Sunday, August 30, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

This is what GI Joe should have been!!! Yes it's overly violent with some crude language but this was after all a war flick. A slick, fun romp that takes place behind enemy lines during World War II. I do appreciate the skills of director Quentin Tarantino, but as I walked out of the theatre I was pleasantly surprised that he was the guy behind the camera of this film. It's entirely his fault I have no faith in his film tastes, because as talented as he is, he has an annoying habit of loving shitty B movies. They influence his work like with Grindhouse and Jackie Brown, which I loathed. Even some of the films I enjoyed like Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill had traces of this bad taste. Thankfully none of those pieces were evident to me in Inglourious Basterds and it is by far one of his best films because of it.An elite group of American Jewish soldiers, led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) infiltrate France in June of '44. They are there for only one reason and that is to hunt, terrorize and scalp Nazis. The film also breaks off to follow a young Jewish woman named Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) who escapes slaughter at the hands of the Jew Hunter, Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). She goes into hiding and plots her revenge.The movie reminded me of a meaner and bloodier Great Escape. Steve McQueen could totally have played Aldo Raine. With his machismo and over-confidence, it would have been a gritty classic. Don't get me wrong Brad was great and I really enjoyed his surly backwoods accent. It had a great cadance to it. But Steve would have been equally fun. I do want to prepare you, the trailers were deeply misleading to what was actually on-screen. The Basterds are instrumental to the film but they take a backseat through a large portion of the film so Tarantino can focus on Shosanna and her vengeance. I thought we would get to know the other Basterds like in the Dirty Dozen but we only really get to know three of them. Aldo Raine of course, Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, the Nazi Killer, (Til Schweiger) and the Bear Jew (Eli Roth), whose specialty is to beat Nazi brains in with a Louisville Slugger. This was only a slight disappointment, but the movie stands so well on it's own that after a while I didn't think much of it.When award season finally comes around don't be surprised if you see Christoph Waltz's name bandied about for Oscar consideration. The guy truly holds the breakout performance of the film. His Col. Landa is cruel and manipulative yet somehow pleasant and menacing all at the same time. His introduction scene is one of the best--tense as hell, I knew what was going to happen but I was still on the edge of my seat. I also really enjoyed Michael Fassbender's James Bond esqe Lt. Archie Hicox. He was certainly channeling Connery in his performance as his cold and witty demeanor added to one of my favorite scenes in the basement bar. Melanie Laurent could also find herself nominated for her part as Shosanna, she was certainly the heart of the story. This was the also the first time where I noticed Diane Kruger's acting chops--if Fassbender was channeling Connery, Kruger was certainly vibing Marlene Dietrich. This was at times an absurdist, violent and funny action romp but overall a good time at the theatre. So if you haven't seen this yet go now before it's gone.

Grade: 4 Buckets

Friday, August 28, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Movie Opening [High Quality]

The Way GI Joe is supposed to be Damnit!!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

