Archive for the ‘ Movies ’ Category

Things I’m looking forward to in 2011

2010 is nearly wrapped up – Christmas is over, the turkey is digested and we uploaded our year end podcast – so all that’s left to think about is the drunken state on New Years Eve and the migraine hell on New Years Day. Oh, and the rest of 2011. That’ll be big too. I just figured I’d run down some of the things I’m hyped for in the coming year.

Games – Where to begin? While there isn’t much in the way of new IPs (other than Bulletstorm and LA Noire), established franchises are getting a huge surplus of games in 2011. Total War: Shogun 2, Uncharted 3, Mass Effect 3, Crysis 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Gears of War 3, to name but a handful. Next year is indeed going to be very busy.

Books – While I don’t really get “hyped” for books and their release dates that much anymore (I prefer to just go to the bookstore and browse), I’ll say that the third book in Chuck Hogan/Guillermo Del Toro’s Strain trilogy has me considerably excited. After the downer ending (spoilers! sometimes middle chapters of trilogies have downer endings, folks) of the second book, I’m really interested to see where they go with the story. If you haven’t read it, I would recommend checking out the first book The Strain – Hogan and Del Toro have taken this waning vampire trend and steered it towards surprising and genuinely scary waters.

Music – Just like games, so much is happening in music this coming year. Firstly, the expected but mysterious new Radiohead album, which has to be coming out in 2011 (it just has to!). I am really, really, really looking forward to it. In fact, I am going through their entire catalogue while writing this article.
As for confirmed albums, The Decemberists (The King is Dead), The Strokes (TBA), Fleet Foxes (TBA), Dr. Dre (Detox, it’s coming out, I promise!), R.E.M. (Collapse Into Now), and M83 (TBA) round out what I’m looking forward to next year.

Movies – Unlike the rest of my categories, movies is kind of sparse. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been exposed to too much 2011 marketing. The only thing I can think of that’s not standard popcorn fare is The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick’s sprawling opus about the human condition finally comes out next year. Other than that, we’ve got The Deathly Hallows, Pt 2, that third Transformers movie which will be two hours of utter nonsense but I’ll still be endlessly entertained, and a huge bevy of superhero movies I probably won’t see – The Green Lantern, The Green Hornet, Thor (which seriously looks like some atrocious shit), Captain America, et al. Maybe as we progress further through the year some better looking movies will pop up. There are still a few apparently good ones from 2010 I haven’t seen, Black Swan, True Grit and 127 Hours, to name but a few.

 

It should be a pretty fun year for entertainment at least.

Hey, so we recorded a new episode of the Bodycast

Josh and I got together with Jordan and Steven, two friends of mine to record a super long episode of the Bodycast this week. Clocking in at almost 2 hours, we’re covering our favorite crap of the year, specifically movies and games (and some music and TV). Click on Bodycast at the top of the page for the appropriate links (it’s episode 6!). And remember to try and win our guess that track contest, and win a chance at some random games from the Steam store! Get busy listening…

Just felt like I should share this

God, I really want to play Mass Effect 2 again. Or watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’m confused now.

So what if Spiderman is black?

Driving into work today, I was catching up on the Nerdist podcast and the episode I was listening to guest starred Donald Glover, he of Community fame (he was also a writer on my other favorite TV comedy, 30 Rock). Of course, Chris Hardwick brought up the internet campaign that had occurred earlier this year, where people on Twitter and the rest of the internet had pushed to have Glover cast as Peter Parker/Spiderman in the upcoming Spiderman reboot, directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer). It was kind of a weird, random occurrence where Glover, during the wild casting speculation, joked that he might be a cool Spiderman.

Donald in his Spiderman pyjamas on Community, 3 x 01

A huge amount of people rallied behind him, but eventually it was for naught when the talented Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) was cast as Peter Parker. Of course, people were angry and people were happy at the decision. You had people one side shouting “RACISM” and on the other side, comic book purists (and maybe actual racists, who knows) were shouting “HELL YEAH”. As for my side, it’s hard for me to say. While I generally prefer an adaptation or remake or whatever stay true to the source material, if they ignore the source material and make a good movie out of it, then why the hell does it matter?

Glover was pretty humble on the Nerdist podcast but at the same time brought up some good points that I feel like I have to echo: for one, Spiderman isn’t Shaft or Black Lightning – a superhero who is defined by his race. He’s just a geeky, awkward kid who’s experienced a lot of loss and has to deal with that loss while still trying to do some good in the world. Glover also wanted to stress that the fact that he didn’t get chosen or even get an audition wasn’t racism on the part of the director or the studio. On the podcast, he quipped that if Sony Pictures could make money off a movie about Hitler starring Will Smith, they’d probably greenlight it in a heartbeat. In the end, everything in Hollywood ends up being a financial decision, so maybe a black Spiderman just wasn’t bankable at this point in time.

