Posts Tagged action


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This movie blew my fucking mind, which is clearly exactly what it wanted to do. You have no choice but to go see it multiple times. Unlike Memento or The Sixth Sense, other mind-blowy movies, you don’t just watch this movie and you get the “a-ha!” ending and you go home and you’re done. You keep going back and peeling back the layers, trying to figure out what the fuck is happening. And the answer is there, you just know it, you just have to pay close enough attention to all the little excruciating details. If only you can knock the rust off your brain, surely you’ll puzzle it all out.

Christopher Nolan continues to do what he does best: admire and respect his audience enough to not spell it all out for them. Christopher Nolan knows you don’t need the whole thing exposited to you; Christopher Nolan knows you’re smart.

Another thing he does exceptionally well is have beautiful people do amazing physical stunts in nifty environments. These people, they are beautiful. I think the person-candy element to this movie is glossed over too often in other reviews. There is something for everyone, and each member of the cast is totally delicious in their own special way. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wears the hell out of a vest while defying gravity, for crissakes. Marion Cotillard is carved from marble. Ken Watanabe just gets improbably hotter with age. All of them: gorgeous. All of them: sharply intelligent.Christopher Nolan does not suffer fools, and would never ask you to.

I’ve read some reviews that accuse this movie of not having enough emotion to it, but I am not sure what movie those reviewers have been watching, because the one I saw abounded with sorrow, devotion, anguish, love and pain. There’s quite a lot of pain in all of Christopher Nolan’s movies, isn’t there? Christopher Nolan knows pain is the common human denominator. His characters can’t sit back and wail about their pain; they have work to do, saving each other and saving themselves. Christopher Nolan believes you can keep up.

This movie fills the brain-puzzles-with-hot-people hole in my heart that was left by the departure of Lost, except it fills it with 14 karat gold and chocolate and puppies. In its daydreams, Lost wants to be Inception when Lost grows up.

The Good, The Bad, And The Weird

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I like westerns; I like Korean movies; I like movies set in the 1930s; I like movies with hot guys in them. Really, for the first half, there was nothing not to love about this film. Our three protagonists are all interesting characters (and did I mention the hotness?), and there’s a fast, punchy, tongue-in-cheek Guy Ritchie style happening as we meet all the characters and set up our central conflict. So far, so good.

Then the shooting starts. Please, don’t think I have problems with violence or gunplay in movies – I really, really don’t. I enjoyed the first shoot-out of this movie immensely. The second was good, too, but longer. The third was less entertaining, but even longer. Eventually, the time between gun battles (you know, the time when normally the plot furthers) telescoped down to 2-3 minutes, while the battles themselves bloated. Towards the end, or rather what I hoped was the end, there was a protracted gun battle on horseback. You’d think that would be pretty exciting, with the BANG BANG BANG and the horses and the running. I fell asleep after about 5 minutes of that. When I woke up, I found that 10 minutes had passed, and the horseback gun battle was still happening.

This movie is about 2 hours long, but it feels like 5. It’s really a goddamn shame, because this could have been terrific. Instead, it’s a deafening slog that barrels past the limits of patience and obliterates the joy and fun of the first section.

Clash of the Titans

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I am a huge, slavering fan of the 1981 original movie – it wasn’t a good movie, in fact it was very silly, but it was a lot of fun and gave birth to my stop-motion animation obsession. I knew there would be no stop-motion in this reincarnation and made peace with my disappointment and went in with rock bottom expectations and a beer in my hand.

That said, this movie was actually lots of fun! The plot is obviously nonsensical, but who  watched this movie to learn more about the Greek myths?  Seriously, though don’t try to follow the plot; it will just give you a headache like the one Sam Worthington is clearly battling throughout, with furrowed brow instead of a sword.

Sam Worthington is a very good actor, in his way; his range may be microscopically small, but he genuinely looks as though all this is really happening to him. Although maybe his headache came from his leather miniskirt. That costume was so short, I worried that there was going to be some uncomfortable upskirt action in the fight scenes.

All the actors in this movie are slumming it something fierce; seriously, Pete Postlethwaite? Liam Neeson? Oh my lord, Ralph Fiennes. The Greater Fiennes is a thing to behold as our villain, Hades. He devours the scenery, and it’s wonderful!

The special effects are decent – nothing remotely realistic, but these people are marching through volcanic mountains in pristine white tunics draped casually over their shoulders; realism isn’t even an option. More importantly, the special effects are FUN! Giant sand scorpions made of rocks or whatever! It’s no stop-motion skeleton army, but it’ll do.

The various creatures and monsters are all wonderful to look at. Archie the clockwork owl has only 2 seconds; apparently Sam Worthington hated the little contraption as much as he hates America and Freedom. The Pegasus is there, but this time in black. Because white horses are for pussies!