GI Joe - The Rise of Cobra

I saw GI Joe last week with Cody but I haven't been able to get up the strength to write about what exactly we saw last Thursday night. It had GI Joe in the title which made me think that it would be a movie about a Real AMERICAN Hero or Heroes. How completely and totally wrong we were. I had no expectations that this would be good. I read a few of the early reviews that claimed the film wasn't great but not as bad as expected. Although if you check Rotten Tomatoes it's at 37%. The chorus sounded the same. "Dumb fun with explosions." "No character development but fun, it felt like I was playing in my backyard." I wanted so much to enjoy it, mostly because of the GI Joe toys I played with in my backyard, and of course the cartoon. I'll sum it up in this way- I knew I was walking into a shit storm seeing this movie. But little did I know that the ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world wasn't Cobra. It was Stephen "Van Helsing" Sommers. On behalf of Cody and myself I wanted to thank you, Steve, for officially taking our childhood and flushing it down the toilet.GI Joe begins with Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) who are tasked with protecting a new deadly weapon. Of course certain criminal elements, the Baroness and her Cobra Goon squad, are interested in the weapon and decide to try to take it by force. Our duo is then saved by a secret International organization called GI Joe (GI Joe is a generic term for US soldier). How could they be an international team and still be called GI Joe I can't understand that logic? It just didn't feel very American. Especially those stupid accelerator suits. Terrible, they looked like Captain Power or something silly like that. So for the rest of the movie the two teams GI Joe and Cobra fight for control of the nano weapons until it ends with a big bang at the underwater Lair. Evil?I wish I could say that was all the damage that they did but--ugh, where to begin. We get an unnecessary back story for Destro (Christopher Eccleston) and his clan McCullen as dirty rotten arms traders. Could be interesting I guess but really it just makes Destro predictable and boring. In the cartoon he's an arms trader but there is something mysterious about him-why does he wear that crazy mask, how did he get so bad ass? Like Wolverine, he becomes a pussy when you know too much. It is unfortunate to have to report this but yes Destro is not scary in the least in this film and that is a crime. Then we get to his partner in crime his lady love the bad ass evil, yet sexy, Baroness. She was very sexy and she seemed to be pretty bad until she wasn't and then there was that American accent. Yes I said it, the Baroness, (Sienna Miller) was an American. You may be saying, it's a movie adaptation, they just took a little detour.
(SPOILER WARNING!!!) How about this one for going off the rails, so it turns out the Baroness isn't bad at all, she's being controlled by nano-whatevers in her brain. And to top it all off she and Duke have something going on. What? But she's supposed to be manically evil and in love with Destro. How can she be with Duke, he's supposed to be with Scarlett? WTF is going on here? To make matters worse Scarlett has a strange love triangle with Snake Eyes and--Ripcord? This was just awful, it made no sense and it certainly didn't add to the story. Not to mention that Marlon Wayons was probably the worst part of this entire movie. After the first five minutes I wanted someone from Cobra to end him. This guy is supposed to be a comedian or something, every joke he put out there, almost every word period was just plain awful--he was so miscast. As were many of the Joes. Personally I thought Channing Tatum was ok, but just not as Duke. Dusty, for all of you Joe fans out there--Channing Tatum could have definitely been Dusty. Other than Mr. Tatum, everyone else was just terrible. Especially, Dennis Quaid as General Hawk. He was the one ray of hope for me in this movie. I thought of anyone he would have made a great Joe. He was cashing a paycheck for sure. He seemed stiff like he was trying to pass a damn stone the whole movie. Cobra Commander (Joseph Gordon Levitt) was a joke. They tried to make him dark and mysterious but he was just as goofy as the cartoon version. His mask was terrible too all they had to do was put him in a simple hood, but no that was too difficult. They made some weird clear mask that just looked like crap. The dialogue was probably some of the worst I've heard in a big Summer movie like this. It makes Transformers II sound like Shakespeare. If I were Stephen Sommers I would start packing my bags, because if you can make a Michael Bay movie look like an Oscar contender then you have some serious problems with your craft.Now there were a few bright spots, they are not always easy to find but they are there. Ray Park's Snake Eyes was fun to watch and I wish that we were able to see more of his kick ass sword fighting skills. Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) also was fun to watch. I will admit that most of the action pieces were enjoyable but I just didn't give a shit about the participants. Even though he was too old I did like what they did with Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) and his Chameleon like abilities. Overall the film was just too stupid to take any real joy from it. The dialogue was the worst--it wasn't just that it was silly it was bad, like Uwe Boll bad. Whoever wrote this thing should take the same bus out as Mr. Sommers. If you feel you must see this giant flaming turd--go with a warning. It is not what you remember from your childhood. If you want to watch GI Joe in all it's American glory with the American Flag flying high go and watch the cartoon GI Joe Movie, trust me it will make you smile.
Grade 1 1/2 Buckets

