Taken 2 (2012)


Listen to Me Carefully, Kim.  Your Mother is Going to be Taken.

Taken 2 (2012)It’s been a while since I was last inspired by a RedBox.  You’ll eventually come to find that the two movies I picked on this day were not inspired, but were picked with a shrug.  And that hurts me to admit about today’s movie.  This movie’s predecessor was the tits.  It smacked you in the face with its penis and downright dared you not to like it, but you still could not. At least I could not.  I loved the first movie so much that I instantly became excited when I saw that IMDb said they were making a sequel when I was writing the review for the first movie.  But then doubt began to sink in.  What if this was just a money grab?  This was a dangerous situation, and one that demanded caution on my part.  So I gave it some time after it came out, only to find that fans and critics alike did not seem to be enjoying the sequel.  In despair, I waited until the movie finally found its way to a RedBox before I was willing to give it a shot.  This movie is Taken 2, written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, directed by Olivier Megaton, and starring Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Šerbedžija (one of few names I’ve had to copy and paste to spell correctly), Leland Orser, Jon Gries, D.B. Sweeney, Luke Grimes, and Kevork Malikyan.

After the events of the first movie, the Albanian mob find themselves a little sore over how many people Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) awesomed all over.  They set their mind on taking revenge, but ONLY if coincidence brings him and his family onto their continent.  Thankfully for the mob leader Murad (Rade Šerbedžija), Bryan is going to Istanbul on a short assignment and he’s invited his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and their daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) out for a vacation.  Oh man!  Someone is about to get taken up in this piece!  Hell, maybe two!  …Oh yeah, there’s also some shit about Kim failing her driver’s test, and also she has a boyfriend that Bryan doesn’t like.  That is probably also as crucial to the story as the taken stuff.

What Olivier did to the Taken series really was like dropping a 10 Megaton bomb on it.  I winced when I thought of that.  Then I decided to share it with you.  This movie was disappointing.  It didn’t manage to capture a sliver of the awesomeness of its predecessor.  It tried to compare itself to the original by not really changing the story at all, and did the dumbest version of amping it up I’ve seen in a while.  The story for the first movie was never that complex, but you can’t just say, “This time, TWO people get taken.  That’s why we named the movie Taken TWO!  We are the most clever mother fuckers that ever were!”  But at least the first movie knew to take their simple story and slap some awesome on it to overcome their problems.  In this movie, the dumb daughter is saving Liam?  Fuck that!  Liam does the saving in this family!  They also really seemed exhausted by the possibility of writing dialogue in this movie.  They’d get started strong and then fall asleep before the sentence ended.  Like when Kim was talking to Bryan about what Lenore said about when they met.  She said, “When you met, it was … super special.”  That line was super special.  That’s like fuckin’ poetry.  Emily fuckin’ Dickinson over here!  …Is that a poet?  The biggest problem I had with the movie was, sadly, the premise for the entire movie.  The villain’s motivation made no sense, but it’s also something you see a lot in action movies.  Obviously, if you kill a mobster’s son, he’s coming after you.  That seems logical.  But where’s the logical side of his brain when it comes to the reason this guy killed his son?  He killed your son because your son was going to sell his daughter into the sex slavery trade.  If I had a kid and he was killed trying to do something horrible to someone, I’d say, “Well, that’ll happen.  Now no one will know what a shitty job I did raising the boy.”  I guess that wouldn’t have made for a very interesting movie, and they even point out that break in logic in the movie, but the mobster is having none of that.

The action of the movie was okay, but I never really felt that thrilled about it.  I didn’t even like looking at most of the movie.  For some reason, they decided that the only proper way to display this movie to us was to crank the saturation of it up to 11.  I don’t remember the first movie being so ugly that I didn’t want to even look at it.  They did a few vaguely clever things in the movie – such as Bryan telling Kim to set off grenades so that he could count how long it took for the sound to reach him – but they also did some dumb things.  I know that Movie Making 101 says that when someone hangs up a phone, the other person hears the dial tone so that they can stare at the phone and look morose.  But this is the smartphone generation and iPhones don’t do that.  The fisticuffs in the movie didn’t happen nearly often enough for my liking, but when they did they were mostly fine.  The last fight was the one that caused the most problems for me, but mainly just because I didn’t know how Bryan ended it.  He was fighting what was basically the Albanian version of him, and they were going punch for punch for the majority of the fight, but then Bryan dropped him on his back and slid him down into a seated position.  Did he just knock the wind out of him so well that he never got it back?  ‘Cause that dude was dead from something the Three Stooges used to do every day.  If you want to say that Bryan slammed the dude down on the corner and broke his neck or something, then I’m going to have to ask you to show your work.  Did you learn nothing from math class?

The cast in this movie did a fine enough job, but most of the characters got on my nerves.  Maggie Grace as the daughter most of all.  First of all, her memory is super short term.  Right in the beginning of this movie, she gets all pissy with Liam because he interrupts her boyfriend trying to get to second base with her.  Have you already forgotten that he also interrupted a Sheik making you the Thursday wife in his harem?  I think he’s got a bit of a head start on you ever getting angry at him again for his fatherly duties.  I also felt like she brought a lot of the stuff to the movie that I felt was wasted space, such as her driving test stuff and the stuff about her boyfriend.  Also, at the end when you have your boyfriend come have a milkshake with the family, the line, “Don’t shoot this one,” was maybe in poor taste.  Liam might take it poorly because his daughter thinks he’s a mindless killer, and the boyfriend probably wants to keep the fact that Liam will literally kill the shit out of him out of his mind for as long as possible.  Liam brought as much awesome as he could to the movie, but there really wasn’t much he could do to salvage it.  I did think that a good father and driving instructor would have told his daughter good job on outrunning that train, but that she should never do that again.  Famke had a pretty easy job on this movie because about halfway in she got really drowsy and spent the rest of the movie half asleep.  But the worst performances in this movie were definitely the Albanian mobsters.  They’re trying to sneak up on the ex-CIA guy that killed the shit out of all their buddies, but their idea of incognito is to be the only people in all of Istanbul wearing track suits like they were a uniform.