How it all started

As it stands, we have another really talented actor cast as Spiderman, and Glover still has his entire career ahead of him. Maybe when they reboot the series in another 10 years (it’s inevitable folks), the world will be ready for a black Spiderman. It’s all about baby steps – hell, people are still bitching about James Bond being a blonde.

"Yeah, we're cool... for now."

Why The Expendables sucked, and yes, I am a man

The hype leading up to The Expendables was almost at Snakes on a Plane-levels. A throwback to classic 80s action movies starring all your favorite 80s action stars? What’s that, Jean Claude Van Damme didn’t want to be in it? Oh, Kurt Russel, Steven Seagal and Wesley Snipes turned them down? Oh okay – so this movie had TWO of your favorite 80s action stars – Sylvester Stallone (writing and directing, and trust me, this ain’t no fucking Rocky) and Dolph Lundgren, who in real life is actually a very smart man, but in this movie sounds like a fucking retarded infant. Oh, and Bruce Willis and Arnold the Governator show up in brief, throwaway cameo roles.

I still don’t get why Stallone was so into making this movie, aside from the monetary angle. In interviews he talks about it being a final goodbye to the action star and those crazy, violent action movies of the 1980s, but didn’t he already do this in the absolutely ridiculous and yet totally awesome final Rambo film? A lot of themes in Rambo show up in The Expendables – the aging hero finding his place in the world, the war-torn country that needs the help of mercenaries, the cost of war on a person’s psyche- but I wouldn’t put Stallone above pilfering from his own movies.

Now, a lot of you might say “Yeah, but it’s just an action movie, like those one’s from the 80s. If you want plot, go watch some arthouse movie, you idiot” (an actual quote from someone I know after I expressed disdain for The Expendables). I’ll spend a good portion of this review/rant explaining how the action itself was terrible, but in the interest of being thorough, I’ll rip this entire movie apart. Let’s start with the characters.

Now, every single character in The Expendables is bland, flat and stupid. If you didn’t learn everything you needed to know about a character within 2 minutes of being introduced to them, then I think you might have some mental deficiency and you should probably go to the doctor. Ensemble movies generally mean that character building and depth take a backseat to whatever’s going on with the plot, but hell, they seem to spend so little time with minor characters like Terry Crews and Randy Cotoure that it makes me wonder why they didn’t at least develop Stallone or Statham’s characters. Jason Statham, especially, is so fucking boring in this movie that I cringed everytime some of Stallone’s stilted dialogue came out of his mouth.
I like Jason Statham. I think he did great in movies like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and his recent movie The Bank Job was pretty damn good, mostly because his characters in these movies don’t do much action. Statham is excellent as the dry wit, the straight man in the conversation, setting people straight and acting like a general scallywag. But then came The Transporter, and suddenly this bald Englishman was a bonafide action star, and every movie he’s had a leading role in since then (except for The Bank Job) has been either mediocre or utter shit.
Jet Li felt criminally underused in this movie. While Li has never had Jackie Chan’s charisma or on-screen presence, he does have a certain quiet charm and I’ve been a fan of his since Romeo Must Die. In The Expendables, all Li seems to do is bitch about how he needs money for his family (turns out he doesn’t actually have a family, so really, he’s just being a greedy bastard) and be the target of jokes regarding his height. Real snappy dialogue here, folks. What use is a martial artist in a movie about guys with big guns? In a couple of scenes here and there, Li gets to kick some ass, but it’s not enough.
And what about Stallone? Well, Stallone is Stallone, playing Stallone as he has in every other movie in the last 20 years. While I really enjoyed the recent Rambo film, it was a standard Stallone performance, wooden, sullen and shallow. This movie is much of the same. Stallone is starting to sound old, and most of his dialogue comes out as mumbles. This is the leader of the Expendables?

