Marter's Reviews

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Feb 07, 2013 9:40 pm

Side Effects
By the time it finishes explaining itself to the audience, I was a touch tired of Side Effects. Once the mystery was gone, there was nothing to keep me transfixed on the screen. At this point in the film, the characters should be intriguing enough to fulfill this role, and I suppose it's because they're so lacking -- either because they lie the entire movie or there's nothing to them -- that Side Effects can't be given anything more than a halfhearted recommendation.

Perhaps this is why the trailers have tried so hard to keep the plot of the film from us. Once we're aware of the type of movie that Side Effects is, certain conclusions arrive in our minds before the film has the chance to dazzle. I mean, I was fully prepared for a movie about pharmaceutical medications that caused something traumatic to happen to a woman, Emily (Rooney Mara), that were prescribed by a doctor (Jude Law) with something to hide, or maybe under false pretenses. That's all the trailers have given away, and it's for this reason that Side Effects actually looks like it's worth seeing.

Here's the real film: Emily suffers from depression. One of the earliest scenes has her drive her car into a wall, although she's left only with a concussion and an order to start seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Banks (Law). She takes the drugs he gives her, which have certain effects on her. It causes sleepwalking, for one, and that leads to her stabbing and killing her recently-released-from-prison husband (Channing Tatum). The rest of the film deals with Dr. Banks attempting to figure out just what caused the stabbing; whether it was simply the drugs or if something else is behind it.

What I'm trying to get across is that Side Effects is a vastly different movie than what's being advertised. Oh, it's a thriller, and there are twists and turns, but it's not a mystery and the drugs only play a role early on, and as a MacGuffin. It's much more a film about people and they way they double-cross one another than it is about anything related to the field of medicine.

You'll guess one of these twists from a mile away, although the way it reveals itself to us is effective. Another big turn in the story is less obvious, although once it gets explained to us, it loses its edge. While it's hinted at for quite a while, the reveal comes with an explanation of the entire course of events that have taken place thus far, and it was just kind of boring. There's no subtlety or complexity; the film just says "Okay, here's how it all worked," and then lets the characters deal with that revelation.

Admittedly, it was nice to see that our hero, Banks -- and there's a hint regarding what the motivation for most of the film is -- has slightly more to him than just being a Mary Sue, but he's the only one in the entire film like that. Everyone else is either lying to us the entire time, or has nothing beyond the surface. Banks is our lead, I get that, but without that depth to everyone else the true course of events feels contrived. I don't blame anyone for throwing their hands up in the air at the end and screaming "I give up." It's that kind of movie.

This also hurts it on rewatches. Instead of looking for things you missed before, you'll be thinking about how stupid the whole enterprise is now that you've been given the benefit of knowing how it actually played out. Sure, it's moderately thrilling the first time you go through, but it's silly in retrospect. I suppose it might be fun to see if everything holds up -- if characters and their motivations in specific scenes "work," so to speak -- but I don't know if I'd want to bother.

Side Effects is, as far as we know, director Steven Soderbergh's swan song to the art of theatrical releases. He has a television movie coming out later this year, but he plans to retire from filmmaking, or at least go on a long hiatus, after Side Effects' release. Perhaps that's for the best. This is still a good movie, as are most by him, but this seems like a very easy and effortless production, one that could have been done by anyone and this is still the result we'll get. Nothing about this film needed a director like Steven Soderbergh. I hope he comes back after taking the time off he wants and does something challenging.

That's really the thing. Side Effects is still a good film in the moment. It works fine as a thriller -- as you initially watch it, anyway -- it has some good acting, and it is shot in a way that will always keep your attention. Deep focus is barely used in this film, which is rare nowadays. It creates a focus on the actors and their performances. That's fine. Now if the characters themselves were worth more we might have ourselves a movie you should definitely see.

Side Effects is fine if you want a passable thriller that you'll forget about the next day. That's about all it equates to. Just don't go in thinking that the trailers are a solid representation of the finished product, because they are very deceptive. It has good actors, a twisty -- but kind of stupid -- plot, and a good director who might just need a creative hiatus.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:56 pm

The Big Bang
A film with the title of "The Big Bang" has to include some references to physics, right? That has to be a rule. And if it isn't, The Big Bang certainly wants to make it one. There are so many references that you might get the impression that the film is smarter than it really is. If you're overwhelmed by terms you might not be familiar with, you might start to appreciate the film simply because you don't understand what it's talking about. Truthfully, it is kind of an intelligent neo-noir, but not because of its references to science.

It's smart because of its plot, which has enough turns to always keep you guessing, and because of its lead character, Ned (Antonio Banderas), who has a smart mouth. He begins the film as a captive man, held that way by three detectives, Poley (William Fichtner), Skeres (Delroy Lindo) and Frizer (Thomas Kretschmann). They're interrogating him, believing he knows something about something, and are determined to find out both somethings. He then begins the tale of how he, a private investigator, set out on a quest to find a woman, and what he'd find as he got closer to his goal.

Mostly what he finds are some cameos by semi-recognizable actors/entertainers. Snoop Dogg plays a porn director who gets one scene of dialogue, and one scene of hanging dead from a ceiling. James Van Der Beek gets one scene before he also exits. Sam Elliot, Autumn Reeser, Seinna Guillory and the three detectives all get a bit more screen time, but they're hardly leads. It's Banderas' flick from start to finish, and everyone else is just along for the ride.

Part of the problem that comes from this narration style is that we know Ned has to be alive in order for him to tell us the story. He can't die early on, or even be gravely injured, because it means that he can't be captured by these detectives and forced to tell us the bulk of the plot. It removes a lot of tension from a few of the scenes, although his snarky retorts to everyone at all times also does that, so I suppose it's not big loss.

I actually quite liked Ned as a character, and not only because he was being played by Antonio Banderas. He's a suave man who knows exactly how much he can get away with in any situation. His wisecracking is about half of the reason I enjoyed The Big Bang at all. I associate well with this type of person, and making him the lead made me happy. The sarcasm drips from his mouth, ready to strike at any given instant, and it's so enjoyable to listen to him taunt everyone around him, even when not in a position to do so.

One could probably make the argument that he's an unreliable narrator, and that he didn't actually say these things to these people at the time. I don't buy that, however, as he says the same sort of things to the detectives, too, and still somehow manages to get away with it. "Diamonds," he tells them. "If you kill me, you'll never learn about the diamonds." That is his safety word, and he clings to it like a monkey to a tree: Loosely and inconsistently, often swinging away from his safety net in pursuit of higher, better ones. That simile didn't work at all, now did it?

The second half of why The Big Bang didn't feel like a waste of my time was the plot, which introduced a lot of cameos that I found fun, and also had a couple of twists in the story which were enjoyable. I wasn't putting in a lot of brainpower while watching this, admittedly, but I was surprised once or twice by the plot. And, yes, seeing Snoop Dogg and Sam Elliot appear did make me giggle, especially the latter, who plays a billionaire trying to create the God Particle.

I'm not sure The Big Bang is entirely successful, as it does a lot of meandering and appears to be building up to something more than it does, but I still had a good time. I suppose, in this day and age, I'm partial to any film trying to resurrect the film noir of old, even if it doesn't do a great job. It's not as thrilling and doesn't boast the same sense of mystery and intrigue that one would hope for. But is it kind of clever and enjoyable? Sure, I think so.

I've heard from more than one person that Banderas' dialogue was difficult to understand at times. I didn't have much of a problem with it, to be honest, although he does have a fairly heavy accent and does mumble at times. You shouldn't have any trouble understanding the plot anyway, so you don't need to hear every word that Banderas says. All you really need are the sarcastic retorts that he throws left and right. And those come through clear as day.

The Big Bang is an enjoyable neo-noir that doesn't take itself too seriously, throws a couple of plot twists your way, and has a few cameos that you'll definitely appreciate, assuming you're a fan of C-list actors. It's really quite a funny film, in large part to Banderas' character's constant sarcasm in situations which do not require it. It has a bunch of physics references that some audience members will appreciate -- while others will pick them apart and say "that's not how it really works." It meanders a touch, but overall, I had some fun with it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by GrinningManiac on Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:55 pm

Review Film/Movie 43

Worst thing ever apparently

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:43 pm

NONONONONO!

Actually, I'll probably see it once it hits DVD, but I'm not going to the theater for that.
...
Mostly because it's already gone from the closest theater, so I'd have to travel about an hour one-way to see it.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:47 pm

Mr. Wiggles wrote:
Xandy wrote:
Xandy wrote:Review Foodfight.

Also review Singham.

Also review The Shinjuku Incident.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:02 pm

No to all of those because of reasons.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:40 pm

Cameron

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:47 pm

In Time
In Time begins with a very intriguing premise, taking the "time is money" idiom as literally as possible. In this futuristic society, humans have been genetically engineered to stop aging at 25. However, a timer begins after that point, only starting at a year. If the timer runs out, the person will die. In order to restock the timer, you must work or be gifted more time. Everything that costs money nowadays costs time. A cup of coffee costs four minutes, for example.

How does that not set up a fun movie viewing experience? It's got to be hard to not at least make a semi-interesting and enjoyable film with that premise, and for the first half of In Time, I thought this was going to be a very fascinating film. At this point, we see a worker in the slums, Will (Justin Timberlake), living day to day. He works at the factory, and at the end of each day is given just enough time to work the next day. A terrible cycle, but that's just how life is for him and his mother (Olivia Wilde). Things change when a man with a century left gifts Will his remaining time, and we then get to see how things are on the rich side of life.

Here's a hint: They're better. Will learns how nobody has to run anywhere, how time is gambled away just because, and things seem to be looking up. He even meets a woman, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), and it seems like life is going to be perfect. However, a Timekeeper -- someone who ensures that nobody steals time and gets away with it -- named Raymond (Cillian Murphy) thinks that Will stole his time, and then In Time becomes a chase movie with Will and Sylvia running away from the Timekeeper.

And Will also decides, despite enjoying the luxuries that having 100 years of time provided, that he wants to become the Robin Hood of a new age and figure out a way to give everyone enough time to survive comfortably -- by taking it from the rich who worked hard to get their time and have done nothing wrong. I couldn't exactly root for Will on his quest, as he wasn't stealing from evil or bad people, even though he easily could have been, had the filmmakers made these people real villains.

Even the Timekeeper isn't a bad guy. He's just doing his job, and there's actually an attempt to make him sympathetic. And Will is only being chased down because he was trying to do the good thing and stop the man who gave him his time from falling off the bridge. The man left himself five minutes, which was just enough to get to the bridge and sit there. Will is the suspect because he got there just In Time for the man to fall, and this was caught on a security camera. I guess the camera didn't pick up the part where the man walked to the bridge and sat there for a couple of minutes before Will got there.

Without someone to root against, I found it hard to root for anyone. Will and Sylvia want to rob the rich and give to the poor, but why? Because Will was raised in a society where people live day to day? Then maybe he should have donated to a charity when he was given 100 years. You know, that might have been easier than robbing banks especially while being chased by a Timekeeper.

