Category Archives: Movies

MOVIE REVIEW: IGOR: Inspired Idea – Utterly Inadequate Film!

In the land of Malaria, things have changed since it was a sunny, happy place. Constant cloud cover and rain have ruined it for agriculture, so the king has decreed that the best way to survive is to develop an economy based on the creation of evil science. The country’s best mad scientists compete in an “Evil Science Fair” – and the king charges the rest of the world a [you should pardon the expression] king’s ransom to not use it.

The Triumvarate of Terror

Each mad scientist has an Igor – a hunchbacked assistant to gather materials and pull the power switch to put the finishing touches on their evil experiments. The film is built on the idea that one of these Igors [voiced by John Cusack] wants to be the scientist, not the Igor. When his master, Dr. Glickenstein [John Cleese] dies during the creation of a new weapon, Igor seizes his chance. With the aid [?] of his previous inventions – Scamper [Steve Buscemi], a suicidal immortal rabbit, and Brain [Sean Hayes], a robot with a brain in a jar – he decides to create life.

The idea of an Igor supplanting his mad scientist and succeeding is a good one, so it’s really a shame that this beautifully designed film [looking like some mad hybrid of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas and a Tex Avery cartoon] is virtually humor-free. Even Jennifer Coolidge’s assortment of scientists’ girlfriends and Eddie Izzard’s unscrupulous Dr. Schadenfreude [who’s won seventeen Fairs by stealing the best efforts of his competitors – and delights in the misery of others] somehow fail to… ummm… come to life.

The animation, from design on, is extremely good, but in light of the paucity of laughs and any real sense of danger, it simply isn’t enough to recommend the film. In short, Igor could’ve used a lot more madness.

Final Grade: D

MOVIE REVIEW: Ghost Town: Gervais Displays Surprising Range!

Bertram Pincus [Ricky Gervais] is a solitary man, rude and generally misanthropic, he lives alone and has a job [he’s a dentist] where he can make sure his patients don’t to him. He even has his office literally a few yards from he works so he can avoid as many people as possible – until he goes in for a routine colonoscopy. After the procedure, he finds himself being assailed by the ghosts of people who had unfinished business when they died – the most insistent of whom, Frank Herlihy [Greg Kinnear], believes that his unfinished business is to prevent his widow, Gwen [Tea Leoni], from marrying a “scumbag lawyer.” Problems arise when Pincus manages to weasel his way into her life via the manner in which an important mummified Egyptian died, and he gets the opportunity to meet Gwen’s finance´.

ghost town poster

Ghost Town reminded of the superb Truly, Madly, Deeply, though it’s a good deal more superficial. David Koepp and John Kamps’ script works best when director Koepp allows the rhythms of the dialogue to dictate the pacing and when he leads Gervais into some genuinely poignant moments of revelation – regarding himself and how much he’s been missing while he wastes his life. There are moments where the film verges on maudlin, but Koepp manages to walk that line reasonably well throughout.

It’s not a surprise that Gervais made me laugh here. What is a surprise is the deftness with which he handles the poignant moments mentioned above. Both work because he has terrific chemistry with both Kinnear and Leoni. Kinnear plays Frank as a seeming good guy with a surface smarm but takes it to a level where it masks a smarmy guy who projects a superficial good guy over his smarm, but beneath an equally superficial level of smarm [please don’t ask me to say that again…]. Leoni, who has always had terrific comic chops, matched Gervais mood for mood – and she matches his banter equally well.

There’s a scene where Pincus goes off on politically incorrect riff on the Chinese that really isn’t funny, but because Gwen thinks he’s joking, and laughs, it becomes a far more disarming scene than it might have been. Gervais and Leoni work this potentially awkward scene in such a way that we believe because they’ve established their odd rapport from early on. In the end, it’s the chemistry between Gervais and Leoni – and the way they play off each other – that raises Ghost town above the average romantic dramedy – supernatural or otherwise.

Final Grade: B

MOVIE REVIEW: Burn After Reading: The Coen Brothers Rip Spy Thrillers!

When alcoholic CIA analyst Osborne Cox [John Malkovich] refuses to accept a demotion because of his drinking problem and quits, he sets in motion a series of events that enmesh a number of not terribly bright characters in what could safely be called an anti-thriller thriller. When the notes on his memoir are accidentally left behind in a gym, they fall into the hands of gym employees Chad [Brad Pitt] and Linda [Frances McDormand] whose attempt to return them is mistaken for an attempted at blackmail.

