Archive | July, 2010


27 Jul

Title: Predators
Year: 2010
Director: Nimród Antal
Writers: Michael Finch and Alex Litvak based on the characters by Jim Thomas and John Thomas
Starring: Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov
MPAA Rating: R, strong creature violence and gore, and pervasive language
Runtime: 107 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%

The latest entry in the Predator franchise was, I thought, absolutely better than the more recent entries in it, especially those bad Alien vs. Predator films, it has a lot of action, and it’s a seriously gory type of action, that make this film feel a lot like the older and better ones of the franchise, and because of that I would think the fans of the original will embrace this one as an appropriate follow-up after some really below par outings. Most of the credit I would say goes to Nimród Antal, the director who was hired by producer Robert Rodriguez, who had enjoyed Control and Vacancy, two of his previous efforts, Mr. Antal is a guy that’s good at directing the action sequences, and makes this film feel genuinely exciting at points because of it.

What I will go on and say is that while Predators is a pretty solid action movie, it doesn’t have as much suspense and horror as the first ones did, but that’s okay because it’s not as though all of it is gone, and I’d rather take an action movie with hints of suspense that’s well-made over the last few entires in the franchise that tried to scare audiences but just couldn’t emulate the effect the original created, this one rather than follow the path of the original just uses it as a basis and then goes off on its own, and it’s because of that that this one worked for me.

We have our group of characters who just somehow fall from the skies without remembering how that came to happen, just remembering a blinding flash of light before they were free falling towards the surface. We don’t know how these guys were all assembled into this thick jungle or how they came falling down so suddenly from the skies, what we do know is that each and every one of them is a pretty brutal killer from all sorts of different backgrounds, oh and there’s a doctor, too. Then we get a bit of an adaptation period, getting to know the world they’re in, or at least trying to get to know it, the air is normal, so is the water, the sun, however, doesn’t move, and there’s more than one moon. Then we are told that basically they have been brought into a world for them to battle the predators to the death.

That’s as much logical thinking as the film allows you to do, since after that the carnage starts, and it’s non-stop, and it comes in a lot of ways, the predators just attacking the shit of our ill-fated protagonists. Again, the thing that the original films did have that this one doesn’t is the suspense, in the first ones we had a lot of quiet moments before the predators attacked, in this one we really don’t, we just get to see stuff from the predators point-of-view and they don’t take any time before attacking our heroes, and even though that means that the suspense is absent the gore is still most certainly there. The suspense is only present at the start when we don’t know where we are, but the film rids itself of that feeling soon after and what we are given is a far-more-predictable chasing game, which comes with a fair bit of holes in the plot, but again, this one’s far better than the last entries in the franchise, so we should just take what we were given and be thankful.

Predators isn’t a perfect film, it’s far from that, the characters go through pretty much no development and the plot has some serious holes it never even attempts to try and fill, but, while all that maybe true, one goes to Predator films to get some heavy action, and in that category this one really does succeed, there’s a lot of violence here, and it’s done really well by a director who knows how to do these sort of scenes, and by a cast that while not particularly excellent plays along nicely enough, and that’s all we need. People will compare this one to the original, more so because it’s billing itself as a continuation of the originals, and in that comparison it won’t come on top, but come on, compare it to the most recent outings and you’ll realize that this one’s better than any of the ones we’ve seen as of late, and because of that I welcomed it and I liked it for what it was.

Grade: B


Despicable Me

27 Jul

Title: Despicable Me
Year: 2010
Directors: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Writers: Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul
Starring: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, Ken Jeong, Danny McBride, Jack McBrayer, Mindy Kaling, Jemaine Clement
MPAA Rating: PG, rude humor and mild action
Runtime: 95 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%

Despicable Me is a pretty damn amazing animated film, it’s no Toy Story 3, but it is better than How to Train Your Dragon, and even though it does borrow quite a bit from the Pixar playbook it does so in a pretty smart way, and that’s what this film is, a smart one, and it’s one that by being like that will play incredibly well not only to the kids which will no doubt devour this one, especially because of the Minions which they love so much, but this one will also play great to the parents of the kids, because this one’s genuinely funny, and that’s the thing it takes from Pixar the most, that it plays just as well to the more mature audiences.

