Midnight Movie Review – G.I. Joe: Retaliation

I write this with a heavy heart: the new G.I. JOE movie sucks.GIJoe2

I went to see the midnight showing (that was actually at 9pm. Remember when you used to have to wait until midnight for a midnight showing of a movie on opening weekend?).

I am pretty much biting my tongue completely off not to give away the hugest of all spoilers in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Although to be honest, I wish someone would’ve just told me. I think I could’ve relaxed and enjoyed the movie a bit more.  But probably not much more.

So what’s wrong with the movie exactly? Take your pick: it’s disjointGIJoeTheRocked, bland, and tension-less – just kind of big and dumb.  Will my 9- and 10-year-old sons like it? Oh heck yeah. After all, there are lots of fight scenes and raining ninjas and blowing shit up. (I give it a very soft PG-13, for any parents who might be wondering – it really could’ve almost gone PG)

GIJoeLadyJaye

Palicki’s Lady Jaye

But I was hoping for more…something.  More anything but absurd action. After all, these characters are pretty holy to me – I grew up on G.I. Joe. In South Florida, running around as the only girl in a neighborhood of boys, we played G.I. Joe all the time. I was Lady Jaye.  I know these characters and love them, but the film? Not so much.

There were some good things about the movie. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson brought his normal charming blend of charisma and swagger as Roadblock. Bruce Willis is gleeful as the original General Joe.  Channing Tatum and D.J. Cotrona are both hot (although Cotrona’s Flint left me pretty cold). Adrianne Palicki played my namesake Lady Jaye with as much flair as could be mustered for a pretty one-dimensional role.GIJoeSnakeEyes

And Snake Eyes? Well, he’s still the most bad-ass mother fucker on the planet, isn’t he? And without ever saying a word. Ray Parks communicates all he needs to by leaving a string of dead and unconscious bodies in his wake.

GIJoeRZA

Would’ve been better off using this doll

The bad stuff I’ve pretty much already pointed out. But I would be neglect in my duty if I didn’t mention the mind-numbingly awful performance of RZA from Wu-Tang. He makes an appearance as the “Blind Master” about half way through the film and single-handedly kills all the momentum in the movie. Seriously. Screeching halt.

Not that it had a great deal of true momentum to begin with, but whatever it had was gone by the time RZA finished with his scene.

True Joe fans will be disappointed by this film. They can’t help but be. Non-Joe fans may not care as much. As a silly action movie, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is not really too bad. But not really too good either.

Now you know.  And knowing is…well, you know.

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Sunday Showdown: AFI vs IMDb #82

It’s the Sunday Showdown: continuing my comparison of the American Film Institute’s and Internet Movie Database’s Top 100 films.

This week, #82: Amadeus vs. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans.

amadeusAmadeus. Hmmm… What is there to say about the film telling the life story of Mozart? For the original 1998 AFI list, Amadeus was #53. But Amadeus was one of the 23 films that completely dropped off when the AFI list was updated in 2008.  (Of those 23, only Amadeus and The Third Man are on the IMDb list.)  I’m not surprised it dropped off. It’s really one of those films that the story is great, but the movie is only good. I liked it as a period piece, but for me it still had that 1980s feel to it for some reason.

sunrise

Sunrise — impressive techniques

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans has been called the Citizen Kane of silent films.  I can see why. For a film made in 1927 it had some pretty groundbreaking cinematography.  It was directed by the German Expressionist director F.W. Murnau, but filmed in America (therefore eligible to be on the AFI list – no foreign films for that list).  It won an Oscar for “Unique Artistic Presentation” at the first ever Academy Awards.

I had no difficulty choosing Sunrise over Amadeus.  I think IMDb should take a hint from the AFI list and get rid of Amadeus completely. It’s not a top 100 film.

So the score: AFI – 13, IMDb – 6.

Next week Spartacus (More Kubrick!?!) vs. All About Eve.  Never seen either. Not really looking forward to the three hour Spartacus epic. Four of my last six movies have been 3+ hours in length.  And Easy Rider, which was only an hour and a half, but felt like three hours.

Midnight Movie Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

John McClane: You got a plan?
Jack McClane: Not really. I kinda thought we would just wing it. You know: running in guns blazing. Make it up as we go…

Evidently that was director John Moore’s plan too for this newest installment of the Die Hard films: Live Free or… no wait, that was the 3rd one. Or maybe the 4th.  This one is called Die Hard With a… no, that was the 4th one.

DieHard5-JaiCourtney

Jai Courtney as McClane Jr.

