Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Transformers

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I remember next to nothing about the Transformers cartoon. Obviously they are both more than meets the eye and robots in disguise but everyone knows that. Let’s see; after Autobots and Decepticons plus Optimus Prime and Megatron I have no idea what the cartoon was about. So for me Transformers was just the latest Michael Bay movie and there is only so many pixie stix I can eat in one sitting.

Sometimes I wonder if Michael Bay is just screwing with me. All of his movies look, feel, taste, and any other sense you want to include exactly the same. Look, I am not saying that the man is anywhere near the bottom of the directing barrel. Mr. Bay can shoot the hell out of stuff blowing up and vehicles of any sort going really fast. What does that mean for Transformers? Well, it is very purdy. Everything is bright and shiny with the majority of it shot in broad daylight so there was no hiding the robots in the shadows. But that is the best part Transformers … it was pretty on the outside and completely empty on the inside. Don’t get me wrong the cast tries real hard but in the absence of a decent story there are bad jokes and the actors and actresses working really hard to keep this thing above water. The first name to bring up is Shia LaBeouf and all this instantaneous hype over him is almost deserved, which is amazing. I’ve been a fan since Even Stevens but I was also a fan of a young Mario Lopez and Keshia Knight Pulliam so what the hell do I know. Bringing it back to Shia, he is working his ass off trying to make this sub par material work. You have embarrassing eBay names, masturbation jokes, and 20-foot tall robots hiding in his back yard, just real childish shit. That’s not even bringing up John Tuturro’s unexplainable performance, an Autobot “peeing” on Tuturro, and that stupid mini-Decepticon being both cute and evil. There is just way too much bottom feeding humor. Now before there is any confusion, Anthony Anderson should not be tainted by the rest of the humor in this movie. He delivers as usual with his spiel about why he is eating the donuts in the interrogation room. Also applause for the casting of 2 hot females, one who is way way way too old looking to be in high school and another who is takes her place in a long line of way too sexy computer hackers … casting is the best job ever. It is amusing that I have gone this far without even writing about the Transformers themselves. Although I will admit that they were pretty to look at, there were things that just made the robots feel a bit off. Even with all the advances in technology, the Transformers still stick out as obviously computer generated. Maybe I just wanted them to build real robots. My other annoyance with the movie Transformers was that each of them had too much going on visually and once again maybe I just prefer the blocky cartoon versions. Still the voices were fun, well at least when they weren’t saying stupid shit like “my bad”. So overall the whole damn thing was a good looking mixed bag.


Since Transformers was a big deal and made big money, my only hope is that this leads to more live action movies based on the cartoons I grew up with. And now I will list my top five most wanted; M.A.S.K., Voltron, non-Dolph Lundgren He-Man, Smurfs, Thundercats, and an honorable mention to the entire Disney Afternoon. As for Transformers, it was exactly what you would expect from a Michael Bay movie. If you were hoping for something else take a look in the mirror and figure out where you went wrong in life.

6 out of 10

Monday, July 16, 2007

The 2007 List (8)

  1. Zodiac
  2. The Lookout
  3. Grindhouse
  4. Breach
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  6. Hot Fuzz
  7. Reign Over Me
  8. 300
  9. Black Snake Moan
  10. Ocean's Thirteen
  11. Live Free or Die Hard
  12. Spider-Man 3
  13. Mr. Brooks
  14. Smokin' Aces
  15. DOA
  16. Shooter
  17. Blades of Glory
  18. Reno 911!: Miami
  19. 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  20. The Condemned
  21. Ghost Rider
  22. Pathfinder
Reviewing the first 3 Die Hards has absolutely kicked my ass, so I am doing the honorable thing and just giving up for now. I'll get back to them soon enough but I just wanted to get my list updated for the end of June before we hit freaking August. Pssssst as of the end of June this summer sucks. At first I thought my expectations were too high, then I looked at what I have seen since May and yeah that qualifies as suck. Maybe July and August will turn things around. Of course I already know my feelings on a couple of July flicks but I'll keep those to myself for a couple more days.

Live Free or Die Hard

Unfortunately there were many reasons why Live Free or Die Hard was the 4th Die Hard film in name only. The most glaring (double meaning baby) may have been Bruce Willis’s shiny baldhead. That’s not John McClane; that’s just Bruce Willis in an action movie. Still, it was a good summer action movie. Nothing will ever be Die Hard, but I can’t damn this for not being one of the best films ever. Actually I totally can but I choose not to.

