because of their large size just like the dinosaurs did. Now from a story point I can see why you need to tie in the other gigantic monsters that roamed the earth, but they did not have two brains….I pointed out to her that the point is invalid because I am watching gigantic robots fight gigantic monsters. DO NOT CLOUD MY EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR “FACTS”. Actually her point is valid after I have calmed down because they did not have two brains.

POINT - wife

What movie have you enjoyed so much you overlooked the bad science in it?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger – 149m – Pg-13

This movie is the personification of a red light film. This is another churn and burn action movie that has potential as a story but instead of actually doing anything with it, they took Pirates of the Caribbean and moved it to the desert. This movie was poorly constructed, insulting and miles away from what the Disney brand name represents as a standard in family entertainment.

I have so many problems with this movie the spoiler section is going to encompass most of this review so I am going to not do a spoiler section for this review. I am going to talk about spoilers throughout this review. You have been warned!!!!!

This movie is told from Tonto’s (Johnny Depp) point of view to a young man (Mason Cook) who has paid to see a Wild West exhibit. Tonto explains the events that lead John Reid (Armie Hammer) to become a masked ranger to protect his loved ones and bring justice to a wild and unruly west.

This movie is an excellent example of what is wrong with our copyright system. It seems to me that the rights to the Lone Ranger were almost up so Disney had push anything out to keep control over this property. I have no problem with using the properties if you have an actual use for it, but I disapprove of putting something out just to keep it yours. Let someone who loves this story and might be able to tell a better story take it from there OR get those people involved in the project from the beginning and keep the copyright alive with a quality product.

I am a Native American. I am a member of the Hoopa tribe by blood. I sometimes joke about being offended at some things that are misrepresenting Native Americans in pop culture and entertainment. This time I AM offended.

When I heard that Tonto was going to be a major part in the movie I thought “alright. Hollywood is expanding the character and making some changes to recognize some of the wrongs that it has done to the Native Americans in the past.” Mmm not so much. To play this newly envisioned role they cast Johnny Depp -- who is an excellent actor, and might even have some Native American ancestry in his family tree. However, there are many actual Native American actors who could have done just as well. Off the top of my head some of them are Adam Beach, Rodney A. Grant, and Eddie Spears.

I could see all of them filling the shoes of Jay Silverheels who defined the role in the television series. The only real natives in the film are again resigned to set dressing and stereotypical roles.

Poor casting choices were only a small portion of the problems with Tonto. Our first images of him are as a stuffed Indian in an exhibit called The Noble Savage in his Natural Habitat. He is not stuffed he is just a really old man standing around waiting for people to look at him. I felt bad they brought the character down to a side show oddity.

I know that Native Americans joined traveling wild west shows but it would have been better to have Tonto sitting at the door inside the exhibit hall like an employee of the establishment or a tour guide. It would have been more respectful to the character to have the kid and Tonto travel down memory lane in that context.

At least that’s as bad as it… No, wait it gets worse. Tonto is a severely damaged character because of a tragedy in his past that resulted in the loss of his village. He showed some white men a big vein of silver and they repayed him by giving him a watch for the journey and killing his village to keep the find secret. He returns to see everyone including his pet raven dead. He has vowed to find the people who did this and kill them. On the surface, this is not that bad but on this crazy journey he wears the dead bird on his head and talks and feeds it constantly throughout the film. It becomes a running joke about him feeding this dead bird on his head.

The revenge portions of his character or making him tortured are fine but why make him barking moonbat crazy? He came off as an escaped cast member of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. If the director (Gore Verbinski) was using this to give Tonto an edge so that people would not pay attention to him, he wasted his time. Tonto was already invisible. He was an Indian -- people of that time underestimated them and counted them just above dumb animals.

The end of the movie has Tonto walking into the desert mural almost a “Being There” moment where we are supposed to be dumbfounded at what we just saw. Then we get the credits rolling as we watch Johnny Depp doing his 1000 year old man impression off into the sunset. I get that they were trying to make Tonto a spiritual figure one that embodied the west but that idea flew about as well as the dead bird on his head.

To the filmmakers credit they did at least get an actual member of the Comanche tribe to come in and consult on the props, costumes and even helped coach Johnny Depp with the language. He should have been asked to look at the script.

The rest of the cast did well with the roles and there was nothing outstanding about them, they fit the bill for this type of film.

I do have a problem with the level of viciousness of bad guy. If this were a movie with a different production company name I would have no problem with the level of violence perpetrated by the bad guy. This however was a Disney brand movie. The Disney brand is synonymous with Family Entertainment, and having a character cut out a person’s heart and eat it on screen is anything but family entertainment.

This level of violence isn't uncalled for by this character. Disney movies have always had brutal content, but we have never seen it happen on screen. We don’t actual see him eat the heart it but we do see it from behind and in the reflection of John’s eye. I am wondering if there are plans for a Lone Ranger ride at the parks now. Do we get to see an animatronic Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) eating harts and covered in blood as kids ride by?

The Brothel scene was stretching it a bit. It’s perfect for the setting and it needs to be a part of a movie that is set in this timeframe but again the Disney brand implies certain standard of what you can expect to see. I look back at the other pirates movies and see where the standards have slipped ever so slowly down to the point where the production company doesn’t even blink an eye at this. Walt Disney is rolling over in his Cryo Tube.

They should make a separate production company for these kind of films to preserve the image of family entertainment associated with Disney. I just have a problem with the Disney name being directly associated with this film.

Did you see it and how do you feel? Am I off the mark? Should we get together and tell Disney we want our childhoods back?