Archive for January, 2008

Get ready for a short one.

Uwe Boll directed.

Not sure what that means? He directed Bloodrayne and House of the Dead.

Not good enough for you guys? Burt Reynolds plays a king in medieval times.

That’s all I got because, unfortunately, he didn’t let Kristanna Loken get naked this time. That might have saved this movie.

I’ve almost never done this but 0 Jessicas out of 4. My god this movie might be worse than Battlefield: Earth and that’s saying something. See it if you want to laugh at how crappy it is. Honestly, Peter Jackson should be embarrassed by how good his trilogy is. LOTR looks like Citizen f*cking Cain compared to this drivel.

AK
(EK adds. . . .)
I can see the production planning now. That kick *ss guy from the Transporter–CHECK. Relatively attractive blond chick–CHECK. Burt Reynolds–CHECK. Let’s greenlight the F*cker!This movie was bordering on absolutely terrible. However the WORST of it was not a Burt Reynolds one facelift short of having a chin on his forehead. It also wasn’t casting virtually talentless Matthew Lillard as Duke Fallow (although I liked him in Hackers).

The most gut-wrenching, bile-inducing decision made by the casting director was to place bad boy Ray Liotta as an evil wizard. Ray looked like a reject from an 80’s tv sitcom, with black feathered hair and his mafioso delivery.

Uwe Boll should have to pay a fine for directing this stinker. . . .

(AK piles on…)
My question about this is: How does this guy keep getting financing for this crap? I mean is there really that much money to be tossed around? If so, tell me where it is. Someone could pay me the same amount of money to film myself taking a deuce and I bet it draws a bigger audience. Or at least better reviews.AK

AVP:R

Too dark to see any of the overwhelming action? Full of choppy cuts? An Alien with dreadlocks? And this is supposed to be a return to the roots of the Alien so deftly planted by Ridley Scott and James Cameron? Last time I checked, Sigourney Weaver never fought a Rastafarian Alien queen. I shot the sher-iff. . . .But I didn’t shoot the A-li-en. . . .

Now, I have to admit I have a penchant for watching rowdy alien species bashing each others’ faces in. I can even handle the gratuitous use of humans as sharpening tools. What’s more, I can deal with corny stories placing these two storied franchises together on Earth in locations that seem to have nothing in common with their histories’ well-established climatic/geographic preferences (i.e. warm climates or on another planet).

What are hard to deal with are shadows that interfere with the possibly interesting action sequences (aka the Eyes Wide Shut Effect or EWSE), poorly scripted and aimless dialogue, and the fact that these movies look nothing like the originals.

Oh, and did I mention that they put dreadlocks on an Alien? Yeah I can’t believe it either.

So check it. The movie picks up exactly where the first one left off. An Alien/Predator pimp pops out of a dead Predator’s belly. It deads the ship somewhere in Colorado (specifics not important, because it’s about to be populated by hundreds of Aliens, yo) but before the last Predator on the ship gets f*cked up, he throws a text message to his buddy hangin’ out on in the United States of Predation.

His homie gets all “You gotta be sh*ttin’ me, dogg,” and hops on his crotch-rocket headed to Earth to throw down with these bitches killin’ his crew. Oh it’s head bussin’ time, bro. This new Predator pimp lays his sh*t down on these Alien bitches for the next hour and a half. Then he peaces out because of a human nuke. Take that suckas!

I’m not a gangsta, you say? I can’t talk like that? Really? Sorry. I guess I was under the delusion that if you can put dreads on an Alien and call it a return to the classic roots of each series, that I could talk like a G and say that I’m an original gangsta. My bad…

That said, AVP:R isn’t an awful movie, especially not by today’s standard of awful. The biggest problems with it are the writing, directing, acting, and, to various degrees, the cinematography. Jeez. Now that I think about it, it was awful.

The direction, orchestrated by the duo presumptively calling themselves The Brothers Strause, is soggy and and riddled with holes (like a bad cheese in more ways than one). Where there should be some light so we can see what’s going on, there isn’t. When there should be an absence of light, there’s too much. All this leads to incredibly small amounts of tension. Without tension, there’s not payoff when things go bang, snarl and screech. You get the idea.

But more importantly, it seems as though the SFX gurus pretending to direct forgot that if you’re going to focus on human characters, some time should be spent developing them. These characters, even for being basic and cliche, seem to have no direction in which to head. They’re meat; and that might be fine if more attention had been paid to the aforementioned directorial problems.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the writing or acting that can’t be weened from the idea that the movie-goer is about to see a movie called Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem. They’re both stale and generic, yet with less flair than most of today’s standardized sh*t. The only character that seemed to have any promise was the Ellen Ripley wannabe but that idea is dropped within the first 20 minutes of the movie.

I have to give props to the “Brothers” about one thing. They went against a couple different conventions and also showed some creative ingenuity in a handful of scattered sequences. Let’s just say you’re not safe in this movie, even if you’re a child or a pregnant woman. And yes, Predators can build more than just weapons that you stab, shoot or throw with.

Too bad that line of thought didn’t extend throughout the entire movie.

* 1/2 Jessicas out of 4. Thank God for the one gratuitous c*ck-tease scene of a beautiful Kristen Hager stripping down to her skivvies for a late-night dip.

The musical is back with a freakin’ vengeance, ready to slice your throat open and revel in the bloody geyser of crimson vomited from your newly incised second smile.

todd2In a Christmas movie season peppered with National Treasures, Legends, and Old Men without Countries; Tim Burton and Johnny Depp slice through the competition like scythes through wheat. Their masterful Sweeney Todd is a movie that evoked horror, longing, murderous revenge and final cathartic release as it swept across the screen.

