Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review - Red Riding Hood (2011)

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Max Irons, Shiloh Fernandez, Michael Hogan
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: David Johnson

So being the good boyfriend I decided to go and see this movie. I had no expectations what so ever; in fact you could say that they were rock bottom. At the end of the movie while I thought it was actually not good I found some positives about it while my girlfriend was really really disappointed. Didn’t see that one coming. So let’s break this movie down and see how it ticks. Because apparently it’s a watch. Geez I really need to think of better segue’s.

First off let me say that the movie does look pretty. The establishing shots really do capture the eye and make me remember a few Imax documentaries I’ve seen in the past. Even when the shots were repeated I didn’t mind as I was taken in by the landscape. However most of the film takes place on a set and it’s obvious, yet I found that it gelled with the fairy tale atmosphere trying to be created. Yet again this seemed to tap into some stage plays I use to watch when I was just a young kid. I will also give a shout out to my man Michael Hogan who played Colonel Saul Tigh in the latest Battlestar Galactica tv series. When he was on screen he actually had presence and you could tell he was having a little fun. It’s a shame that none of the other actors seemed to be in the same spirits.

So now onto the stuff I didn’t like and lets start with all the other actors. I don’t believe I’ve ever watch a film with Amanda Seyfried before, and honestly after this I’m not sure what people see in her. I just didn’t buy her decisions, I didn’t care and to me there was potential for a great character in Valerie but it was really wasted. Gary Oldman shows up to chew the scenery as Solomon. Here he plays a werewolf hunter, and I must say while he was doing his thing I just wasn’t into his character. I think if he was given more focus there could have been something. As for Valeries two suitors played by Shiloh Fernandez (Peter) and Max Irons (Henry), they were just bland. Max does show some life but it quickly dies out. To me one just bravely whined and the other cowardly whined and all the time I was hoping the wolf would eat both of them. As for the other actors they did a fine enough job but they just seemed bored in some scenes and such I was bored along with them.

But maybe I’m being to harsh on the actors as honestly the biggest fault of this movie is that it has three stories each with great potential, but each one would be good enough for an individual film yet all mashed together they have no real time to develop. We have of course the love story and yet it’s undercooked. At no time did I see it as a love triangle even though they were pushing for it, and honestly everything just seemed too coincidental. Also a love story isn’t going to work when there just doesn’t seem to be any chemistry between the actors. Next we have the ‘Who is the Wolf?’ plot that also suffers as this would have been better as just the main movie. To tell you the truth I didn’t see the twist reveal (as there is always a twist reveal) but I just didn’t care. To convoluted. Finally we have the monster hunter’s story arc. This one actually intrigued me the most and as such it was also the one that was least touched upon, also the resolution was yet again so bloody forced it sat wrong with me. The main problem is that while yes each thread has a tenuous link with each other it just doesn’t feel right. With some revision we could have had a great story. Getting the lead male romantic interests more involved with the hunters/werewolf plots might have helped. However I can’t get into too much detail unless I get into spoiler territory.

I will stress that I didn’t find this a horrible affront to mankind, yet it is a testament to how lazy some movies are getting. Some have called this Twilight with werewolves, and while I can see how the comparison works, I would point out that this movie had greater potential. The source material hamstrung the Twilight movie before it even got out of the gate. Red Riding Hood could have been a great movie if it just had gone through a serious rewrite. Also it’s funny I bring up source material of Twilight and yet I haven’t actually mentioned the Red Riding Hood fairy tale and how it links with this movie. Well the fact is dear reader that its ties to Red Riding Hood are tenuous at best and could honestly be dumped and it wouldn’t have hurt the movie at all.

So look I’m not really sure who to recommend this movie too. I’m damn sure it’s not me. Hell if you want to role the dice I can think of worse date movies. Still I’m dead certain that this isn’t going to create a werewolf craze like Twilight did. While it might be easy for me to bash it, I will say there were some scenes I was captivated if only visually. I guess if you liked Twilight then you’ll probably like this movie. Now I’m off to watch Crank, I do believe it has properties that can counteract this movie.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quick Movie Reviews: Vol 2

A while back I did this because I was feeling lazy. Well it’s back not because I’m feeling lazy but because I tend to watch a lot of films and this month has been a bonanza. Sometimes I just don’t have it in me to write an entire review because I know I’ll be too biased or don’t have much to say. I’m also thinking of having this as a regular thing every month. So without further ado let’s look at the next three contestants.

Limitless (2011)

I didn’t mind this movie at all. Bradley Cooper really does carry this movie and without his leading man skills this film would have probably exploded from the schizophrenic feel. The main problem is that it’s not sure what it wants to be, light sci-fi, drama, comedy, thriller. It’s hard to get in the right mood and because of this the movie does feel disjointed, and something I can’t give full marks to. I haven’t seen this type of rapidly altering mood in a movie since Man of the Year (which I also liked). Maybe with some more fine tuning this could have been a very decent movie. The right ingredients are there but maybe some more time on script and direction would have been a plus. Oh and Robert DeNiro phones in another performance, he’s good but I want to see him stretch a little, we all know he has it in him.