It helps that it’s voicecast is so damn amazing, Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand and Kristen Wiig play four of the main characters, and they’re three of the funniest people in America and one of the funniest ones in the UK, and what they do with their voices is pretty cool, especially the accent Mr. Carell invented for his character, Gru, which he describes as a cross between Ricardo Montalban and Bela Lugosi, I thought that was pretty genius. Now, I didn’t see this one in 3D, but I’m hearing that technology in this one really isn’t that bad at all, I’m obviously skeptical about that because 3D hasn’t been great in these films, and particularly horrible as of late and just makes everything darker, and I’m sure I’d much prefer the 2D version I saw to the 3D one, but at least they aren’t criticizing the third dimensional technology much with this one, some even saying the animators did some pretty amusing stuff with it.

The idea of the movie is pretty cool, too, it starts by telling us that villains are much more fascinating than heroes, and that’s pretty much always right, look at The Dark Knight a couple years ago, the Joker was way better than Batman, Hannibal Lecter was cooler than Clarice Starling, the shark in Jaws was much more fascinating than Martin Brody, that’s just how it goes, the villain is much more interesting and complex than the hero, there’s another animated film coming out this year, Megamind, that presents the scenario of a villain finally winning over the good guy, so yes, villains apparently are all the rage nowadays, and Gru, the main character in Despicable Me is a villain who can freeze people with a gun and just plain wants to be known as the Greatest Villain of All-Time.

Gru is a cool character, his hidden lair is located at his basement and his mother, voiced by Julie Andrews, is constantly getting on his case. But as always, and more so in a kid-oriented film, there has to be a hero, and even if Gru is technically a villain he is made out to look like the good villain while Vector, his villain rival, is sort of the villain in a villain movie. Vector, you see, just stole the Great Pyramid, and has pretty much upstaged Gru as the best villain there is, and he is voiced by Jason Segel, who as usual is pretty awesome.

Now, you might ask, just how does Despicable Me manages to so successfully turn Gru from a villain into a guy who we end up liking and cheering on? That’s simple, firstly there are the aforementioned Minions, which are these little yellow creatures with one or two bespectacled eyes who are just so much fun, they are Gru’s little minions who just live to cheer him on and help where they can and just be plain fun, these little guys are truly one of the best parts of the films in terms of just how much fun kids will have with them, the marketing campaign intelligently designed many posters which just featured the Minions and the kids responded in huge numbers, since this film, with just 18 days in release has already banked $182 million, which is pretty damn good.

Anyways, the Minions are part of the reason why Gru was such a great villain that everyone could actually cheer for, and the other reason was that, as you might have guessed, Gru actually did have a heart, and that’s discovered when he takes three kids from an orphanage, that’s ran by Kristen Wiig’s character, to live with him and he would then have them infiltrate Vector’s lair posing as something only kids can pose as, but then obviously by being in their company for so long Gru himself starts caring about these three little kids, and that’s when the film shows it’s true sweet side, and it’s tremendous at that, it gets us to care for a villain just as much as we would care for a good guy, and it gets kids to do the same in tremendous amounts, and that’s just truly a job well done by the folks at Universal.

After Despicable Me ended it’s first weekend in release Universal greenlit a sequel to come in 2013, and I’m actually quite excited about this one, I think it’ll be great to see Gru and his Dr. Nefasto, which is the Russell Brand character that designs the cool gadgets he uses, and his Minions back on the screen, and more than that I think it’s cool that Universal with this one has now declared itself a major player in the animation field, and even though it’s obviously no Pixar, is definitely right up there with Dreamworks, and that works for me, and that they have such a good film and apparent franchise to build on is only, I would assume, the start of some good things to come for that branch of the studio, so yes, Despicable Me was a true winner to my eyes, and though the wait till 2013 won’t kill me I’ll definitely be first in line to check out the sequel.

Grade: A-

The Last Airbender

27 Jul

Title: The Last Airbender
Year: 2010
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan based on the original stories by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko
Starring: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Dev Patel, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis
MPAA Rating: PG, fantasy action violence
Runtime: 103 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 4.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 8%

This film’s just plain bad, and I was really angry about that because the source material, the popular animated series, is one I’m a fan of and, more importantly, one that had massive potential as far as making a great franchise, but then again maybe this will make it to franchise, it has already raised $150 million which is not bad and stands as M. Night Shyamalan’s third highest grossing film to date, but what it didn’t do for Mr. Shyamalan was get him any closer to recovering the critical success that he started out having so much of with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, and that has eluded him since 2002, or 2004 if you were particularly fond of The Village, which I thought was an okay film but nothing spectacular.

