Sat, Apr 28, 2012

: The Raven

I love the concept of this film: involving the real Edgar Allen Poe in a murder mystery is genius. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t do anything with the concept.

The plot is trite: a madman, apparently a fan of Poe’s work, starts killing people in the same way that people die in his stories. That sounds somewhat intriguing and it would be, if the murders were interesting, but the movie seems to go out of its way to make them boring. Even the classic “pit and the pendulum” — where the entire purpose is the horror of seeing the pendulum coming closer and closer and knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it from cutting you — is over in thirty seconds, literally no time to even build a modicum of suspense or tension.

Then the murderer, after getting Poe’s attention with murders from his stories, kidnaps the writer’s girlfriend and insists Poe write about it for the newspaper every day or he’ll kill again. This means we literally get to watch Poe write and editors read out loud what he writes. Very exciting.

Since we barely know Poe’s girlfriend (all we know is that she’s is pretty and her father opposes the union), we barely care about her. That might not matter if the quest to find her were interesting, but the murderer’s clues are so obtuse and dull that even the hunt is tedious.

The actual reveal of the murderer is anticlimactic, and though the ending is somewhat satisfying, the journey to get there feels like a slough. What is the point of the whole mess?

There are some nice elements, such as the look of the film, the period setting, and a few of the performances, but those are washed away by the insipid plot and some dreadful anachronisms (such as Poe calling a barfly a “mouth breather”). Best avoided. I am very disappointed as I was looking forward to this film.

Topic: [/movie]


Thu, Apr 26, 2012

: Gunless

Quirky little Canadian Western — yeah, that’s right, Canadian Western — about an American gunslinger who finds himself in a tiny town in Canada where no one will fight him.

That one-joke premise is stretched a bit thin over 90 minutes, but it’s terrific where it works: it’s hilarious to see the gunfighter furious with every slight and perceived insult and trying to “call people out” but the friendly Canadians don’t have weapons and he’s unable to do anything because his own code won’t allow him to shoot unarmed men!

Overall it’s a little slow and nothing too much happens (the grand finale shootout is a little on the tame side), so I doubt it’s for everyone’s taste, but if you like the premise, you might check it out and be entertained. I’d only planned to peek at it because I was curious, but I liked it enough to watch the whole thing, so that ought to tell you something. It’s not joke-a-second sitcom funny, but it is amusing, and there are a number of really excellent moments (like most comedies, consistency is the hard part). Fun.

Topic: [/movie]


Sat, Apr 21, 2012

: Moneyball

This is a tricky movie to comment on as by now it’s famous and that raises my expectations. Though I’m not a baseball fan or follower, I actually wanted to see this at the time of release because it seemed to focus less on the sport and more on the behind-the-scenes stuff. That interested me as I figured I wouldn’t understand the sport.

I didn’t get to see it until now and it turns out it was similar to what I anticipated, but unfortunately I still felt I didn’t really get everything I was supposed to because I don’t know baseball. Sure, I know the basic rules and I’ve played the game as a kid, but I don’t know the pro game or understand the terminology or get the subtleties of the sport. There were many scenes were I didn’t quite understand what was happening.

To give one example, a key plot point involved switching an injured player from catcher to first base. The player’s injury meant he couldn’t throw, which apparently ruled him out as catcher but not at first base. I don’t understand why. First basemen don’t need to throw? I understood the concept of shifting a player to a different position and how that was radical and clever — but the film never explained the differences between those positions so I could understand why that was so radical and significant.

I was also confused by the main character. I did not understand who he was or his history — at times he seemed like he was a former professional player who had success and at other times it seemed like he was a former player who was a failure.

Much of the movie felt like that to me: even when I thought I was getting it, there was still this undercurrent I knew I was missing. I found that disappointing and frustrating, because the whole point of a movie like this is to bring something niche like baseball to a wider audience. In that regard the movie failed. It got very close and is admirable in many ways, but it fell short. (Note that I felt like I understood the “moneyball” premise — buy undervalued players cheap — but that feels incredibly obvious and not revolutionary at all.)