Does that seem like a logical character growth to you? He doesn't have time, then he does, then he loses it all, and only then does he decide that everyone should be equal. And in that last part, his life is on the line every time he comes out of hiding to rob a bank or some rich guy. The factory life was good enough for millions of people for many years, the film shows us, so I'm not sure why the urgency is here now.

Oh, the film wants us to believe that inflation is to blame, but if you kill all of the workers with this inflation, then society won't function. And that can't happen for the rich folks who can spend time wildly. I feel as if Will didn't really think this one through, or perhaps director/writer Andew Niccol was thinking more about the "time is money" concept and less about what his characters could do in a society using that concept literally. The story doesn't make a lot of sense and is all over the place as a result.

And even when being chased, I didn't feel the same sense of urgency. In the middle of a chase, it felt, Will and Sylvia could take the time out to rob a bank -- even with the Timekeeper directly on their tail. They're constantly running out of time, and yet they walk to most places, despite finding themselves back in the slum where people constantly run everywhere to save a few minutes. The action scenes aren't that interesting either, few and far between as they are. The premise is about the only fun thing of In Time.

In Time could have been fun, or interesting, but it's not because of what it degenerates into: An almost incomprehensible action film that seems ashamed of the engaging premise it previously established. It doesn't matter that time and money are the same once the action starts, as our characters are robbing banks that might as well contain bills for the function that they serve. The characters and their motivations don't make sense, there's no real villain, and I can't recommend In Time except to say that the first half is quite ingenious and enjoyable, which makes the second half feel like an even bigger waste of time.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Mr. Wiggles on Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:22 pm

Xandy wrote: Cameron

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:18 pm

Detention
Detention is an absolutely insane movie, one that acts like a parody of horror movie satires -- the most prominent of which for most audience members is going to be Scream. Scream is mentioned multiple times by name, and one of the characters within Detention is referred to as a Sidney Prescott parallel. However, this isn't really a horror film; it uses its horror idea as a backdrop for the comedy, drama and craziness of its proceedings.

The lead is a suicidal teenager named Riley Jones (Shanley Caswell), someone either hated or ignored by the rest of her school. She also finds herself the target of a serial killer who dons the costume of one of the slasher series that is in this universe, Cinderhella. She's enamored with a hipster named Clapton Davis (Josh Hutcherson), who himself is in a relationship with Ione Foster (Spencer Locke). These are the three main teenagers of the picture, although there are many more personalities that we'll meet as it progresses. Dane Cook also has a role, playing the principal of the high school, and doing so mostly with a straight face.

To attempt to describe the whole idea of Detention would be futile. It's too insane, contains too many creative ideas, and jumps around too much to even begin to describe. All I know is that by the end of it, everything works within the film's boundaries and by its rules. It might not appear to all work out in the moment, but once the final reveals take place, I'm not sure if I'd be able to find any holes. And considering how weird the whole enterprise is, that's quite the feat.

The basic idea, if you can call it that, is to take a look at the ways relationships develop in teenagers, make fun of those who make fun of horror movies, reference the '90s as often as possible, and throw as many new things at the audience as it can in the 90 minutes for which it plays. Here is a list of things that happen in Detention: A time traveling bear, a woman gives birth to herself, alien lights are seen, a serial killer is on the loose, and there is a movie within a movie within a movie within a movie.

The film has an almost ADD-like attention to the way that its characters interact and how it throws new things at them. They're always going at the speed of sound, and the movie is right there behind them moving at the same speed. It's something that makes fun of both the present and the past, while also having a genuinely thoughtful and charming main story, even if it's just so weird that it's going to be tough for a lot of potential audience members to follow.

The target audience for a film like Detention is very narrow. If you text and tweet your entire life away, you'll probably like Detention. And if you happen to have an affinity for '90s horror, you'll also probably appreciate quite a lot of what Detention has to offer. I had to wonder for a little bit why it was the '90s, but then I thought about the main characters, and how that's their frame of reference. It only makes sense for them to be both nostalgic and critical of this period; they are teenagers, after all.

I really liked Detention. I enjoyed the way that it it's completely weird, how it subverts genre tropes at every turn, the way it never sticks to one thing for too long, never allowing you to be bored. I even appreciated some of the performances, the strongest of which came from Caswell in the lead, while in the opposite direction, Locke had trouble delivering any line with conviction. Even Dane Cook was okay here, reminding us that director Joseph Kahn can get a good performance out of almost anyone.

Some of the film doesn't quite work, but I was easily able to overlook its flaws because so much of it is so enjoyable that it's almost silly to condemn it for the few missteps it makes. Some of the jokes do fall flat, the references to the '90s get a bit tiresome after a while, a few of the characters are poorly developed archetypes -- although that might have been the point -- and the adherence to quick pacing rarely allows for solid character interaction, even though the main characters are well-written and are eventually quite fleshed-out.

The special effects are also lacking, although they're not so bad so as to be a huge detriment. And once you realize that this is an indie film self-financed by Kahn and his crew, and that it was made with only $10 million, you can be a lot more forgiving in that area. Considering how creative the project is, and how much was thrown into it, it's actually quite amazing how far that $10 million was stretched. The fact that so much of this movie does look as good as it does is incredible, and you can easily forgive the shortcomings in some of the special effects.

Detention is a very enjoyable film, at least, if you fit into its target audience. If you're not someone who can process such insane circumstances, a lack of focus, and a bevy of '90s references, then you'll want to stay away from this film. However, if you can, and this sounds like something for you, you're probably going to adore it. If nothing else, it's an ambitious work and I personally found it to be fantastic.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:01 pm

Survival Island
Survival Island (known as Three in some territories) is a film so bad that it makes The Room look mediocre. Not good, as I'm not sure if that's even possible, but mediocre. An average movie. If you've seen The Room, you know how enjoyable it can be in a so-bad-it's-good way. Survival Island, conversely, is so bad, so boring, that it's impossible to enjoy as a film. As an advertisement for Kelly Brook's body, however, it succeeds. Just look at the poster and tell me what drew your eye.

The film begins with a cruise ship, and introduces the three characters we're going to be spending way too much time with. There's a married couple, Jack (Billy Zane) and Jennifer (Brook), and a servant on the boat, Manuel (Juan Pablo Di Pace). The boat catches fire, and before you know it, all three are marooned on an island, with Manuel being the only one who knows what to do. He grew up in places like this, you see, so he knows how to catch and cook fish, what plants you can eat, and so on. And he has his eye on Jennifer, and has since the first time he saw her, although we never find out exactly why.

Survival Island wants to cross the love triangle storyline with a survival movie. It fails in both extents. None of the relationships established within work, and there never felt like there was any danger to being on the island. Why Jennifer married Jack is not explained, as he's an arrogant, self-centered man who cares little for anyone else. Why Manuel falls instantly in love with Jennifer never gets explained. Why Jennifer would cheat on her husband -- who she apparently loves and married despite his flaws -- the moment the chance comes up also never gets revealed.

These happen for the sake of two things. The first is to create artificial tension, so that one of them might take it out on the others. The two men fighting over the woman means that it's possible that some fisticuffs might occur. The second reason is so that we can have sex scenes whenever one of the men goes off to hunt for fish or what have you. Jennifer doesn't seem to care with whom she has sex, just as long as she is showing off her body to the camera.

And then there is the survival story. These characters are trapped on an island, after all, and they have to survive. But after the first couple of minutes, they figure it out and seem to have no trouble whatsoever surviving. The only danger is each other, although even after a big fight, the characters are amiable enough. They're not supposed to be on this island for a vacation, but that's practically what it turns out to be.

So, both elements that Survival Island tries to mash together fail, but I'm sure a decent movie could still be salvageable. It could be, although it isn't here. Apart from Kelly Brook, whose American accent is simply awful and one of many reasons to watch the film on mute, who looks nice but can barely act, I can't think of a single element that works. Maybe Billy Zane hamming it up like he's known to do, but he's absent from the first portion of the island adventure and when he is there he gets few scenes of true fun.

The main problem is that it's all so boring and repetitive that there's nothing to excite you. Characters fight with nothing actually resulting from it, one of them goes off to sulk or hunt, and then the remaining male has sex with Kelly Brook for a couple of seconds before we fade to black and presumably the next day. If that's not exactly what happens each time, it's pretty close, and about the only thing I can remember from the movie.

In The Room, the acting felt forced and unnatural. That's the case here, too, especially on the part of Juan Pablo Di Pace. He seemed as if he was trying way too hard to be dramatic and came across as silly. It was like he was afraid to do anything that might actually be relaxing, so he had a stern and concentrated look on his face the whole time. Why Brook's character would want to hook up with him is also a mystery, but I suppose when it comes to Zane's character or Di Pace's, you can't win either way. Maybe she was just a masochist. That's a better explanation than anything in the movie.

So, yes, the only reason to watch Survival Island is if you want to ogle Kelly Brook for 90 minutes. And you almost couldn't do that, as Zane and Brook tried to get some of her scenes removed from the film, as they didn't feel that it felt the vision they had of the project. The sued, unsuccessfully, and you can therefore watch whatever vision director/writer Stewart Raffill had -- which is to say not much of one. That little bit of trivia is also the most interesting thing about this movie.

Survival Island is a horrible, horrible little movie with production values rivaling The Room. It features little plot, fewer characters, and is a complete waste of time to sit through. There's no tension, no romance, and not even a bit of survival after the first couple of minutes. It has no ambition other than to provide as clear an image as Kelly Brook on a beach as possible, and even that's only tolerable if you mute the pointless and poorly delivered dialogue.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:17 pm

The Family Stone
The Family Stone is a dysfunctional family movie that takes place and culminates over the Christmas holidays. In it, a new member, Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) is introduced to a group of people already on each other's nerves. She acts as a catalyst for all of the mayhem that happens over the next few days, although you'll probably see how she'll alter everyone for the best in the end. For things to get better, they first have to get worse, or at least, that's how the saying goes. It's very true here.

This is an ensemble film, and each of the characters within gets enough time to become an established person. At the head of the household are the eldest, Sybil (Diane Keaton) and her husband, Kelly (Craig T. Nelson). She's the most dominating personality -- the one that everyone is scared of -- while he is far more gentle. They have a few children: Everett (Dermot Mulroney), who is Meredith's boyfriend ; Amy (Rachel McAdams), who has the sole personality trait of hating Everett's girlfriend for no reason; Thad (Tyrone Giordano), a deaf and gay man whose partner (Brian J. White) is also here for the holidays; Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser), a woman who has a child; and Ben (Luke Wilson), a stoner.

Meredith also has a sister, Julie (Claire Danes), who appears in the middle of the film to provide her sister moral support. See, the family starts out hating Meredith for all of her tics and abrasive personality, so she feels the need to have backup to defend her. A clash of families and their values could have been interesting, but that's not what we end up getting. Many different subplots play out, but very little of the tension in early scenes actually matters after they begin.

The best thing that I can say about The Family Stone is that all of the characters feel quite real, having both positives and negatives making them appear that way. They're all clichés and stereotypes, but they almost overcome these because of how well they're portrayed. I say "almost" because I couldn't get past the feeling that I've seen them all before in multiple films over the years.