The thing with The Last Airbender, which adapts the first season of the TV series, is that, even though it does count with some pretty nifty special effects, has a plot that over-complicates itself by going all over the place without really ever finding a track to stay on, and the dialogue is completely stale as well, which obviously didn’t help either. I’m sad that Shyamalan didn’t turn this great property into a great film and franchise-to-be, yes, Lady in the Water and The Happening were two seriously bad films, but you can see why he was attracted to this, and I personally was sort of imagining him delivering like crazy and becoming, once again, a critical darling, but alas, his horrible-movie streak now sits at three, but maybe that’s a good thing? He did three really great films, then an okay one, and now three really bad ones, maybe he’ll do an okay one next and then churn out three great ones? This is the optimist in me speaking, obviously.

A word of advice, as is the case with pretty much every 3D film out there, don’t watch it in 3D. As I said, one of the only cool things about The Last Airbender, if not the only cool thing about it, are the visuals, and 3D, as per usual, completely ruins the visuals by making everything seem darker and just plain shittier, the fact that the 3D conversion in The Last Airbender was one of those cheap ones done in post-production only adds insult to injury, fortunately I opted for the 2D and didn’t experience said suffering but was repeatedly told of the harm it did to the moviegoing spirits by many friends. This is a film that spends an amazing amount of time just trying to explain stuff in fancy ways and throwing things at you, but in the end the explanations sound a bit daft and the things that it throws out you, while visually cool don’t really make up for the lack of good storytelling and just leave this film feeling completely flat, go see it in 3D and you’re in for a world of hell.

Roger Ebert opens his review of The Last Airbender with some really harsh words: “The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that.” Harsh indeed (and brilliantly written, as always), but you won’t see anyone jumping out of their seats to tell him he’s wrong. Because he’s not (and he’s usually not), because that’s really how The Last Airbender feels, I will admit I liked the film a bit better than that, maybe that’s because I had the emotional entanglement of being a fan of the original series (though it did completely piss on it’s name), maybe it was because I didn’t suffer through the 3D and was just told by many people I trust about just how bad it was, but yeah, in a nutshell Mr. Ebert is right. Though Mr. Ebert does go on to say that he found the special effects “atrocious” and on that, I must tell my favorite film critic, we disagree, I actually quite liked them, or maybe I liked them in comparison to how crappy everything else was, I’ve no idea.

The Last Airbender is a really sucky film, look how I haven’t even bothered to tell you a thing about the plot, it’s of no importance, I mean it is, the plot of the series is brilliant, and in this film it is said to be important, hell, they go to great unnecessary lengths to give explanations about it all with one seriously corny and stupid dialogue doing all the delivering, but once you’ve sat for fifteen minutes of the film you’ll stop caring and you’ll just wait for the flashy effects to come to at least offer something decent to look at while you chew your popcorn really fast to get an excuse to go outside for more and avoid a couple of minutes of the tedious dialogue and hope to come back right when another flashy part comes on screen, or, if you are like Mr. Ebert, and hated even the special effects then you’ll probably just leave the theatre for more popcorn, but make that popcorn at home watching something decent on your blu-ray player.

Grade: D+

Love Ranch

26 Jul

Title: Love Ranch
Year: 2010
Director: Taylor Hackford
Writer: Mark Jacobson
Starring: Helen Mirren, Joe Pesci, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Bryan Cranston, Gina Gershon, Scout Taylor-Compton, Taryn Manning
MPAA Rating: R, sexual content, pervasive language and some violence
Runtime: 117 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 5.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 13%

I thought this one was a huge disappointment, it wasn’t really that bad at all, but the subject matter had potential and having Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci, both Academy Award winners, as the two leads plus Taylor Hackford, an Oscar winner himself, as the director had my expectations for this one at a pretty high level, and I read a couple of reviews for the one some three weeks ago, when this one originally came out, and people were hating on it quite a lot because of it being such a letdown considering the set-up and the players that had been gathered, I’m not such a fervent hater, I think this film can still be salvaged, if anything because of Dame Mirren, who’s always a joy to watch perform.

It sucks for Hackford that he wasn’t able to deliver in this one, yes, his Oscar win was for a short and was thirty years ago, but he was great at doing Ray six years ago, which got him an Oscar nod for directing and motion picture, so he’s a guy that can be good, but he simply was unable to get anything out of this juicy story, there could have been sexy stuff out of this one, could have been funny stuff out of this one, but there was nothing, it’s just a flat film and it never moves from there, it doesn’t get bad but it doesn’t get good either, and because of that it just feels horribly tiresome. As for the representation of the brothel life I think we have all seen enough films that tackle this subject to have at least some sort of idea as to how that can be done well, but the depiction of it shown in Love Ranch is just lathered in superficiality, a true carnival of clichés, and it’s a real pity, had this one been right it could have been seriously good.

