Tag Archives: A Beautiful Mind

Priest

25 May

Title: Priest
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Scott Stewart
Writer: Cory Goodman, based on the graphic novels by Min-Woo Hyung
Starring: 
Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins, Stephen Moyer, Christopher Plummer, Brad Dourif, Alan Dale
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and brief strong language
Runtime: 
87 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 
17%

Priest looks quite cool, but that’s really just about the only nice thing I can say about it. I mean, genuinely, there’s nothing else going on for this movie other than its highly-stylized aesthetic, and while that part of it is admittedly kind of cool to watch it’s not enough to really make this one any sort of stand-out, and considering that the actual plot is just a big incoherent mess that pretty much tried to make a creepy version of a Blader Runner-ish film and ended up massively failing by only delivering cliché after cliché, then you can count me as a big detractor of Priest, yet another film that wastes the talents of the terrific Paul Bettany.

Because Mr. Bettany really is a fine actor, you look at the stuff he’s done in A Beautiful Mind or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and you just know the guy is capable of doing very special work. Hell, even in more commercial fare like A Knight’s Tale or Wimbledon the guy has managed to excel, but here we have him in Priest, and he gets nothing decent to work with, thus the uninspiring result. And for all the praise I can give to Mr. Bettany, he should also be told upon for not learning from his mistakes. After all, Priest is directed by Scott Stewart, the same guy who directed Mr. Bettany in last year’s only slightly better Legion (which I gave a C to). In my review for Legion I noted that Mr. Bettany was quite okay in it, and certainly the strongest asset of that particular film, but if that wasn’t that much of a compliment then it’s even less of one now, because Priest is pretty much a waste of your time and money.

And by the way, haven’t you noticed that ever since starring in 2006’s adaptation of The Da Vinci Code (a pretty crappy film spawning from an even worse book) as the self-flagellating albino Opus Dei member Silas Mr. Bettany has been sort of typecast into very weird religion-related roles? I mean, he’s the titular Priest in this one and he played an archangel in Legion, and I’m guessing that there’ll be more coming, which is a pity considering how talented we know the man is when given proper material.

But anyways, let’s focus on Priest here. It focuses on a war in this alternate world in which vampires have existed for ages and the humans live in walled cities owned by the Church to defend themselves against possible vampire attacks. Mr. Bettany plays this warrior priest who has his niece kidnapped from him by vampires and starts on a revenge adventure to hunt down the vampires and get his niece back. And for a very little while here, this actually works. Because it starts off kind of cool because of the novelty of the costumes worn by these guys and because the special effects are probably the only thing that was given an ounce of thought in this film and they make it seem as though we’re in for a kickass thrill ride. But we’re really not, the novelty effect dries off quickly enough and we’ll realize that we’re in for a pretty bad film.

It’s just a mess. That’s probably the best word to describe Priest, mess, because it just tries to roll on full steam with allusions to westerns and church rebellions and martial arts and the style of the Korean graphic novels it’s based on, and it just throws this all out there without ever making it mesh together nicely, or at all even, and this film about church-loving ninjas living in an apocalyptic world not even Twilight fans could love falls flat on its face to never get back up again.

I am not, however, gonna give this film a failing grade. That’s partly because of two actors here, one is Mr. Bettany who, like in Legion, is far and out the best thing about Priest and makes some of the horribly dull and stupid dialogue here at least bearable, and the other is Maggie Q, who’s pretty good here as a warrior priestess, though if you really want to see her kickass in material far stronger than this then I suggest you go watch her TV series, Nikita, which just wrapped up its first season on the CW. And it’s also partly because I appreciated the look this film had, as cinematographer Don Burgess (Oscar-nominated for his work on Forrest Gump) crafted some striking exterior shots that gave this film a pretty good atmosphere to work around.

The thing is that Priest never really work around it, as the plot was unbelievably thin, the dialogue pretty dumb and the action scenes though stylized awesome did nothing to add to the overall quality of the film. Yes, vampires and religion and apocalyptic visions of the world have been all the rage in movies for the past few years, but it doesn’t mean that if you mix them all up you’ll automatically get something out of it, you have to actually make it something decent at the very least. And it seems audiences are getting that, as the film has barely surpassed its $60 million budget since its release and likely won’t gather that much more as audiences are jumping ship to better quality or at least better known summer tentpoles, which is good because that means that a sequel to this one, which was set up at the end of the film, will probably never come to fruition.

Grade: C-

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The Dilemma

7 Feb

Title: The Dilemma
Year:
2011
Director:
Ron Howard
Writer:
Allan Loeb
Starring:
Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Channing Tatum, Queen Latifah
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, mature thematic elements involving sexual content
Runtime:
111 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
4.9
Rotten Tomatoes:
4%

Man, oh man, I really really wanted to like The Dilemma. Ron Howard has directed some seriously good comedies through the years, Splash, Parenthood, The Paper and even EDtv come to mind. And yet, for the past decade the guy hasn’t been dedicating himself to making us laugh, his last comedic film being How the Grinch Stole Christmas, instead he has spent his time focusing on more dramatic fare like A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man or Frost/Nixon, to amazing results, yes, but I really was looking forward to his next comedic outing.

And even though the premise for this one seemed pretty amusing, and the cast is full of pretty neat people, the end result was quite disappointing, to be honest. It has Kevin James and Vince Vaughn playing two best friends who have gone through a lot together, and are now partners at an auto design company, and they’re on the verge of presenting a project that could catapult their business.