Maybe if I had honestly expected a serious, sweeping epic invested in its ancient source material, I would have hated this. I would also have been stupid to have expected that! A serious Clash of the Titans would be a phenomenal movie, no doubt, but even the posters let you know exactly what you will be receiving – this movie is loud, fast, pretty, and dumb. Nothing wrong with that.

Careful with that miniskirt; we can all see your sword.

Iron Man 2

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If you sandwich together the first Iron Man and Iron Man 2, I think you would find them like a night out at the club with Lindsay Lohan. In the beginning, she’s the life of the party – telling jokes, exuding charm, people are excited to meet her and wanting autographs. Several hours later, her jokes are mean and no one laughs but you, she might have thrown up a little in the bathroom after heaving a bottle at the bouncer’s head but GODDAMN IT WE ARE HAVING FUN STOP CRYING.

The joy of the first movie is just gone, but Favreau forces it rather than tell a different story. There’s a faint whiff there that suggests he wanted to go a bit Dark Knight with it, but either failed miserably or the studio forced him to try to clone the mood of the first movie.  Too many long takes stretch the narrative to the breaking point – this is an ADHD movie franchise, pal; you need to hit it and quit it. The effects are good, of course, but frankly all the robots looked too similar and when every other scene consists of blurry hunks of metal flying through the air at each other, I get really annoyed trying to keep straight which hunk of a metal is which. It just got boring. Oh, and John Favreau? You’re not Tarantino, and even he is annoying with his constant onscreen cameos.

Mickey Rourke is pretty great when he’s alone in a scene, and I have to give him props for dressing like Keith Richards but being an extremely believable physicist,  yet his total inability to connect with any other actor does not seem like a character choice. Sam Rockwell and Don Cheadle are miserably underused and don’t shine like they usually do. RDJ and Gwyneth Paltrow are very good, they both seem to have a rock-solid grip on their characters.

I haven’t been on the Scarlett Johansson boat for a long time, but I liked her quite well here. She looks great but manages to carry off her role as though she weren’t just a set of tits in a jumpsuit. She does well with her fight scenes, but makes me miss Eliza Dushku. Scarlett just doesn’t follow through on her moves in a realistic way, although she’s clearly very agile and fast. I’d buy her as a ninja, but she’s not kicking anyone’s ass.

So, overall disappointing but not unwatchable. Worth renting so that you’re prepared for Iron Man 3, and for the Silver Fox cameo,  but…meh.

Repo Men

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This movie blows. It makes very little sense, and although its tone and pacing are consistent throughout (at least it isn’t choppy), it is slow and boring. I started spacing out like a 3rd grader in church – DURING A FIGHT SCENE. The “twists” are obvious and mostly lame. Most of the characters’ motivations are totally opaque – I have to wonder how much of this is poor filmmaking, and how much is crap source material. Jude Law is an artificial organ reposesser, until an accident lands him with an overpriced artificial ticker and he has a CHANGE of HEART – literally!!  HA HA HA! GET IT?!   It feels like it’s an adaptation of a terrible pulp sci-fi novel ripped off from Philip K. Dick – I liked this movie better when it was called Minority Report and was coherent and compelling.  Jesus Christ, this movie is an insult.

Alice Braga is pretty good, and I’m interested in seeing her in the new Predator reboot, and that is pretty much all the good I have to say about this movie.

Ghost Dog, how could you?!


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They should really change the title to “Hit Girl” and be done with it. Chloe Grace Moretz is somethin’ else – that little girl has a way with a stunt wire. I want there to be a movie of just Moretz and Eliza Dushku beating the shit out of people. They’re both just so natural with their fight scenes, it’s a thing of beauty (to clarify, Dushku isn’t in this movie; she’s just the best ladyfighter I happen to have seen).

I have it on good authority that for the most part, this movie is utterly UNfaithful to the comic, which is a pity because from what I hear, the comic’s story is much, much darker and more compelling. Luckily, for once I have not had the movie ruined because I haven’t read the comics yet!

But I still did not have my world rocked, although I did enjoy it. I got a little bored and distracted every time Hit Girl wasn’t in a scene, and I was not impressed with Nic Cage (I’m sure he thought his Adam West impression was hilarious, but I found it pointless). Still, everyone is sweet and Matthew Vaughn, the director, has always had a great feel for the emotional range of violence – sometimes it’s light and awesome or funny, sometimes it’s upsetting and sad or scary. Aaron Johnson brings the right mix of naiveté and horrified gumption. Although, seriously, slapping a pair of glasses on a pretty person does not magically render them Nerdy And Unattractive – have we learned nothing from Superman? McLovin does a nice job, although I’m beginning to consider him a one-trick pony. Mark Strong and his snaggletooth continue to be a consistently competent go-to villain (can’t wait to see him as Sinestro in Green Lantern) – also, his stereotypical Italian mob accent is delightful.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go start penning my screenplay for Chloe and Eliza Fuck Shit Up: 3D.