As for plot, well, it’s paper thin. Again, people say “it’s an action movie, what did you expect”, but come on, if this is supposed to be a throwback to those awesome action movies of the 1980s, then why not hold it to a better standard? First Blood, Predator, Die Hard – all of these movies came out in the 80s, and they still hold up today. First Blood actually had a far deeper plot than a lot of people give it credit for.
So we’re supposed to care about this crew of mercenaries who ride around on motorcycles. They all go to this island that’s under the thumb of a mean ol’ dictator (David Zayas, whom you might recognize as Angel from Dexter – fucking hell, he is a bad actor, especially in this movie) who is actually a puppet of an ex-CIA agent (hilariously evil Eric Roberts) who’s exploiting the country for natural resources, accompanied by his mostly silent henchman (Stone Cold Steve Austin, going for broke with his acting skills here). Sound familiar? That’s because two other movies came out this year with very similar plots – The Losers (you can find my lengthy rant about that shitfest here) and The A-Team. All three of them deal with a team of mercenaries attempting to take out a rogue CIA agent who’s doing some nasty shit. They get to the island, they meet up with the rebel leader who is actually the daughter of the mean ol’ dictator, Stallone and her have kind of a love thing going on (or mutual respect for each other, who knows) and we get to watch a scene with waterboarding (mmm, that’s topical!). In the end, shit blows the fuck up and we get to see a lot of pointless gunfights and explosions. Seems like a good enough segue…

The action in this movie fucking sucked. It might sound like a cliche, but genuinely good action scenes have me on the edge of my seat. I can feel anxious for a character, and whether or not they’ll make it out of a scene alive. In The Expendables, I always knew that every single “good” character was going to be okay at the end of the movie because the characters don’t have time to deal with loss, emotions or anything deep, because “dems issues for girls, why don’t you go watch a romantic comedy if you aren’t manly enough for this movie?”. Amazingly, this became a huge selling point for the movie – if you don’t like it or you don’t see it, clearly you are some kind of homosexual, or you’re not a man, at the very least. Only girls wouldn’t like this movie because you need brass balls to watch this movie (ironically, the only woman who was there while watching this movie with me liked it). But the action in this movie was so poorly choreographed, so spazzy and all over the place that I found myself bored, suffering from a headache from the consistent, constant cuts and wondering if Sylvester Stallone has ever heard of a storyboard. I’m estimating here, but I’m certain that during the climactic gun battle, there wasn’t a single shot that lasted more than three seconds. I’m not a fast-cut hater, I loved the frenetic style of The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum. But generally, the action scenes were so pointless and aimless that I found myself not caring at the outcome. Well choreographed and planned out action scenes stick in your mind for years. Just a few examples: the lobby fight in The Matrix, the street shootout in Heat, Arnold fighting the Predator in Predator, Rambo taking down cops in First Blood, the nightclub shootout in Collateral, the Marines facing off against the xenomorphs in Aliens, and pretty much the entirety of Die Hard. I saw The Expendables in August and can barely remember any of the lame action (I’m referring to a downloaded version for the purpose of this review, so sue me). It’s a hard point for me to sell, since most people are just happy with explosions, big guns and digital blood (they couldn’t even bother with squibs and blood packs). But I wasn’t at all enthralled. I was just really fucking bored.

In the end, I get shouted down a lot for my opinion on this movie. All the people that went with me to see it liked it, and the box office returns tell me that most of North America liked it too. It was a real shame that this managed to beat out Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, a movie that is infinitely better than The Expendables. It also kind of surprised me that this summer, we had two movies – Inception and Scott Pilgrim – that had much better action than a movie that was marketed as the definitive action movie of the year.

Review: The Town

I generally don’t like it when people start to use the term “city as a character”. They aren’t many filmmakers out there that who can actually boast that they’ve done that, like Michael Mann has done with Los Angeles, or Martin Scorcese with New York City. After seeing The Town, I can safely say that Ben Affleck is well on his way to earning that relationship with his hometown, Boston. Even in its grittiest neighbourhoods, the city shines, and I’ve really developed a desire to go there after seeing it featured in this movie, The Departed and the TV show Fringe. Now I won’t be getting spoiler-heavy in this review, pretty much everything I’ll talk about will have been featured in the trailer or is common knowledge by now.

The Town is well produced, and well directed, full of little moments that make you laugh and think. I have to hand it to Ben Affleck, he really has an appreciation for the craft of filmmaking – the big car chase scene near the middle of the movie is shot entirely on location in the North End of Boston. Anyone who lives there will tell you that having an actual car chase in those narrow streets would be impossible, let alone shooting one. The action is intense but at the same time almost minimalistic – there aren’t any big explosions or slow motion dives. It’s just cops and robbers with automatic weapons shooting the shit out of each other, trying to stay alive. Production wise, this movie is off the charts, and hats off to Ben Affleck for wrangling it all together for his sophomoric project.