Taken 2 was not a good movie, but I’m still excited for the possibility of a Taken 3.  Taken was awesome enough to give them a third chance.  The story was the story from Taken, amped up in the most unimaginative way it could be, and it didn’t even have good enough action to counter-balance that.  You could say that the first movie set the bar too high, but I feel like this movie would’ve sucked with or without the comparison.  There’s no good reason to watch this movie.  Taken 2 gets “Hey Dad, please don’t shoot this one” out of “When a dog has a bone, the last thing you want to do is take it from him.”

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Battleship (2012)


You Ready for This?

Battleship (2012)I feel like the greater majority of the world knew better than to bother with today’s movie.  But the greater majority of the world isn’t aspiring reviewers.  I felt it was my duty to watch this movie, no matter how painful.  Even after making that decision, I still put off watching this movie for as long as I could.  Hey, I’m not getting paid for this stuff.  It’s not like it’s a legitimate obligation or anything!  Well, as the end of 2012 came up, I decided that I needed to see this movie in case it made it to my list.  And it did … in the bottom five for the year.  What else do I have to say about it?  Find out as I review Battleship, written by Jon and Erich Hoeber, directed by Peter Berg, and starring Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard, Tadanobu Asano, Liam Neeson, Hamish Linklater, Gregory D. Gadson, Rihanna, John Tui, and Jesse Plemons.

Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a slacker who gets arrested for robbing a store while trying to impress Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), daughter of a Navy commander Admiral Terrance Shane (Liam Neeson).  He does not pass Go; he does not collect 200 dollars.  After his Boggle, Alex’s brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard) sets his Cranium on making his brother join the Navy.  Later, Alex is dating Samantha and playing soccer, Scrabbling for a victory over the Asian team.  They then go out for a large scale version of Chess in a naval exercise against the Asians, designed to test their Stratego … I mean strategy.  During the exercises, five alien spacecraft land and throw up a force field, claiming a Monopoly on the area, taking down some of the Navy like they were Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Even though it seems like a Trivial Pursuit, Alex maneuvers the Chutes and Ladders of the ship to take over the ship, at considerable Risk.  But soon, he’ll Connect 4 ideas and develop a Clue on how to defeat the aliens, involving Pictionary and Scattergories.  I apologize for all the board game puns.  And by that, I mean I am Sorry.

It came as no surprise to me that this movie was stupid.  I get the feeling that they meant it to be stupid.  But what can usually overcome stupidity is fun, and this movie just didn’t have enough of it.  It had its moments, but the stupidity overrode that in most parts.  It was extremely painful to see a movie try to take itself while still being loosely based on a board game and actually using some really sweaty, contrived way to make firing at space E11 seem plausible.  But the entire premise of the aliens didn’t make any sense in the first place.  That’s probably why they chose to leave those out of the original board game.  It simply wouldn’t make sense for these super advanced aliens to have no technology to overcome their crippling weakness beyond waiting for something to fire on them so that they knew where to return fire.  Even if you can punch very hard, it seems like you might be a more successful boxer if you didn’t need to get punched first to do it.  And that being the case, why does our Navy not realize that they only retaliate and never attack first and decide we should just not attack?  Also, why were they here in the first place?  As best I could tell, their only motivation was to use the satellite thing that called them in the first place.  Is your story really just an adult version of ET?  The aliens just want to phone home?  For what purpose?  Do they need water?  Food?  Land?  Should they not find a place where they can see?  Because they can’t here.  And most importantly, why did I spend 10 minutes watching a gundamned soccer game?  It’s like watching Top Gun again with no volleyball and (thankfully) more shirts.

The look of the movie never really caused many complaints from me.  The odd moments tied with the look of the movie were more because of their strange choices in the action.  I don’t understand what the purpose was of the explosions that seemed to pull the person closer, push them back out, and then pull them back in was.  Why would a simple explosion or a singularity not be more effective?  Was it simply to pester your foe before they die?  And later, when they anchor the giant battleship and somehow make it drift like in the Fast and the Furious movies, would there really be no consequences for that?  Those things weren’t really built for that.  They made a few odd decisions with the music too.  They used a lot of good music in vaguely inappropriate places.  Like when they used the AC/DC song “Hard as a Rock” during the scene where Alex was quietly getting berated.  And then some other hard rock song while some amputees were exercising.

The performances in the movie were really hit and miss.  Taylor Kitsch has never really done anything I’ve enjoyed, but it may be the bad taste he left in my mouth when he played Gambit in X-Men Origins.  And, though his character was the hero of the movie, he was never really likeable.  It takes him until nearly the end of the movie to realize that there are consequences to his stupid actions.  He didn’t even realize it right after he told someone to unload on the alien spacecraft with a Gatling gun when there were battleships lining up to fail out there.  Liam Neeson surprised me in this movie.  Not with his good performance because he always brings that.  What surprises me is that he actually felt it was necessary to bring it to this movie.  Rihanna was also surprising in this movie just because I expected her performance to be awful like most of her music, but she was pretty decent.  Actually, I don’t know any of her music, so that’s probably unfair.  I don’t know what his name was, but as is typical with this character type, I hated the comic relief guy.

Battleship was exactly what I expected.  It was dumb.  There seems to be no reason for it to have been made, and probably less reason for me to have seen it.  The story was not great and only got worse when aliens were introduced.  And what’s worse is that the movie never really managed to reach the fun that would normally overcome that stupidity.  We can only hope that Hollywood starts looking away from board games (that have no story) for the stories of their movie, but I would not be surprised.  You can skip this movie.  Battleship gets “Sorry” out of “Backgammon!”