Mr. Vaughn’s character, Ronny, is the eternal bachelor type who here has a girlfriend, Beth, who’s played by Jennifer Connelly, an actress who always looks amazing. While Mr. James’ character, Nick, is actually happily married with a woman named Geneva, played by Winona Ryder who I also love seeing in anything.The dilemma the title refers to, however, comes when Ronny sees Geneva going out with another man. And instead of telling Nick everything straight ahead, Ronny decides to investigate and see what he can find out, which of course will ensue into some amusing situations which coincide with the biggest moment of their careers.

Now, read the above and tell me it doesn’t sound like prime comic material for such a talented director like Mr. Howard and such an amazing group of actors like the ones I just named. But yet once all the pieces are put together it all falls apart, I didn’t hate it, in fact I actually quite liked the fact that it was a mainstream comedy that wasn’t afraid of delving into some rather dark territory at times, but it just should have been way better.

I don’t know what went wrong here, Mr. Howard didn’t seem at ease here, not a great fit for him apparently, even though I thought it would really be. Mr. Vaughn had his moments, but, in a film that should have been a great vehicle for him, wasn’t as amazing as he potentially could have been. Kevin James, as much as I love him from his time on The King of Queens, felt flat. The ladies, though, I thought were pretty good, Ms. Connelly was her reliable lovely self, and Ms. Ryder was the best piece of the ensemble, the only one that had some energy in her stride. Queen Latifah and Channing Tatum, the other two supporting players, do no harm, but do no good either.

And that’s, I guess, the main beef I had with The Dilemma, that it all felt too bland to me. Though, to be fair, I did found it was much better than its trailer suggested. It was a sort of melodramatic film about friendship and not a macho gag-fest like the trailers (and its infamous controversy about homosexual remarks) made it out to be. But overall the jokes were neither here nor there, the performances were okay at best, and I hated that because I loved all the players involved here. The main problem the film had was the same one Ronny had in it, telling a guy something quite serious while still having him be okay not to make the business fall apart (or in the case of the movie, while still being funny).

At times this succeeded, at times this film, in all its commercial appeal and lovable actors, achieved the sort of feel which shows us the pain and suffering that goes behind such a harsh situation. But for the most part it falls flat on itself, with slapstick comedy that doesn’t work even in the hands of such talented actors, and characters that do nothing unique to really elevate it.

I’m not sure I’ll recommend The Dilemma to people, I’ll probably grade it somewhere high on the C-range, but I’m not sure what my arguments for not recommending it will really be, because I can’t seem to be able to fingerpoint what went wrong here. Or maybe I will recommend it, and say the recommendation is based solely on the fact that Winona Ryder is pretty awesome here. Not to mention that when Ron Howard wants to do another comedy, I’ll still be there, first in line, waiting to see it. And for the meantime I’ll be drooling over his upcoming adaptation of The Dark Tower.

Grade: C+

Robin Hood

17 Jul

Title: Robin Hood
Year: 2010
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Brian Helgeland, based on the story by himself, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Kevin Durand, Mark Addy, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Max von Sydow
MPAA Rating: PG-13, violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content
Runtime: 140 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%

In press junkets or interviews we heard time and time again that this Robin Hood was completely different from the ones we had seen before, that Russell Crowe had nothing to do with Sean Connery, that Cate Blanchett had nothing to do with Audrey Hepburn, and that, it turns out, was exactly right, this version of Robin Hood is unlike any version we’ve seen before, it’s a prequel, Robin Hood isn’t the folk hero who stole from the rich to give to the poor yet, we just see Robin lead an uprising, forming an army to fight off the French, which, as we were told in the trailers, is what will build his subsequent fame.

This is indeed action-packed, and there’s a helluva lot of CGI action sequences that look great, but I just think we should have seen the story we all know, when instead the movie ends and tells us that that was how the legend began, but seriously, we should get the legend and not the prologue to it, we know the legend, that’s how we fell in love with this character, this telling isn’t bad, it’s just not that great, Mr. Crowe gives it his best but that’s just not great enough, and as for Cate Blanchett who plays Maid Marion, well, firstly let me just state that, to me, Ms. Blanchett is one of the five greatest living actresses, but Marion isn’t a maid in this story, this is all set before that, and as such this is a completely different character, and because of that she’s played differently, and that threw me off, I loved the Maid Marion character from all the past films, this one I liked because it was played by Cate Blanchett, but that’s about it. When this film was still in the speculation stages the many names that were thrown around for this character included Scarlett Johansson, Emily Blunt, Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet among others, Sienna Miller was actually cast at one point I believe, and from that all I can say is that actress-wise we would have always had a great Maid Marion, it’s just that without the “Maid” part of her title, I didn’t feel I knew her.

And there’s nothing bad with introducing characters in new ways, I just didn’t love what they did to them this time around, I mean, it’s extremely well-done, the action is shot really well and the violence is quite cool, we’ve come to expect that from most Scott/Crowe collaborations, but I will say that I would have probably liked the film more had it not been named Robin Hood, sure, naming it that gave them a whole lot of better marketing options, but it also gave the audience expectations, expectations that weren’t necessarily shattered, but rather, I would say, they were avoided, and you can’t do that when you have such a heavy name as your title.

The film is a bit too long, that’s also very true, but I didn’t mind that much, I just liked it that we were given one seriously beautifully photographed film and a very intelligent actor in the lead role, yes, I have my troubles with the film and I have listed them above, but they’re mostly troubles with what this film did to the Robin Hood name, but as a stand-alone outing, this one, for me, worked well, plus, there’s a scene in which Will Scarlett says to Little Jon that he should never go for the most beautiful girl but instead go for the more plain-looking one, he uses the exact same words Russell Crowe’s character in A Beautiful Mind used when describing his theory to get girls, I thought that was a pretty genius nod to a previous film of this one’s lead actor.

Grade: B