Chad's discovery

Even though the files are worthless, Chad and Linda somehow get the Russians to show some interest – thoroughly confusing Ozzie’s former colleagues [David Rasche and his boss, J.K. Simmons]. At the same time, a federal marshal named Harry [George Clooney] is having affairs behind his children’s books author wife [Elizabeth Marvel] with Osborne’s wife [Tilda Swinton].

As the mistakes pile up, the CIA boss becomes so exasperated that he orders his subordinate to “Come back when this makes sense!” Alas, for them, it never will. In fact, it probably won’t for any of the characters – though one of them comes out of the whole thing less badly than the others.

All the elements of a Coen Brothers film are present in Burn After Reading. Odd angles [especially low-angles]? Check! Character arcs that bend and twist back on themselves? Check! Dialogue that stays with you after you’ve left the theater? Check! Unexpected moments of violence? Check! Expected moments of violence? Nope! If you’ve ever watched early Coen Brothers movies like Blood Simple and Raising Arizona, much of Burn After Reading will resonate with you. It’s that kind of film. If not, you might wonder if there’s anything actually going on in it.

Although none of the characters is terribly smart, some [especially Pitt’s Chad] project  a kind of endearingly dim earnestness, which allows us to actually become involved in the movie. And some characters – like J.K. Simmons’ CIA boss – are there mostly to serve up unexpectedly humorous reactions. There’s even enough paranoia to give the humor even more of an edge – as Hitchcock once said, when a character notes, in the first act, that he’s never had to discharge his weapon, he had better do so in the third. The Coen Brothers use that device deftly enough that we don’t believe it when it happens because it’s simultaneously tragic and hilarious. Even the Fugs’ song over the closing credits works to the film’s advantage. After No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading comes across as the Coen Brothers’ version of a romp. For the most part, it works.

Final Grade: B+

MOVIE NEWS: Are you ready for – Guitar Hero – The Movie?

Everyone’s favorite Director – Bret Ratner is shopping around a movie based on the video game Guitar Hero. The premise is a kid who is great at the game, somehow wins a competition and becomes a real life Rockstar. How low and desperate is Hollywood to even consider this idea? Not only consider it, but then hire this no-talent hack to Produce it? But then they did let him ruin the X-Men franchise.

MOVIE REVIEW: Babylon A.D. –Even The Director Thinks It’s Bad!

How to explain Babylon A.D. … Okay, how about this: Babylon A.D. is the movie Children of Men would have been had it been directed by Ridley Pearson and edited by Ed Wood. Vin Diesel’s Toorop is the Clive Owens character; Michelle Yeoh’s Sister Rebecca is the Julianne Moore character, and Melanie Thierry’s Aurora is the girl whom Toorop must deliver from Russia to the United States – and for a similar reason.

Diesel & Thierry

Director Matthieu Kassovitz is on record as saying that Babylon A.D. is not the film he made – that it’s been re-edited by the studio and is vastly inferior to the film he created. Judging from the mangled editing of the many fight sequences [and you thought Batman Begins’ fight sequences were hard to figure out] and the drastic changes in overall tone from epic and sweeping to grungy and claustrophobic, I’d have to say that it’s entirely possibly that he’s right.

Diesel is energetic and hard as Toorop, but we probably were expecting that. Yeoh is enigmatic and wise as Sister Rebecca, but that’s not asking much of her. The surprise comes from Melanie Thierry who is quite possibly too ethereally beautiful to be believed – either that or the camera just really, really loves her.

It’s hard to tell if Eric Besnard’s script is any good because of the editing. God knows, there are enough signs of intelligence and, possibly, wit here to suggest that it might well be very good. The only problem is that whatever there might have been to add surprise and freshness to this unexpected hybrid of Blade Runner and Children of Men has been excised – leaving us with something that neither involves nor satisfies.

I hope Kassovitz gets a Director’s Cut when the DVD comes out. I’d love to see why he’s so adamant that the theatrical release is not the movie he made.

Final Grade: D+

MOVIE REVIEW – Ghost Town

He sees dead people... and they annoy him.
He sees dead people... and they annoy him.

Ghost Town is one of those rare romantic type comedies that doesn’t fall prey to the over use of clichés or sappy sweetness. It remains smart, funny and sometimes bitingly sarcastic.