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)


There’s a Storm Coming, Mr. Wayne.

I went into each of the new Batman movies with some degree of trepidation.  The first movie suffered from the reputation left by the previous movie, and the second movie suffered from the high standard set by one of the actors in the Tim Burton version.  Going into the third Batman by Christopher Nolan, I did my very best to keep my expectations low, but I could feel myself losing that fight the second a plan was made to see it.  That’s when it was becoming real.  But I still had the nagging voice in the back of my head reminding me that there was no possible way this movie could be better than the Dark Knight.  The Dark Knight may be my favorite comic book movie ever, tied with Avengers and Watchmen.  If this movie trounced its predecessor, then I would need to write a review naming a new movie as my undisputed favorite comic book movie of all time.  Am I about to do that?  Let’s find out in my review of The Dark Knight Rises, written by Jonathan Nolan, co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Josh Pence, Juno Temple, Nestor Carbonell, Matthew Modine, Alon Abutbul, and Cillian Murphy.

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham City has reached a relative state of peace due to the Dent Act and the efforts of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman).  So peaceful has Gotham become that the savior of Gotham, the vigilante known as Batman (Christian Bale) has disappeared into seclusion that he breaks only to have conversations with his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), and to get robbed by a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway).  But Selina stole more than Bruce Wayne’s mother’s necklace; she also stole his fingerprints … and a congressional representative.  She sells the prints to a criminal named Bane (Tom Hardy) who uses them to bankrupt Bruce Wayne.  While investigating the sewers, Commissioner Gordon also gets shot by Bane’s men, but is rescued by a cop named Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), but a speech Gordon had in his jacket falls into Bane’s hands, revealing to him the truth about the cover-up of Harvey Dent’s crimes.  Gotham City needs Batman again, but does he have it in him to defeat this new foe and stop his terrorist plot?

This time I was right.  The Dark Knight Rises was not able to come close to the legacy left by The Dark Knight.  I’m in no way trying to say that this movie was bad, but it had a whole lot to live up to and it wasn’t able to.  That being said, Dark Knight Rises was a really good movie, and really strong in a lot of ways, but my three favorite comic book movies are resting comfortably on their thrones.  I think the story was what got on my nerves a little bit.  Though it was good, there were just too many things that just didn’t make sense to me.  Take, for instance, when Selina Kyle steals Bruce Wayne’s car early on in the movie.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but Bruce Wayne is the most famous person in Gotham, yet the valet doesn’t realize that he’s not married and that he left his really expensive vehicle by himself, so he just gives the keys to any lady holding a ticket claiming to be his wife?  So that dude’s fired.  There were plenty of things that I loved though.  One such occasion was when Selina Kyle disappeared when Batman turned around and he said, “So that’s what that feels like.”  Without spoiling it, I was also very happy to see that they used the most famous thing from the comic book storyline of Bane in this movie.  I don’t know the Batman universe that well, but the one thing I knew that Bane did happened, and I loved it.  There’s also a great deal of emotion in this movie, and I don’t think they’ve really done that successfully in the previous movies.  But I really liked the last thing Batman says to Commissioner Gordon in the movie, and a few of the things Alfred said to Bruce during the last half of the movie almost brought me to tears.  I will say that I did not like the ending of the movie, but I’ll go into more detail in the next paragraph.

I know that doesn’t sound like I had that many complaints about the story of the movie, but the reason I left some out was that they contain spoilers.  The first non-spoiler I would give you is about spoilers, but I would recommend you not check IMDb before watching this movie.  Just looking at the credits for this movie spoiled something that could have potentially been a huge surprise near the end of the movie.  Maybe two things, depending on how asinine and descriptive the posters get with the character names.  But here’s the rest of them ::SPOILER ALERT::  The huge thing it spoiled for me was that Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, was in the movie.  That’s not revealed until the last 15 minutes of the movie!  But, when I went in knowing she was in the movie, it was pretty easy to figure out who she was and who the trigger person was going to be.  One of the big problems I had was with Batman in the prison.  He tried to escape the prison around three times before he realized that he needed to make the jump without the rope holding him back.  Friendboss Josh realized that when the first person tried to make that jump.  How is he smarter than the World’s Greatest Detective?  I regarded the ending of the movie as a total “fuck you” as well.  Batman dies … or does he?!  No.  The problem with this is that it really didn’t make any sense.  If Batman wanted a vacation, he doesn’t need to fake his death, and certainly not to the people he’s closest to.  He let Alfred, Lucius, Gordon, Blake, and Selina Kyle all think that he was dead for a good long time before they either figured it out on their own or ran into him on vacation with Kyle in Italy.  It did have a bit of an emotional impact on me as a viewer though, but it was mostly anger.  Knowing this was Nolan’s last Batman movie, I had entertained the possibility that he might kill off Batman, but you can’t just do that.  Batman’s almost a century old; you can’t just come in and kill him.  Then, when I saw him in the café at the end, I just wondered why the fuck that little misdirection was necessary.  There were some good spoilers as well.  I thought it was total genius how Bane’s mercenaries used the army against the people of Gotham by making them keep the people of Gotham in town because they would set off the bomb if even one person made it across the bridge.  I also thought it would’ve been an awesome reveal if I didn’t already know it was coming (Fuck you, IMDb!) to find out that Talia was the kid in the prison and Ra’s was the mercenary being talked about in the story.  I got goosebumps when they showed the scene from the first movie that tied into it.  ::END SPOILERS::