There's no emotional involvement on the part of the audience. The film seemed so self-contained that there's no point trying to feel involved in the proceedings. You can see how it's all going to go from the outset, and with that predictability, there's no point in feeling for these characters. They're all likable and worth of sympathy -- even Meredith, who is portrayed as the villain for the first act -- but you know their fates before you start to care, and after that, it's really difficult for the film to make you feel anything.

That's essential in a film like this one. It's nothing groundbreaking and even without comparing it to similar films, it's not terribly good. You need that emotional investment in its characters so that you don't start looking for flaws or at your watch, and I found myself doing both for most of its running time. It's fine, I suppose, but if you're looking for a movie rich in depth, you'll want to look elsewhere. This is mostly fluff.

Essentially, it's a harmless Christmastime movie about a family that needs to learn how to get along with other people. If it'll teach you a little lesson, then I'm sure it'll be quite pleased with itself. If it makes you laugh a bit, well, that's a bonus. I don't think it'll make you feel any emotion, but maybe you haven't seen this type of movie before, and maybe you'll become invested in one of these people. They use broad strokes to paint them in order to relate to as many people as possible, after all.

I'll admit, The Family Stone made me laugh a couple of times. Most of these come from when Meredith tries to endear herself to the family, fails, and then stumbles upon her own words, grinding herself into the ground until she finally gives up. A game of charades is about the most memorable part for me, if only because of the reactions from the actors as they go through the scene. It's quite funny, and I can only imagine how much fun they all had while filming it -- and most of the movie, for that matter; there isn't a lot of negativity throughout.

The actors, for the most part, sell their characters. There isn't a whole lot of depth to most of the performances, with the only really great ones being turned in by Keaton and Nelson. But I believed all of the actors in their roles, and there's enough complexity to their performances to lend that extra bit of credibility to their characters. I liked watching most of the people in the film -- save for Mulroney, who was simply bland -- and if they would have been doing something interesting, I would have liked the film a lot more.

The Family Stone is a harmless Christmas movie, but takes no risks and is so predictable that it hampers the ability for the film to make the audience care. I was bored by what happened for most of the middle, and I couldn't bring myself to care about any of it. The cast members are strong and I would have liked to see them doing something more worthwhile with their time. It might make you laugh a bit and it might teach you a small lesson, but it's not worth the time it takes to do both of those things.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:08 pm

And Soon the Darkness
And Soon the Darkness, the most generic thriller you can probably think of, has an attractive enough cast to make it watchable. No, it's not good, and you'll know exactly where it's going at every turn, but it's middle-of-the-road enough to not be a complete waste of time. And, if nothing else, it'll give you a new example of what to use when someone asks you what is the most formulaic thriller you've ever seen. You can answer "And Soon the Darkness" and everyone should understand -- except nobody really saw this one (did it even get a theatrical release?), and might mistake you for calling out the original British thriller of the same name.

The differences between this one and the one from the '70s are very slight. In that one, two British girls are trapped in France, while in this one, two American girls are stranded in Argentina. One of them eventually gets captured, and the other has to look for her, suspecting everyone possible in the process. There's a love-interest/suspect (here played by Karl Urban), an uninterested police force, and some creepy villagers. Everything you need in a thriller, I suppose.

The only part missing is actual thrills, or something resembling suspense. The search for the captured girl isn't handled with any sense of urgency, the suspects are as predictable as they come -- you should figure out who is behind the capture as soon as you see the character appear on-screen -- and none of the attempted jolts work as planned. Beat for beat, this could be a remake of forty other movies, not just some semi-obscure British flick from 1970.

The girls are cardboard cutouts that you have seen before. Odette Yustman plays the "out there" one -- the character who would rather party than study -- while Amber Heard plays the serious, uptight, responsible one. Yustman is the one who gets captured, not that it matters as they have about as little personality as possible, and Heard goes and searches for her. That's the extent of the plot, save for finding out who is behind it and dealing with that person after the big reveal.

I found myself liking one thing about And Soon the Darkness: It doesn't care about letting characters survive. As soon as one has fulfilled its purpose, a trigger will be pulled and he or she will be removed from the picture with a bullet. This isn't one of those movies where you know everyone will make it through to the end, and once you realize that, the stakes seem a little bit higher. "These people could actually die," you think, before realizing that because you've seen this story many times before, you know how it'll end anyway.

And Soon the Darkness is rated R. For the life of me, I can't figure out why. It's not violent, it's not scary, there's no nudity, and the language adheres to the MPAA's standards of not saying the F-word more than three times -- I counted two, for the record. Yes, I was paying more attention to the content from the side of its rating than I was paying attention to the story or characters, or even just getting scared. I couldn't feel less for a movie like this one.

Another thing that And Soon the Darkness has going for it is the lush environment in which the filming took place. Argentina has to be desirable -- otherwise, why would these characters leave their biking troupe in order to go exploring on their own? As such, it has to be presented beautifully to us. The cinematography is gorgeous, and if you're here just for sightseeing, you might have more fun than if you want a thrilling experience. There are waterfalls, jungles and quaint little towns that you get to view; you don't need to go biking in the country yourself after this.

Looking back, some of the things that happen in the film don't make sense. After Yustman disappears, Heard and Urban come to where she was last seen. Blood comes into Urban's view, but he says nothing. Why? Because that makes him feel more like a suspect -- even though he rarely appears that way afterward and after the reveal, you'll realize that he had no reason to act this way. And it didn't even have an effect on the plot; Heard is still convinced that her friend was kidnapped and that is how it has to be.

I called the cast attractive in the opening paragraph. I stand by that. Talented? I'm not so certain, at least, not based on this film. Granted, they're given nothing much to do, but considering it's Heard's performance that has to carry most of the weight, and since it doesn't stand up, I was disappointed. Based on this film, she shouldn't be in movies. Neither should Yustman or Urban, to be honest, although an unseen-by-most-people film like this one isn't going to matter to many people.

And Soon the Darkness isn't a terrible thriller, but it's as generic and formulaic as they come, and I can't recommend it for any reason other than to sight-see parts of Argentina or the cast. The thriller aspects don't work, there's no attempt at believable drama, and there's nothing much of value to be had. Even if you're a fan of these actors, they've been in better movies that just might not bore you to tears.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:35 pm

Robocop
The best part about RoboCop is the way that it stays unpredictable throughout its running time. When a scene starts, you're not exactly sure how it's going to go. Lots of the time, you'll laugh because of how absurd it is. The main plot, which is interspersed with "commercials" and news broadcasts, is clearly intended to be satirical and funny. The over-the-top violence is exactly the same in that regard. How many movies contain a commercial for a new board game called "Nukem," in which families play different countries just waiting to blow up their opponents?

This one does. That might have been the funniest part of the film, making me laugh and cover my mouth from the embarrassment caused by laughing at something like that. I think that was the intention of director Paul Verhoeven. At least, I hope it was. If it wasn't, it was effective in doing something that most movies don't do: It made me feel more than one thing at a single time. There are more scenes like that in the film, and if something happens more than three times, it's unlikely to be a fluke, so I'm going to keep with the assumption that it was intentional.

RoboCop begins by putting two cops together, although this isn't going to be a buddy cop picture. The male, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), has just transferred divisions, while the female, Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), is a veteran. They bond quickly, but on their first mission together -- in which backup was going to arrive in an estimated twenty minutes which would have taken too long -- Murphy is killed and Lewis is injured. He, our main character, ends up having his brain implanted in a robot's body, thus becoming "RoboCop."

His memories were supposed to be erased, but he gets random flashbacks from time to time. And while he has objectives that he has to accomplish, he seems to have a bit of free will. Is he human, or is he a robot? That's the main question, which will get an answer by the end. You'll probably be able to figure it out pretty early on, considering we see a lot of the film from his perspective, but at least the question is proposed.

The bad guys: Clarence (Kurtwood Smith), the man who killed Murphy; and Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), the man who hired Clarence and who wants to become the CEO of the company that created RoboCop. He proposed a similar concept in a board meeting earlier on, but his malfunctioned and didn't have any human element to it at all. And by "malfunctioned," I mean it put bullets into the body of a board member who was being used for demonstration purposes. Lots of bullets. Again, the black comedy shines through.

There is a lot of shooting in the film, with bullets flying everywhere. RoboCop is given a large gun with precise accuracy -- he is, after all, supposed to be the best cop to ever live, expected to clean up the Detroit streets almost single-handedly -- and he uses that opportunity whenever he gets the chance. People shoot at him instantly, and he shoots back just as fast. That is how most of the encounters with the street level thugs play out.

Problematically, RoboCop can't be killed by these people, making the film seem far more like a revenge fantasy than a genuine thriller. He is bulletproof, or at least, seems to be considering his entire body is covered in armor that doesn't let bullets through, and all of these situations make for a lack of tension because of this. Even when he goes up against Clarence for the first time, he easily beats him now that he's mostly robot. It's only when the bigger guns get involved that we actually begin to think that RoboCop could be in danger.

In that respect, RoboCop feels a lot more human than Alex Murphy ever did. We rarely get to see more than the bottom half of RoboCop's face, which, as I'm sure Peter Weller would tell you, makes it very hard to turn in a good performance. You can't use your eyes, and in this case, he can't even use his voice because it's been turned as monotone as possible in order to make him sound robotic. But Weller pulls through, somehow making us care about this robot, making him feel like a real human being.

Nancy Allen tries to make her Anne a pivotal performance, but is given so little to work with. She's relegated to cheerleading and a definite backup role. RoboCop is who you're here to see, so RoboCop is what you're going to get. Except he's immobile, monotonic, and not a terribly exciting character. Having a female lead -- teased to be a romantic interest here but nothing ever came of that -- might have improved matters. She could die from one bullet, instead of taking hundreds like RoboCop can.

RoboCop is an enjoyable film, over-the-top in style and comedic/satiric in nature. Its lead isn't particularly interesting at first glance, and doesn't work well for action scenes, but the copious amount of blood and gore, combined with the absurd advertisements that pop up from time to time make for a hilarious and involving watch. You'll get a few questions to answer for yourself by the time it ends -- some of which the film will answer and some which it will not -- and is definitely worth your time to watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:39 pm

RoboCop 2
RoboCop 2 feels a lot like its predecessor, but it's not as enjoyable. Why? I'm still not entirely sure. Perhaps it's because it seems to undo most of the work done in Paul Verhoeven's flick, or maybe because the character of RoboCop seems to have been dropped into a plot that's barely related to the one he was in beforehand. Or because most of the satire is gone. And because RoboCop becomes even more of a boring character here. And there are no relationships established that matter.

But at least it's still funny. That's the one thing that RoboCop 2 does just as well as the first film. The clever advertisements that pop up from time to time -- like one involving sunscreen with an SPF of 5000, because that's necessary now that the ozone layer is gone -- are very enjoyable, and I wonder how many of these were rejected before they made it to the screen. It would be a lot of fun, I think, to see a large reel of all the advertisements that the filmmakers could come up with. That probably would have resulted in a more enjoyable movie, too.

Whatever. This time around, RoboCop (Peter Weller), is dropped into a plot in which there's a drug going around that is the most addictive in history. It's called "nuke," and after taking it once you become reliant on it. One man, Cain (Tom Noonan), who sees himself like a god, distributes it and wants to allow everyone to become addicted to it. He's our villain, and RoboCop has to take him down. In their first encounter, Cain wins because he's prepared, somehow, and then tears all of the limbs from RoboCop's body, rendering him useless.