Saturday, August 15, 2009

District 9

When I saw the first trailer for District 9 I groaned a bit. I thought it was another Cloverfield or Quarantine style faux-documentary. Probably full of bad dialogue and cheap scares. Thankfully it wasn't any of those things. It is actually one part Docu-drama and one part narrative all wrapped up into the sleeper hit of the Summer. I really love the combination of director Neil Blomkamp and Producer Peter Jackson, it really makes me sad that they won't be doing the Halo movie anytime soon.The back story is set up in the documentary style. Twenty years ago a few million Aliens, also called Prawns,(If you've seen them they look like something from the squid family) were discovered floating in an alien craft hovering over Johannesburg, South Africa. These Prawns were malnourished and unable to communicate. With the world watching the government decides to place the survivors in a camp called District 9. We don't get any history of these creatures. We don't know where they are from or why they are here. No one seems to want them and everyone seems to think they are a blight on their communities. The aliens live in abject poverty as they are always foraging for food in the dumpsters. We are brought back to the present day as the Government has decided to re-locate the Prawns away from the city. We are then introduced to Wikus (Sharlto Copley), a simpleminded bureaucratic asshole. He's the guy they put in charge to extract the aliens from District 9. He's bumbly and he doesn't seem to have a whole lot going up upstairs. While in District 9 he finds a canister which he of course manhandles causing a chemical to be released. I won't give too much away but things start to go downhill for Wikus (pronounced with a V) very quickly after that.The film has no stars to distract from the narrative, which is a welcome change. At first it seems as if it's a simple film with a hand-held camera until Wickus gets into trouble and it becomes a fast paced intense race against time as Wickus is forced to work side by side with the Aliens he detests and fears to break into his old office to retrieve something of upmost importance to one of the aliens, ironically his name is much easier to pronounce then our protagonist, Christopher. The little alien child of Christopher's is kind of odd looking at first but they both grow on you as the story goes. It's an odd form of filmmaking it seems detached in a way, we don't really get to know any of the aliens or the humans except Wickus. Yet I still felt drawn to the story as it exploded into a war zone. It reminded me a bit of the Twilight Zone, we see these strange alien creatures that are unappealing with a propensity for violence. But as the story continues the veil begins to drop and we see who the true villains of the story and it ain't the ugly aliens. The effects were really fun, especially the ending, it reminded me of Robo Cop in a very good, violent bloody mess kind of way. This is by far the best flick of the summer, if you haven't seen it go now before it's gone. It's the most original action flick your gonna see in while so I suggest you take advantage and see this one asap.

Grade 4 Buckets

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Funny People

Time is just flying by, I just realized I saw this movie last week and I haven't had a chance to write this review. Every time I was about to sit down and write it something would happen; an upset baby, guests arriving, the Yankees distracting me. I wanted to see this movie because of two particular things. One, I really have enjoyed all of Judd Apatow's movies, granted there are only a few that he has actually directed, but needless to say, I enjoyed them all. Two, I was curious to see how he would transition from dick and fart jokes to more serious fare.George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is at the top of his game. He is a popular stand-up comic gone Hollywood. For all intents and purposes George Simmons is Adam Sandler sans wife and children. He lives in a giant house, can get any woman he wants, has major blockbusters under his belt including a stupid looking flick called Merman. (Sounds like Sandler is comfortable lampooning some of his own shitty films.) All of this is disrupted when he discovers he has a rare blood disease. He tries to do a stand-up gig afterward and bombs horribly. Ira (Seth Rogan), who has to go on after the star, decides to have some fun at his expense. Ira's set isn't great but George sees some potential in Ira and he offers him a job writing jokes for him.The first hour and half or so was really great. The dynamic between George and Ira is interesting. George takes Ira under his wing but he's a bit of child. Ira on the other hand appears a bit naive but he's responsible and he ends up taking care of George throughout his illness. Ira finally gets to one-up his more successful roommates, Leo (Jonah Hill) and Mark (Jason Schwartzman). The duo are pretty hilarious even though they don't get enough screen time. I have to say I truly admire people who can do this for a living. It's got to be one of the scariest things a person can do, emotionally, that is. You have to put yourself out there and hope to God that the audience thinks you're funny. You'd have to have a pretty thick skin to be able to do something like that night after night. Which is one of the great elements of this film. They kind of show that aspect. It's also great to see other familiar comics in cameos. Was that Paul Reiser?Apatow has to be the only comedy writer/director that has been so successful despite his fondness for dragging out his films. And Funny People is no exception. Which is why it might not have been as effective this time. At some point in the movie Apatow decides to segway into romantic comedy land as George decides to pursue the girl that got away. He drags Ira with him as he tries to bond with his old girlfriend, Laura (Leslie Mann) and her two girls. The problem is she's married to Clarke (Eric Bana), who comes home early from a business trip to discover what his wife has been up to. It kind of make me dislike George and Laura and I'm not sure if that was the point of this trip. I really like Leslie Mann and I think she's a good actress but what the hell was she doing in this? I know she's married to Judd Apatow but it really felt like that's why she was in this movie. Don't get me wrong, it was still funny, but it felt awkward and out of place. I wish they had just stuck to the mentor/mentee dynamic instead of veering off into this. I won't reveal what happens but it seemed kind of pointless to me.Don't get me wrong it's a good solid movie. I'll probably buy it on DVD, but it certainly lost a bucket due to that strange trip to rekindle a romance with the ex-girlfriend. The performances are really great, and most importantly it's pretty damn funny.Grade: 3 Buckets

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Han Solo, P.I.