I enjoyed all of the performances in this movie, but there certainly wasn’t anything on the level of Heath Ledger.  I know it’s an unfair comparison, but it’s also necessary.  Christian Bale did a great job in the movie.  He wasn’t really the same Bruce Wayne we’d seen before as he was dealing with a lot of emotions in this movie.  In the beginning of the movie, he’s in seclusion and his guilt at the death of Rachel is still wearing on him, and it’s only getting worse with him turning it inward as he doesn’t have the distraction of being Batman anymore.  But that was part of the problems I had with the movie: there was not enough Batman!  He’s not Batman for a large part of the movie, and the first time he becomes Batman he just doesn’t seem that into it anymore.  He’s back in form near the end of the movie, but I was getting bummed out about it by then.  Tom Hardy did a great job in this movie as well, and I’ll avoid the Joker comparison to give him the credit he deserves.  This is the Bane they needed to make in the movie.  One of the biggest problems I had with Bane’s appearance in Batman and Robin was that they seemed only interested in recreating the character’s look.  Yeah, he’s a big brutish looking guy wearing a mask, but he’s not some mindless goon.  Bane had a genius-level intellect in comic books, but that movie makes him unable to string two words together.  This movie does Bane justice.  Tom Hardy makes him completely intelligent and intimidating.  They also had a good reason for him to wear the mask, which I was wondering how they’d pull off when they didn’t want to take the Venom angle from the comic books.  Anne Hathaway also did a pretty good job as Selina Kyle, but I can’t say that I think her role required all that much out of her than being fuckin’ hot.  She did that part of it with gusto, but also gave a pretty good performance.  I probably would’ve preferred that they had a few hundred more scenes of her riding Batman’s motorcycle wearing skintight leather from behind though.  Her character created some questions for me, though.  The main one was how Bruce could still be moping over Maggie Gyllenhaal 8 years after her death when he just met Anne Hathaway.  I’d be over it pretty gundamned quickly.  I also really liked the look of her “Catwoman” costume (though she’s never referred to that way as far as I know).  And not just because it was skintight on Anne Hathaway’s body either.  I liked that it felt really reminiscent of the Catwoman costume from the Adam West days, but they made it better by making it so she wasn’t intentionally wearing cat ears, it just looked like she was when her goggles were pushed back onto her head.  On another note, I understand that Catwoman is very agile and flexible and everything, but was it actually necessary for her to kick the lever on the window washing scaffold at one point in the movie?  It was above her head and you could’ve just pulled it with your hands.  Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

I’m sure it’s hard to tell from the review I just wrote, but I did really like The Dark Knight Rises.  It was a great movie and did not lessen the average quality of the trilogy in the least, but not much can live up to the legacy left by The Dark Knight.  The story was fantastic, but had some problems that hindered its overall quality, but all of the performances were fantastic and made me so happy that someone finally did Bane justice so we can stop using Batman and Robin as a character reference for him.  I had some problems with the movie, but I had absolutely no problem seeing it in theater.  It was totally worth it.  I’m happy I saw it, I’m in love with the trilogy in total, and I can’t wait to buy it on BluRay.  The Dark Knight Rises gets “You made some mistakes, Miss Kyle” out of “The Batman has to come back.”

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Batman Begins (2005)


You Must Become More than Just a Man in the Mind of Your Opponent.

Let’s go back in time to roughly 2004.  At this point, Batman had fallen on hard times, somewhat devastated by the shit sandwich known as Batman and Robin.  So devastating was this movie that it was almost a decade before they put out another one.  But this guy, he wanted to reboot the whole series.  What kind of bullshit is that?  We’ve all seen Batman’s origin story!  And you want to throw down your movie against the Tim Burton Batman’s origin story?  This has bad written all over it.  But, they wanted to take the movie in a darker direction, and it seemed as if they got mostly good people to be in it, so maybe I was judging too harshly.  I would still give it a chance.  Also, the word “Batman” was in the title, so there was a very good chance I would be seeing it anyway.  How could this movie possibly do?  We’ll find out as I review Batman Begins, written by David S. Goyer, co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Mark Boone Jr., Ken Watanabe, Linus Roache, Sara Stewart, Richard Brake, and Gus Lewis.

A young Bruce Wayne (Gus Lewis) must leave a play because of his fear of bats.  His father Thomas (Linus Roache) and mother Martha (Sara Stewart) escort him into the alley behind the theater where they are murdered in a mugging gone wrong by a desperate criminal, Joe Chill (Richard Brake).  Later, when Chill is granted parole if he testifies against crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), Bruce (now Christian Bale) sets his mind on killing him, but is beaten to the punch by one of Falcone’s men.  Seeing how corrupt Gotham City has become, Bruce disappears into the world to study the criminal element and train physically and mentally in martial arts.  He gets himself arrested and, while imprisoned, he meets a man named Ducard (Liam Neeson), who offers Bruce the opportunity to train with and join the League of Shadows, a group of ninjas led by Ra’s al Ghul with a mind to bring justice to the world but, after training with them, he realizes that their plot is to dispel the evil from Gotham by destroying it and allowing it to rebuild.  Bruce says, “Good day,” picks up his hat and spikey gloves, and burns the place to the ground, killing Ra’s and saving the life of Ducard.  Bruce is picked up by his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) and returns to Gotham to use his new skills and a pointy cowl to bring justice to Gotham in his own way.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but is Ra’s al Ghul immortal?  Are his methods supernatural?  Eh, it’ll probably never come up…