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

Wow! I’m just amazed at the anger that is thrown towards this movie by critics. They are going on like this is one of the worst alien invasion movies to grace the silver screen. I would rank this higher than Independence Day as a movie, yet rotten tomato gives ID4 61% and B:LA 33%. One complaint is that other than Aaron Eckhart’s character everyone is just a cliche character, gee you mean like all the characters in ID4? Aaron Eckhart by the way truly is the be all and end all of this movie. His performance is where everything is centered and I was cheering for him throughout the film. Complaints could be leveled at the shaky cam on display, yet I could see a lot more here than say The Bourne movies, and yet this shaky cam feel is exactly how I think it would feel in the heat of battle. Sure I’m not claiming that this is a perfect film, it’s pretty straight forward and don’t expect any deep moments, but I had some real fun in this movie and on a visceral level I was pleased.

The Mechanic (2011)

In my mind there are two movies in one here. The first half was awesome. Jason Statham was great in a role that he’s done countless times before; Ben Foster is also gold as the apprentice of Statham’s hitman. There is a great slow build up, and we do get some quiet moments where we get to see how the two characters operate. One is cold and calculating yet wants something more, the other is overly emotion and in a downward spiral and yet wants focus in his life. Then we hit the half way mark, the action kicks in and I absolutely hate this god damn movie. Sense is thrown out of the window, plot holes start appearing like wild Pokemon, rapid fire editing actually confuses me and I’m not sure what is happening on the screen, endings happen that reek of reshoots and test audiences, and finally I leave the cinema actually pissed that I’ve wasted my time on this movie. This is a pretty damn rare occurrence. I shouldn’t get this worked up over a movie but somehow The Mechanic just did. So I’ll say it loud and proud, SCREW THIS MOVIE.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Disgruntled Monkey's Top 10 Batman Villains

This has been a list that’s been percolating in my brain for a while now. Of course this isn’t going to be a massively original list as most of you will recognize the villains. Still I wanted to do it and it’s now finally done. So please sit back and relax as I now go through my favorite Bat Villains.

10: Humpty Dumpty: Not a major villain to be sure but there is just something about this characters back story that is disturbing. It’s that nice balance of horror and sadness. We have a man who was abused as a child. He has an obsessive compulsive disorder to dismantle things and put them back together. Eventually he snaps and tries to ‘fix’ his abusive grandmother. Truly a broken soul, in a broken city. He is a reflection of the madness Gotham City can cause on the innocent.

09: Professor Pyg: A relatively new villain, this one gets on my list as yet again the disturbing factor is high. A man obsessed with making people perfect, grafts doll faces onto people and then turning them into mindless slaves, this is all done through what looks like some pretty gruesome surgery. He is a mad scientist combined with the mentality of a schizophrenic artist. The fact that he doesn’t kill his victims but destroys their entire persona is scarier in my mind and brings up that old quote “there are things much worse than death.”

08: Man-Bat: This is a little bit of a weird one as I don’t really care about his back story, though I do remember enjoying the hell out of the Man-Bat episodes on the Batman Animated Series. For me my enjoyment of this villain comes down to the look. I love the giant mutant bat look, scares the crap out of me and yet there is just that little bit of camp enjoyment so as not to turn me away. Honestly if I saw this in the middle of the night I would need a new pair of pants. Oh and on the Morrison run of Batman he gives us Ninja Man-Bat’s, AWESOME!

07: Poison Ivy: The first lady villain and it’s one with a massive green thumb. Batman and Robin the movie almost destroyed this character for me. Every time I read a comic with her in it I couldn’t help but think of Uma Thurman. For Ivy the plants are truly her friends, no human is really close with her (barring Harley Quinn) and yet while she is a character we shouldn’t be able to relate to, her message is one we can. Humans can be bastards and we do wreck nature, is it wrong of Poison Ivy to be on mother natures side? She’s also up on the list because I like red heads. Sorry I’m a guy, if I didn’t mention it I wasn’t being truthful.

06: The Penguin: There are kind of two versions of this character, deformed outcast and aristocratic crime lord. For me, my favorite version is the aristocratic crime lord though I don’t mind him when he’s played as the outcast. What also draws me to this character is that unlike probably 99% of the Batman villains he is not insane. He’s is well aware of his actions and doesn’t seem to have big schemes to destroy Gotham, he’s more about the wealth and working within Gotham’s underworld of crime. In fact at times he’s tried to go straight (sort of) as at the time it seemed more profitable. It’s always nice to have a major villain of Batman’s not be obsessed with killing etc.

