Archive | April, 2010

The Warlords

13 Apr

Title: The Warlords
Year: 2007
Director: Peter Chan
Writers: Xu Lan, Chun Tin-Nam, Aubery Lam, Huang Jian Xin, Jojo Hui, He Jiping, Guo Jun Li, James Yuen
Starring: Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Xu Jinglei
MPAA Rating: R, sequences of strong violence
Runtime: 126 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%

Yes, this is a 2007 film, but it only got a U.S. release in 2010, so I’m counting it for the year’s reviews. The film is outstandingly large in scope, and the epic battle sequences are extremely well done, the main one actually being over 20 pages of detailed descriptions in the script, but I found myself not really enjoying the film outside of those battle scenes, yes, it is also a personal drama of male bonding, but at that level I thought there was just something missing.

Jet Li’s performance is quite good though, he’s the main star of the film, playing General Pang, the only one who survived a massacre that killed his whole unit and a man that carries with him a dark secret. Li earned a paycheck of $15 million for this part, which accounted for over a third of the movie’s budget, the excessive paycheck being attributed to the fact that having him cast guaranteed an international release, which is a good enough reason I would say, though I doubt this one will captivate audiences that much this side of the globe.

Pang is apparently a man with visionary ideas, and he gets two bandits to align with him via a blood oat to battle the rebels but years pass and Pang’s idealism seems to be gone and the bandits start to show mistrust towards him.

Yes, the scope is fuckin’ epic, not only do the battle scenes look great but they feel great as well, we connect with the characters whilst they’re in battle, unfortunately, even though the acting is solid and the story of the bonding is nicely told, I just didn’t feel myself connecting to them in the story as much as I did to in the battles.

Grade: C+

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After.Life

12 Apr

Title: After.Life
Year: 2009
Director: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Writers: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, Paul Vosloo, Jakub Korolczuk
Starring: Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, Justin Long
MPAA Rating: R, nudity, disturbing images, language and brief sexuality
Runtime: 95 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 20%

I’m a big fan of Christina Ricci, I would have graded the movie lower had the Anna role gone to Kate Bosworth like it was originally supposed to. Anna, by the way, was killed in a car crash, but, as you would correctly assume from the film’s title, she’s not really dead, she comes back and tells her mortician Elliot, a role that was originally supposed to go to Alfred Molina but that is now played by Liam Neeson, that there’s been some sort of mistake that she’s not really dead, he tries to reason with her, but then again, she’s seeing her right there, arguing right back at him, she seems alive.

This is a bizarre film, I usually like bizarre films but something about After.Life seemed too odd to me to really embrace it, there’s a little boy who sees Anna from the window and tells her boyfriend that she’s alive, and that makes complete sense to him for some reason, he had been really struggling with her dying and he quickly accepts what this little boy tells him.

We never really know if she’s alive or not, she gets buried (alive?) and we still don’t know, if we’re Anna we think we are alive and we think we are being buried prematurely, Deacon is just as split up, yes, he saw her alive, but he thinks he has this sort of gift, he has been doing this for too long and he sometimes thinks he talks to the dead people he has to deal with.

This is an okay horror film, but it is one that never fuckin’ settles for an identity, it is as though director Wojtowicz-Vosloo, who makes her debut with this one, was only trying to make a cool art-house film and in the middle of that forgot her plot and the effectiveness of this thriller was completely lost.

Grade: C

Happy Tears

12 Apr

Title: Happy Tears
Year: 2009
Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein
Writer: Mitchell Lichtenstein
Starring: Parker Posey, Demi Moore, Rip Torn, Ellen Barkin
MPAA Rating: R, language, drug use, and some sexual content including brief nudity
Runtime: 95 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 5.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%

There was a time when quirky indie dramedies were super new and original, and while that’s still mostly the case, there have so many of them that this is a genre which now has clichés, clichés that are employed to their fullest extent in Happy Tears, which by following a rather stale formula lets truly fine performances, especially those by Moore and Posey, go to waste.

It’s the story of these two sisters, one completely different from the other, and how they deal with their aging father. Rip Torn plays the father, and it made me remember how good an actor this man, who’s closing in on 80, really is, he plays extremely well the role of an old stubborn man who’s becoming senile and now being visited by his two daughters to be told just that. He also has Ellen Barkin as a “nurse” though it seems to us as though she learned her nursing skills from television shows and the only time she’d be wearing a nurse outfit is in the bedroom, and Laura, one of the daughter’s notices this right away when she comes to visit.