I tried, probably in vain, to act like I wouldn’t like this movie.  I can’t imagine anyone didn’t see right through that.  Of course this movie is awesome.  With each new reboot of the Batman it gets darker and better.  The old Adam West Batman was goofy and fun, then Tim Burton put out a much darker and more serious Batman with Michael Keaton that got goofier and more terrible over time as George Clooney took over the role.  What Christopher Nolan gives us is the darkest and most realistic look at the Caped Crusader we’ve ever seen, and probably the best Batman movie that had ever been released up to that point, renewing the faith of the fans that had been trampled down over the years.  I can’t recall if I went into this movie thinking that it couldn’t possibly be better than the Tim Burton Batman, but I would say it succeeded.  And, just as great, they went with some fantastic villains that we hadn’t seen in the movies prior: Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul.  I loved the realism in the movie as well.  Everything they changed they changed for the better, and all of it seemed like it could really happen.  The armor, the memory cloth cape, all of the setup stuff.  I don’t know that any of that stuff really exists, but it feels like it does.  The Tumbler seemed much more realistic, but I must admit that I miss the Batmobile from the first movie.  It’s an acceptable substitute.  Even the villains were more realistic.  Ra’s al Ghul stayed immortal with the use of the Lazarus Pit in the comic books; here he uses deception to spread the legend of Ra’s al Ghul as immortal.  Scarecrow was never all that unrealistic.  It’s probably not that hard to find an inhalant that will make you trip balls.  The only real issue I took with the story of the movie is that the fat cop was made out to be a dick for telling the guy he took food from that he should feed his kids falafel.  That’s just good logic right there.

No one should’ve been surprised that the greater majority of the people were able to bring it.  They got some fantastic actors to participate in this thing.  Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman; so many great actors that deliver in every way.  And Katie Holmes is in the movie too.  That’s perhaps harsh.  She actually did a fine enough job.  Not spectacular, but certainly not bad.  Christian Bale is probably the best performance in this movie as far as I’m concerned.  He really gives three performances.  The Bruce Wayne he puts on is mostly for show; what he’s been told a billionaire playboy would act like.  Then there’s the real guy, who is much more serious, but still finds the time to toss quips back and forth with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman – both of which bring a great deal of snarky comedy with their lines.  Then, of course, the Batman, who is always serious and speaks in a super gravelly voice that does grate on the nerves, but I didn’t take that much issue with it.  I think I more took issue with how breathless it always made him seem.  It was as if … he couldn’t do … more than three … words at a … time … like that …

Batman Begins is awesome.  One could argue that it starts out a little slowly as we have to sit through the origin story that the bulk of us were already familiar with, but once it gets moving, it gets moving.  This is the exact type of Batman movie the world wanted.  Or, in the very least, it’s the one I wanted.  The action is fantastic, the darkness and the realism are amazing, and the performances are top of the line.  I love you, Batman.  And you, Christopher Nolan.  Something tells me I might be saying that once or twice more in the next couple of days.  Come back to find out.  For now, Batman Begins gets “You’re not the devil.  You’re practice” out of “Death does not wait for you to be ready!”

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The Grey (2012)


Once More Into the Fray.

I’ve known about this movie’s existence for a while now, but I never had any interest in seeing it.  It certainly wasn’t the fault of the main actor in the movie, ‘cause that guy is this shit.  I really can’t say what kept me from having any interest in seeing it, but it just kind of looked boring to me.  I had seen it in RedBox for a while, but never felt like I was in the mood to see it.  It might be because it looked like a drama and I tend to not like those, but it also looked like it might have some action in it.  When I was looking through the RedBox this last time, I picked Chronicle because that seemed like a cool movie, and I finally submitted to the wiles of this movie and picked it out as well.  I might as well give it a chance.  So let’s see what happened as I review The Grey, written and directed by Joe Carnahan, and starring Liam Neeson, Dallas Roberts, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, James Badge Dale, Jacob Blair, Ben Bray, and Anne Openshaw.

John Ottway (Liam Neeson) is a total fucking bummer.  He works in Alaska, killing wolves that try to attack an oil drilling team, and has had some issues with his wife Ana (Anne Openshaw) that we don’t fully understand just yet.  Whatever these issues are that keep him separated from his wife, we know they’re affecting him to the point where he tries to commit suicide, but his gun doesn’t fire.  Giving up really quickly, he goes on about his life, boarding a plane with other employees of the drilling team.  He goes to sleep on the flight, but wakes to find the plane plummeting out of the sky.  He manages to survive, along with Hernandez (Ben Bray), Diaz (Frank Grillo), Hendrick (Dallas Roberts), Flannery (Joe Anderson), Talget (Dermot Mulroney), and Burke (Nonso Anozie).  They make a fire to stay alive in the freezing cold, but soon find out that they’ve got other problems as a pack of wolves is hunting them.

I’m as torn about my feelings about this movie as I was about watching it in the first place.  I didn’t like the movie, but I respect it.  It was kind of slow moving and boring, but they did try to fix that by occasionally having someone get eaten by a wolf, or die in some other horrible way.  It builds some solid tension and is an interesting study of the personalities of these people in a similar way to Alive, without them getting hungry enough to eat each other.  At least I assume all that stuff I just said was true, having never seen the movie Alive, but I’m pretty sure that’s what happens in it.  But this movie also seems to fall into a pretty set pattern.  It deals with some interpersonal problems within the group that’s typically pretty slow and uneventful for about 10 or 15 minutes, and then they deal with some situations that will probably lead to one of the survivors losing their “survivor” title, and then back into the character study.  Some people might be able to find the personal side of it interesting, but the movie’s pattern translated to me as, “Boring part, death part, boring part.  Repeat.”  You can practically set your watch by the times when people in this movie die too.  I’m sure that was a conscious decision, realizing that the interpersonal stuff would be interesting to a certain audience, and the rest of them would just be waiting for a wolf to drag off another survivor, but it still just resonated as boring to me by the time it was over.  I already found myself bored by the end of the movie, and I was not a fan of how the movie ended.  But, since I stuck it out through the credits, it showed something afterwards that would’ve made me feel a little better if it was part of the movie proper, but I didn’t really count it since it was an after-credit sequence.

