Sunday, August 22, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

I've seen plenty of Movies adapted from video games, I've seen tons of movies adapted from comic books. This has to be the first time I've seen a comic book adapted to a movie that is actually a video game. Yes, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is the first video game movie.

Scott Pilgrim, (Michael Cera) is a hopeless romantic who jumps from girl to girl, that is until he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). This slacker thought he had it made when he started dating Ramona but that all changed when he is suddenly attacked by one of her evil ex-boyfriends. He realizes that he has to defeat all seven of her evil exes, video game style, in order to win the heart of  fair maiden.

Honestly, now that I'm home writing this review for this flick, I'm still not 100% sure what to think of it. On one hand it was incredibly awesome seeing all those great 80's and 90's video game references as Scott mows down the competition turning them into gold coins when he's through with them. On the other hand, as cool as the sequences were, if I had a heart condition for all that rapid eye movement I think I would have had a stroke after the first ten minutes. Maybe that's the old person in me talking but damn this movie bounces all over the place. It's an interesting take on relationships, playing the emotion as a video game. But on another it's hard to take anything or anyone seriously at all, thus making it difficult to really care about anyone or anything at all. Michael Cera is probably the biggest offender here as he pulls out all the Cera stops that he has the past few years and I can really see now why his schtick is getting old. He's annoying and he's pretty unlikable for most of the film, and I can't tell if that's just Michael Cera or Director Edgar Wright trying to make his hero a little more anti-heroish. Regardless, the humor in the flick really works. I love he fights Superman Brandon Routh who is powered by Vegan products, pretty damn funny. Also thought his fight with Hollywood Star Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) was pretty kick ass too. So in some weird way Michael Cera's scrawny ass not only defeats Superman but Captain America too?

It was a pretty fun supporting cast, I'm really loving Mary Elizabeth Winstead, she truly does have very pretty eyes and even though I'm not digging her weird hair changes, (again I'm old) she makes for an interesting love interest with her strange baggage she puts on Scott. I thought Kieran Culkin's smart ass roommate of Scott's was pretty damn funny. As well as Alison Pill, Ana Kendrick and newcomer Ellen Wong. Wong's fight scene at the end was pretty spectacular. As well as the fight with Jason Schwartzman's Gideon Graves, it totally felt I was watching Tekken 2 on the big screen. Overall Edgar Wright has proven once again why he's a great director and he is the king of original comedy. But it loses points cause of it's star Michael Cera. That guy really needs to learn how to expand his pallet or he's done for in this biz, and if I were to use the grosses for this flick as the barometer the clock is ticking. I think it barely made over 10 million opening weekend, and as I check Rentrak it looks like it's fallen out of the top ten all together. Ouch. But truthfully it's not a bad flick and given what came out this past weekend with Piranha's and Sperm switching I think it's totally worth a view. But I warn you if you don't like video games or have a history with video games then you're probably gonna be really annoyed with this movie.