05: Harley Quinn: The one thing about insane girls is that they’re committed. Now moving away from that awful joke as quickly as possible lets look at Harley Quinn. Sure you could ask fan boys why they like her and would get the response back “cause she’s hot,” but leaving it at that would be doing this character a disservice. Harley Quinn formally Dr Harleen Frances Quinzel is one of the better examples of those who deal with monsters come under threat of becoming a monster. Obsessed with the Joker Harley Quinn was a normal person who is yet again tainted by the madness that is Gotham City. Unlike Humpty Dumpty however she like the Joker is an agent of chaos and madness with the faintest strands of humanity left. She is a warning to people as well as someone you should really run away quickly from. She also tried to reform somewhat and in this regards does remind me of the marvel character Deadpool and seeming he’s a fav character of mine this is not a bad thing. I think that’s what draws people to the character, despite being evil in her actions there is an honest to god decent person buried beneath everything and people just want to see her saved, as then there is hope for others.

04: Two Face: Speaking of good people, this leads us to Two Face or otherwise known as Harvey Dent. As Harvey Dent he was an ally of Batman but with some acid to the face he was transformed into Two Face and went completely insane. Now he has a coin and with one flip his actions are decided for good or bad. However there is an underlying theme of pain, and inflicting that pain on Gotham. He was one of its hero’s and yet against the sea of corruption he was destroyed. As much as he claims to be guided by chance, you can also see a need to inflict upon Gotham and its people what happened to him. To me he represents the tragic villain. Long gone there is no real hope for his soul, instead all must be fearful of what they could become. I put Two Face before Harley because I can be a depressive ass sometimes and tragedy in my mind works better story wise, than a chance for redemption. Or at least it hits me in the right places.

03: Joker: You knew he had to be on this list but yet he isn’t my number one. Now while I think he is the best villain Batman has, he isn’t my favorite. Still there is much love for the psychotic clown from hell. While I agree that the best villains are often those who have some sympathy or well thought out background, there is something about a villain so evil and totally embodying chaos that can be satisfying. His background is somewhat shrouded, ‘The Killing Joke,’ is often cited as the truth but I don’t really care. In fact I like Morrison’s idea that the Joker is actual not insane but ‘super-sane’ and that he recreates himself each day to cope with the modern world. However no matter his origins it’s what he brings to Batman world is more important and that is Batman’s opposite. It’s stated that most main Batman villains in someway reflect a dark aspect of Bruce, yet the Joker seems to be his opposite. Batman wants order, Joker wants chaos. Batman won’t kill as that is the line he won’t cross, Joker kills because it’s not a line to be considered. Batman has rules, Joker has none. There is more but this would become even longer. Joker is every bit the sickness that runs through Gotham and he’s the one person where the only way for it all to end is if Batman kills him, but if he does then he will no longer be Batman and that’s the greatest joke of all.

02: Bane: The man who broke the bat. I’m ecstatic that Nolan will be giving us Bane for the next Batman movie as I always thought this Villain was somewhat short changed. Growing up in a hellish prison he learnt to survive, forced into an experiment with the drug known as venom he did not die like everyone else but survived. Bane’s entire life if about surviving and proving himself, and what better place to prove himself than in Gotham. During the Knightfall story arc he showed intelligence as well as strength and actually managed to destroy Batman. Recently with Gail Simone’s Secret Six I’ve started reading a whole new development for Bane and I’m really enjoying it. I know where it’s heading and I must say I like the way the entire story is being handled. Showing a fatherly side to Bane and one that was never really given to him. Bane is the villain that beat Batman but also was able to claw back his own redemption. A unique character and obviously one of my favs.

01: The Riddler: On the threat level he’s pretty low. Most of his crimes are actually done not for personal gain but to show off how intelligent he is to people. Over the years he has changed and for the better it would seem. While I have no problems with the change in direction, in fact I kind of dig it. I like him being the cerebral villain of Batman. Sure the city wasn’t exactly at threat but he would still test Batman. In fact I really did like Hush where he took the centre stage and showed how major a villain he could truly be. At that time he even found out who Batman was. I think main reason why I like The Riddler is there is a certain underdog feel to him. You know that barring his intelligence he’s really outclassed by nearly every other villain and the bat family, but yet he still hurls himself into the thick of things and does manage to win a few fights. Also I think green is really a wonderful colour.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review - The Rite (2011)

"Be careful Michael, choosing not to believe in the devil doesn't protect you from him."

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Writer: Michael Petroni

I’ve yet to watch The Last Exorcism, as such there is a burning desire at the moment to watch the exorcist type movies. I just find something fascinating by the evil that can infest the heroes, and there is nothing that they can do about it. At the end of the day the battle being waged is for one soul and even if the main protagonists succeed the devil is just around the corner ready for another bite of the cherry. A real good exorcist movie can just be creepy as hell and leave an impression that will haunt you as you go to sleep. So after this mammoth introduction how does The Rite stand up to all the exorcist movies? Well time to go one on one with the devil and review this hell of a movie.