I took a good degree of issue with the look of the movie.  Part of me wants to say that the way they filmed it made it more immersive to the audience, helping us feel as if we were trapped in a blizzard as the snow was falling in our face and having us question what we couldn’t see when it was too dark.  The other part of me realizes that I was watching a movie and this stuff made it difficult to see what was going on sometimes.  If you put a thicket of trees or a flurry of snow in front of us, or just make the bulk of the scene occurring in shadow, then I just can’t see what’s happening, and that makes for an annoying movie.  The settings were all very nice to look at, but they got in the way of the scene on more than one occasion.  I found the wolves in the movie occasionally less than convincing, and they seemed to realize that their wolves sometimes looked straight out of Twilight so they would do as much as possible to not have to show them.  There was one cool and stylized scene where the wolves were in the shadows and all you could see of all but one of them were their eyes glowing in the shadow that was pretty nice, but other times weren’t.  Sometimes a wolf attack just looked like someone had a fake wolf head on a stick and they were jamming it into an actor’s leg or something, and other parts they just showed some bushes shaking to show us that we just missed the wolves running through there.  If only we had looked a second sooner!

It’s really no surprise that Liam Neeson is awesome.  He keeps that up in this movie with his quiet badass performance, reminiscent of his character from Taken, but more depressed so I guess it’s that guy if his daughter decided that she wanted to stay with that Sheikh at the end of the movie.  The other characters in the movie were all good as well.  Frank Grillo played a good asshole who I hated for the bulk of the movie, but he was going for that.

I’m fully aware of the fact that the majority of the reason I didn’t like The Grey was because of my desire to be constantly entertained.  The great performances aided in a good story that studied the tension building between the group of survivors while they periodically got picked off by their surroundings, but the picking off was too short and too spread out by uneventful boring bits that left me bored with the movie in general.  There were problems with the look that I would say were not entirely my fault, but I would say that, though I didn’t like the movie, it is worth a watch.  There are definitely people in the world that would enjoy this movie; I’m just not one of them.  The Grey gets “It’s good that it hurts” out of “Maybe I’ll turn into a wolfman now.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Wrath of the Titans (2012)


You’re Sweating Like a Human.

I shouldn’t have wanted to see today’s movie, but I inexplicably did.  I saw the original movie a really long time ago and absolutely loved it.  Then they remade that movie, and it was disappointing and dumb.  Then they made a sequel to that, and the response was pretty consistently that it was worse than the first.  Whether it was my love of the subject matter or just the expectation of the fun that can accompany a big dumb action movie, I really couldn’t say.  But I wanted to see it.  Not enough to make me go to the theaters for it, and not enough to make my buy it on DVD when it was released.  But, when my roommate Richard showed me a selection of 5 movies he had purchased digitally to watch, I instantly picked this one.  How’d it go?  You’ll find out in my review for Wrath of the Titans, written by Dan Mazeau, directed by Jonathan Liebesman, and starring Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Édgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rosamund Pike, Danny Huston, Bill Nighy, and John Bell.

Perseus (Sam Worthington), the demigod son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), is trying to live the quiet life of a fisherman with his 10-year-old son, Helius (John Bell), after his famed defeat of the mighty Kraken.  Zeus visits Perseus to warn him that the power of the gods is weakening and the walls of Tartarus that contain Zeus’ father, the mighty titan Kronos, are breaking down.  Perseus tells Zeus where he can cram it.  Zeus travels to Tartarus to meet with his brothers, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Poseidon (Danny Huston), and Ares (Édgar Ramirez) and Hades jump Zeus and Poseidon, capturing Zeus and mortally wounding Poseidon.  As Ares and Hades set Zeus up to have his powers drained by Kronos, Poseidon travels to Perseus to tell him what happened.  With Poseidon’s trident, and Poseidon’s son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), as well as Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Perseus sets out to meet with Hephaestus (Bill Nighy) to find a weapon powerful enough to defeat Kronos.

Yet another disappointing outing for Greek mythology.  I’ve had a love for Greek mythology since my childhood which makes it even more disappointing that I haven’t seen a good movie about that era in a while.  300 was in 2007 and Troy was 2004, and neither of those was actually a mythology thing as much as it just happened around that time, and those gods were mentioned in passing.  Since then I’ve seen Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans, and Immortals, and none of those movies made a good run at it.  But, one thing this movie does have going for it that the Clash of the Titans remake did not is that this movie isn’t shitting on a movie I love.  This is a somewhat original idea that wasn’t very good.  It’s only loosely based on any kind of mythology, and pretty much the only thing that makes it Greek mythology is the name and relationships of the characters.  Since it has nothing at all to do with any Greek mythology, I probably would’ve been happier with it if they had just made it their own story and not included Zeus and Perseus and all the rest of them.  But, if they just made this exact movie about the demigod Steve and his father, the god Mike, I probably wouldn’t have been interested anyway, so fuck me I guess.  Well the story wasn’t great either way.  It’s mainly just about a couple of people wandering through various green-screened settings until they find a stick that kills the big bad thing.  Also, my recollection of the Clash remake is that it was mostly about how humans didn’t need the gods to achieve something.  I recall Perseus refusing to use his fancy god weapons because of this, but this one goes exactly opposite that.  Perseus can’t do shit without the fancy god weapon in this one, so he spends the entire movie looking for it.  The more human Perseus also tries fighting the more god Ares multiple times during the movie, but humanity certainly isn’t good enough this time around.  ::SPOILER ALERT::  Also, the defeat of Ares is super disappointing, as Perseus beats him with a rear naked choke hold.  Which means, for the audience, that Perseus jumped on Ares’ back and wrapped his arm around Ares’ neck and it just became a race to see if Ares or the audience would fall asleep first.  The conclusion of the entire movie was also very disappointing.  First, the defeat of Kronos felt like not much more than Perseus dropping a shiny toothpick down Kronos’ gullet.  ::END SPOILERS::  The very ending of the movie was just kind of confusing and lame.  The god’s have a big walk off into the sunset kind of thing, the humans celebrate Perseus’ victory, something about training Perseus’ son to be a soldier.  I don’t really know what happened because it was rushed and confusing.  All I really know that happened was that I was disappointed.