Helen Mirren, as I said, is still pretty good in this one, that should provide some redemption right there, and Joe Pesci is pretty good himself, but the script is just seriously stale, maybe the story just wasn’t good enough, I actually think that may be the case, but the set-up, the life on one of the world’s most famous brothers (or at least that’s how it advertises itself) could have been told differently, in a more showy fashion and maybe the result would have been better, but then again to do that it would have had to stop relying on facts, and even when this one stops relying on facts the changes it pulls aren’t that great. It’s the story of a couple who were able to open the first legal brother in the state of Nevada, but then the film goes off-fact and creates an affair between the female owner and a heavyweight boxer when, in reality, what happened was that the boxer was shot by the male owner’s bodyguard, and the affair is told at times nicely, that’s true, but it’s never compelling.

The story is a completely manufactured telling of the truth, and it sucks really, but at least Mirren’s okay in it, though then what sucks even more is the thought that Mirren could have been great but just wasn’t given the material to be, the life of the real-life owner of the brothel had some complexities to it, her relationship with her mother, the nature of her marriage, all of those things could have been played to her advantage, but just weren’t, one would think that Mr. Hackford, who’s her husband, would have liked to see his wife shine as bright as we all know she can, yes, the character in real-life was a really reserved person, but he could have surely found a way to exploit all of the psychological and emotional depths this character had, and instead all we get is a script that doesn’t allow for any sort of profound exploration to happen, and we are just left with the very superficial, which does nobody any favors.

Grade: C+

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

26 Jul

Title: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Year: 2010
Director: David Slade
Writer: Melissa Rosenberg based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Billy Burke, Dakota Fanning, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Xavier Samuel, Sarah Clarke, Anna Kendrick
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality
Runtime: 124 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 4.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%

I will give The Twilight Saga: Eclipse a B grade, not because it’s a B movie, but because it’s a B- movie in what has been a C grade franchise, and since I actually like the source materials I thought this was great and decided to bump it up a grade, no but really, this is the best entry in the popular franchise, a franchise that has already made $1.7 billion and has this one still rolling in the cash, and a two-part finale to the series which will have the first part bowing next year, so yes, it’s a pretty profitable franchise even if the films aren’t good, as was the case with the first two entires, it’s a franchise that will consistently break midnight-screenings and opening-day box office records because of it’s rabid fanbase, and it’s a franchise that, with Eclipse, finally has a film that successfully blends the romantic side with the action stuff, and that’s really what this is all about, the dialogue will probably never be there, Stephenie Meyers’ novels were nice because of the description of the feelings, the dialogue was never anywhere near great, but this is a film that doesn’t need to make any new converts, it just needs to keep the millions it already has in check, and this one will do wonders for that.

The previous installment in the franchise, New Moon, I didn’t like at all because the storyline was way too thin for me to fully appreciate, in Eclipse the story, if anything, may just be too loaded, and that’s good, that’s something I’d much rather have because it means this film will be far more entertaining, and this one was actually released in the summer, so that’s something it should definitely aim to be, and the action sequences are cool and everything, and Kristen Stewart is pretty awesome, and David Slade does a pretty good job at directing this one, even though a part of me was thinking about how it would have turned out had Drew Barrymore been given the directing duties, like she once was rumored to, that’s how much I liked the stuff she did in Whip It.

My main problem with this one though was, as I said, the dialogue, which was just so damn uninspired, and this is a film that deals a lot with the Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle, and that has a lot of conversations between any two from the several duo combinations you can make out of those three, and the fact that the dialogue is so boring takes away from the potential of those conversations and just has them drag on, some times uncomfortably so, but the target demographic won’t care, girls will still scream and swoon over them and swear they’ll remain virgins till a vampire or werewolf comes along, and they won’t care that the conversations lead to nothing because Jacob can’t apparently withstand to have one conversation with his shirt on, fortunately for us men Kristen Stewart is pretty beautiful herself, but she’s too talented an actress for us to be okay with just seeing her and not seeing her acting well like she can.

Both Jacob and Edward are now admittedly in love with Bella, and she’s pretty torn between the two herself, but then this vampire, Victoria, who has been creating new vampires on her own in Seattle comes along and puts a halt to the love party and the good vampires have to form and alliance with the werewolves against the bad vampires to save Bella’s life, which probably made Bella feel pretty damn special. And the action scenes were pretty good, they were well choreographed and all, but I had a problem with the CGI employed on the werewolves, you see, I, especially considering all the hype they built on how cool they looked, didn’t really think they looked cool enough, or actually, maybe they did look cool, but they didn’t feel real, or, well, convicing to me, and that kept me from truly delving into those scenes as much as I could have.