The story is apparently inspired by true event. Now I’m not sure if a movie needs to have that disclaimer up front but for some reason it just tore the audience out of the moment instantly. People started laughing and it created a mood that I’m sure did hurt the movie. When it comes to these horror movies that are inspired by true events maybe leave that little part until the end of the movie. It’s a cheap ploy to pull at the sympathies of the audience and as the general movie going public get smarter it’s going to hurt more and more. Okay here endeth the rant. I think I turned left at Albuquerque on that point.

Anyway the plot is a young priest in training Michael Krovak (O’Donoghue) is having a crisis of faith and is sent to Rome to undergo exorcist training in the hopes that he will reconnect with his faith and become a demon kicking tool of the lord. (Okay I made that sound more exciting than it should be). At Rome he butts heads with the Priest in charge and so is sent to Father Lucas Trevent (Hopkins) in the hopes of making him believe in exorcism. It is here the plot starts thickening as a demon seems intent upon Michael and is using his past against him.

So in this horror movie I think I was scared once and that was from a cat smacking itself against the window. There was a creepy atmosphere but I was never really on the edge of my seat. When I thought something was going to happen in kind of fizzled out. The movie is actually caught between this weird middle ground. It’s not so fantastical with it exorcism stuff because it’s ‘inspired’ by true event and yet at the same time there are over the top touches that really hurt the audience from buying into the real events of the movie. At the end of the day I left the movie somewhat creeped out but quickly forgot most of the movie and went about by night. Truly not a good sign.

Directing was pretty competent and as I said was able to generate a suitable creepy mood, just nothing really came of that. Acting wise everyone does an adequate job. O’Donoghue sometimes downplays it a little too much, and Hopkins while fine enough does seem to be bouncing about the various roles he’s done over the years. Alice Braga is also okay but her story isn’t really that important in the end. I guess she’s just there because she was there in real life.

I think that The Rite isn’t a god awful movie it’s just very adequate, and it doesn’t really raise any questions that will stick in a persons mind. After watching the movie I just wanted to see The Last Exorcism more. Still if you have some spare cash and are desperate for the ol time Catholic horror go watch The Rite. Better yet go and hire out The Exorcist. In fact do that second thing right now.

Review - Hall Pass (2011)

"That is making me uncomfortable, would you mind switching places with him?"

Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate
Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Writing: Pete Jones, Peter Farrelly

It’s taken me a while to sum up my feeling about this movie. It’s a typical Farrelly vehicle and while I did laugh at some of the typical humour I will admit there was just something lacking from it. It was just a hollow experience and afterwards I couldn’t help but feel just let down. But enough of the overall picture lets look at this sucker in depth.

Story wise what we have is Rick (Wilson) and Fred (Sudeikis) given a week off marriage by their two wives Maggie (Fischer) and Grace (Applegate) who are fed up with their childish behaviour surrounding women and sex. It’s one of those ‘What If,’ scenario’s that people may wonder about. Well actually in this case I never really wondered but was willing to go along with the story as I’ve found that the one thing Farrelly movies have is heart. However that was sorely lacking and instead we get a very pale imitation of the Hangover.

A lot of the problem lies in the characters we are expected to get behind. I found most of the characters bland or at worst just awful. Owen Wilson and Jenna Fischer almost get away with their natural charm and yet there does seem to be wholes in their characters that make us wonder about their motivation. In fact without giving to much away, but there was a bit of a twist at the end and honestly would have been better if it wasn’t a twist but hinted at up front so we would get a better understanding of the characters motivation. As for all the other characters while I did laugh at some of the things they said, more often than not I wanted to punch them in the face. In the words of wrestling fans, they got heat but X-Pac heat. Which is bad for those of you who don’t watch wrestling.

This comedy just seems to be by the numbers sort of movie. Its dialogue is set up to be shocking and yet doesn’t really shock as it’s obviously not natural. It has a few toilet humour gags and yet it doesn’t have enough to really be considered a full on raunchy movie. Back a bit I suggested that this was a pale imitation of the Hangover and you can tell this is a studio driven movie in order to make some money off those who like Hangover. There is no real drive to make a decent funny movie by any in attendance.

So a quick sum up of everything. Did I laugh? Yes. But the funny thing is because of the horrid characters and premise I started hating myself for it. Maybe if they fleshed out the characters a little more, especially in the case of Owen Wilson the movie might have found the heart it needed to be something a bit better. At the end of the day if you are really desperate for a comedy with a bit of a raunchy streak then I guess you could do worse. Honestly I want a little bit more to my comedies. Also I don’t want to watch a movie, where I feel the need to punch the main characters.