In the movie’s defense, the look and scale of the movie was all pretty damned epic.  They have a cool looking chimera that was probably in God of War, a giant lava guy that was probably in God of War, an epic Labyrinth that I’m pretty sure was in God of War, and a bald white guy with red symbols painted on him and swords chained to his wrist, but I didn’t recognize him.  The look of the movie seems to owe a lot to the God of War games, but there’s a chance that it wasn’t just a straight rip off.  But if Kronos wasn’t ripped off from God of War, it’s entirely possible that it was just a slightly altered remake of the Balrog from Lord of the Rings.  I also liked the guys with two torsos that were fighting in the last battle.  They worked pretty well.  Also, when Zeus and Hades teamed up to kick some ass, I thought that was very exciting.  Though most of the stuff in the look of the movie felt like I had seen it before, I don’t mean to take away from its scale and grandeur.  It was possibly the only thing in this movie that was actually well done.

The performances were about as hit or miss as you can get.  Sam Worthington has never impressed me.  He’s been in good movies before, but he’s never been what’s made them good as far as I’m concerned.  He’s not so much a bad actor, but he’s certainly not a good one.  And I guess it runs in the family, because the kid who played his son (Yes, I know that John Bell is not his real son.  The last names kind of gave it away for me) got on my nerves.  His biggest performance requirement was just to stand in the background of scenes and stare, dumbfounded.  It’s no surprise that Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes can bring it in the performance department, but it might be a surprise that they actually bothered to bring it for this movie.  They both did good jobs, but every time I saw them I just kept thinking about how the last time they were together before these movies was for Schindler’s List.  That’s fuckin crazy!  I would also count myself as a fan of Bill Nighy, but it occurs to me that this man does not do subtle.  It usually works for him though.  Also, that Bubo, the golden owl from the original Clash of the Titans, shows up in this movie was very exciting to me.  Not that it did anything, but it was there, man!

It didn’t come as a surprise for me that Wrath of the Titans was disappointing.  I was right in assuming that the story would have nothing to offer and I was right to assume that the only performances I’d like would be Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, but I at least hoped that the action in this big dumb action movie would be satisfying.  Imagine my surprise when it was also disappointing.  The only things I really enjoyed about this movie were the visuals, but I feel like I can get most of that by playing God of War, and I’d enjoy myself more.  Wrath of the Titans isn’t bad enough that I would say don’t watch it, but it’s also not good enough that I’d recommend it.  If nothing else, get it from RedBox for a day and go in with low expectations.  Wrath of the Titans gets “Hades, I am so sorry for having done this to you” out of “Because I forgive you for this.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Krull (1983)


I Came to Find a King, and I Find a Boy Instead

When Chris suggested that I review the two Conan movies, it seemingly got Fabio started with trying to name every cheesy sword and sorcery type of movie from the 80’s that he could think of.  Not wanting to allow him to monopolize the request portion of my reviews, I decided to pick only one of them for now and get to the remaining 27 he named at a later time.  The one I picked was a movie I had never seen and possibly never heard of.  It sounds familiar and the cover looks familiar, but a lot of these types of movies share similar covers, so that’s not that surprising.  I also found that this movie was available on Netflix streaming, and that’s one of the best movies to review as I don’t have to wait for anything.  So here’s todays review of Krull, written by Stanford Sherman, directed by Peter Yates, and starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, David Battley, Bernard Bresslaw, Alun Armstrong, Robbie Coltrane, Liam Neeson, Todd Carty, John Welsh, Graham McGrath, and Francesca Annis.

Some titular planet is invaded by the cleverly named beast called “The Beast” and his army of things that slay things for him called “Bunnies”.  Oh wait, they’re called Slayers.  These creatures travel through the galaxy in their mountain-like fortress which is black in color called “Bunny Manor”, or the Black Fortress.  Meanwhile, the characters that I can only assume are named Prince Princeton (It’s actually Prince Colwyn, played by Ken Marshall) is to marry Princess Princess (Actually Lyssa, played by Lysette Anthony).  A prophecy foretells that the child from this marriage will rule the galaxy.  The Beast has other feelings on the subject, so he sends his Slayers to interrupt the ceremony and kidnap the Princess.  Colwyn is the only survivor and he instantly sets about the heroes task of crying like a bitch, until Ynyr the Old One (Freddie Jones) comes along and tells him he needs to acquire a magical weapon called “the Glaive” to fight The Beast.  He climbs up a mountain and retrieves it with little trouble.  He meets a wizard named Ergo “the Magnificent” (David Battley) and then a bunch of thieves like Torquil (Alun Armstrong), Kegan (Liam Neeson), Rhun (Robbie Coltrane), and Oswyn (Todd Carty).  They then continue to wonder around doing various things before they decide they should go and rescue the princess.