Laura is played by Demi Moore, and the other sister, Jayne, a shopaholic, is played by a wonderful Parker Posey. The rest of the film, even though is filled with clichés of the genre is still a nicely enough assembled story, these are two completely opposite women who love pot and who are played by two extremely capable actresses.

Ms. Moore especially is terrific as Laura, probably because I wouldn’t have initially assumed she would have been this good in this genre, as opposed to what I would have thought of Posey who’s still terrific, Moore looks amazing and her turn in this one has me thinking this genre is something she should try delving into more and more.

This is a film that even though is, I repeat, completely addled in clichés still does have great performances by four capable thespians, a really nice family story that’s told with a distinct sense of humor, but I’m not giving it a high grade because I think it should have been more.

Grade: C

Date Night

11 Apr

Title: Date Night
Year: 2010
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Josh Klausner
Starring: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, James Franco, Taraji P. Henson, Mila Kunis, Common, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Liotta, Kristen Wiig, Leighton Meester
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference
Runtime: 88 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%

Steve Carell and Tina Fey as the two leads in a comedy. That means expectations couldn’t be any higher really, these are two of the funniest people working now, and two of the most beloved stars on television, Carell in The Office and Fey in 30 Rock. And to me, while this isn’t exactly a perfect comedy it still lived up to my expectations as a really solid film with two outstanding leads who play this completely ordinary and unassuming couple that have routine lives and just want to go out and have a fun night.

That’s when it all ends up going downhill for them, they go to a super chic restaurant and they pretend to be this couple that hasn’t shown up and then hitmen arrive and think they are the couple they said they were just to get the table and comedic gold ensues. Carell and Fey are outstanding as Phil and Claire, not only are they extremely funny but they are believably funny, and being believably funny, especially in the situation they are acting, is rare, but then again it’s what you’d expect from two actors like these.

Helping them out is a truly remarkable supporting cast led by Franco and Kunis, who play the couple Carell and Fey pretended to be, the actors chosen for these roles do their parts justice, because it’s these secondary characters that help things speed along, because it really does speed, it has action and it has comedy and it has two leads that know how to blend it well because they act as though they don’t know it’s funny, that would sound like a logical rule, I know, but few comedians can really act as though they seriously don’t know that what they are doing is hilarious.

Date Night completely lived up to my expectations, it’s not a comedic masterpiece, but it’s a funny flick that’s engaging, and has two unbelievable leads at the center of it all, and two leads that being the master comedians they are know that to make a great comedy you don’t have to rely in the cheap jokes and stunts comedies nowadays seem to adore, but rather it helps to sometimes dial down on the stupidity, amp up the action and let their own talents do the talking.

Grade: B+

Why Did I Get Married Too?

11 Apr

Title: Why Did I Get Married Too?
Year: 2010
Director: Tyler Perry
Writer: Tyler Perry
Starring: Janet Jackson, Tyler Perry, Tasha Smith, Jill Scott, Malik Yoba, Michael Jai White, Sharon Leal, Richard T. Jones, Lamman Rucker, Louis Gossett Jr., Cicely Tyson
MPAA Rating: PG-13, thematic material including sexuality, language, drug references and some domestic violence
Runtime: 121 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 2.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%

Why Did I Get Married Too? is the follow-up to Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? (thus the horrible pun in the title) and even though this one has a really terrific performance by Janet Jackson it really does not do much to improve upon the formula that Mr. Perry has been so keen on bringing to the screens every year, though I did sense some sort of growth from his directing style in a sense I cannot really pinpoint just yet.

The film starts as a comedy, then it starts evolving until arriving at the mandatory melodramatic final act. That’s what Tyler Perry does, he blends these two things, has been doing it for quite some time really, and to really good commercial success too, seeing as how he truly knows his target audience and throws in something for everyone.

As for me, I thought that while the comedy part of the film wasn’t really horrible I found that it really wasn’t so genuine, and I thought the melodramatic act was better because it gave Ms. Jackson and Ms. Scott a chance to shine and it allowed Mr. Perry to give us something to think about and not just attempt to make us laugh with his cliché-ridden pack of characters.

Sure, the film will probably be quite okay for Mr. Perry’s target audience, and I do think he’s a great crowdpleaser, I just thought that this one could have been better, not that it wasn’t good, it was quite decent, especially because I did find myself thinking that Mr. Perry was showing some artistic growth in a way, it could have been more, but then again this dude has a new movie out every time you blink so he’ll get another shot quite soon.