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I’ve been trying to figure out what went wrong with this movie…it’s almost like the script was translated from the French by Babelfish. The story is fairly simple, and should be almost foolproof, yet somehow everything comes out wrong. Important pieces of information are glossed over or omitted, and almost all of the “twists” are easy to figure out when they give you 2 hours with not much else happening to think on it. When it’s all over, if you pick out the plot, it’s not bad at all. The implementation, the direction, needed a much stronger hand. I believe what they were going for was the terror of being in space and not knowing what’s going on, but they couldn’t strike the right balance between giving enough information so that the audience can give a crap and follow your narrative, and giving so much that your scenes lose forward momentum.

The makeup and sets are top-notch. The Scary Monsters are each very unique and realistic, and if perhaps the creature design is really derivative, I’m willing to grant a pass for doing it well.  The sets are nice, too – I like a spaceship that looks more like a fishing freighter than a Mac Genius Bar. Really, the whole thing is like a fucked-up homage to Alien, which I didn’t mind a bit.

The cast, tiny though it is, is largely phenomenal. Ben Foster, holy crap…this guy eats tin cans and bleeds orphan’s tears in every damn movie he’s in. He is amazing. Dennis Quaid is sadly cast rather beyond his reach here, but you get the sense that his role was trimmed down to just the essentials so they could get back to more Ben Foster. The rest of the Red Shirts are much more natural and compelling than they really need to be and really class up the joint.

I would say one might enjoy this movie more if one were drinking, but with the dark blue filter and aimless narrative, you’d be out like a light in the first half hour. Just go rent Sunshine instead, for well-done Creepy Space Mystery With Monsters (although without the awkward happy ending).

Sherlock Holmes

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When a movie’s trailer features an underclothed Robert Downey Junior, I think it’s fair to assume that is a movie I will enjoy very much. This film is so much fun! RDJ is perhaps not capable of sucking, and as always gives his character a depth and complexity that isn’t even required. My firm conviction about superheroes is that, were they real, they would not be okay, emotionally speaking; they would be damaged and conflicted and perhaps not very nice at all, because I don’t really believe you can excel (or be motivated to) to that intense a degree without lacking significantly in other areas. A person, no matter how fictional, would not want to give up healthy, satisfying relationships and lifestyles if they were able to have them, in my considered opinion. So these are the superheroes I find most compelling and realistic, and Sherlock Holmes is most definitely a superhero.

The digitally recreated Victorian London is a dirty, smoggy wonder so glorious and historically accurate it does actually wreck my suspension of disbelief. Jude Law as trusty Watson is terrific and sharp and seemingly accepting of the obvious homoerotic undertones to the literature’s greatest bromance. I have one complaint, and that complaint’s name is Rachel McAdams. She isn’t given much to do, sadly, and so this part requires an actress who can telegraph intelligence and force of spirit, and McAdams cannot do that. You’re left wondering what Holmes could possibly see in her and not really buying that she is some kind of criminal mastermind. Somebody more…Cate Blanchettish would have fared better.

The plot is suitably labyrinthine and exciting, and it’s very important that you not think too hard about it. Guy Ritchie’s movies generally move at a breakneck speed, this being no exception, and for once I actually found that a liability. It is literally dizzying at times how quickly it moves, and it seems to be upsetting poor Watson. There is a delightful visual trick introduced in the beginning, whereby we see Holmes choreographing a fight in his head in slow motion immediately before it takes place, mentally ticking off the best moves and most likely outcomes to engineer success, which then gives way to the fight scene in real time, mere seconds. It’s the best use of slow-mo I’ve seen in, oh, ever and also makes Holmes’s fighting ability much more realistic and fascinating. It’s only used a couple of times, though, and I did really want to see more of it.

All in all, a terrific good time that may not plump up your brain cells, but you won’t fall asleep.

The Wolfman

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I dig monster movies, if done well, and I feel I’m fairly generous when it comes to my definition of “well”. I have special love for monster movies that are serious, but my heart is big enough for gory, goofy extravaganzas. I was stupid excited about this movie. Every time I saw a trailer for it, I would frantically grab at my husband if he were unfortunate enough to be in reach, out of my mind with excitement. I love werewolves like Tom Cruise loves pretending to be straight! Unlike my predilection for post-apocalypse movies, however, werewolf movies are almost never any good. An American Werewolf In London, that’s about it (and even that is mostly borne aloft by Griffin Dunne’s peevish hilarity and Rick Baker’s effects genius, only slightly dated). But Benecio Del Toro! And Anthony Hopkins! A Victorian werewolf story, you say? With a blue filter? Sign me up!!