We know that's not how the film will end. RoboCop ends up getting put back together and strives to take down Cain, and his drug business, and the corrupt business that wants to control the entire city of Detroit. The climactic battle involves RoboCop fighting an upgraded version of himself, a stop-motion creature not unlike the ED 209 of the first film. The battle between it and our hero is akin to a child playing with action figures. It just looks bad.

The over-the-top violence returns with this installment, with even more focus on bullets being shot at ever-increasing numbers -- at things that are impervious to them! Most of the bullets wasted in the film are shot at either RoboCop or version 2.0, both of whom don't care when they're being pelted by the weaponry. That's about all that ever comes out of the action scenes, save for that anti-climax that just made me laugh considering how silly it was. There was also a chase scene, but it was so unmemorable that I almost forgot it existed.

The last part of that final sentence actually sums up the entirety of the experience that is RoboCop 2. It's not so much bad as it is bland, and the only parts that stick out are either very funny, or so silly they made me laugh. I enjoyed a couple of lines of dialogue, and I quite liked those advertisements, but that final battles looked awful, and a couple of other moments made me cringe because of how they played out. Like how there's a foul-mouthed kid (Gabriel Damon), who kills without remorse for ... no reason, so it seems.

The only thing that made RoboCop the first film interesting was the constant toying regarding whether or not he was partially human. By the end, we get our conclusion. At the start of this film, that decision is retconned, and once he's ripped apart and rebuilt, it's all but gone. He goes back to being a cold-blooded killer, not caring whatsoever about his "fellow" man. He becomes a dull character without this -- or without the way he ended up at the end of the original -- and it's hard to feel anything for him in this movie.

Having that emotional attachment made me not care a whole lot about how boring his stiff, robotic body made the action scenes in the first film, but here it's really evident. When you have to take your time to turn, move your arms, and you can't run or move quickly, the action has to rely solely on gunfire -- which can't hurt him, thus removing all possible tension. A little bit of agility has been added this time, as RoboCop rolls out of the way once, but for the most part, he makes for a boring action hero.

All of the depth to the performance that Weller had in the last film is gone here. This time, he's emotionless and empty. There's still the monotone voice, but now even the bottom half of his face doesn't emote. Nancy Allen continues to be a worthless investment of time, as her character is once again given nothing to do of importance. The villains are all bland, and none of them are as memorable as the guys from the first film -- who weren't all that important, either.

RoboCop 2 is a lackluster sequel to a pretty good film. This one is bland and unmemorable, appealing only to people who want to see an uninteresting character go through a storyline that doesn't feel tailor-made for him. The final battle is a joke, most of the film is boring, and if it weren't for the few moments of black comedy that shine through every now and then, I would consider it a total loss. As it is, it's a film that doesn't deserve your time, although it doesn't significantly ruin the titular character like it easily could have done.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Feb 16, 2013 9:42 pm

RoboCop 3
You know how the first two RoboCop films were ultra-violent affairs of varying quality? They both had funny moments, and they both had blood and bullets flying everywhere? Say goodbye to those with RoboCop 3, a film that went for a PG-13 rating. The filmmakers removed any sort of comedy -- whether that was done to keep it family friendly or not is up for debate -- and all of the action has been significantly toned down. So, yes, the kiddies can see this but anyone who saw the first film, and the second one, too, I suppose, will want to give it a miss.

Detroit is still a war zone in RoboCop 3, although the drug from the second film is not to blame. OCP, the evil corporation from both earlier films, is driving people from their homes with their "Rehabilitators" -- people who force people into quarantine zones so that the company can flatten houses and build apartment buildings. It's cleaning up the city in its own way, although it seems immoral to anyone who is actually watching it.

RoboCop (now played by Robery Burke instead of Peter Weller, not that it matters considering you rarely get to see his whole face), is also cleaning up the streets in the way that cops normally try to. His partner, Anne (Nancy Allen reprises her role, for a brief time), is also there, although they're more sympathetic to the rebel forces that are forming. Eventually, and soon enough into the film for it not to be a major spoiler, Anne is killed and RoboCop joins the "good" guys in order to take down the corporation that has caused everyone just so much grief.

From here, you can pretty much see where the film is going to go. The only new element is that OCP has been taken over by a Japanese company, so the villain that will actually challenge RoboCop -- considering bullets and ordinary weapons are grossly inefficient in dealing with him -- is a ninja played by Bruce Locke. Yes, we're at the point in the series when we're having the barely mobile robot getting involved in hand-to-hand combat scenes with a ninja. Oy vey.

How did nobody not think that this would be a bad idea? The first two films had guns and guns and more guns because they at least understood that the hero couldn't participate well in close combat situations. He can't even run; how is he supposed to have a fist fight? You've got to give the film credit for at least trying something different -- and it was no doubt done in an attempt to remove some of the bloody violence to acquire that PG-13 -- but this was simply the wrong way to go about it.

It didn't have to be this way, either. RoboCop actually gets a couple of upgrades this time around -- which I won't spoil -- and it would have been easy to make up a way to make him more mobile. This would have allowed for him to at least hold his own the fight scenes. Instead, we just watch the ninja run around, occasionally hit, do a flip every now and then, while RoboCop does nothing back. It's a stupid, stupid decision to have this as the final major action scene in the movie, and it makes the one from last film look genius in comparison.

The first couple of films had a sense of humor. While the first was far more enjoyable, the second almost matched it in terms of being funny. I can't remember one scene or line from RoboCop 3. The only somewhat dark moment came when a businessman, while talking to his wife, decides to jump out of a building, killing himself. The first or second film might have played it for a laugh; this one does it for shock -- except it's not shocking and it's quickly forgotten by everyone.

I'd like to find a positive in the movie but I just can't. Perhaps saying that Robert Burke reminded me a lot of Peter Weller is a positive? Can we use that? Once the mask is on, it doesn't matter who is behind it. In fact, I'm almost surprised they took it off at all, as it wouldn't have been hard to leave it on for the entirety of the movie. If anything, Peter Weller was smart for not deciding to return for this installment, and I have to wonder if he tried to get his co-stars out as well. Most of them return, so if you like series continuity, at least there's that!

RoboCop continues to be a boring character, although at least we go back to how he ended the first film and have him at least able to emote a little bit. He's decidedly more human than robot in this film, which at least makes him a little likable. But he's wooden, has difficulty being harmed -- although he does get hurt by this one in a way that didn't hurt him in a previous installment, which was weird -- and is just a less mobile, less powerful version of, say, Superman.

All of the freshness that was in the series is gone by this point. RoboCop 3, like a lot of third installments, is the worst in the bunch, and has very few, if any redeeming features. It made me hate the lead character more than I thought I could, even though it returned him to the way he ended the first film. The action and humor have both been toned down, removing exactly what made the first film -- and to a lesser extent, the second, too -- special. Don't give this movie even a second of consideration; it's an all-around dud.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:43 pm

Elsewhere
The best thing I can say about Elsewhere is that it is a competent thriller. The worst thing I can say is that you'll see every turn that its plot takes far in advance. I suppose saying that it still manages to, for the most part, work, despite the formulaic and predictable plot means it's somewhat of an anomaly. I mean, when you are ahead of a movie that needs to keep you guessing, how does the film still be successful?

That's a bit more difficult to answer than you might think. In short, it's that everything else about the film is interesting in one aspect or another. The filmmakers made a sleek, well-paced movie, the actors turned in solid if unspectacular work, and enough creepiness was thrown in to keep your eyes looking. Sure, it's not exactly "thrilling," but it's definitely watchable from start to finish. That's more than you can say for a lot of low-budget, indie thrillers, so I'm going to go ahead and claim this as a victory for the moviegoing public.

Elsewhere's plot involves a young woman, Jillian (Tania Raymonde), disappearing after telling her best friend, Sarah (Anna Kendrick), that she wanted to run away. Jillian is the typical promiscuous girl. She's the one who posts pictures of herself online to attract attention, goes on dates with some of these people, and has very few people to rely on. Of course, the reason for this is that her mother is neglectful and her father isn't around. This will surprise none of you. However, this is the type of person who doesn't get on CNN if she disappears. That's kind of an interesting idea.

I mean, surely many of you -- especially if you live in America -- remember the case of Caylee Anthony. It dominated headlines on some news channels for months. It's because the missing child was an innocent, someone who didn't have a reputation. Someone like Jillian goes missing and nothing is going to be done. The film itself doesn't really do a whole lot with this premise, but it gives you just enough of it to make you think, and make you appreciate that this kind of thing could happen.

Anyway, it's up to Sarah and computer geek Jasper (Chuck Carter) to try to find up where Jillian is, and hopefully bring her home safe and sound. It turns out to be more of a detective movie than you'd initially think, although most of that work is done at a computer screen, as Sarah and Jasper hack into Jillian's website and try to determine who her captor is. Mixed in are a bunch of creepy sequences in which someone does something to scare our two mini-Sherlocks.

Is Elsewhere a terribly scary movie? No, not really. It has a few moments that will make you jump, a couple of images that might make you wonder if you DVD player is messing up on you, and a jump scare or two thrown in for good measure. However, it's not really working on that level. It wants to build atmosphere, and it wants to make you continually question just who is behind -- what we eventually learn to be -- a string of kidnappings. The problem with that is that it's so obvious. By the halfway point, you'll probably have come up with a dozen scenarios that would be more interesting than the obvious one that the film chooses.

Of course, it's entirely possible that this is the route that the filmmakers had to take. They didn't have a lot of time or money, so keeping the plot easy likely was done in an effort to conserve resources. There's a scene at the end that really makes it feel like the money ran out; the villain is explaining what happened to everyone, and all we get are a couple of small flashbacks, meaning entire scenes didn't have to be filmed.

That can be effective, don't get me wrong, as it keeps some mystery to the events that transpired both before and during the film, but I don't think the subtlety was there as a result of trying to do this. When the bad guy flat out says "I'm going to tell you everything now," that ship has kind of sailed, hasn't it? I was hoping that this point would reveal something new, something different, but all it did was frustrate, especially because we get so little of an explanation.

Still, the director moves the film at a quick pace, and save for one "interrogation" scene that felt completely out of place, it maintains a consistent tone and is always watchable. Tania Raymonde is good as the "slutty" girl -- the characters' words, not mine -- Anna Kendrick and Chuck Carter make for effective detectives, and the supporting cast is all fine, too. Some interesting cinematographic choices and filters make a couple of the scenes more interesting than they have any right to be, and I found myself enjoying it more than I likely should have.