The story is not a new one. A barber’s wife is taken from him by a judge, who has him unceremoniously thrown into prison at some undisclosed foreign location. On his return, and upon discovering that his wife has poisoned herself and his daughter is now the unwilling ward of the judge, the barber decides to use his blades to a different end by providing shaves much closer than he had in the past. Eventually he is able to extract his revenge upon almost everyone who had wronged him (and a few others, of course).

However, in much the same vein as other movies made from well-worn and widely known stories, much is in the telling. The story is reinvented and resurrected from its freshly-dug grave by the talents of Burton, Depp and Carter.

Johnny Depp continues to prove that, without a doubt, he is one of the most talented, eccentric and visionary actors of his vintage. He plays Todd with a dark, brooding visage and shock of bride-of-frankenstein white hair amongst a forest of forboding black. Although not known as a singer, he appears to pull off the singing numbers very competently.

toddHelena Bonham Carter provides a darkly attractive but even more disturbing feminine mirror to Depp’s Todd. The ghastly chemistry between the two characters is effective and playfully sinister.

A wide supporting cast of excellent actors and actresses accompanies the dark duo, including Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Timothy Pall, Jayne Wisener and Ed Sanders. These provide almost uncriticisable excellence throughout the film.

The music and lyrics were, of course, written by the multi-talented Stephen Sondheim. The music is gorgeous, frightening, moving, veangeful, and excellent. During one particular number, entitled “Beautiful Girls” and sung as a duet between Todd and Rickman’s Judge, I found myself moved to goosebumps by both the beauty and co-existant salacity, enterwoven by Sondheim’s gifted hands.

A harmony of opposites is perhaps the best way to define this film. It is both beautiful and terrible, gorgeous and profane.

I give it *** 1/2 Jessicas out of 4. Almost perfect. . . .

EK

What if everything that you believed was wrong? What if there actually were WMDs in Iraq and VP Dick Cheney was a genuinely nice guy that you’d want to spend the day hunting with? But I digress. . . .

What if someone came up to you tomorrow and told you that the world was going to end in 30 days. Would you believe him/her? This is essentially what was told to the members of Rev. Jim Jones’ cult before they drank the kool-aid. Would you drink the kool-aid with them?

What if that person had a way to save humanity from utter destruction? And what if he walked up to you and calmly explained it to you and invited you to join a group of people destined to carry on the human race.

Would you believe him?

This is the question posed by this film. In a world of crazy belief systems, how do you respond to someone with yet another perceived crazy belief system?

There are no easy answers.

This film is one of the first from the Raw Feed production company, which was started by one of the creative minds behind the Blair Witch Project. It is smart, original, frightening and interesting; with relatively good acting efforts from its cast and limited but adequate special effects.

Given its relatively small production budget and time contraints, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I will not go into the plot to prevent giving away key plot twists. I will say, however, that it is worth a rental.

2 1/2 Jessicas out of a possible 4. Not perfect, but well done.

EK

I am Legend

Director Francis Lawrence’s latest film, I am Legend, is a study in contrasts. As a vehicle to explore maturing actor Will Smith it is well chauffeured. However, as an example of the current state-of-the-art in special effects imagery, it careens headlong off a cliff.

The story is an oddly appealing one. Robert Neville (played with maturity and depth by the increasingly remarkable Will Smith) is a military scientist who is, presumably, the last man on Earth. He spends his days hunting with his only companion, a german shephard, and renting movies from the local video rental store. He also continues to work on a cure for a viscious mutated measles virus, designed by an English scientist to cure cancer.

WillSmithAs part of his daily activities, he seeks out the few human beings left on Manhattan island, infected zombie-like creatures that for some unknown reason have developed dislocatable jaws and a voracious appetite for other human beings. The infected are unable to come out during the day, having developed a fatal sensitivity to sunlight. However, Neville is able to capture some of them, which he uses as guinea pigs in his attempts to develop a cure.

However, things are changing in Manhattan.

The zombie-like creatures are becoming smarter, and his time appears to be running out. The apparent leader of the zombies, who looks just like the other zombies but roars more, develops a trap to catch Neville. In the course of escaping, Neville loses the one remaining family member that is keeping him sane, which sets in motion a series of events that leads to the reason for the title of the movie. . . .

This film is the third variation on the 1958 original book by Richard Matheson of the same title. The book is substantively different from all of the movies adapted from it, being primarily the story of a scientist trapped by hungry vampires created by a viral infection. The book does not take place in Manhattan, although that makes for an interesting variation on the theme.

The first two adaptations, The Last Man on Earth (1964) and The Omega Man (1971), were hobbled by the special effects technologies contemporary to their productions, although both had many dedicated fans. This film is different both for the presence of Will Smith and the improved special effects.

However, while the static special effects that render downtown Manhattan a virtual national park are remarkable, the motion-capture special effects used for those infected by the virus are staid, unoriginal and much less frightening than the actor-based creatures seen in movies such as 2002’s 28 Days Later… and other recent films. I found myself at several points during the film asking why in the world did they computer generate the creatures rather than simply using actors for the same part?

As mentioned before, this movie is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, Will Smith’s remarkable performance was stunning in parts and reflects his ongoing maturity and skill as an actor. On the other hand, although the static effects were very well done, the creatures were, to put it simply, lame. . . .

I give it ** 1/2 Jessicas out of a possible 4. Worth renting or seeing at a matinee, but you might feel a little disappointed if you pay full price.

EK