Alas…something went terribly wrong in the making of this movie, and not in any of the places I expected. Firstly, the super-hot and usually dedicated Del Toro swung wide of the mark here. His acting is really pretty terrible. He is stiff, but not in a Victorian way – in a reading-off-cue-cards way. All the British actors somehow seem to make their dialog poetic and earnest, but Benecio phones it in. I read that although a producer, he had some major disagreements with the director who was brought in to replace his first pick, specifically about the nature of his character. In retrospect, it feels as though he lost his own suspension of disbelief, and ultimately torpedoed the whole picture. This pains me, because I do normally love every thing he does and believe that Benecio Del Toro is made of rainbows and marzipan.

There are, however, two reasons that this movie was not a total waste of my time. The first is Anthony Hopkins, who devours the scenery so perfectly and commands every single scene he’s in with such delicious force that he nearly redeems the whole project. The second reason is the unexpectedly and perfectly over-the-top gore. This may in fact be a negative point to many people, but if you can realistically decapitate something with shameless glee, you have my heart.

The Book Of Eli

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I must admit off the top that I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies – even better if it’s a nasty, dark future of the sort where everyone is constantly filthy and society degrades to a lawless, violent wasteland (clearly also why I realize I like westerns). I think it all goes back to seeing Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome at a formative point in my preteen development, but I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that I will cut certain types of movies slack if they faithfully aim for my pet genres. Vice versa, I fully own up to be extra-critical of, say, weepy chick flicks (fuck you very much in the ear, StepMom).

The shattered society post-apocalypse movie I dislike has yet to be made, as far as I know, and The Book Of Eli is no exception. It plays a lot like a graphic novel/comic adaptation, but isn’t (which is a different sign of the apocalypse to meditate upon). Most of the shots and action sequences are framed like a comic panel, which has good and bad points that for me tend to even out. The story is simple and spare, and this case that’s a very good thing. The simplicity of the plot also convinced me that it must be based on a comic, but there was a subtle feeling that the story was about to tangle its feet in plot details (but never quite did).

The cast is awesome across the board; you really cannot go wrong with Gary Oldman. I had actually forgotten that Oldman was in this movie, so when he appeared  I gesticulated wildly at the screen like I had just won Silent Retard Bingo. I’m sayin’ I really dig Gary Oldman, is what I’m sayin’. As an aside, I once read an article where The Fabulous Oldman expressed bemused shock at his sex symbol status because he says he’s looks like a bald chicken naked. Which of course I think of every time I see Gary Oldman, which means every single time I see him, I think of him naked! Well played, Oldman.

Naked chicken or not, he never phones it in – Gary Oldman is still in fine form. Denzel Washington has fallen out of my favor in recent years, and he can have a tendency to either exist onscreen in body but not in mind or chew the scenery, but here he’s restrained and thoughtful. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit, but he seems to resist the urge to over-emotionalize his character or impart too much depth or gravitas (which would push the entire story firmly into hokey territory). There are aspects of Eli that I initially found faintly unbelievable, but in some subtle way the movie eventually addressed each one to my satisfaction. Mila Kunis is a tiny, beautiful creature that is somehow inhabited by a loud, adorably awkward yet relaxed 8th grader. She does very well here until the denouement – she just isn’t quite able to carry off the dynamic changes her character makes, although that isn’t until the very last minutes of the movie so I’ll give her a pass. The cameos are unexpectedly delicious – Tom Waits, Jennifer Beals, Michael Gambon, and Frances De La Tour  all pop in for terrific character bits.

The climax involves a twist, which I do love if it’s done well and I don’t see it coming, and this one is quite successful. I enjoy that moment in a movie, after the twist is revealed, where you mentally rewind the movie and play it back at high speed to check for inconsistencies – if you don’t immediately find any in your split-second review, it’s such a satisfying feeling!

All told, I very much enjoyed this movie, but have to say it isn’t very accessible to people who aren’t already hooked on the genre. I expect a certain tone and approach to characters when I see someone shoot a housecat for food with a crossbow while wearing a gasmask in a burned-out landscape, and that’s a positive association for me that I realize the average movie-goer may not have.

*by the way, totally not kidding about the housecat and the crossbow. What the fuck? That whole scene is just so ridiculous and self-consciously arty, most of all because it’s a hairless cat, which ignited my pedantic inner 4th-grader (hairless cats would be the first to go! they have allergies and retain their body heat poorly! not to mention being expensive and therefore pampered cats that I strongly believe would have little in the way of outdoor survival or hunting skills).