Elsewhere is a fine mystery-thriller, at least, once you get past the formulaic and uninteresting plot. It's well-shot, admirably performed, contains effective pacing and maintains a strong tone throughout. Now, if it could have only kept that enthusiasm when crafting our story. It's too predictable to be entrancing, which makes it suffer. Still, I'll take this film over so many wide released thrillers, as this one at least remains watchable throughout its running time.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:57 pm

The Sleeping Dictionary
The Sleeping Dictionary, a mind-numbingly dull romantic flick, should be a lot better than it is. It has a relatively strong cast, particularly in supporting roles, it uses a reliable story arc that many people are familiar with, and it was filmed on-location in Sarawak which allowed it to stretch its $15 million budget further than it would if it was filmed in, say, Vancouver. But it's not terribly good. Not with its characters not reacting in a believable way, the repetition that the story forces upon us, and the overlong running time.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. John (Hugh Dancy), decides to travel to an island nation filled with a bunch of natives whom he wishes to educate. That's what his father did, after all, before his old man was killed in the war. The Iban tribe provides him with a "sleeping dictionary," someone who will provide for him sexually -- his contract doesn't allow him to marry for three years, so this is important -- and will also hope to teach him the language after six months. Jessica Alba is Selima, the woman tasked with doing these things.

They initially don't get along, in large part because John, a good Christian man, refuses to share his bed with her because he's waiting for marriage. But as time grows, his vow to God becomes less important, and soon enough, they're in love with one another. He, an Englishman, and she, an Iban, is forbidden, and if you're thinking Romeo and Juliet, you're not alone. It doesn't get to that point, thankfully, but their love isn't allowed and this causes all sort of problems for the both of them.

In supporting roles are Bob Hoskins and Brenda Blethyn, playing a married couple who stayed in Sarawak after Hoskins' character filled John's role many years ago. They have a daughter, Cecilia (Emily Mortimer), whom they try to get to marry John, even though he loves Selima. It would make more sense, they think, considering she's also from England and it wouldn't be immoral or something. Keep in mind that this was the 1930s, so cross-culture relationships were weird and therefore wrong.

What doesn't work are many of the different ways in which characters react during the course of the film. I get that they're acting out of what's appropriate at the time, but it didn't make a lot of sense to me. John takes to the natives way too quickly, even going so far as getting them to kill a bunch of Europeans who were going to exploit the island for resources -- just weeks after he arrived. And while all he did was tell the natives that they should defend their land, he gets blamed (by Hoskins' character) for the murder of a bunch of his own people. How does that work?

It seemed like writer/director Guy Jenkin wasn't quite sure how to create enough tension and turmoil, so he made logical leaps that might have made sense in his head, but didn't translate to the screen. Overreactions are abound, people rarely act like you'd expect real humans to act, and the whole thing feels manipulative -- even though you don't care a lot because these aren't real people.

And even if you somehow get past that, and you don't care whether or not these people are real, the lead, John, is still quite the jerk. He eventually does marry Cecilia (spoiler alert!), but doesn't treat her with much respect or love -- because he loves Selima. But why did he marry Cecilia, and also, how did that three year probation run out so quickly? Because she was introduced and therefore has to be utilized. He does this for no actual reason, and then treats her terribly because he's selfish and doesn't understand how to care for another person.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Selima and John goes from 0 to 60 way too fast to be realistic. One night, they have a fight so she sleeps outside underneath the elevated hut, and then the next day, they're the most amiable people imaginable. Things like this happen far too quickly, and yet the middle section of the film drags and seemed to contain a lot of filler. When you talk about pacing problems, this is a good example. The parts that needed length weren't given it, while the times that could have easily been trimmed were extended instead.

The supporting cast is stronger than those given leading roles. When you have Bob Hoskins and Brenda Blethyn in the same movie, both of whom have been nominated for seemingly every major acting award, they can carry a movie. Hoskins steals each scene that he's in, while Blethyn lets you know that her character is who is really in charge. Alba and Dancy are fine, but are nowhere near the actors that their elder counterparts are.

The Sleeping Dictionary isn't a good romantic drama, although it isn't a terrible film. It's overlong, yet paradoxically still brief in the moments of importance, and none of the drama or romance works because of how poorly written and developed these characters are. But the scenery is gorgeous, the actors are strong, and you could do a whole lot worse than this. You could do much better, too, which is why The Sleeping Dictionary doesn't get a recommendation, but it's not a terrible waste of time.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by PayJ on Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:00 pm

Have you reviewed the Rambo films?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:01 am

I haven't posted any reviews for the Rambo films, but I do have them written. They'll be up in about 2 months from now.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by PayJ on Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:24 am

Which one was your favourite?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:59 pm

First Blood.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:14 pm

Robin Hood
Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is an overlong bore that has absolutely no reason to exist or to be called "Robin Hood." It doesn't feature the character that has been engraved in our minds, nor does it even seem to be leading up to one, save for the final scene in which our lead character finally starts to think about the idea that robbing from the rich and giving to the poor might help out some people. It's an origin story that lasts for the better part of two and a half hours, and I just don't see a reason for you to see it.

Because Ridley Scott likes Russell Crowe, he cast him as our titular hero, a crusader who abandons king and country after King Richard passes on in battle. He takes his band of loyal minions with him, although he eventually abandons them in order to assume the identity of the son of Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow), Robert. Why? Because he's given the chance to own the old man's sword, which was stolen by his actual son who is now deceased. Oh, and since the son was married to Lady Marian (Cate Blanchett), Robin has to act like he's now married to her, in order to keep up the illusion.

Of course, they'll eventually fall in love, because that's how these things work. "Hey, your husband died in battle. Let's become lovers." It does take time thankfully, and since her husband wasn't home a whole lot -- the villagers don't even question when Robin tries to take his place; they instantly think that he's Robert Loxley -- I suppose it can make sense that she'd grow to like him, and he to her.

What happens after this? Some action-y stuff, I think, some of which involves Mark Strong, playing the henchman of the new king, John. Strong plays our villain, Sir Geoffrey, and I think he wants to stage a coup, or perhaps he just wants France to invade England. It's something like that; I wasn't entirely clear on what was going on for most of the film. The plot is so unfocused and so many events don't add up to much that the point of all this was lost somewhere in the jumble.

If you were to ask me the reason for watching all of this, I would answer by suggesting that it was done to set-up a sequel that may never come. I'd like to see Crowe's Robin actually go through the whole "steal from the rich, give to the poor" routine that is ineffectively established here, although if it happens to be as boring and as much of a mess as Robin Hood is, I'd prefer that film to never be made. This is a tedious watch that's difficult to get through simply because of how unimportant and dull everything feels.

There is, eventually and after two hours of boring plot lines that go nowhere important, a big battle taking place by the sea that's supposed to be a fantastic climax. Had I cared one iota about the events preceding it, I probably would have enjoyed this battle. From a technical standpoint, it's a great battle filled with tons of people, some exciting set-pieces, and is shot and edited in a way to let you see everything important. But I had trouble focusing on it. The watch on my wrist was more exciting.

Sometimes, these things happen. Ridley Scott is a very good director, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and Mark Strong are all good actors, the budget was high enough for them to have all the freedom that was needed, and this genre was a success for Scott in one of his previous films, Kingdom of Heaven (after his version was released on DVD and was way better than the cut the studio approved for theaters). It all should have worked, but this is one of the least interesting films that I can remember seeing from Scott.

While I think not calling the film "Robin Hood" might have lessened some expectations -- we know what to expect out of a film with that title, and since that isn't what we get here, we're automatically disappointed -- I don't think it would have helped all that much. It's still a mess of a movie from a narrative standpoint, and it has nothing whatsoever to latch onto. No characters, no situations, and not even enough action sprinkled throughout to keep the attention of those expecting an action movie. There are only a couple of big action scenes.

If Russell Crowe was 10 to 15 years younger, maybe this story would have made a bit more sense. I could see an origin story with a younger actor, but Crowe looked at least 40 and Robin starting his crusade against the rich at that point in his life seemed to me to be a bit of a stretch. Crowe might have been miscast here. He's a very good actor, and he was fun to watch, but he's not a Robin Hood.

Robin Hood is a film that needed to take a different direction. It didn't need a different director, and it didn't need a different cast. It needed to not be about Robin Hood -- not that it was, anyway -- and it needed to take on a different story. The whole thing was muddled, confusing and unfocused, and ensured that the few strong moments were lost in the shuffle. This is an origin story with a 40+ year old actor in the lead, and it doesn't work. It wants to set-up a possible franchise, but I only hope it stops right here and now. Please, someone in Hollywood, have mercy.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:26 pm

The Jacket
The Jacket is a film that you really have to buy into in order to enjoy. If you cannot accept the basic premise -- a man travels forward in time in order to learn information which will alter the future for the better by telling it to people in the present -- then you will laugh it all the way to the shame shelf. However, if you do buy in, what you get is a thought-provoking little movie that contains suspense, intrigue and a couple of very fine performances.

Adrien Brody takes the lead as a man named Jack, a soldier who almost died in Vietnam after trusting a child who happened to have a gun hidden behind his back. He now suffers from amnesia and delusions, and after a cop is killed, is blamed and put away in an asylum. Here, one of the doctors (Kris Kristofferson) uses a method which some would call inhumane. He puts the patient in a straitjacket, hoists them into a morgue drawer, and leaves them there for a few hours. It's in this drawer that Jack begins to travel forward in time, meets a woman named Jackie (Keira Knightley), and starts to change the future.

It's important to note that, before being put in the mental facility, he met Jackie when she was just a child. He helped her and her mother (Kelly Lynch) start their car. In the future, Jackie isn't a little kid anymore, although she still remembers the day in which Jack stopped to help them out. Jack's main goal now, especially after learning that he will die, is to improve Jackie's life, and the lives of those around him. And if he can prevent himself from dying, that would probably be good, too.

See how, if you don't take it seriously and for what it is, this is a very silly and laughable premise? You have to buy in or the film will be laugh-fest. The time travel element isn't exactly the silliest magic that can happen in film, and it's actually more believable than some of the other things we sometimes see, but you have to believe in it here or the film won't work for you. When you do, you start thinking about how it works, and whether or not any paradoxes occur because of it (hint: they do).

What doesn't really work is the relationship between Jack and Jackie. Jack meets her when she's a little kid, and then sees her again a good 15 years later. She initially dismisses him as a crazy person, but the second time he time travels, she's instantly accepting. And then they become lovers, and she can't stand to be without him -- and he to her -- and it gets even sillier than the time traveling aspect. I didn't believe in that part of the story, and it kind of ruins the rest of the film.

See, pretty much all of Jack's actions from the time that the characters fall in love stem from his desire to figure out how/why he's going to die, and to improve Jackie's life that he has to accept she'll have to live without him. He essentially wants to use information from the future to change what will happen. Hindsight is 20/20, right? So that's what he does, and it's difficult to root for him because you can't invest in that relationship.

Granted, they both seem like nice enough people, so at least they have that going for them, but there's no feeling of their relationship being genuine. She's a damaged soul who might just be attaching herself to the only person who was ever nice to her, and he seemed to develop something with her when she was just a kid, which is creepy. This is why time would help to make it feel more real. As it is, it's a romance built on potentially awful characteristics, and is not something that you want to cheer for.

The odd thing about The Jacket is that it manages to create a sense of suspense even though there's never a whole lot going on. There's a unique style that it has which helps -- director John Maybury creates an impactful visual look to his film -- but even as the story goes on, each scene has something that could build and explode. And Jack only has a certain amount of time when he is in the straitjacket, so that time limit could always run out. It's not really a thriller in any conventional sense, but it's a fun, thoughtful little movie.

