Posts Tagged ‘ movie reviews ’

HOLLYWOOD GIVES ZERO F***S ABOUT MAKING GOOD MOVIES

My ultimate point here is something lots of other people have already said in some way or another. I started a draft of this post many months ago, intending to write out reviews of the 2012/13 films for which I had high hopes but which greatly disappointed me and then to culminate those reviews into a summary of why we’re probably doomed to get more of the same. Sitting down to relive two (or, more often, three) hours of nonsensical plot developments, over-the-top destruction of populated cities, and a litany of the most unlikable and inconsistent characters proved to be a difficult sell when I could watch cat GIFs instead, but I slowly managed to review the worst offenders.

First I went after Star Trek Into Darkness, which was more of a series of disjointed and expensive scenes stitched together with lens flare than a real story. Then I tore into Man of Steel for turning Superman into Jesus Christ. I gave Iron Man 3 a pass, but still feel it made a couple of bad decisions. Then I wept bitter tears at the lost potential of Prometheus, which is a piece of thematically confused shit, but they’re making a sequel anyway.

That all said, there’s one more film that I wanted to revisit. It’s been many months since I saw World War Z in theaters, but I still recall its main faults, the first of which is that the film, as so many people have already said, is nothing like the book. I adore Max Brooks’ tongue-in-cheek Zombie Survival Guide and his far more serious follow-up World War Z, a beautifully dark and varied collection of fictional accounts from those who survived a zombie apocalypse. I figured that adapting World War Z to the big screen would be rather easy. Tap someone like Brad Pitt to play the UN reporter collecting all these accounts. Use him to introduce a series of vignettes (and to slap his famous name on the movie poster). Choose a variety of chapters from the book, somewhere between three and five of them, and finish off the film with the UN reporter’s own story, something new that Brooks himself could write for the film and for our star-power to get their own zombie story. The best part is that, if the studio is concerned with international box-office sales, they already have several chapters from Brooks’ book from which to choose a vignette set in not-the-States. This thing would practically write itself!

But the studio didn’t do that, did they? The only thing the final film had in common with the book was the title.

I was still willing to shell out cash, and though the film I saw had its issues, it was far more competent than Into DarknessMan of Steel, and Prometheus. However, WWZ got trashed way more than those films. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is at 67% whereas Into Darkness is sitting pretty at 87% and Prometheus got away with 73%. As I said in my review of Man of Steel, it did a much worse job of hiding its flaws than Into Darkness, so it didn’t get away with much. Its Rotten score is at 56%.

I’m not advocating that WWZ get an A, but I’m appalled that Into Darkness and Prometheus are rated so highly.

And there you have it. I saw a bunch of “summer blockbusters” one year and don’t understand how people’s tastes can be so inconsistent. If everyone seriously likes the kind of sloppy writing we had in Into Darkness, I don’t understand why they don’t like all of the big-budget, poorly plotted blockbusters that Hollywood puts out every year. Is it witty banter? Is that all it takes to hide all the fridge logic?

That’s my best guess, so write whatever you want, apparently! Just make sure your characters say nothing but zingers and you’ll be fine. Oh, and make sure you reboot a franchise (Star Trek, Alien, Superman) rather than go for something even remotely new (a bestselling book).

YOU CAN LIKE PROMETHEUS, BUT ONLY IF YOU ACKNOWLEDGE IT HAS PROBLEMS

Update (2/12/2014): Hi! I originally posted this review on June 10, 2012, but a recent prompt on io9, which asked its readers to come up with a disappointing film that had an amazing trailer, put this film back in my mind. Prometheus was among the suggestions in the comments, and since the film’s release, some fans of the film have been staunchly defending it. A couple of replies to the commenter who suggested Prometheus simply stated, without further comment, that they “liked the film anyway”, which is totally fine by me. I like some pretty messy movies myself.

One of the comments, however, included a link to a fan’s half-hour-long video claiming it debunks all of the complaints about the film, stipulating that it would do so without using anything outside the film itself. However, the video relies not only on the film’s pre-release marketing videos, but also on behind-the-scene extras and interviews. I could barely get past the part where the video condescendingly reminds the viewer of just what a plot hole is. Another commenter bizarrely stated that “picking on plot holes” isn’t a valid way to criticize a film, which is patently false. An incoherent script makes for a bad movie. Characters shift personalities, lack logical motivations, and make completely irrational decisions. Telling me things make sense when you see the extras (and even then, they still don’t) is not valid. As one commenter put it:

Having the chef tell you about the recipe he ‘wanted’ to make, doesn’t make ill matched, overcooked, or absent food any better.

The film must stand on its own. Therefore, I have reworked and significantly lengthened my review in order to break down the film’s shortcomings more thoroughly. Read more

TODAY’S CLIMACTIC ACTION SCENE IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY A DEAD HORSE

Iron Man 3 PosterIron Man 3 (2013) is the sequel to the sequel to one of the most successful of the superhero films that have come out of Hollywood in the last decade. While it is vastly more entertaining than Man of Steel and has fewer plot logic problems as well as far fewer tired references than Star Trek Into Darkness, it still suffers a couple of major flaws. Overall, the film’s merits (great acting, witty banter and a willingness to subvert or avoid certain tropes) outweigh its flaws, but all three Iron Man films heavily rely on Robert Downey, Jr.’s charisma to carry them, which he does admirably.