Whatever. Die Hard 5. (The one that doesn’t have any Germans, Samuel L. Jackson or the Apple Guy.)

I saw it tonight at the midnight showing. It’s pretty terrible. (Not sure if I should’ve offered a spoiler alert for that statement or not). To be a better film, about 35 minutes of the fluff that permeates the movie needed to be cut. Unfortunately it only has a total run time of 1:38, so I guess fluff was the only option.

It’s really kind of a perfect mixed-drink recipe of badness. You’ve got:

1) A setting in Russia

2) A father/son dynamic

3) A Die Hard franchise.

So take EVERY SINGLE cliché you can think of from each of those ingredients and blend it up. I’ll help you:

Russia: confusing characters (wait, which middle-aged bearded guy is that again?), a singing cab driver who LOVES New York, a bad guy who desperately wants to be fashionable, an obnoxious American who gets mad because the person yelling at him in Russian doesn’t speak English, and… Chernobyl

A father/son dynamic:  Moment of clarity for the son: “Wait, my dad is a generally awesome guy? How did I not see that in my 25 years of fighting with him?” (cut to slow motion scene of saving each other’s lives).  “Let’s go kill some scumbags, son.”

Die Hard elements: Blow up as much shit as possible. Have ridiculously long car chase scenes and drive cars off every fucking bridge in the entire country. Blow more shit up. Push bad guy off top of building.

So you mix up all that above goodness, throw in 7-8 shots of BacDieHard5ardi 151, and there you have it: A Pineapple Fuck-Me-Up

AKA: A Good Day to Die Hard.

Bottom line: The son (Jai Courtney) is pretty good, and there are a couple of almost-clever nods to the other films in the franchise (including Bruce’s yippee ki-yay), but overall it’s not worth the time or money. Wait for it to come out on video. The explosions won’t be so big and loud, but you’ve already seen them in Die Hard 1-4 anyway.  If you must go watch it, be sure to do your own shots of Bacardi ahead of time.

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs IMDb #83

It’s the Sunday Showdown: continuing my comparison of the American Film Institute’s and Internet Movie Database’s Top 100 films.  #83: Titanic vs. Once Upon A Time in America

once-upon-a-time-in-americaFitting that these two were up against each other seeing as they are both the longest movies EVER. I didn’t really enjoy Once Upon A Time In America, but I made it through. Barely.  That phone ringing… I thought I might have to shoot my television (if you’ve ever seen it, you know what I mean).  I definitely enjoyed Titanic much more.  Although, [spoiler alert] the ship sinks.

So, at this point, AFI is still winning 12 to 6.

#83

Titanic (1997) Once Upon A Time in America (1984)
#84 Easy Rider (1969) The Green Mile (1999)
#85 A Night at the Opera (1935) Full Metal Jacket (1987)
#86 Platoon (1986) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
#87 12 Angry Men (1957) Inglorious Basterds (2009)
#88 Bringing Up Baby (1938) The Great Dictator (1940)
#89 Sixth Sense (1999) Braveheart (1995)
#90 Swing Time (1936) The Bicycle Thief (1948)
#91 Sophie’s Choice (1982) The Apartment (1960)
#92 Up (2009) Goodfellas (1990)
#93 The French Connection (1971) Downfall (2004)
#94 Pulp Fiction (1994) Gran Torino (2008)
#95 The Last Picture Show (1971) Metropolis (1927)
#96 Do The Right Thing (1989) The Sting (1973)
#97 Blade Runner (1982) Gladiator (2000)
#98 Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) The Maltese Falcon (1941)
#99 Toy Story (1995) Unforgiven (1992)
#100 Ben Hur (1959) The Elephant Man (1980)

Next week, Murnau’s silent classic Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (AFI) and Amadeus (IMDb). I haven’t seen the first and don’t remember the second well, so I’m looking forward to both.

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs IMDb #84

The Sunday Showdown: The American Film Institute’s Top 100 vs. the Internet Movie Database’s Top 100.

This week: #84: Easy Rider (AFI) vs. The Green Mile (IMDb)

easyriderIt’s difficult for me to express how much I disliked the film Easy Rider. I can sit back and objectively say I understand why it’s in the National Film Registry. It captured an era in our history. A ridiculous, drug-using, free-loving hippie era, but an era nonetheless.  Unfortunately, I have little patience for drug-using, hippie films that insinuate everyone else are unenlightened bigots because they’re not riding across America on motorcycles with long hair.  Not to mention the movie was formulaic and preachy, and at a couple points just plain ridiculous.