It is still John McClane. Well an alternate reality John McClane where he shaved his head and has stopped using R-rated language. That reality must suck. Even with the profanity restrictions, Bruce still got off enough one-liners to put a checkmark in that column. You also got all the requisite McClane getting the hell beat out of him action scenes. There was the shootout at Justin Long’s apartment, the helicopter chase through D.C., the accident in the tunnel, Maggie Q and the elevator shaft (someone was drunk when they wrote this), 18-wheeler vs. fighter plane (that same writer then I got high for this), and finally shooting himself to kill Gabriel. I am not sure if any of these will hold up like the famous sequences previous films but they weren’t awful the first time around. Since I just mentioned him, Justin Long may have not been Sam Jack but he was a really good McClane sidekick. He got nearly as many one-liners as Bruce and got to be the audience member inside the movie who is constantly amazed at what McClane is doing. Plus they casted Kevin Smith as his hacker buddy, that was a lot funnier than expected.
Although I am a big fan of Timothy Olyphant, he is freaking Seth Bullock from Deadwood; Thomas Gabriel was not in the same league as Hans and Simon Gruber. He doesn’t do anything wrong but at the same time he is not a memorable villain. It also doesn’t help that the villains are computer hackers and that just doesn’t instill that much fear. It was funny that when the climatic scene began Gabriel’s main scrawny hacker kid was holding a gun and menacing the hostages. Thankfully McClane shot him first before the kid ruined what little credibility the movie had left. This was nearly equaled by the big burly Easter European henchman whipping out his computer to hack into the secret financial information. You gotta be able to multi-task to be a modern day goon. Still, I'm not really complaining since I got a halfway decent action blockbuster.

I’ve touched on a couple of the negatives already but they need to be reiterated. The PG-13 rating is a joke. Now that enough weeks have passed it is clear that lowering the rating was not going to jump this franchise into the $200 million range. I would wager that a hard R might have even helped distinguish it from all the other watered down violence and edited profanity that most action movies contain nowadays. There were also multiple scenes that were filmed with an R rating but were clearly and obviously reedited. So that is why some scenes would have been at home in a 70s kung fu flick. The other annoyance previously mentioned was the lack of any sort of realism in many of the action scenes. The fighter plane sequence from beginning to end wouldn’t have been acceptable in a video game. A fighter plane swooping in between superhighways, an 18-wheeler driving around on a collapsing highway, and the whole surfing the crashing plane were all unbelievably ridiculous. There was also the use of a fire hydrant as a weapon against a helicopter, attacking said helicopter with a car, the whole damn elevator shaft sequence, etc. My final gripe is another worthless movie version of the FBI. It is like a standby plot that can be dropped into any movie. It wasn’t even helpful here because at no point did McClane or his hack buddy not fix things themselves. So why even bother introducing the FBI at all?


Live Fee or Die Hard benefited from my complete lack of faith in them making anything that would approach the first movie. I was willing to be satisfied by just another summer blockbuster and that is exactly what I received. Bruce Willis still has the ability to make these types of movies work and who doesn’t want to see John McClane (or something that at least resembles John McClane) in an action movie one more time?

7 out of 10

Saturday, July 14, 2007

4: Rise of the Silver Surfer

So how excited were you when you found out that there was going to be a sequel to Fantastic Four? Yeah, me too. I understand why it was made on an economic level, but no changes were made to the cast or director’s chair? So are we striving for mediocrity now? Shockingly, 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (what a godawful name) was actually an improvement. Although it may be a better installment, it does not move the franchise to a higher step on the comic book movie ladder.

Seeing as the cast was exactly the same, only with an addition of a CGI Silver Surfer, there is not much more to be said this time around. Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans continue to outshine everyone else. Their chemistry even improves this time around. Although the emotional journey of Johnny Storm concluding with him becoming the Super Skrull was not as powerful as intended. The comedic sidekick should stick to the jokey jokes. But just as the good ones improved, the bad may have rotted even more. Jessica Alba is not nor ever will be Susan Storm. And losing 50 more pounds changes nothing … well it may allow her to become invisible without the use of CGI. As for Julian McMahon, why the hell is Dr. Doom spending the majority of the second movie unscarred and out of the mask? That is not the point of the fricking character. Is this so damn difficult to figure out? At least the use of Morpheus as the voice of the Silver Surfer was a decent idea, even if I was waiting for him to talk about the Oracle instead of weak-ass movie Galactus. Plus maybe they boosted the effects budget because the Surfer looked a-ok. Of course the effects will never be confused with Pirates of the Caribbean but they did lower the amount of moments that were Sci-Fi channel worthy. The tone and story felt exactly like the first movie. Once again, that is not what I am looking for but I can appreciate a comic book franchise that does not feel that it is necessary for everything to take place at night or for everyone to be brooding.