That said, definitely wait for the scene after the end-credits.

Spoilers ahead… Read more

ZACK SNYDER MAKES GREAT TRAILERS BUT TERRIBLE MOVIES

Man of Steel posterWhere do I start when it comes to reviewing Man of Steel (2013)? Who do I blame for a film that nearly made me walk out of the theater? I mean, I have a relatively low bar, you guys. I’ve only ever walked out of two movies: The Portrait of a Lady and House of 1000 Corpses. Certainly Zack Snyder deserves some blame, but so many of these summer blockbusters have the grubby fingerprints of studio execs all over them. They deserve some blame, too.

Screenwriter David S. Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan also deserve their share of the blame. I’m not sure who green-lighted that “stand-with-you-in-the-sun” speech they lifted from Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman, but it’s confused when in context and silly in its softly whispered bombast. Then again, Superman as a film franchise wasn’t untarnished before Man of Steel. The Christopher Reeve films were incredibly hokey at times. Maybe we movie-goers were just too naive to think this time would be any different. Let’s cut off a small slice of the blame for ourselves for shelling out money for this POS movie.

The film is simply unsuccessful in its attempt to make a “grittier, darker” Superman in the same vein as Nolan’s Batman films—a trend I’d really like to see stop with Man of Steel. The writers didn’t take the time to establish all the things they wanted to put in the film—when they tried, they did it wrong—and in the end you as the viewer are exhausted and maybe a little sick from the overly long and brutal climactic action scene. Most of the acting was good and the visual style adopted for Krypton was unique, but this film is not even worth renting. Don’t see it. Ever.

I’m serious.

Spoilers ahead… Read more

EVEN IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS”, YOU’VE ALREADY SEEN IT

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)I will freely admit that when I saw Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) its opening weekend, I had a highly enjoyable time. But it’s kind of like when you go to a party with all your favorite friends and a fridge full of alcohol: riotous at the time, but you regret it in the morning. An even better simile (not one I came up with) is that Into Darkness is like a magic trick, distracting you with pretty visuals while they fake a miracle. And it seems that most of the film’s reviewers didn’t realize it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you haven’t yet seen Into Darkness…well, you have. Without “spoiling” the movie, though, I’ll just say the character arcs were contrived and repetitive, the plot was a series of set pieces strung together with no more than whatever first came to the writers’ minds, and the ending was completely silly and horrifying. However, the acting was good and the spectacle was…well, spectacular!

Spoilers from here on… Read more

IN DEFENSE OF INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

[WARNING: This post is image-heavy and very long. That happens when you try to analyze an entire film franchise.]

1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark first introduced the world to adventuring archaeologist Indiana Jones. It utilized the most obvious of bad guys—Nazis—leveraged the style of the serialized adventures from the ’30s and ’40s, and had a great excuse for bringing the audience along to various and exotic locales. Jones has the gumption and historical knowledge to be the only good guy who can stop the bad guys from using a powerful object for evil, but he’s still an “everyday man” who can get injured, tired and tricked. We loved Indiana so much—as in, the film made so much money—that two more films were made that decade: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

Let’s jump ahead to nearly twenty years after Last Crusade‘s release. I’ll not defend the decision to revive the Indiana Jones franchise with 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull—because what else is Hollywood good at besides milking their cash cows—but I’d like to assert that the recent installment is pretty much a perfect Indiana Jones movie that everyone should’ve embraced heartily if they loved the first three so damn much.

First, I’ll go into the required elements for an Indy film and then we’ll dig into how well (or not) those elements were actually executed. Then, we’ll talk about peripheral decisions that people criticized, such as casting choices. Read more

WHY “DANTE’S PEAK” IS BEST DISASTER PORN

I recently recommended Dante’s Peak (1997) as an honorable mention when it came to my favorite genre movies. I then had the urge to re-watch this film starring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton. Perhaps half an hour into the movie, I had an epiphany of why this movie sticks in my mind (and heart) as such a great piece of entertainment. It’s actually well-written, which makes its money shots of disaster so much more satisfying. I usually don’t do movie reviews this way, but using Thursday Thirteen turned out to be pretty fun.

Oh, and in case it needs to be said, SPOILER WARNING. I like to really analyze films and can’t write a shorter, fluffier review that avoids major plot reveals. Hit the jump for a plot summary, the list, and pretty pictures! Read more

HIGHLANDER (1986)

There can be only one.

It could’ve been because I was sipping rum & coke while watching this classic film, but I bawled my damned eyes out when re-watching this very unique film starring Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, and Clancy Brown. The Netflix logline very appropriately calls it a “paragon of modern action fantasy.” (Yes, it’s on Netflix streaming so if you’re a subscriber, you can go watch it right now!)

In case you have forgotten (because of course everyone has seen it, right), the film follows immortal Highlander Connor MacLeod, who learns he is very special when he is eviscerated in a battle between the MacLeods and the Frasers, yet is walking around like normal the next day. His clan is scared of his “unnatural” recovery and attacks him, stoning him and nearly putting him to the stake. Instead, he is banished. (Fun fact: the sole member of his clan who comes to his defense and encourages banishment over burning at the stake is played by actor James Cosmo, who is most recently recognizable as Commander of the Night Watch Jeor Mormont in HBO’s Game of Thrones.) Read more