I wouldn’t really call this a bad movie, but I don’t feel like it was a productive use of my time either.  I guess it’s the reason I’m producing this, but I could’ve watched something else and probably enjoyed it much more.  It’s pretty typical stuff with a pretty scattered story.  First, they couldn’t really figure out if they wanted to make a swords and sorcery movie or a science fiction movie, so they just made both.  But the part of the story that was science fiction was so minimal that they could’ve just stuck with the swords part.  The enemies were from another planet but they didn’t need to be.  Then they shot lasers out of their spears, but that might as well have been magic.  And that was everything sci-fi they did, so why bother?  The might and magic stuff was okay enough and they probably would’ve been better served to leave it at that.  Being a disjointed story is something that I’m beginning to realize is fairly popular with these types of movies.  I guess, if they just stuck to the main plot, the movie would be roughly 20 minutes long.  They have to fill it by running around and doing side missions before getting to the real one.  It couldn’t be as simple as just going and finding the princess because your sword isn’t good enough.  You have to first find the magic weapon that’s the only thing that can damage the enemy, but where would you go?  Well you have to go and find the spider lady so she can tell you where the fortress is going to show up.  But I highly doubt you’ll be able to get there in time, so you need to go and catch the horses that can run really fast because their feet are on fire.  Now you can get to the story proper.  And you can end it in a way that just pisses me off, and requires ::SPOILER ALERT::  The power of love defeats the evil enemy.  Apparently they have some kind of a ceremony when they get married where the man puts a torch into water, then the woman grabs the fire out of the water with her bare hand.  And such is marriage, I guess.  The problem with this is that it’s corny and lame.  And it proves that they wasted our time earlier in the movie.  The Glaive damaged The Beast, but the damned thing couldn’t kill it.  Why did they waste all the time going for it then?  Granted it did all his work for him once he threw it for a while.  He just let it loose and it flew around and did everything for him.  But, when it came to facing the creature that was its sole purpose, all it could muster is cutting his arm and sticking itself in his chest.  It turned out that the fact that they got married gave the husband pyrokinectic abilities, allowing him to shoot fire out of his hand and burn the Beast to death.  And the whole “love conquers all” bullshit was a pretty silly way to end the movie.  ::END SPOILER::  There were a couple of other stupid things in the movie, of course.  I was right in assuming that I should be worried about the introduction of Ergo “the Magnificent” because he was there to be comic relief.  His whole joke was that he was terrible at magic and his spells, more often than not, turned in him into a creature that was useless for their current predicament, like a baby pig or a goose.  And his spells were pretty stupid as well.  For some reason, the spell to turn himself into a goose was “Fat and Ugly”.  This is a spell?  If that’s the case, I’d have been turned into a goose several thousand times working in retail and dealing with some fat bitch of a customer.  Later, when Ynyr meets up with the Widow of the Web and their prior relationship is revealed, she confesses that she had a kid with him, but killed it because she couldn’t kill him.  But he’s very quick to forgive her for this offense, almost as if he wasn’t even listening when she said it.  The biggest annoyance of this movie for me was the fact that I had no idea where the title came from until I started writing this review.  If they even mentioned the fact that the planets name was Krull, I missed it.  And for the rest of the movie I was listening intently trying to find out who in this movie was named Krull.  It wasn’t the Prince, his name was Colwyn, but sometimes the people pronounce it so that it kind of sounds like Krull.  Maybe it was the name of the fancy weapon, but no.  They decided to throw creativity out the door and just name that “The Glaive”.  That is akin to him naming his sword “The Sword”.  And then, when I started writing my review, I saw that the planet was named Krull, at least according to Wikipedia.  Mystery solved.  Fuck you, Krull.

The look of the movie was generally pretty bad.  The settings were nice, but that was about all of it.  The costumes were mostly goofy and the attempts at magic were pretty obvious.  When the fire is superimposed on different things in the movie, it’s super obvious and doesn’t really work that well.  At first I was bummed out by the Glaive, because it was this super special weapon but, when it was removed from the lava, it looked like a starfish.  Thankfully, it broke out of that and looked pretty cool … and then was promptly forgotten about until the very end of the movie.  I was happy with the look of the giant spider they used in the movie.  Sure, it was a little laggy at times, but the way it moved and acted was really reminiscent of a real spider, making it all the more creepy.  And the lair it lived it was pretty boss as well.  The Cyclops that followed them around, on the other hand, looked pretty goofy.  All of the prosthetics looked fine, but it still just looked goofy.  The action typically worked fairly well.  I thought the swordplay was pretty good and interesting, and the first fight involving the prince made him really reminiscent of Errol Flynn.  That is, of course, if I had any real knowledge of Errol Flynn to reminisce about.  One thing I got to wondering about was the tiger in the movie.  At one point, Ergo turns into a tiger to fight the enemies.  My issue with that was that they apparently had no problem letting a real tiger loose in a scene with real people.  There’s only so far you can train them things, y’know?  Well they didn’t know at the time, I guess.  That’s why they let the real tiger be in a scene with the 12 year old boy!  It’s a miracle that kid survived production of this movie.  They had the tiger laying his head on the kids lap at one point, for crying out loud!

The performances in this movie failed to impress.  Only one person impressed, but I’ll get to that in a bit.  Ken Marshall did nothing for me as the main character of this movie beyond showing me that people should not allow him to attempt crying on screen.  He was good with the swordplay, which was made all that more impressive by the fact that he was wearing upsettingly tight pants throughout the entire movie.  I hated David Battley throughout the movie because he was the comic relief that entirely failed at comedy, so went for full blown annoyance instead.  Lysette Anthony did good enough work as the princess, but that didn’t require much of her other than hotness.  The real stars of this movie for me are Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane.  Not that they did anything particularly special in the movie; they were very minor, bit players that made little impact on the movie.  But they ARE Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane.  Each of them individually dwarf the popularity of everyone else involved in this movie by themselves.  Maybe this movie inspired them.  It is trying to be science fiction and magic in the same movie.  And what are the two biggest science fiction and magic movie series of all time?  Probably Star Wars and Harry Potter.  They were in them!  Fuck you, Krull!

I went into Krull with no expectations, and it matched them.  It was thoroughly okay.  The story wastes a good amount of time and ends with a lackluster conclusion.  None of the performances impressed beyond the fact that two of the bit parts in the movie went on to be big stars, but some of the action was decent and reminded me of some old school, Errol Flynn era sword fights.  The movie isn’t the worst thing you could do with your time, but is also something that doesn’t really hold up as something you should watch.  You could stream it on Netflix and, if you’re curious enough, you could do that and not feel that bad afterwards because you probably won’t remember much of it, but there are better things to do.  Krull gets “Short in stature, tall in power, narrow of purpose and wide of vision” out of “Power is fleeting; love is eternal.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.