If Han decided to become a private space!!

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier

I know that the third book in the series came out in late 2007, but I didn't want to shell out the dough for the hardcopy version. I'm sure it had more pages of Alan Moore ramblings but it also cost like 60 bucks. Not to mention my wife was already pissed that I spent 50 bucks on the Lost Girls three-book set. Tasteful porn I called it, but Tamar was ready to write Alan Moore off altogether. By luck or fate I found myself in Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago and snatched up a paperback copy of The Black Dossier.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first two volumes revolving around Mina Murray (Harker) and her band of rowdy Gentlemen, circa 1890. The stories themselves are not wholly original. Almost all of the characters are ripped from pop culture or literature. But Alan Moore is very good at changing the narrative so that it isn't just a cookie cutter action story. He also creates new dimensions for these beloved characters of literature that are on one hand fascinating and on the other aggravating. This proves to be true especially within the pages of the Black Dossier. If you know me well you know that I am a big Bond fan. I loved the references in the first two books to the Ancestor of James Bond, a smart but smarmy double agent named Campion Bond. I was hoping that if the books continued that Moore would get to tackle 007 himself. He did but he did it in a way I did not expect.The year is 1958 and a Fountain of Youth altered Alan Quartermain and Mina Murray have returned to London after they were presumed MIA for years. They break into MI-6 to steal the Black Dossier which fills in the gaps between the Victorian era of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to the current time 1958. Mina traps a somewhat stupid and violent rapist MI-6 agent into the storage house for British Intelligence where she is able to recover the Black Dossier. To my great horror I heard him call himself Jimmy and he had a striking resemblance to Sean Connery. As I read further they made references to a Jamaican encounter with an Asian fellow with a funny name. It's all in good fun I know but I really hated this incarnation of 007. If you were going to make him a bad guy at least make him bad ass, but alas he is quite the buffoon. We also get to see an different take of Emma Night, known to the BBC fans as Emma Peel from the hit 60's British spy show the Avengers. She is joined by her partner the crabby anti-semite Hugo Drummond. I was not familiar with Drummond's literary past. Apparently he was created by an author named Herman Cyril McNeile, as kind of a tougher Sherlock Holmes character. If you don't read carefully you'll miss a mention and appearance by Harry Lime from the Third Man. It's a pretty clever take on the character.The thrust of the story follows Mina and Alan as they try to avoid MI-6 and study the Dossier. If you are familiar with Alan Moore he likes to put in little excerpts of stories to try to paint a larger picture. When you first see these strange little passages, notes and parts of diaries it's hard not to skim over them and get back to the main story. But it is futile to do that with this particular book. The Dossier explains a great deal about the Gentlemen and about the current state of politics in the UK. These segments are most interesting as they explain that the League was first formed by the wizard Prospero, from Shakespeare. It's actually kind of fun reading that segment as it is all in Iambic Pentameter. We also get to see adventures from other league members like Fanny Hill and the transgendered immortal Orlando. I wasn't always familiar with every literary character in the book but it was fun trying to spot them out. It was also very cool to get the 3-D glasses in order to fully understand and enjoy the Blazing World. Where it seems the fairy tale creatures of earth as well as former League Members live.I have to say overall I was disappointed with this book. It still is exceptional work but in comparison to Alan Moore's earlier League work it just lacks the charisma and excitement. I think Alan Moore gets a little too full of himself as he packs his stories with so much information that you are left scratching your head. Even worse in this book when he throws in some obscure character from literature with the assumption that we know who they are and what they are about. Again it sometimes leaves you scratching your head in confusion. Kevin O'Neil's artwork is, as always, top notch. I truly enjoyed his hard work on creating and executing a 3-D world within a comic book, no easy feat I'm sure. If you enjoy the League graphic novels and you wish to continue reading further installments it is important to read the Black Dossier otherwise you will be completely lost. I just started reading the next book 1910, and it is full of references to the Black Dossier without much explanation. But even when Alan Moore bastardizes your favorite characters he still crafts a compelling story that is totally worth the read.