Grade: C

Clash of the Titans

11 Apr

Title: Clash of the Titans
Year: 2010
Director: Louis Leterrier
Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, adapting from the script of the original 1981 film by Beverly Cross
Starring: Sam Worthington, Mads Mikkelsen, Alexa Davalos, Danny Huston, Gemma Arterton, Pete Postelthwaite, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, Polly Walker, Kaya Scodelario, Nicholas Hoult, Agyness Deyn, Natalia Vodianova
MPAA Rating: PG-13, fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality
Runtime: 106 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 31%

Clash of the Titans is a nice remake, it’s not a good one, but when seeing it you know that Leterrier has seen the original 1981 film and loves it and wanted to do it right, in that sense he does, because you do sense it’s an affectionate remake, but it’s not, however, a good film.

The mortal people of Argos have had it with the gods up there in Olympus and have recruited Perseus, played by Sam Worthington, a demi-god son of Zeus and a human woman, they have recruited him to start a revolt against the gods, which the gods will obviously try to put down.

Clash of the Titans is obviously not as much about the story as it is about being the action blockbuster that is, as its the standard for these films nowadays, also available in 3D. The thing is, this film wasn’t shot in 3D, it was converted to it later in post-production, and if you know me you’ll know I’m not huge on 3D in most cases, and in this case I hated it because it wasn’t even meant to be shown in 3D, it was an afterthought from a studio that wanted to make more money.

But nevertheless, the action sequences in 2D are technically outstanding and the kraken was beautifully done, and I’m a fashion junkie, so seeing Natalia Vodianova and Agyness Deyn show up for small roles was an extra treat.

I could go on telling you about the plot, but it’s irrelevant, this is all about the action scenes, it’s all about the craftsmanship of it all, how convincing they can make the kraken and Andromeda and everything else in between, and to be fair they do make them quite nicely, but the film itself is entirely silly, the acting is completely stale even if they do have Neeson and Fiennes on board, but who cares, nobody will go to a film called Clash of the Titans to see Oscar-worthy interactions between Hades and Zeus. So yeah, I do kind of recommend it if you like this sort of stuff, just do yourself a favor, don’t pay the extra $5 for the 3D.

Grade: C-

The Last Song

10 Apr

Title: The Last Song
Year: 2010
Director: Julie Ann Robinson
Writers: Nicholas Sparks and Jeff Van Wie, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Kelly Preston, Liam Hemsworth
MPAA Rating: PG, thematic material, some violence, sensuality and mild language
Runtime: 107 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 2.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 15%

We are used to seeing the film adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels being super manipulative and wanting to make us cry, that however, has resulted in one terrific film, that one being The Notebook, and a couple of quite bearable ones, those being A Walk to Remember and Dear John, this one, however, is a total crapfest.

The Last Song is a film based on a novel Sparks wrote specifically to be made into a film with Miley Cyrus, and it also marks the first time he’s adapted one of his own novels, though with an helping hand from Mr. Jeff Van Wie, though how helping he was I do not know. Not to blame, however, is Ms. Cyrus, of whom I’m actually no fan at all, but who at least seems to have been trying very hard, I don’t think she’s good at acting, not even close, but I do think that someday she could be.

She plays Ronnie, a 16 year-old who wins the heart of a beach volleyball champion and who starts fixing her relationship with her dad, who’s a composer and a restorer of stained windows. And Hannah Montana actually does an okay job at making Ronnie likable, I still don’t love her and she’s not a good actress, but this film, as bad as it was, still gave me a glimmer of hope because I could see myself someday seeing a good film with her as a lead, I’m not saying it’s extremely likely, I just said that it’s a possibility now.

Ronnie is taken by her mother, played by Kelly Preston, along with her brother to spend the summer with their dad. Ronnie starts out being super whiny about the whole thing because she thought it was because of her dad that her parents had divorced but you know how that relationship will evolve by the time the movie’s done. A little thing you might catch, the song ‘She Will be Loved’ by Maroon 5 is one time played on the radio in the film, and if you like the band you’ll know Kelly Preston was in the video for that song, just sayin’.

This is a film, essentially, made to have teen girls crying and fangirling over Miley Cyrus and adopting Hemsworth as the next Robert Pattinson, seriously, I cannot see this film as anything else, the acting, even though Cyrus tries and Kinnear is actually quite okay, is completely uninspired because of a totally stale script and a seriously horrid direction. As a film made for Miley Cyrus fans this will probably work wonders, but as anything else then it falls devilishly short.

Grade: D+