By the same token I was disappointed by the ending, which felt like a downer to me, but that’s in part because I don’t know the real-life history and assumed a Hollywood ending. (It’d be like someone watching Titanic who didn’t know the ship was going to sink.)

Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a bad movie by any stretch. I was entertained, I followed about 80-90% of what was going on, and I liked the performances, the dialog, and the story. But my expectations were so high that I came away disappointed. I was expecting something ground-breaking and remarkable and instead I got a merely solid story. Ultimately this is a baseball movie, made for people in the baseball club. Bummer.

Topic: [/movie]


Fri, Apr 20, 2012

: Lockout

I’m a big Luc Besson fan, but this is definitely one of his weaker efforts (I think he saves his better ideas for films he directs). The concept is cliche — a futuristic space prison — and the implementation forgets logic and even basic science. There were such huge inconsistencies and logic missteps that it sucked the life out of the film.

For instance, why have all the prisoners in stasis? If they’re all in hibernation, they could just as easily be housed on earth. It would make far more sense to use convicts as high-risk labor in space, not store them in sleeping pods for decades for what must be an obscene amount of money.

Even dumber, since the prisoners are all asleep, why does the station need to be so big and have so many guards and so many weapons? Why are there hundreds of military spaceships nearby ready to attack?

Oh, I’m sorry. I’m using logic in an action flick. I forgot. We’re supposed to suspend our disbelief and just enjoy the show. That’s tough to do here, as the action decidedly unremarkable. About the only thing that’s good is the interaction and dialog between our gruff rescuer and the president’s daughter held hostage. Even that’s inconsistent. I wasn’t even too enamored with the bad guys, who usually are a lot of fun, but in this case we have the nutty brother who’s just so insane he’s an idiot and the taciturn leader who we really never get to know. (I like crazy, but I like crazy with a plan.) And don’t get me started on the overdone plot, which is predictable with red herrings and conspiracies.

The bottom line is this is a film of moments. There are brief sequences that are quite good, but they don’t add up to a very good movie. I wouldn’t say the whole thing is terrible — it’s just nothing special. It’s a film that thinks it is clever when it is not. It’s fun if you don’t expect much (I didn’t). Just get what you can out of it.

Topic: [/movie]


Tue, Apr 17, 2012

: The Entitled

This is an overly pretentious film that could have been something neat. It’s about a group of disenfranchised college kids who kidnap three of their wealthier peers and hold them for $3 million ransom. It’s trying to make a statement about middle class versus the privileged, but it’s not very effective. The stuff with the poor kid is too on the nose, with him trying to pay his sick mother’s medical bills and their house being foreclosed. We don’t really get a good enough picture of any of the characters. The rich dads are similarly not well defined, so we end up not really caring much for anyone.

The plot has some interesting twists, however, and there are intense, claustrophobic scenes that remind me of a play. There are hints of ulterior motives and double-crosses and other twists, though unfortunately most of these prove to be red herrings. The final twist isn’t huge, but it’s interesting and I liked the ending. But this is 30 minutes of actual movie stretched to 90, and it’s so watered down and with nothing going on but the limited kidnapping plot, it feels weak and pointless.

Topic: [/movie]


Sat, Apr 14, 2012

: The Cabin in the Woods

What a fun flick! It’s a funny re-look at the horror genre, not quite a parody like the Scream series, but similar in the sense that it plays with traditional horror conventions. In this case the movie sets up like a stereotypical horror film with a gang of five college kids off to a remote cabin in the woods. Each of the five fits a type, from the jock to the slut to the virgin, but then things start to get interesting.

Actually, we know early on from views of the lab technicians that this is all part of some grand experiment — we just aren’t sure where it’s going. I won’t spoil it, except to say the resolution is over-the-top and utterly ridiculous — yet some how that makes it great. It works, and it’s a lot of fun. Don’t take it too seriously, just go and enjoy.

(I will say this is probably best enjoyed by those who are familiar with horror tropes, as there are tons of gags that depend on you knowing how typical slasher films work. The film loves to point you in a direction and then suddenly creatively switch gears and give you something unexpected.)

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