The premise of Ghost Town falls somewhere between the elements of the recent ‘Over My Dead Body’ and the older ‘Heart and Souls’ and this movie manages to capture the comedy aspects that ‘Over My Dead Body’ failed to live up to and yet match the reaffirming warmth found in ‘Heart and Souls’. For this reviewer it made for a funny and winning combination. Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW – Ghost Town

MOVIE NEWS: Tom Cruise in Talks With Warner Bros to Star in Sleeper

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise

Fresh off of his highly praised and succesful turn as sleazy movie producer Les Grossman in the hit comedy of the summer TROPIC THUNDER, megastar Tom Cruise is now in talks with Warner Brothers Studios to star in their upcoming feature film SLEEPER.

SLEEPER, which is being produced by Warner Bros in conjuction with Stars Road Entertainment and DC Comics, Inc. centers around the adaption to screen of the Sci-fi comic book of the same name in which a covert operative becomes genetic fused with an alien artifact that renders him imprevious to feeling physical pain.

SLEEPER is being adapted to screen by Ed Brubaker who also writes for the comic book and is being produced by Sam Raimi and Josh Donen. No production date has been set for the feature film which will most likely have either a mid to late 2009 or early 2010 premiere.

MOVIE TRAILERS: The Traitor, Fresh Clips…

When straight arrow FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) heads up the investigation into a dangerous international conspiracy, all clues seem to lead back to former U.S. Special Operations officer, Samir Horn (Don Cheadle).  Obsessed with discovering the truth, Clayton tracks Horn across the globe as the elusive ex-soldier burrows deeper and deeper into a world of shadows and intrigue. Traitor, a taut international thriller set against a jigsaw puzzle of covert counter-espionage operations hits theaters this Summer, August 27, 2008.  For more information visit: http://www.traitor-themovie.com/  I think Cheadle is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, if I wasn’t going to London this weekend, this would be the movie I see.

 

 

 

                                                                                        

MOVIE REVIEW: Death Race: Baby You Can Drive My Car!

The original, Roger Corman production of Death Race 2000 was a high energy, in your face film that [sadly] predicted the reality TV thing. In its highly campy way, though, DR2K mixed in social commentary through the race’s rules [Hit a pedestrian? Add points. The pedestrian is an old lady? Bonus Points!]. The remake is a grittier, nastier piece of work that pits prison lifers against one another – and the last driver left alive wins [win five races and go free – in theory].

Koehler, Statham, McShane & Vargas

Jensen Ames [Jason Statham] is framed for the murder of his wife and finds himself on Terminal Island [think Alcatraz, 2015]. The warden [an exceptionally elegant Joan Allen] asks him if he will take over for a driver known only as Frankenstein. Poor Frankie died in the last race and she needs to keep the myth alive to keep up the ratings on the race’s internet subscription pay-per-view. Ames is given Frank’s pit crew, an oddball lot that includes Coach [Ian McShane], the pit chief who stayed on after his sentence was completed; Gunner [Jacob Vargas], a master mechanic, and Lists [Frederic Koehler], who seems to know more about everything than anyone else in the film.

Arrayed against Ames’ version of Frankenstein are nasties like Machine Gun Joe [Tyrese Gibson], Pachenko [Max Ryan] and Travis Colt [Justin Mader] – killers who treat their vehicles as weapons. Furthering the goonage is Jason Clarke as Warden Hennessy’s head guard, Ulrich. To balance the villains, Frank’s navigator is a gorgeous female convict named Case [Natalie Martinez], and she even gets to take part in the action a couple of times.

The big surprise about Death Race is that it is infinitely better than anything else director Paul W.S. Anderson has ever done. The writing [again by Anderson] is tight – though his attention to detail still needs a bit of work – and he stages some pretty impressive races. Even more impressive is that practically all the stunts and driving were done… well… practically.

True, the cast isn’t required to do much more than hit one or two notes apiece, but they hit those notes with the kind of enthusiasm that communicates itself onscreen. Although darker than the colorfully camp original, Anderson’s Death Race is not without its humor – some of it telegraphed but done with panache, and some of it sneakier than you might expect from the guy who gave us the Resident Evil and the Alien vs. Predator movies. And you won’t find many who can out cuss the elegant Warden Hennessy when things start to go wrong…

With a big budget and marketing plan, Death Race could, finally, vault Statham to actual action star status [and well past time]. It’s not the greatest action movie ever, but it does hit just the right spot in terms of vicious action, ham-fisted social commentary and general mayhem.

Final Grade: B-