Adrien Brody, coming off his Oscar-winning role in The Pianist, has gloomy down to a science. That's what he is for the longest time here, although he also gets to smile and laugh and have a good time -- when he's with Keira Knightley, that is. She, trying out a convincing American accent, is strong as well, although despite being billed as a top actor is only in a handful of scenes. Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch and Daniel Craig round out the pretty impressive supporting cast.

The Jacket is a fun movie that only stops being so once you start thinking more about its characters and their relationships. The time travel aspect is enough to distract you for the majority of the time the film plays, and if you stop trying to think too deeply about it once it finished, it'll remain in your mind as a fun little diversion, but not a whole lot more. It has a strong cast, a unique style, and contains more suspense than it should, and if you're asking me, I say to give it a watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:24 pm

Gigantic
Gigantic is the type of indie rom-com that mainstream audiences will hate, but if you like quirky, offbeat films where crazy things happen for little-to-no reason, then you just might fall in love with it. Okay, so there are times when nothing makes sense, like when a homeless man attacks our lead character for no reason, or when people get shot from off-screen with no explanation, but the absurdity is what makes the film charming and endearing -- at least, to those who are looking for that.

Our main character is Brian (Paul Dano), a mattress salesman whose only goal in life is to adopt a child from China. He has dreamed about doing so for as long as anyone can remember; on his 8th birthday, his father gave him a bike, but he went to his room and cried because he wanted a Chinese baby. He does not yet have thirty years of life, and he's not married, so the assumption is that he'll have trouble getting the child. Both of those are obstacles, apparently. That's about the only thing that drives his life, though, so he'll have to persevere.

One day, a man named Al (John Goodman) comes into the mattress store and promptly decides to buy the most expensive mattress in stock. He says that he'll send his "girl" later on to pay for it, because, well, why not? He means "his girl" quite literally, as his daughter, Happy (Zooey Deschanel), later shows up and promptly takes a nap on the newly purchased mattress. Upon awakening, she and Brian hit it off and soon embark on the relationship that will eventually drive the plot.

A large portion of the scenes in this film happen for little reason, done this way in an attempt to be quirky and funny. I like this sort of thing, and I was charmed by much of Gigantic. However, it all does feel like it's building toward something more, and when that never comes to fruition, I felt disappointed. The ending is a big letdown, ending right before you get the conclusion you want. It's like the filmmakers ran out of money and decided to end the film right there. In its own way, it makes sense, but from a narrative standpoint -- what little narrative there is, anyway -- it's sad.

I suppose that left a bad taste in my mouth. When the credits began to roll, an audible "is that it?" was heard. But I thought back on the last 90 minutes and remembered that I did have fun and that I shouldn't be too mad. It's not too often that a rom-com comes along that I actually enjoyed for most of its duration. Gigantic was one. It overcame the genre constraints by being so darn silly; I forgot that it was a romantic comedy for most of the time it played.

Apart from a different ending, I'm not sure what Gigantic needed to be more effective. Not making sense it what separates it from the norm, so I wouldn't want that to be changed at all, even if I did eventually wonder what was with the random assaults dished out by a homeless man (Zach Galifianakis). Perhaps it needed to be more consistently funny -- there were some scenes that fell flat for me -- but that might take away from its charm. I really don't know what it needed to be any better, even if it is by no stretch a fantastic movie.

I think I would have chosen someone else to play the lead, or at least made Paul Dano act with a bit more emotion. He's lifeless here, and while that was part of the point, it didn't make me care about him or his relationship to Happy. Of course, Deschanel knows exactly how to play this role considering she's been doing it for years now, and she's suitably fine here. You almost begin to care about their relationship before remembering what a downer watching Dano act is.

Gigantic's highlights come from whenever John Goodman is on the screen. He's so energetic and head-turning that he steals the show from his co-stars in the few times he turns up. He's in the movie less than you'd like but more than you expect, if that makes any sense. Regardless, he is the best thing that the film has going for it, and if you have a reason to watch it, it's for him. Oh, and Jane Alexander and Edward Asner are in the film, too, which is almost always a good thing.

It's true that this sort of humor can't sustain itself for too long, and if you're not a fan, Gigantic isn't going to change your mind. There's a reason that this isn't a two-hour flick: It would grow tiresome if it tried to play for that long. But at just over 90 minutes, I'm perfectly content. There's a certain audience that Gigantic wants to attract, and I can only hope that its target will find the film someday. They will most definitely appreciate what it brings to the table.

Gigantic is a quirky indie comedy that might try a little too hard to be unique, but for those looking for this type of absurdist movie, it will be a treat. It features good supporting performances and is generally funny, and while it is a romantic comedy complete with many of the faults found in the genre, you forget that in the moment because of what the film peppers you with while it plays. If the ending was more of a conclusion, and if the lead was more charismatic and emotional, I'd wholeheartedly recommend it. As it is, it's a fun little movie that I enjoyed, but I can't guarantee it's worth your time.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:03 pm

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
It took me almost the entirety of the film to figure out who among the entirety of the cast and crew of In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale thought that making this movie was a good idea. My conclusion was that it doesn't matter. Uwe Boll wanted to make it, and so he did. He was given a far larger budget than he should have, and it's all wasted with this production. He got together a bunch of well-known actors, some of whom might have turned in the worst performance of their careers with this release.

The lead is a farmer named Farmer (yes, seriously) played by Jason Statham whose accent doesn't fit in with anyone else in the film, save for, perhaps, John Rhys-Davies, although both of them are too talented to be in this schlock. One day, out of the blue, Farmer's wife is captured and his son is killed by evil creatures that the film calls "Krugs," but who reminded me as one of the rejected costumes for the Orcs in Lord of the Rings. They look awful, although they're just foot soldiers. There's a bigger plot afoot, although you won't care.

See, there's a guy who wants the king dead, and there's a sorcerer who basically functions as the main bad guy because he's a sorcerer and they're all-powerful. Farmer has to gather friends to help rescue his wife, because that's all that matters, apparently. Even after he's told that something bigger is happened, he doesn't care. That's a little admirable, but it means that he'll have to be convinced to help later, lengthening the running time to an unbearable length. In the Name of the King plays for over two hours, which is about an hour and a half too long.

The name Uwe Boll doesn't make many people happy. He's the one behind awful video game adaptations, and is someone who often doesn't appear to know what he is doing when he makes a movie. If there's an example that anyone needs to hold up and point to when making this statement, In the Name of the King should suffice. This is an awful movie, and seems even worse when you note how often it tries and fails to rip off Lord of the Rings.

It's not like Lord of the Rings was the first of its kind -- not by a long shot; sword and sorcery movies were really popular before it was made into a movie. However, with it coming out just a short time after Peter Jackson's fantastic trilogy, and considering how frequently it attempts and does not succeed at copying entire scenes, these comparisons are completely justified. Everything that made Lord of the Rings good is missing here, so you're basically left with a compilation of deleted scenes without context, character or coherency.

None of the characters here have any depth to them. They're written horribly, they're poorly acted, and none of them seem to matter in the long run. There isn't even any real danger to the fight scenes, which is one of the biggest flaws. Even if not everyone will make it out alive, it feels that way and they're boring as a result. If there's one thing that In the Name of the King can't be, it's dull, but somehow, Boll finds a way to make that happen scene after scene.

You might think the atrocious dialogue and hammy acting would make it more interesting. You would be wrong. This isn't one of those so-bad-it's-good movies; it's just too bad to enjoy at all. Sure, it's kind of fun to see Burt Reynolds -- oh yeah, Burt Reynolds is totally in this movie -- yelling for his ninjas, but that's about the only standout moment. The rest has been done so, so much better elsewhere, giving you no reason to watch it here. $60 million being thrown down the drain would have been a better use of the money.

Not even the action scenes were enjoyable. They're plenty violent, and yet they're bloodless. Why? Because there wasn't much blood in Lord of the Rings, I'm guessing. Or maybe the studio figured that the best way to recoup the loss they were going to take was to keep the PG-13 rating and remove and CGI blood that had probably already been added. The best thing that can be said about the action is that it's competent. Boll's only strength -- if you can call it that; it's more like his only "not-weakness" -- as a director is action, and they're all fine. Boring as could be, but from a technical aspect, they're okay.

Here are some of the names that appear in this film. Take this as their wall of shame. Jason Statham. Leelee Sobieski. Ron Perlman. Kristanna Loken. Burt Reynolds. Ray Liotta. John Rhy-Davies. Matthew Lillard. Claire Forlani. There you go. Now, if you ever need a film to cite when talking about a bad performance or a role taken for a paycheck from any of these actors, you can use this film.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is an absolutely awful film. Do you have any reason to watch it? No. Even many of the "bad" sword and sorcery films of the '80s and '90s were better than this, and that's saying a lot. At least those, even if they weren't good, were fun because you could laugh at them. This one is too long and too dull to permit even that. It has awful performances, boring action, a lack of clarity, coherency or reason to care, and I hope nobody else is subjected to it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:13 pm

The second one's even worse.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:11 pm

It's at least kind of fun, though.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:52 pm

In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds
In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds comes highly anticipated after the mega-blockbuster that was In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Of course, at this point you've probably already realized that I'm joking, as A Dungeon Siege Tale was an absolutely awful movie. It was boring and essentially a Lord of the Rings ripoff that took everything good about Peter Jackson's trilogy, threw it out the window, and kept the rest. Uwe Boll, for whatever reason, wanted to make a sequel, so here it is.

It doesn't really have any relation to the first film, by the way. That's probably for the best, as even Uwe Boll must have realized the dud he made. This one actually begins in present day, as a former soldier, current karate teacher named Granger (Dolph Lundgren) is chilling out in Vancouver. Some warriors from the past invade his home, try to kill him, and eventually bring him back to the past. He's informed that he's part of a prophecy, and that he, some good warriors, and a doctor named Manhattan (Natassia Malthe) need to go kill a witch.

Of course, there's more to it than that, and to give the film credit, it does throw a twist -- predictable as it is -- into the mix later on. It also contains so many random elements that come up for absolutely no reason that it's almost an incredibly compelling watch. Unlike the first In the Name of the King, this one is at least watchable. It's even crazier, but that works in its favor. You are glued to the screen watching a glorious train wreck, and I can't say I was disappointed.

You don't need coherency in a film like this one. In fact, because the first one tried to make sense at all times -- even though it more often than not failed -- it couldn't be as crazy as it wanted to be. This one just throws whatever it wants at its characters and you have to either accept that and love it or move to something else. You know those kids who make things up whenever they think their story is starting to bore you? In the Name of the King 2 feels exactly the same way in its storytelling approach.

And, get this: Despite being filmed on a far smaller budget than the first one -- $7.5 million as opposed to $60 million -- In the Name of the King 2 looks a heck of a lot better, and even throws in a CGI dragon near its finale. Now, the CGI is awful, but that's kind of charming in a movie like this one. The sets and costumes have actually improved, perhaps because so many big name actors weren't involved, and the film doesn't seem quite as fake as a result. In fact, the scenes that felt the least realistic took place in modern day Vancouver.