The writing is competent. The screenplay is based off a book by Chuck Hogan called Prince of Thieves, which I haven’t read yet but plan to. Quick pointless tangent – Chuck Hogan is also writing a series of books with Guillermo Del Toro (director of Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) called The Strain Trilogy. The second in the series, called The Fall, just came out recently and I would really recommend the books to horror/apocalypse fans.
Affleck and his co-writers Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard do a good job of illustrating what Boston is like, and how the people in the neighbourhood of Charlestown talk, interact, live. Again, I don’t live there, but people have told me that it’s a somewhat accurate depiction. This might seem light a cliched thing to say, but the characters felt real. Even the standard unhinged psycho, Jem (Jeremy Renner), was far more realistic than other heist psychos (Waingro from Heat, for example). As Affleck’s character Doug screams at him during the movie “All you care about is coke and XBOX…” This is such a great line that sums up his entire character. He’s not your garden variety psycho who goes around murdering prostitutes, he’s just someone who grew up in a broken society, and he simply doesn’t care. Violence doesn’t give him joy, but it doesn’t affect him negatively either. I could have watched a whole movie just about his character, to be honest.
One slight problem that I had with the movie’s development was the relationship between Doug and Claire (Rebecca Hall, who did an excellent job). It just seems to happen, all of a sudden. I guess love can be immediate, but generally real relationships aren’t really like that.  I feel like 15 minutes added to the 2 hour runtime of the film could have really helped to explore their relationship and help explain why they had been grown together so quickly.

The acting is excellent by almost everyone, especially the aforementioned Renner. The only person I’d say was miscast was Blake Lively. That’s not to say the Gossip Girl did a bad job, but she was outclassed by everyone else in the cast, and when she attempts a Boston accent, she either comes off sounding like a reject from Jersey Shore, or a Russian call girl. Either way, she didn’t help the movie much.
I read Roger Ebert’s review of The Town recently, and while I agreed with him on most points, I found myself disagreeing when he talked about the predictability and boredom of the film when it came down to the action scenes/gunfights. He felt like the characters were in no real danger, and that when someone was going to die, you saw it coming a mile away. While I’d say this only really applies to one of the deaths in the film, I was quite enthralled by most of the action scenes. There’s a scene where one character (again, not naming any names for fear of spoilers) chases another character around a car, firing at him wildly with an automatic weapon. I felt absolute genuine tension in that scene, and had no idea what the climax was going to be and who would end up dead. Compare this to the action movie of the summer – The Expendables – where I knew that every character in the movie would end up fine, thus draining the movie of any tension that it ever had (and it didn’t have much to begin with). Like my first time watching Heat, I felt genuine anxiety over which cops and which robbers would end up dead in the epic gunfight, and this is the best compliment that I feel I can pay to The Town – it is one of the best heist movies I’ve seen since Heat, recreating that tense atmosphere, assembling a cast of mostly real and believable characters, and a determined effort to make the movie as a tribute to traditional filmmaking, rather than post-production extravaganzas that we might be used to nowadays. But most of all, as a bittersweet acknowledgement to the towns that these directors love so much.

So yeah, definitely go watch The Town. And to Ben Affleck – next time you make a movie, in the trailer, you can definitely put “From acclaimed director Ben Affleck” rather than “from the acclaimed director of Gone Baby Gone” – I think you’ve earned it.

The Losers – this was possibly one of the worst movies in recent memory

The same night that I went to an impromptu viewing of Iron Man 2 I ended up watching an A-Team clone called The Losers. I learned later that the movie was actually based off a series of comic books, which itself was based off an older comic series. Despite this I can’t help but think of how three movies out this summer – The Losers, The A-Team and The Expendables – are basically identical in premise.

Anyway, if it seems like I’m just content with letting you know how shitty I thought The Losers really was and then ending this article, you’re dead wrong. I am up for writing exactly what I thought was wrong with this shitty movie from start to bottom – I’ll just divide it into acting and plot – and hopefully I’ll cover all the crappy elements in both sections.

Acting
Yeah, commenting on acting in a comic book movie seems like a low blow or a waste of time, but this is the same genre that brought us Heath Ledger’s terrifying Joker and Robert Downey Jr’s smarmy and charming Tony Stark/Iron Man. The Losers is definitely not lacking in acting talent either – Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a great actor probably best known for playing the disgusting Comedian in Watchmen, Idris Elba (The Wire fanatics will know him as Stringer Bell, another fantastic actor), Chris Evans (he’s not a great actor, but he’s like a cheaper version of Ryan Reynolds, and was probably the best part of the awful Fantastic Four films), and Zoe Saldana (she’s getting overexposed, but I thought she was good in Star Trek).
In this movie, however, you could have replaced all of these people with cardboard cutouts and gotten pretty much the same reaction. Their performances are so wooden, and even Evans, who can be counted on to bring some comic relief to a film is utterly boring in this movie. Jason Patric, who plays the main villain, is just so awful in his attempt to channel both Gordon Gekko and Goldfinger. He may as well have been a cartoon character. I have never liked Jason Patric in anything before, but he seemed especially offensive here. The least annoying turd in this shit heap is probably Spanish actor Òscar Jaenada, who has maybe ten liness in the whole movie, half of them in another language. It is just a shock to me that fucking STRINGER BELL couldn’t even phone in a competent performance for this movie. All he does is stare and scowl, and try to come off as the voice of reason but just manages to sound whiny, which is just bizarre.