Written by Peter Honda and Dennis Hopper. Directed by Hopper. Produced by Honda. Starring Honda and Hopper. Hmmmm. Perhaps less nepotism in this little family would’ve produced a film better than random glad-to-meet-ya scenes punctugreen_mileated by music videos.

So although I didn’t think The Green Mile necessarily deserves to be in the Top 100 (along with a few others on the IMDb list including [sorry A2] Back to the Future and The Prestige), it still wins it for me.

So at this point AFI is still winning 11 to 6. Can it be that I really do agree with the scholars over the masses?

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs IMDb #86

The slightly late Sunday Showdown – comparing AFI’s with IMDb’s Top 100. This week #86: AFI’s Platoon vs. IMDb’s 200l: A Space Odyssey

I can keep this pretty short. I’d seen Platoon before. I’m not a big fan of Ollie Stone. Too rough around the edges for me. But at least it is a complete story, unlike anything Kubrick I’ve seen so far. Plus, the lead singer guy from In Living Color was in Platoon. Plus+, it offers one of the most iconic film images from the 80s, if not all time.

2001:A Space Odyssey.  Sigh. I know I am supposed to like this movie, but I really don’t. I will give you that it had some special effects pretty advanced for its time (1968). And it influenced some of those whom I highly respect (Spielberg, Lucas, Scott).  But that’s pretty much all I’ll give you.

The movie is boring, and without the use of psychedelic drugs, almost impossible to get through. Much less take seriously.  Unfortunately I think Kubrick is the reason why so many “normal” people say they aren’t science-fiction fans. They saw 2001, said “WTH?” and never tried another sci-fi movie again. My mother is one of those people.

(But, as an aside, if you have a newer iPhone, ask Siri to “open the pod bay doors.”  She’ll harass you, but it’s fun.)

So my pick for this week is Platoon. Never thought I would pick a war movie over a sci-fi. 2001: A Space Odyssey shows back up as #15 (#15?! Oh, for heaven’s sake) on the AFI list. It’s against Goodfellas.  I like Goodfellas, but it definitely would not be my #15. Of course, neither would 2001.

So the score: AFI – 11; IMDb – 4

Next week: AFI’s A Night at the Opera (Marx Brothers) vs. IMDb’s Full Metal Jacket (basically Platoon from Kubrick’s POV).   Haven’t seen either.  Can’t see how this is possibly going to be an easy match-up.

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs IMDb #87

Continuing my weekly battle between the American Film Institute (the scholars) and the Internet Movie Database (the masses). This week:

#87: 12 Angry Men(AFI) vs Inglourious Basterds (IMDb)

Quinton Tarantino – Such a Basterd

The one thing I love about Inglourious Basterds is Brad Pitt’s pronunciation of Nazis: Nat-zees.  Really this film was more of a social experiment than anything else: is the highly-graphic, utterly-gratuitous Tarantino-esque violence more acceptable if it portrayed against the Nat-zees rather than some poor kid named Marvin in the back of a car?

I was pretty okay with it until the David Bowie music video about 2/3 of the way through.  But Tarantino has always been known for his complete disregard for cinematic rules… so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.   You always know what to expect with Q.T.: a spit in the face to all things normal.

Regardless, how do you compare Inglourious Basterds to 12 Angry Men?  Definitely no graphic, gratuitous violence in 12 Angry Men (and seriously, in comparison to Basterds they really don’t seem that angry).   Unfortunately, I’ve used 12 Angry Men too many times as a group dynamics-teaching exercise in my college classes to really see it as an award-winning film any longer.

12 Ang… Zzzzzzzzz…

12 Angry Men shows back up as #8 on the IMDb list – totally unbelievable to me, especially for IMDb. It definitely won’t win as #8. I’m not even going to choose it as #87.  That’s right; this week I’m going with sheer entertainment value over award-winningness. 

Maybe if Henry Fonda could’ve worked the word Nat-zees in there, the results would’ve been different.

So IMDb gets a vote — bringing the overall count to AFI – 10, IMDb – 4. Next week  2001: A Space Odyssey (the movie I love to hate) and Platoon.

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs. IMDb (#96)

Do the Right Thing (AFI) vs. The Sting (IMDb)

If you had asked me a few days ago which of these movies I would choose as this week’s winner, I would’ve told you The Sting, even though I hadn’t even seen it. I had seen Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and knew I didn’t like it.

Let me start with The Sting (1973). I thought it was great. It is just the type of film I like for a nice, relaxing evening with my DVD player: entertaining, well-acted, a few twists to keep you on your toes. Nothing that requires deep thought. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Who doesn’t love a young Robert Redford and Paul Newman?