Wait a second that was Galactus? Where’s my giant purple space robot being?


Of all the comic book movies that have become franchises, Fantastic Four means the least to me. I have been underwhelmed both times, but at the same time there are so many worse films in theaters that I can’t even build up any real hate for the movies. I assume that there will be more films and until there is a drastic overhaul, like what is going on for the next Hulk movie, I doubt any Fantastic Four movie will ever move past the middling level. Still cross your fingers for the Mole Man next time around.


5 out of 10

Fantastic Four

Due to Hollywood’s desire to turn every single comic book character into a movie franchise, I am going to constantly run into comic book movies that I just don’t care about. Fantastic Four is one of those times. Since I was never a fan of the characters (strike 1), I was dependent on either great casting or a top director … that would be the second and third strike. Sadly Fantastic Four never overcame these obstacles and lived down to all my expectations.

Although I may find many negatives about Fantastic Four, this was nowhere near the basement level of Catwoman, Elecktra, or Batman and Robin. There were actual positives to highlight. Vic Mackey was a damn good choice for Ben Grimm. Maybe I am just that big a fan of Michael Chiklis, but he was able to craft a real performance underneath The Thing suit. That in and of itself was a pleasant surprise since it is nice to have a movie not instantly go for the CGI version of a character like The Thing. The other great casting choice was Chris Evans as Johnny Storm. I wouldn’t go so far as to say something as clich├ęd as “breakout performance”, but he seems to easily slip into the role of The Human Torch. There will be no more kind words towards the cast of Fantastic Four. The only other praise that I have for the movie was that they got the tone right. This is not a dark and serious comic book. It is bright, shiny, family oriented, and occasionally goofy. This is a change of pace for the usual summer comic book franchises. This allowed Fantastic Four to look and feel different for better or worse. That is to say I much prefer darker films.

Remember all those nice things I said about Chiklis and Evans, well having Julian McMahon behind the mask and making Jessica Alba invisible swung the pendulum well into the negative range. I am not sure which is worse; McMahon’s awful attempt at Victor Von Doom or how once he put the mask on his performance may have gotten worse. There was no intelligence, menace, or even the overbearing personality that make him such a strong character in comics. How the hell do you screw up Dr. Doom? Obviously the answer is giving the role to the dude from Nip/Tuck. Was that the low point? Maybe, but the idea of Jessica Alba as Susan Storm is downright goofy. Let’s see; she doesn’t have the age, complexion, hair color, or presence to inhabit the Invisible Woman but damn she’s hot! Now if you have been keeping track of all the cast members then you realize that Reed Richards is all that’s left. And that is just about all that Ioan Gruffudd brought to the part. So if the 3 main characters are disappointing, I wonder how good the movie will be? Hey it wasn’t all that good! It didn’t even have the decency to be awful. Fantastic Four was just forgettable and that is one of the cardinal sins.


So a Fantastic Four movie was made, I am not denying that. What I am saying is that all it provided was something to look at for 106 minutes then allow it to just drift completely from your memory. And, well, who the hell cares about the Fantastic Four movie? It feels exactly like what it is, something to place hold in between the more important comic franchises.

5 out of 10

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

DOA: Dead or Alive

Some clarifications are necessary before this review gets to the heart of the matter. There are no good movies to be made based on fighting games. Although there may be a handful of half-assedly interesting characters, there is no real story once you get past the words "kung-fu tournament". DOA: Dead or Alive contains both of these qualities. So I cannot even give you a reason why this movie was made. That’s a lie. It was made because it was awesome. There is no better reason. Another title to add to the awful but fun genre and I thank whichever studio decision maker that fell asleep at the switch allowing this movie its one weekend in theaters.