Plot

There really isn’t one. I mean, there’s something to do with a bomb that can dissolve islands… or something. Max (Jason Patric) sets up the Losers for the murder of 25 kids that Max ordered. Oh yeah, there was a scene before the kids getting murdered that had a fireball chasing a school bus in the jungle… so yeah. Anyway, we fast forward a few months later (or years, whatever), and we can tell that the leader of the Losers, Clay (Morgan) is wracked with guilt because he’s betting on cock fights and drinking heavily. They live in some South American country and work and try to forget about their past lives. Clay is approached by Aisha (Saldana) with a business proposition – they proceed to have a fight that’s supposed to double as symbolism for sex, but just comes off as awkward, and kinda creepy – Morgan looks like he’s in his fifties, but Saldana looks barely 18. I can’t tell what the point of this scene really was. To show that Clay is still in pretty good shape? To show that the badass chick is in actuality a badass? Maybe they just found room in the budget to set a hotel on fire.
Anyway, several Matrix kicks later, Aisha tells Morgan (and subsequently the rest of the Losers) that she knows a way to get to Max. Oh yeah, before this scene, the rest of the Losers make sure to warn Clay that he always has trouble with women in his life. What was the point of this scene, I wonder? Do you think that maybe Clay and Aisha are going to become romantically entangled? I know, it was confusing to me too, since up until the point where they have a cold and awkward sex scene, they had literally no chemistry whatsoever. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

They start carrying out missions against Max, who is trying to steal CIA money (even though he works for the CIA, or some shit, I dunno) so that he can pay these smart people to make a crazy bomb for him so that he can use it against the United States so that he can reboot the War on Terror (the franchise was stagnant, I guess) and protect American interests. Or something like that. It seems doubtful that you’ll get it any better than I did. Each mission brings them closer to Max, but then they discover that Aisha has a dark secret which sends her running. Some dude that Clay kills at the start of the movie was actually Aisha’s slave driver, drug dealer dad. Awkward! But yeah, Aisha is totally in revenge mode, trying to take down the asshole who killed her dad, who was not evil enough to go along with Max’s bomb scheme, but just evil enough to use little kids as drug mules. I think she needs to get her priorities in order. Oh yeah, Roque (Idris Elba) is getting really pissed off because he wants out but he is not down with the way Clay is leading the group. He constantly undermines his leadership and attempts to get the guys to turn against their leader. Make sure you guys take notice of these details, North American audience, because apparently you really are as stupid as the writers of this movie think you are.
ANYWAY, boring action scene after boring action scene (these dudes are supposed to be the baddest of the bad, but they seem to respect the preciousness of life by using tranquilizer darts against random mooks) and they finally confront Max. UH OH, it turns out that Roque was a traitor all along, and he led the Losers into a trap. I TOTALLY DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING! I get that they’re trying to stay loyal to the source material, where Roque’s whole persona, according to Wikipedia is “his ruthless thirst for money (which) motivates a majority of his actions, including the serial betrayal of the Losers and many of his underlings.” The words “serial betrayal” make me think that this guy betrays the Losers in every issue but somehow they keep letting him back in. Basically, he’s like a human Starscream.
They all fight it out, and after some really crappy CGI, the Losers emerge victorious. However, Max survives, obviously the director/writers trying to make this into a franchise – thank God that poor box office returns will probably kill that idea from coming to fruition.

Example of the crappy CGI I was talking about

In the end, The Losers really doesn’t know what it is. Is it a comic book film? If so, it ranks amongst The Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider. Is it a satire of action films? If so, it very well might be a successful one. I’ve never been so bored with action in my life. Maybe this is the kind of fim that would have benefitted from a better director, better writer and an R rating. But that film was already called Kick-Ass, and though it got positive reviews, it had the same disappointing box office return.

Since it’s nearly 3AM, and I’m dead tired, I feel like I’ve said all I needed to say about this movie. I think how much I dislike it is very much apparent, and while I wouldn’t say it’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen, it’s one of the worst in recent memory. It doesn’t even fall into the “so bad it’s good” category. I suppose the only good thing I can say about it is that it got me so riled up. Films that I love with my soul wouldn’t get the same word count that I devoted to this tripe.