Grade: 3 Buckets

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Expendables

This has been the summer of the 80's flashback after hits and misses like Karate Kid, Predators and A-Team. Studios tried to get butts in theatres and other than Karate Kid, most have failed. In fact the action genre this summer has been next to pitiful as big names stars with big vehicles have crashed and burned all over the place. As I now look at the weekend box office total it looks like the Expendables has survived their first weekend coming up with a number one spot with about 35 million. Now I had heard that expectations were already low and they supposedly shot the thing for about 85 million, so all in all a decent haul for the weekend. And on some level I'm happy that a big action movie could take number one at least once this year, but I feel kind of mixed about this movie in particular. The Expendables, unfortunately, has shown Stallone's age in the worse way possible. I really wanted to love this movie I really did, but the dialogue and Old Man Rocky made that almost impossible. I really hate to say it but I think Stallone helped to drive in the final nail in the coffin that was-- 80's action films.
Barney Rubble, I mean Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his rag tag team of mercenaries are sent on a seemingly impossible job to kill a dictator (David Zayas) and the ex-CIA agent (Eric Roberts) that is funding him. Barney's team is nothing to sneeze at, these guys are all pretty bad ass. His right hand man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) is a master of knives. Yin Yang (Jet Li) is the resident martial artist and short person. (It was funny the first few times, but then that joke got lame.) Toll Road (Randy Couture), I think he was a munitions guy but I'm not sure what his specialty was, but his fight with Steve Austin was certainly the high light of the entire film. Then you have Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), yeah didn't realize that was his name, thank God they didn't mention that too much. He pretty much just stayed in the background until the end where he blew shit up good with his massive hand cannon. His scenes were pretty fun too, kind of reminded me of those scenes in Terminator 2 with Arnold and the big ass machine gun. Lastly you had the wild card Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) who was totally out of his gourd and at one point flips sides for a while. They had their handler, Tool (Mickey Rourke) who seems to be there for moral support and to kick around to talk about the old days. Given what Mickey had to work with I thought he had the most heart of anybody in the film.
This should have been a really fun flick, I was really hoping for it to be the big action movie of the summer but it just fell so flat. I can't complain about the action scenes, they were gritty and huge and at times amazing. I can't say enough about Steve Austin in this movie the guy really knows how to make a punch pay off in both his battle with Stallone and Couture. As I said before though it was Sly himself that made this thing almost unwatchable. I think it's time he stayed behind the camera instead of in front of it. I say this with the upmost respect, I really have enjoyed most of his films growing up. I will admit I was never a big Rocky or Rambo fan but he really won me over in movies like Cop Land, Demolition Man and Cliffhanger. Yes, I said Cliffhanger, it's a fun ride and Stallone was great in it. He looked tired, he looked worn out. He honestly looked like he was 65 years old and he was having trouble keeping up. I think his talents are best served behind the camera. That being said it would serve him and his compatriots when shooting Expendables 2 to get a screenwriter worth a damn. I got some suggestions; Shane Black (Lethal Weapon films, Die Hard 2) or Jeb Stewart (Die Hard) or how about Brian Helgeland (LA Confidental, Man on Fire & Payback). These are all damn fine writers who wrote great material for super badasses. They also know how to write a great villain cause that is sorely missing here. I enjoy Eric Roberts most of the time and again no one will deny that Stone Cold Steve Austin kicked major ass in this film, but he was just the muscle. He was Karl to a non-existent Hans Gruber. There was no character there for Roberts to play he was just an asshole with a suit, not very compelling. Also this thing is called the Expendables, I thought it was supposed to be about a group of guys. The film mostly just focused on Statham and Stallone, I didn't really feel like this was about the group. I wanted to see more Terry Crews, I wanted to see more Couture, but they kept going off on weird subplots with Christmas and his wayward girlfriend and dealing with the madness of Dolph.
Oh, and you really aren't missing much if you happen to miss the cameo of the trinity of action stars which is Stallone, Arnie and Bruce. I thought the scene was friggin horrible. Bunch of cheesy one-liners and Arnie just looked uncomfortable, I guess he's been away too long, reminded me of his Red Sonja days. Again the dialogue creeps back and makes you just want to shake your head for all of it's lameness. I think this film proves that a successful action movies needs it's big heroes and it's big bang but it also needs as most things do a fun story with at least clever writing. In which the Expendables fails miserably. I know it feels like I put the hurt on Stallone and his movie but there are many redeeming things in the flick, most importantly the big fight pieces and Mickey Rourke. If you are looking for mindless action with a plot similar to Rambo from a few years ago, then this is right up your alley. If you are itching for clever fun explosions with a solid story like Die Hard or Predator then you are barking up the wrong tree, you might as well go to the bargain theatres and see if the A-Team is still playing. At least they know how to make a fun action flick with mercenaries.
Grade: 2 and half buckets

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Other Guys

Ah, it's August once again and the summer is almost over. Every year it seems to go by faster and faster and for some it couldn't go fast enough. This has to be the most lukewarm summer at the box office in recent memory. But I found myself liking a good deal of the films that didn't do so well like the A-Team, Robin Hood, Knight and Day, Predators and Get Him to the Greek. They were flawed sure but they were sure fun. This is what's so great about the Other Guys it has that same element of fun and humor. Add to that a really interesting premise for an action film or a comedy for that matter. The main villain here, and trust me this is not a real spoiler, is a hedge fund. That's right, the filmmakers are making a timely comedy about douche bags like Bernie Madoff and giant bastard companies like Goldman Sachs. Throw in odd couple partners Mark Wahlberg and Will Farrell and mix in director Adam McKay's signature bizarre comedic elements and you have yourself a strange but funny summer flick.
Detective Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) and Detective Allen Gamble (Will Farrell) are two desk jockey cops who live in the shadow of two super cops, Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (The Rock). Terry is chained to his desk because as a patrol officer he accidentally shot Yankees star Derek Jeter during game 7 of the World Series granting him eternal infamy with the city of New York and within the department. His soft and prissy partner Gamble is smart and efficient but doesn't seem to have a desire to walk the beat. After a strange turn of events the two are thrust into an investigation that puts these two ill-equipped cops up against a shady corporation and puts them at odds with their superiors.
In many ways this was not a run of the mill flick. This is a comedy without a true straight man. Both Hoitz and Gamble are a pair of wacky crazy guys. In fact after viewing the whole movie, I would have to say, if there was a straight man, it would be Will Farrell's Gamble. He's the smart one, even though he says whatever strange shit that happens to come out of his mouth, and he sometimes reverts to his hidden personality, a pimp named Gator. (Some of the funniest bits by the way) But other than that he's the guy pushing the investigation, meanwhile, Terry is good at kicking ass but he seems to be about as dumb as a post. He has serious anger issues which always seems to make the situation worse. You've got some great back up support from veteran comedians like Michael Keaton who plays the chief. It's really great to see him back in a solid comedy again, especially where he doesn't have to play multiples of himself or voice a creepy looking snowman. I also really liked Steve Coogan as a shameless Wall Street crook, he was pretty hilarious addition as they try to protect him from his superiors and even from himself. And Eva Mendes, who knew she could be funny. She's certainly hot but I was really surprised to see her hold her own with Will Farrell.
Overall it was a solid comedy with some timely satire. The duo here was solid, I would really like to see Mark Wahlberg do some more comedies, I never realized how funny he could be. And most importantly I really dug watching the both of them, Farrell and Wahlberg, together. So I'm game for a sequel if those guys are. I really enjoyed the change of pace of villain and if you stay through the credits you'll enjoy a history lesson of the past few years how the large corporations have fucked America up the ass. It's a charming scroll of information and if you can contain yourself enough to watch the whole thing you actually walk away with some interesting information. So if you don't go to see the Expendables then you should definitely check this one out. The action is fun the comedy is fucking hilarious and it gives you a little satisfaction that the fat cats can go to jail sometimes too.
Grade 3 Buckets