However, as I said, this is a film that fans of the franchise, I would hope, will love more than they loved the previous two, the fact is that we know from reading the books all that goes on inside the heads of our characters, all the feelings that aren’t said in the insipid dialogue, and that enables us to promptly fill in the gaps without hesitating and pausing to think about how it’s being shown on-screen, and the reality is that it wasn’t shown that well on-screen and those who haven’t read the series may catch on that more than those of us who have, but who cares, Edward still has that glare that has chaste tweens crying over, Jacob is still shirtless, and Stephenie Meyer is still in possession of the erotic dreams of said teen girls, even if those dreams don’t really include any sex, we’ll have to wait for the two-part finale for that to happen, and let’s just hope they go for the R rating on that one.

Grade: B

Grown Ups

26 Jul

Title: Grown Ups
Year: 2010
Director: Dennis Dugan
Writer: Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Joyce Van Patten, Steve Buscemi
MPAA Rating: PG-13, crude material including suggestive references, language and some male rear nudity
Runtime: 102 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 5.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 11%

Grown Ups is another Adam Sandler typical comedy, he’s here with his pals, directed by the guy who has directed him three times in the last four years, and as an Adam Sandler comedy this one’s, I guess, okay, I mean sure, the direction is completely monotone and the humor isn’t all that great, but you have Adam Sandler and four of his long-time friends and partners in crime, and audiences love his brand of humor, this one has already crossed the $150 million mark and it’s still running, add that to Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, Anger Management, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Click, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and Bedtime Stories and this is Mr. Sandler’s tenth film to cross the $100 million mark in just as many years, so yes, this guy is a huge box office draw, no matter how great his films ultimately are.

But if we are here to judge just that, how great the films are, and I guess we are, this one isn’t that great, this one just feels lazy, as though Sandler just decided to team up with his pals and get them all good paychecks to have fun and lost interest in everything else, the jokes aren’t great, they were probably much funner if you were there in the moment and with your friends like these actors were, and the camera angles are pretty shitty, too, which only adds to the notion that these guys just got together and made a $70 million home video and then released it to grosses of $150 million, but the fact that how much these guys like one another translates so well in this film does salvage it from serious crappiness, so at least there’s that.

I do like that Adam Sandler can still play the guy that can’t grow up at 43 years-old, it may be true that the two Sandler performances I find extraordinary came in Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, his two most dramatic roles, but each of those films made less than $25 million at the box office even if they were critically acclaimed, his other great role came in last year’s Funny People, which was another commercial disappointment, so what I’m trying to say is that this guy is loved when he’s like this, when he’s in his mindless-fun mode and he acts childish, and as that this one does succeed, I guess.

It’s about five guys who as kids were in the same basketball team, and then the coach of that team dies and the guys are now, as the title says, grown-ups, and these grown-ups return to the cabin where they celebrated their biggest victory years ago, and then you know how it will all go, it will be a string of not-classy-at-all physical comedy, sometimes at the expense of Maria Bello’s character who’s still nursing the son she has with Kevin James’ character, there’s also water park stuff and, of course, a basketball game with old rivals who want revenge, and Steve Buscemi obviously makes an appearance.

This is a film that means well, that has is obligatory emotional scenes when the characters make confessions about their lives to each other and remember their past together, most of the times when they do this it all sounds too forced, the good-heartedness of it all lost in a PG-13 comedy that has too many obscene and unsophisticated jokes and gags,and what’s really bad about it all is that these jokes really aren’t funny at all, and the reason why I think they weren’t funny was because the guys didn’t have time to shine, I mean, Mr. Sandler and Mr. James are two funny guys who could have done some great stuff had they been given the time, the girls who play the wives, too, you have former SNL MVP Maya Rudolph who does pretty much nothing and Maria Bello who is reduced to the aforementioned breastfeeding gags, but the fact is that this cast has five full-time members and another five that have considerable screen-time, and there’s just not enough time for them to shine individually, and unfortunately for us they don’t really get it done as a cast, blame that on whatever you want, the direction could be a good target, but the fact is that this wasn’t great, and another fact is that audiences don’t really care about this one being great, they just like to see these five guys being childish again, and they’ll pay good money for that.