Even the action has improved. Oh, sure, we're using shaky-cam and quick-cut editing, but there's blood, and the swords actually look like they hit people. There's a little bit more creativity, and the choreography has been improved. Sure, it's still not great, but in a film like this, I'll take any silver lining you can find. I was rarely bored during In the Name of the King 2, save for a couple of meaningless dialogue exchanges that go on for far too long.

The tone is also much lighter this time around, as characters are actually free to make jokes. Dolph Lundgren might not be a great actor, but he has screen presence and is far funnier than Jason Statham was in the first film. He cracks wise, and so do his supporting cast members. Instead of the super serious tone of the first film -- despite all of the weird things going on around the characters -- this one is a lot lighter and more enjoyable as a result. These characters recognize the absurdity of the situation.

I suppose most of the elements of the film are still awful, but I'll gladly take all of the improvements and run with those. It doesn't make a lot of sense, the actors are all awful, the twist is predictable, the cinematography, while better -- all of the shots are at least in focus this time -- still is too shaky for no reason, the CGI dragon, while a welcome addition, looks terrible, and the dialogue is horrible. But I didn't mind most of that in this film. It was cheesy and horrible, but fun. It's a somewhat enjoyable B-movie.

Mostly, it's just so insane and crazy that it's compelling and you can't look away. The hammy acting works here, and Dolph Lundgren, while half-asleep for part of the film, actually works out quite well in the lead. Natassia Malthe, who played Rayne in the second and third BloodRayne films (Boll also directed those), is even less emotional, yet still over-the-top at times. Their romance falls so flat that it almost works. Some of these things you just have to see.

In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds probably shouldn't exist, but after having seen it, there's a part of me that's glad it does. Sure, it's silly and poorly made, but it's a huge improvement over the incredibly dull A Dungeon Siege Tale, and I'll take a fun, poorly made film over a dull one of whatever quality nine times out of ten. It has a certain charming quality to it, and the insanity that is contained within is something that you almost have to see. And, since you don't have to see the first film, at least that isn't a hurdle that needs to be overcome.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:00 pm

Dark City
Dark City is the type of film that you can sit back and watch and just enjoy the visuals and style. The plot begins similar to many other movies, but quickly becomes something more. It's an absolutely fascinating film for the majority of its running time, although it also feels a bit empty, and very rushed toward the end. It also has a bit of a logic gap, where many things happen simply because they'll look cool, not because they make sense.

We open confused, just like our main character, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell). He wakes up in a bed that he doesn't recognize, in an apartment that he's never before been inside. He gets a phone call from a doctor (Kiefer Sutherland), who informs him that he should leave, as people are coming for him and they're going to cause trouble. He leaves, and begins a search to find out exactly who he is, and what's going on in the city. Something weird is going on, especially once he sees that, at midnight, everyone goes to sleep and the buildings begin to shift and change.

Now, depending on what version of the film you watch -- there are two: the theatrical and the director's cut -- you'll already have a vague idea of what's going on. There's some narration given by Sutherland's character right at the beginning of the theatrical cut that gives you a very big clue regarding what's happening in the city. Like Blade Runner before it, this narration was put in at the studio's request, and is absent in the director's cut. Not having this narration allows for a greater mystery, and makes the inevitable reveal much more powerful.

Take that as a greater recommendation for the director's cut, although the theatrical version is very good, too. The film veers into sci-fi territory later on, which is a lot of fun, and once the reveal happens and we start to learn exactly what's going on, you're going to get very excited -- especially if you've been trying to figure it out all along. Why does John have strange powers (that the film calls "tuning")? Why doesn't he remember his wife (Jennifer Connelly)? What exactly is going on?

You think about all of these things while Dark City plays. Eventually, we find out. Unfortunately, the multiple reveals feel a bit rushed and once they happen, the film is soon going to end. There isn't a lot to do after we find out what has been going on, so the film decides to fade to black soon afterward. I would have liked for there to be more, but then, you can say that about most enjoyable movies. Perhaps it's good that Dark City ends when it does; too much of a good thing is still too much.

I think I felt this way because this is a movie that drags a bit in the middle, and doesn't do a very good job of developing its characters -- despite making us spend a lot of time with them not doing a whole lot. The second act drags, is what I'm saying, even though it had no reason to. There is so much richness in the film, so much to take advantage of, that I don't even know how you manage to become boring. A whole city is created here, and because of how it functions, there should always be something to look for.

Granted, the visuals do carry the story for a lot of the time. The city is suitably dark, and it's also ever changing. This allows for some gorgeous scenes in which the buildings move, shift, and change size and shape. The neo-noir style that the film is shot in helps, as does the low-key lighting. You could watch Dark City in black and white and it might look even better, and would remind you of a movie made in the '40s.

Director Alex Proyas takes a style-over-substance approach here. Every time he has to make a choice between the visuals or the plot, he goes with the former. The plot still factors in, but it's in a secondary purpose. What we're really here for is the rich environment that he creates, deeply layered and always full of something to watch. That leaves the characters as archetypes, exploring this place but never growing themselves. It works here, I suppose, although some of them are insufferable and annoying because of how generic they are.

This is also a movie that sometimes leaves more questions than answers. While I felt as if I understood it quite well, I still had some things left unanswered after it concluded. If that frustrates you, then you might have to get the DVD and listen to the several audio commentaries included. More than likely, they'll help you out. I say this instead of trying to dissuade you from seeing it, because I definitely think that Dark City is worth the time investment. You'll get a lot out of it if you give it the chance.

Dark City is a fascinating movie. It's not without its flaws -- a shorter or more involving second act would have improved it a great deal -- but the visuals always give you something to look at and look for. It is most definitely worth giving a watch, and it will keep you thinking for the majority of the time it plays. It's a haunting film, one that will stay with you for quite a while after it finishes, and I absolutely recommend giving it a watch. You'll be glad you did.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:30 pm

A Scanner Darkly
The first thing that you'll notice about A Scanner Darkly is the way that it was put together. This is a rotoscoped picture, meaning that every frame of live action filmed was drawn over by a team of animators. It's not completely animation, but it mostly is. It gives the film a very unique look, and while it wouldn't make a lot of sense to use it in a normal film, this isn't a normal film. It's about drug use and paranoia, and the delusions that the characters feel are represented more accurately in this rotoscoped setting.

On a more practical level, this type of film allows for potentially expensive scenes to be made just as cheaply as any others. For instance, the opening scene shows us one character, Charles (Rory Cochrane), covered in green bugs. They come out of his hair and other areas of his body, and even after he thinks he's exterminated them, more appear. They even show up on his dog. Doing this with CGI would be much more expensive and look a whole lot worse. Done here, the bugs look as real as anything else in the film. A Scanner Darkly's budget was under $10 million, for the record.

The film follows the lives of five people, all of whom live in a society seemingly ruled by drugs. Their lives are, at least. The lead, assuming you are okay with calling him that, is a man named Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves), who is an undercover cop but also a drug addict, addicted to something called Substance D. The "D" presumably stands for "death." He lives with his friends, James Barris (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Ernie (Woody Harrelson), is dating a drug dealer named Donna (Winona Ryder), and occasionally interacts with the aforementioned Charles.

All of these lives are on display here. Bob, working undercover by putting on a suit which allows him to hide his true identity, is tasked with intently watching his own house in very invasive methods. Barris is trying to get his own friends arrested for some reason. Ernie and Charles seem too doped up to even think properly. And Donna doesn't like to be touched, citing that she's done way too much cocaine.

I think A Scanner Darkly is a cautionary tale, but not just about drugs -- though it most certainly is that. It also talks about paranoia and about invasive surveillance. There's more to the film than initially meets the eyes, as is the case with most of Phillip K. Dick's stories. This may be one of the most faithful adaptations of his stories, actually, and is as dark and strangely funny as the book. And it's also really sad, just like real life drug abuse generally is.

There are a couple of fun reveals along the way, which is always an enjoyable thing to see. I don't think the film did as much with the reveals as it probably could have, but what was done here is effective, if a bit predictable. There's one that I'm thinking of that comes right at the end that I figured out fairly early on, although at the time I dismissed that as being too easy. Turns out, it wasn't. If a character is seen only in a mask, it has to be because the film is trying to hide that character's identity. The film isn't quite as smart as it likes to think it is.

A Scanner Darkly does try to balance humor and sadness. The random outbursts by these drug addicts can be funny, particularly the antics of Harrelson's character and Cochrane's being afraid of his own shadow, but I was constantly wondering whether or not that's something we should be laughing at. Should we find what has become a mental illness -- a destroyed brain thanks to these drugs is basically the same thing -- funny? No, I don't think so. But I laughed anyway, despite the characters' situations being tragic.

You grow to like most of these characters. They're charming, endearing, and generally good people. It's the drug that's the enemy, not them. And when it affects them, which it often does, we pity them -- even though we sometimes laugh at what they do. It's tragic and unfortunate and the film is very effective at warning of the dangers of drugs -- for the one or two people who don't know that they're dangerous and actually care that they are.

Is is a bad thing to say that it's Keanu Reeves' performance that carries the film? It does, although how much came from Reeves and how much was done by the animators is left up to your imagination. I don't dislike Reeves as an actor, actually, although he has far from the greatest range in the world. He does a fine job here, as do each of the other actors. But, again, I'm not sure how much was them and how much was put in by the animation team. They're the real stars of the visual experience that is A Scanner Darkly.

Here is a movie that is all about the visuals and the message, with individual story elements going by the wayside. They're still there, but they're far less prominent than they would be in most films. It doesn't matter. The rotoscoping always gives you something interesting to look at, and the drug abuse, government surveillance, and all of the little details that make up the film will keep your mind from wandering. It's not a film for everyone, but A Scanner Darkly gets a recommendation from me.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:59 pm

The Rundown
I watched The Rundown the night before writing up this review, and I struggled -- and for the longest time, failed -- to remember that I even watched it. I knew I watched two movies before going to bed, and I knew what the other one was, but I couldn't even think of a single moment from The Rundown. It was the title that eluded me; it was the entire production. If that doesn't sound like a reason to avoid it, I don't know what exactly you're looking for.

It doesn't speak terribly highly of an action film when you can't remember a single moment about it not even 24 hours later without really thinking hard. I suppose that's probably giving away exactly what I thought about it too early, but I do remember points when I was having fun; I just can't remember them now. There are movies out there that are fairly enjoyable in the moment but mean absolutely nothing just ten minutes after you watch them. The Rundown is one of these movies. You have no reason to watch it other than to kill a couple of hours. It's sufficient at doing that.

The basic set-up seems oddly familiar, even though I can't think of a movie that used it exactly as it is here. The Rock plays a man named Beck, who is a "retrieval expert" -- someone who goes in and gets things that someone else has. He's like a mercenary, except that instead of killing people, he takes their things. He's tasked with going down to Brazil in order to bring back a man's son, Travis (Sean William Scott), to America. After that, he'll be out of the retrieval game -- if it truly is a "game" -- and have enough money to pursue his dream of owning a restaurant.

So, he heads down to Brazil, kidnaps Travis, and then runs into an issue when the ruler of the town, the man who provides the town with jobs, Hatcher (Christopher Walken) doesn't want to let Travis leave considering he has been trying to locate a treasure item made of solid gold. The Rock doesn't care, takes Travis anyway, and before you know it, we're being chased through the jungle. Go to the airport, go find the MacGuffin -- it doesn't really matter, as we know that both will eventually happen. Probably.

