Spent the last week playing catch up on mostly old movies:
“El Orfanato” - spooky happenings at a former orphanage. Engaging story. A few suspenseful scenes, but you can almost see Producer Guillermo Del Toro’s fingerprints all over the ending -- or is it the other way around? If you’ve seen “Pan’s Labyrinth”, you’ll know what I mean.
“Fear(s) of the Dark” - freaky animated anthology -- in french. Meh...
“Forbidden Kingdom” - tone is all over the place. Can’t decide if it wants to be a kid’s movie or not. Gets the fantasy aspect right, but the fights are kinda dull -- hard to believe when Jackie Chan and Jet Li are your stars. Good concept, only average execution. The sequences set in the real world were especially awful.
“Hatchet” - a throwback to 80s horror. Better than average dialogue for a slasher flick, a cast of veteran character actors doesn’t hurt either -- although Mercedes McNabb is kinda wasted here, somebody give her a sitcom! Clings too much to the 80s formula: Unstoppable killer dispatches stranded victims in the most gruesome of manners. I kept expecting an interesting twist to a well-worn concept, but it never came. Shame.
“Rocket Science” - one of the best films of 2007. Released in only a handful of theaters, it’s a coming-of-age dramedy about a teen with a stuttering problem who gets recruited by a Tracy Flick type to join the debate team. Exploits a lot of the cliches that we’ve come to expect in this genre. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like quirky comedies, give it a chance.
“Stardust” - “The Princess Bride” comparisons are accurate -- they couldn’t sell that one either. Too light and fluffy for grown-ups, no draws for the younger crowd -- although Michelle Pfeiffer is a hoot! Entertaining story, but a hard concept to sell. I usually rally against special effects overkill, but this film could’ve used some CGI-poppers. And it doesn’t have as many memorable lines and scenes as “Bride”. Gotta dig up that early draft I have on the hard drive...
Monday, December 22, 2008
It’s good to see Stephen Norrington working again, but this seems like a reach -- a gritty, documentary style version? The franchise is in shambles and I can’t imagine fans of the original will be pleased. Of course, folks said the same thing about Batman...
Monday, December 15, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Everyone involved must have thought “Jumper” was going to be a can’t miss franchise, how else do you explain the underdeveloped story and characters? Jumpers are bad. Palladins are good. We’re in the middle of a war. Who? Huh? What!? There’s a much larger story here, but the film decides to focus on an uninteresting and selfish protagonist -- maybe the good stuff was teleported into the sequel that we’ll never see...
Hayden Christensen’s character is more realistic than the typical comic-book hero, he uses his newfound teleportation ability to rob banks instead of “doing good”, but I dare you to care about anyone in the story. I expected a lot more from Doug Liman and David Goyer.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
A sequel for a film made over twenty years ago... it certainly isn’t the vampire biker chick idea that Joel Schumacher was supposedly keen on a few years back -- with Britney Spears being the head vamp. Now that could have been “Showgirls” good...
I could have sworn the original was this huge box office smash, but it only made 32 million back in 1987. Probably got bigger on video. Anyway, LB: TT is a decent vampire flick that doesn’t have any lofty goals. Kiefer Sutherland is busy saving the world as Jack Bauer, so they got his brother Angus to play the baddie. He’s fine, along with the rest of the cast. Ironically, the guy with the most experience was the weakest link here. It seemed like the cast was in one movie and Corey Feldman was in another -- if you stick around after/during the credits, Corey Haim makes a “surprise” appearance.
There’s not a lot to say about the story. It’s basically a low budget rehash of the original, except the siblings are brother and sister. I’m not sure why the vamps are surfers or if it matters -- probably not.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
A much better effort than Ang Lee’s version. Edward Norton makes a great Banner -- although I gotta say, Liv Tyler < Jennifer Connelly. I especially liked all the shout-outs to the TV series: the Gamma radiation machine, Lou Ferrigno cameo, Jack Magee, etc. It’s a fun romp -- mostly.
One of the biggest challenges of a superhero flick is to make the protagonist's civilian life seem interesting. Banner (and Betty) on the run from the military works as a Bourne-styled thriller. I also dug the way the film didn’t go for the money shot right away, instead they hid the Hulk in the shadows at the soda plant in Brasil -- very much like a horror movie. The transformation scenes could have been handled a little better -- hastily put together and I don’t recall seeing the Hulk change back to Banner.
Ultimately, things falls apart when the third act turns into a lame CGI smackdown. Look Hollywood, nobody above the age 12 cares about two computer generated behemoths trading blows. Nothing is at stake -- except for the city of New York, yet again. At least “Transformers” was smart enough to give the puny humans something to do. Here, everybody stands around and watches. I have a copy of the script on the hard drive, will have to do a little compare and contrast...
One more thing, the scene where the Hulk kicks Tim Roth in the chest didn’t ring true to me. The Hulk is this rampaging monster, but Bruce Banner still exists somewhere inside him and he’d never allow that.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
The DVD release reminded me that I had neglected to post my thoughts on this... meh. Okay, I can do better than that. I’m a big fan of Russian director Timur Bekmambetov -- now that’s a mouthful -- “Day Watch” and “Night Watch” were fun supernatural/action flicks bursting with energy. “Wanted” seemed like a great opportunity to showcase his unique vision for mainstream American audiences... didn’t turn out that way. Sure, there are tons of cool set pieces, big stunts and lots of stylized action, but it just sits there like a lump of coal.
It’s hard to ignore the obvious “Matrix” parallels: wimpy hero stuck at a crappy job, beautiful woman comes along, takes him through the looking glass to a secret place with other special people, where a wise black man explains his true path. “The Matrix” doesn’t have a monopoly on this particular storyline, but it’s still fresh in a lot of minds. The script is a good read -- alas, some of my favorite scenes didn’t make the cut. I did like the mystical bit about the loom, and Fox is a far more honorable character in the film than in the draft that I read. It’s a solid action film, but even with Jolie and all her bells and whistles, nothing special. Look, I know it’s a film about assassins, not about folks who work at a teddy bear factory. If you’re looking for a violent popcorn flick, “Wanted” fits the bill -- made a ton of scratch and somehow they’re gonna do a sequel or prequel -- it’s just not the best popcorn flick it could be.
Would’ve been interesting to see the actors who inspired the graphic novel, Halle Berry and Eminem, in the lead roles.