Grade: C

Knight and Day

26 Jul

Title: Knight and Day
Year: 2010
Director: James Mangold
Writer: Patrick O’Neill
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Grace, Paul Dano, Marc Blucas, Viola Davis, Jordi Molla
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sequences of action violence throughout, and brief strong language
Runtime: 109 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%

This project went through a lot of changes to get to be what we have today, a huge number of writers contributed to the script which was first named ‘Trouble Man’, then ‘Wichita’ and finally Knight and Day, director Tom Dey, who directed this year’s pretty bad Marmaduke, was at one point attached to direct with Chris Tucker and Eva Mendes in the two lead roles, but then Cameron Diaz came on board, and so did James Mangold, only to have people as different as Adam Sandler and Gerard Butler be rumored as the lead male, and then finally Tom Cruise came on board, after ditching two other projects for this one since he deemed them too similar to his Mission: Impossible films, one of those two projects was The Tourist, which is currently in post-production with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in the lead roles, and the other one was Salt, another spy thriller which, after Mr. Cruise dropped out, had the lead role re-written to fit a female and had Angelina Jolie come on board, that film was just released a couple days ago and is better than this one, and my guess is that The Tourist will be superior, as well.

That’s not to say that Knight and Day is bad, I just wanted to illustrate the changes this film has gone through, and I’m sure there were many more I read before but have now forgotten, and that the order of the ones I did mention isn’t really that accurate, but yeah, this one went through a lot and this film, in the end, is just a formulaic action-comedy-romance, a sort of breezier Mr. & Mrs. Smith if you will (and that’s the third project with Ms. Jolie I’ve mentioned now) and as such it’s quite okay, it’s just good summer fun, and, contrary to popular belief, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are still cool to watch, actually, maybe ‘cool’ isn’t really the right word, but I still find them charming, and that’s all any two leads need to be to carry a film like this between explosions and car chases, and if you had, like me, seen Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher in the horribly boring Killers just a couple weeks before seeing this one you knew it could have been seriously worse.

The thing is that in Knight and Day, like in pretty much every big summer blockbuster films for the past few years, even if you have two charismatic leads who can really be good just playing off each other, and even if you add a director like James Mangold into the mix, and he has done some pretty good stuff, there’s still a need for Hollywood to throw in way too many loud action sequences that are full of CGI, it’s not that I hate CGI, even though it may seem that way if you revise my last few reviews of these sort of films, but it’s just that CGI is now being used not to augment a scene but just to fill space and try and make something look flashy, when, nine times out of ten, all it does is clog it all up, this could have been wonderful as a rom-com with a bit of human action, and by that I mean both simpler fights and more sexy stuff, but instead the studio figures it’s summer and that audiences love stuff blowing up so they go all Michael Bay on our asses, when they should have figured out years ago that we as audiences have grown seriously smart, which is why Inception is currently working the way it is.

But still, this film kind of worked for me, it could have worked much better, that’s for sure, but what I love is that the reason this worked for me was precisely because of Mr. Cruise and Ms. Diaz, and their individual charm and chemistry together, I like that’s the reason because many detractors of the film are having a fieldtrip saying these two guys can’t open a movie anymore, and I think that’s false, yes this film didn’t do great business, but I don’t think it’s because of the leads, I’m guessing that next year when Mission: Impossible IV opens it will do great business, especially with Brad Bird as director, and, as for Ms. Diaz, let’s not forget that a couple years ago she delivered What Happens in Vegas which, even though wasn’t great, was a commercial success with worldwide grosses of nearly $220 million on a $35 million budget, and she has The Green Hornet coming next year which I’m guessing will do real well, so yes, I think they aren’t the reason why this one flopped, or at least not the whole reason which is what everyone is saying.

Mr. Cruise’s character has something some guys wants, Ms. Diaz’s character stumbles upon him and then they are both running from the FBI, but the plot here really is irrelevant, it just has to be mindless fun, and because we have these two actors as our leads it works, they sell it to us, yes, it is silly, but they seem to be in on that too, which makes it that much more fun, there are huge chases, there are beautiful locations (Spain! Jamaica!) and some quite okay comedy bits, but that all works because of these two guys, Tom Cruise still has ‘it’, I think he misplaced ‘it’ for a bit a couple years ago, but I think he has it back, and Ms. Diaz is still lovely as hell, she always has been really, and yes, there is far too much CGI for my taste in this one, but at least there’s no 3D, I just wish the action could have been replaced by more scenes of these two together just interacting like humans, without the explosions.

Grade: B-