Now: Do The Right Thing (1989). I saw it back in the early 90s. In all the brilliance of my 19-year-old self, attending a primarily white college in a primarily white portion of North Carolina, with all my first-world country, white-girl problems, I wrote the film off as being dated and irrelevant to anything happening outside of Brooklyn, NY.

As a matter of fact, if you had asked me to describe Do the Right Thing before I re-watched it yesterday, I would’ve said it starred Flavor Flav and was about how all white people were bad.

I was wrong.

Yes, the movie has giant boomboxes and huge jewelry and really bright clothing (although no Flavor Flav). And yes, the movie is about racial tension.

But no, the movie is NOT about black people being right and white people being wrong. The movie is about doing the right thing, but how knowing what is the right thing, is rarely clear.

(As another of my many asides, the most striking part of Do the Right Thing for me personally was the Korean family attempting to persuade the mob that they were “black too” and how the mob finally agrees. As a mother with two Asian children, I wonder what racial groupings my kids will identify with most when they get older, or if they will learn to use racial groupings to their advantage in different situations as the Korean family did in the film…)

So although I wouldn’t say I really enjoyed Do the Right Thing I can definitely say I am glad I watched it again. This film epitomizes why I am going through these movie lists: to force myself to view great films that I would never otherwise watch because I think Flavor Flav is in them.

This week’s winner, because it made me think, is Do the Right Thing. (Although I know at least one of the Double A’s is not going to agree – but who cares). This puts the score at: AFI – 4, IMDb – 1.

Next week: The Last Picture Show (1971) vs. the German Expressionist classic Metropolis (1927). I’m not familiar with The Last Picture Show at all and have never seen Metropolis in its entirety, so should be interesting.

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs. IMDb (#97)

Blade Runner (AFI) vs. Gladiator (IMDb)

Or: Ridley Scott vs. himself.

I appreciate a young Harrison Ford and a robot snake lady in a clear plastic coat being shot in the back and falling – in slow motion – through multiple planes of glass as much as the next person. And I love Sci-Fi, so I always want to like Blade Runner more than I actually do in reality.

Really, Blade Runner is more neo-noir than anything. And like I said last week I find most film noirs to be gorgeously cynical.  Neo-noir is great too, even though there’s no Bogey.

There’s like seven different versions of Blade Runner now– theatrical cut, international cut, director’s cut, final cut, really-we’re-serious-this-time-final final cut, etc. If you’ve got a choice, try to watch one without Harrison Ford’s narration. Blade Runner is considerably better without the Philip Marlowe-esque narration attempt, but no matter what, the story line is a bit thin and pacing is a bit slow. But you can’t beat it in terms of atmosphere. And Harrison Ford’s fingers being broken one by one… priceless.

Gladiator, on the other hand, was just plain painful for me. It started sad and violent and ended sad and violent. Fortunately, the middle was filled with sadness and violence to break it up. Sigh.  Really, these are my least favorite kinds of films, no matter how well-acted, well-written, or well-produced.  Or how buff Russell Crowe looked:

Both movies were directed by Ridley Scott, and both have their own merits. My pick for this week, though, is Blade Runner, due to its cultural influence and cult favorite status, more than plot or story.

So after Week 4, score is AFI – 3, IMDb – 1.

 

Completely Untimely Reviews: The Amazing Spider-Man

Looking for a review of a movie that’s been out for weeks? You’ve come to the right place. I’d warn you that there are spoilers ahead; but it’s been a while. You’ve been spoiled already.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” is not the reboot we want; but the one we deserve. That is, if you’re anything like me and sat down in front of “Spider-Man 3” thinking “Hey, it can’t be nearly as bad as I remember.” Only to find yourself, hours later, staring slack-jawed as Peter struts down the street, channeling Disco Duck and West Side Story to prove that he’s the “bad boy” now. Or if you found yourself throwing things at the screen as Pete and MJ take a solid 5 minutes to stare at each other longingly as Harry Osborn bleeds out in between them, while medical care mills about literally 30 seconds away. “Spider-Man 3” was the shuddering, broken stepchild of the Rami trilogy, where the solid character development of the first two movies was dropped, replaced by one last premature load in which every plotline imaginable was shoehorned.

Thankfully, Rami never got to capitalize on Doc Conners (introduced as a recurring character in the first two movies); leaving the door wide-open for what’s possibly the best modern retelling of the Spider-Man mythos.

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