Thursday, August 05, 2010


The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! It's kind of interesting how all of a sudden Cold War properties are big again. I read recently that the Red Dawn remake was almost finished with production.  There is a documentary that just came out partially talking about the Russians and their loose nukes in Siberia called Countdown to Zero. And now ripped from the headlines you have about a dozen Russian spies that were caught trying to infiltrate US businesses. Right on the heels of that juicy story comes Angie's (possible) double agent doing back flips off a semi. It's almost too good for television how this thing escalated in the media. I really thought for a little while that it was just a gigantic stunt cooked up by Sony. Of course we know now that it wasn't but, damn, you couldn't buy better publicity than that. I particularly enjoyed Liev Schrieber's taking credit for it on the Daily Show the other day.

Agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is the best at detecting bullshit which is why the CIA asks her to question a Russian walk in named Vassily Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski)  who claims there is a Russian spy working within the agency. When he fingers her for the job she goes on the run to clear her name.
It's a pretty clear cut premise with a pretty fantastic backstory that is by far more interesting than what unfolds on screen. It felt like a long episode of Alias with insane car chases and pulse pumping action. Angie does good work here as she always seems to be more comfortable when she's firing a weapon then she is holding a teacup. I admit I don't think much of her as a dramatic actress, but put her in some skintight leather and have her leap around on moving cars and she's a natural. Although sometimes I do find it hard to believe a woman of her small frame could clock somebody and knock them out. She would need to put on some muscle or something, again looking at Jennifer Garner from Alias, she's got a great body but she looks strong like she could probably kick your ass. I get that Angie can be cold and mow you down but she still struggles to be a brute. Just my thought, if your reading Angie, pack on a few by eating more than a cracker a day. I digress,  I thought the pacing was pretty good and as I said before the action pieces were insane fun. A bit too over the top at times, I just expected a thriller from Phillip Noyce would have more believable action pieces rather than over the top stunts. The stuff with the trucks where she hops around like Spider-Man felt a bit too much. But that's just me being nitpicky. The overall arc of the story was interesting but the big twist at the end falls completely flat. The big bad was way too predictable. I saw that one coming a million miles away. I won't ruin it for you but if you've seen these kinds of movies in the past then you pretty much guessed who the main antagonist is.
The supporting cast was really great Liev Schrieber as Evelyn's partner Tom and the always great Chiwetel Ejiofor as the relentless Peabody. I honestly wish they had given him more things to do but it was great having him around balancing out the drama. The other big complaint I had was the interaction between Evelyn and her husband Mike (August Diehl), you get flashes of their relationship throughout the story but they don't really give us a sense of his role in her life and why it's important. The only reason I bring this up, because it becomes a focal point that drives the third act of the film. They just didn't give us enough to go on and I felt like it falls a little flat near the end. Although the underground bunker scene under the White House was top notch, I really enjoyed the spectacle with all the blast doors and Secret Service Agents kicking ass. Overall it's a fun action flick with a really fun premise, the story kind of dissolves near the third act but the action and Angie keep this thing afloat long enough to be more than enjoyable.
Grade: 3 Buckets