Of course, Travis isn't so happy about being abducted, so he and Beck have to fight a bit and go through the reluctant buddy scenario. There's no natural progression here -- in one scene, they might be fighting, but in the next, they'll seem like the best of friends -- but I almost expect that out of an action flick like this where the buddy storyline isn't the focus; it's an afterthought, included to give us some laughs and maybe bring a bit of tension to the mix.

And, to be fair, The Rock and Scott have fairly solid chemistry. Watching them go through the jungle, bantering back and forth as they traverse through the wilderness, is good fun. There are some lines in there that Scott gets that are really quite enjoyable, and if The Rundown had focused more on their relationship, it might have been worth watching. However, it's mostly about the chase, about finding this item, and about the action scenes.

These are not quite as enjoyable. The chase should give a sense of urgency and bring suspense to the table for the whole film. Guys with guns -- oh, Beck doesn't use guns because they hurt people, which makes no sense, but whatever -- are chasing these people, and they could pop up at any time. But they don't, save for a couple of convenient points to make sure that something happens. The item only actually comes up a couple of times, even though it's what's driving the villains to being bad guys, and none of the action scenes are very fun or inventive.

This was one of the films in which The Rock still used his wrestling moves in the fight scenes -- Vince McMahon does serve as one of the producers, after all -- so they all had to be choreographed in a way to allow for that. It makes it feel unrealistic and borderline stupid. Why would he dropkick a guy who is coming at him with a chair when he's holding a weapon? Because he does that in the wrestling ring and therefore should do it here. For the fans.

The whole thing ends with a shootout -- yes, even with Beck's gun aversion, it still ends that way -- and by that point I had grown tired. Tired of the formula, tired of these characters, and even tired of the beautiful Brazil jungle (which might actually be Hawaii's jungle, but you get the point). I was sick and tired and kind of bored, and while The Rundown had its moments, they were very few and mostly involved Scott taking shots at the man who looked a good half-foot taller than he is and could easily beat him up.

The Rundown is a forgettable, generic action-buddy-last job crossover that is nowhere near worth spending the time on, unless you really want to see the strong chemistry between The Rock and Sean William Scott. The action scenes come first in a film like this -- which is generally fine -- but because they're not inventive or even all that fun to watch, they bored me. The hand-to-hand scenes are ruined by The Rock having to use wrestling moves, the other action scenes aren't enjoyable, and the whole project isn't worth watching.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:39 pm

Review Foodfight.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by PayJ on Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:13 pm

The only reason to watch Rundown, or "Welcome to the Jungle" as I know it, is for Walken. That guy fucking made that film for me.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Walnutman on Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:51 pm

I remember 3 things from Welcome to the Jungle/the run down. The Rock using two shotguns at once, the "comical" scene involving humping monkeys and Walken being Walken.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:46 am

I dunno, I remember liking the movie a lot back when I first watched it.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:52 am

Xandy wrote:Review Foodfight.
Which Foodfight?

This one? Because, if so, why?

Or do you mean the documentary from 2008? Or one I haven't heard of?
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:32 am

Yes. Because it's the worst animated film ever and has Charlie Shen voicing a dog who fights Nazis led by Doc Brown.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:14 pm

Breach
The problem with Breach is that you know how it has to end. If you don't know the story of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, and you don't know that he's currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of spying for Russia (and the former Soviet Union) for over two decades, then don't worry, as the film's opening scene is going to show you. We find out about the conviction, and from that point on, we know the exact road that the film has to take, thus removing any tension that there could be.

At least, that's what I thought would be the case. Admittedly, there are some scenes in which the tension is zapped because of us knowing the conclusion, but there are just as many that still manage to make you breathe slower, make your skin crawl, and raise your heartbeat. This is a very engaging and, at times, thrilling spy drama. It's way more about the journey -- how Hanssen was captured and how he slipped in order to allow for that to happen -- than the destination, but if you want a good movie about the case, director Billy Ray has given you one.

The film begins with a youthful FBI employee, Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe), hoping to one day become an agent. That's the end goal, he thinks, and once he gets there, life will be perfect. He gets pulled off his low-key job in order to become the "clerk" for Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper). Hanssen, according to Eric's superior (an underused Laura Linney), has some sexual misconduct that, if leaked, would cause a major embarrassment for the Bureau. If only he knew what was really going on.

As you likely know -- or if you didn't, should know by the opening paragraph -- Hanssen wasn't really being looked at for sexual deviancy; he was under investigation for twenty years of treason (although the sexual stuff is also true, we're assured, in case we were wondering). However, the FBI has no proof, and once Hanssen retires in two months, they'll have no way to charge him. They need to do this now, and Eric is going to be the one to get him to slip up, just once, so that he can be taken down. And if he does, he'll probably be promoted straight to agent.

You know that, eventually, Hanssen slips up and is caught. You want to know how, and why, and if he does so because Eric simply outsmarts him, or because he's finally gone crazy. Or perhaps he just grows to like Eric so much that, despite seeing through the ruse of "clerk," allows Eric to bring him down. I'm still not even entirely sure what the master spy was thinking or the "why" behind it all, and I've seen Breach more than once.

The reason for not quite knowing is based partly on Cooper's magnificent performance, and partly because of the way the character was written. Cooper plays Hanssen with all the intensity that you expect, cold and calculating, but also gives him a great deal of sympathy. And in the telling scenes when he begins to unravel, he absolutely nails the quiet transformation of the super-religious family man who has been betraying his country for a couple of decades.

The character is also multi-layered and complex. He grows to like Eric, slowly letting down his defenses and cold demeanor, yet is always thinking about the people around him. But then Eric mentions that his mother has Parkinson's, and a few scenes later, Hanssen has printed off a few documents about the latest treatments. He shows his sympathetic side, and we begin to care about him. By the end, we don't really want to see him get caught -- if he is, in fact, committing treason -- simply because of how good a person he is, or at least, appears to be.

Breach's other clear problem is that Ryan Phillippe cannot hold his own against Chris Cooper. Phillippe's character is supposed to be the lead, and the man we root for. The intention is that we'll want to see him bring in Hanssen, that we hope for him to get promoted and for his home life to get all fixed. But because Phillippe is a weaker actor, and because his character is nowhere near as complex -- or even as sympathetic, somehow -- as Cooper's, that's not what happens. We start cheering more for Hanssen, despite the film making no bones about whether or not he's a traitor to his country.

This is really a one man show, and if a lesser actor was portraying Hanssen, it would fall apart. So much depends on Cooper here that it's hard to imagine just what would happen if he wasn't as good as he is, or if the character wasn't written in such an intelligent manner. I suppose you're here to learn about Hanssen anyway, so the filmmakers' resources went more into him than anything else, but it's astounding just what the film might have become without such a well-developed and performed character.

Breach is a rare type of movie. It manages to be quite thrilling despite you knowing the ending. You know how specific scenes will play out as soon as they start, and yet they excite you regardless. Chris Cooper's performance drives the film forward, and without him making for a scary, yet sympathetic villain, we would have no movie. It's not a biopic, and I'm sure much of it was dramatized, but this is one journey that is definitely worth taking.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:34 pm

21 and Over
"From the writers of The Hangover" comes 21 and Over, another comedy about people getting really drunk and then having a bunch of crude and insane things happen to them. The difference here is that the three leads are not trying to find their buddy; they're instead trying to find their buddy's house. Oh, and the buddy whose house they're trying to find has passed out and has to be carried from place to place as the circumstances around them continue to get more dire.

Let's back up a bit. It's Jeff Chang's (Justin Chon) 21st birthday. He's a pre-med student who has a big interview the next morning. His best friends, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), have come to his apartment to surprise him and take him out for drinks, as is the American custom. Upon learning that the biggest interview of his life is the next day, Casey does the responsible thing and says that those plans can be postponed. Miller threatens to keep Jeff Chang up all night if he doesn't come out. "One drink," we're told. Like that's going to happen.

We don't even see Jeff Chang resist the party once it starts. He's loaded by the time we've zoomed forward in time, and only gets worse over the montage depicting the group's bar-hopping. Eventually, he's passed out and time is running out to get him home and to bed. The other two friends are from out of town -- they've all separated once college started, I guess -- so they don't know their way around. They spend nearly the rest of the film attempting to get him into bed before 7AM.

Doesn't this sound familiar? Three guys trolling around a certain location in hopes of finding something, or someone? While doing so, they find themselves in a bunch of "I can't believe it" situations, while also learning things about the others that perhaps should have been better left a secret. When Casey and Miller find a gun in Jeff Chang's pocket, and later learn that he was arrested by the police, we have a mystery on our hands. One whose conclusion is mishandled so badly that I thought there must have been an alternate ending.

It feels too similar, I suppose. We've seen movies that contain situations more shocking than this. When a guy gets run over by a buffalo -- which we don't actually get to see, by the way, because the camera cuts to black before impact -- that winds up being one of the more "crazy" points of the film. Sure, a couple of other moments are funny at the time, if only because at least one of the guys -- Casey -- doesn't seem like he deserved to be put through them, but they're kind of bland for the genre.

There are a few running gags scattered throughout -- always calling Jeff Chang by his full name being one of them -- but most of the humor in 21 and Over comes from the situations themselves. That can work for some people. Many of you might find a lot of the film funny. It wasn't for me. Watching stupid people act pretty stupid and have bad things happen to them isn't the funniest thing in the world. Like I said, there are a few good moments, but not enough of them to fill the 90-minute running time.

Moving away from the amount of laughter, which is about all that matters in a comedy, the dialogue also leaves a lot to be desired. The film was written and directed by The Hangover writers, after all, so that should be expected. It's all profane and silly, and accomplishes one of two things: exposition or forced character development. The dialogue itself rarely attempts to make us laugh. That's a problem, since there's a good deal of time spent walking from place to place.

It says a lot about our main characters that they wind up being chased and/or hated by everyone they come into contact with. They wind up being hunted by at least three groups of people as the film progresses, all of whom show up seemingly at random. These groups are often forgotten about until the script calls for them to pop up for a few minutes. You forget, too, and it makes their reappearances seem to come out of the blue. Sure, the film is about these three guys -- although it's really two of them because Jeff Chang isn't awake for most of his screen time -- but if you want to continue bringing back these secondary characters, at least treat them with a little respect.

I'm sure that all of these actors have talent. Justin Chon turns in the best performance in the film whenever he's awake. Skylar Astin was in Pitch Perfect and fared much better there. He delivers every line with great sincerity, but that doesn't work with this type of character. Miles Teller was in Project X, and plays the same type of role here. He isn't good in either.

21 and Over is pretty much the exact type of movie that you expect it to be. If you think The Hangover is funny, you'll probably find this movie hilarious as well. It has issues with its characters, dialogue and situations, but if you find it funny you probably won't notice. I didn't like 21 and Over, but if it sounds like your type of thing, you'll probably get some enjoyment out of it. And, to be honest, it's at least better than The Hangover. Then again, a film that consists solely of paint drying on a wall would be funnier and more dramatic than those movies.
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