If I were forced to highlight the defining moment of DOA, it was that when I attempted to see it again a week later it had already been yanked from the cinema. Do you know how poorly a movie has to perform for it to get the axe within a single week? Yeah, that is the quality of DOA. Another highlight is that even with the PG-13 holding them back there was a real attempt to include just as much t & a as the video game. You damn right that means hot chicks in skimpy outfits rolling around with each other … I mean fighting each other. They definitely embraced the video game’s use of scantily clad females even throwing in some beach volleyball. Seeing as I have owned all four DOA games, I am honestly trying to remember if there was ever a point where I imagined a live action movie. The games were always so ridiculous. Yet here it was on the big screen; Kasumi, Tina, Ayane, Helena, Zack, Bass, and just about every other fighter in the history of the series. They even managed a decent batting average with casting and costumes. Kasumi, Tina, Bass, and Hayate were all spot on. While the only real strike out was Hayabusa because really how do you screw up ninja. A couple of others were worth mentioning because Ayane was costumed correctly just the wrong nationality and Helena was casted correctly but not dressed in an evening gown. I did feel that there should have been more or better yet any Lei Fang and the absence of Jann Lee meant no dragon on the interior of his suit jacket. If you added everything up, the DOA equation was hot females and Eric Roberts with an occasional Kevin Nash sighting. That is a dangerous equation but it works when it is Jamie Pressley, Devon Aoki, and all the other no named but nice to watch actresses. And the biggest shock to me was that there were actually some decent fight scenes strewn about the wreckage of the film. And that means whoever did the fight choreography deserves a medal because of the main characters only the actors playing Ryu and Hayate had significant experience in kung-fu films. After anticipated something on the level of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, I am flabbergasted that I have any praise whatsoever for DOA.

Where there negatives? Are you kidding me? But why ruin a good thing with all the negative details. This was a horrendously stupid movie. The plot was laughable, it lasted all of 38 seconds, it was completely exploitative, and it sat on the studio shelves for over half a year for good reasons. But who the hell are you for wanting a classic movie based on the DOA video games?


I want to own this movie right now. I should have bootlegged it when I had the chance. If I have to wait as long for the DVD as I did for the chance to see it in the theater, I may cry. DOA: Dead or Alive is the reason I see so many films during the year. I don’t want to miss the chance to see these debacles in theaters.

6 out of 10

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Mr. Brooks

Mr. Brooks falls into that vast abyss of movies that were decent enough and worth the price of admission but after 24 hours it disappears from memory. You can see the problem I am facing since I saw this movie nearly a month ago and this is probably the first time that I have thought about it since then. If my memory is to be trusted (I do have a good track record), this was a pleasant surprise with the majority of the credit going to William Hurt and Kevin Costner.

The biggest highlights of Mr. Brooks occurred during the moments when William Hurt was onscreen. Seeing as he gets to play the manifestation of Costner’s murderous tendencies, Hurt gets to act completely over-the-top, laugh maniacally, and just have an all around good time bouncing dialogue off Costner. Ever since A History of Violence (I would go back to The Village but then I may have to cause myself and anyone who reads this irreparable harm) William Hurt has been performing at an all-star level. Mr. Brooks is just like the icing on the cake. I definitely cannot say the same thing about Kevin Costner. Mr. Brooks is either the first movie I have seen of his since Open Range or the first one that I have praised. And if you attempt to go past Open Range get ready for a long journey until maybe Tin Cup, man I am just not a big Costner fan. But that is the past and he was damn good here. Maybe it was the bowtie, maybe it was the aforementioned chemistry with William Hurt, or maybe it was killing Dane Cook in cold blood, but this was a great performance. The rest of the cast never really hurt the film although no one really does anything noteworthy, outside of Dane Cook not embarrassing himself. Demi Moore was there but the best that I can say about her plot was that it brought Michelle Dessler to the big screen. I missed you Reiko Aylesworth; you absence is noticeable on 24. Outside of the actors and actresses there is not much else worth mentioning. The brutality of the violence was a nice change of pace from the PG-13 movie world that is so prevalent nowadays. This was topped off with the completely ridiculous, yet still awesome, final dream sequence with scissors in neck and blood spurting everywhere. Good times.

I have danced around this so far, but the storyline in Mr. Brooks was bordering on absurd throughout. It walked that fine line with enough skill to not ruin the film but there were parts that really tried my patience. You had two different serial killers, an apprentice serial killer, a novice serial killer, and the alter ego of a serial killer. Really now? Damn near the entire cast were touched with the thrill kill bug. Another annoyance was the Demi Moore supercop plotline. It didn’t add anything to the main story, in fact in felt like someone decided that there needed to be more action by any means necessary. So all of a sudden Demi is being thrown from moving cars and having apartment hallway shootouts like a John Woo knockoff. And the worst thing about Mr. Brooks was that they teased Michelle Dessler nudity but didn’t deliver. That was just messed up and evil.


Although there may have been some glaring faults to the film, Mr. Brooks was a worthwhile trip to the theater. I will see at least 20 to 30 movies better than it this year but at the same time I will probably see about 20 to 30 movies worse than it. It is a middle of the pact movie but sometimes that is good enough.

6 out of 10