Wednesday, 30 May 2012 13:48

Men in Black 3' surprisingly strong

Will Smith's screen return has humor and heart

When I initially heard about 'Men in Black 3,' I didn't think much of it. It's summertime; of course there are going to be blockbuster sci-fi/action sequels. That's just how it works. But when I sat down to actually watch the movie, something obvious only just then occurred to me.

I have never reviewed a Will Smith movie.

His last film was 'Seven Pounds,' released in 2008 (well before my published film criticism began). Despite the fact that Will Smith is (I think) still considered one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, he hasn't opened a movie in four years.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 15:10

They sank their Battleship'

Sci-fi action film flawed and formulaic

Sometimes when we go to the movies, we're looking for complex stories about the sorts of trials and tribulations we encounter in real life. They're dramatized of course, but at their core, these are stories that could have happened to us in some way, shape or form.

And sometimes, we just want to see some stuff blow up. Guess which category 'Battleship' falls under? Surprise the movie based on a board game isn't overly invested in character development!

The film is centered around Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, 'John Carter'), a ne'er-do-well troublemaker whose latest scrape with the law finally pushes his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard, TV's 'True Blood') to demand that Alex join the Navy. Flash forward a few years and Alex is progressing through the ranks, though he's never quite shed his inability to be bound by The Man's rules. He's also dating the lovely Samantha (Brooklyn Decker, 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'), a smart, tough woman who just happens to be the daughter of Alex's superior officer Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson, 'The Grey'). Because that's just how things work in movies like this.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 17:49

Quoth The Raven' total bore

Film is uninspired, unoriginal and uninteresting

Sometimes, you just know. Maybe you're watching a trailer or reading a preview; you're learning about an upcoming movie for the first time. Just like that, an epiphany about this movie strikes.

It is going to be terrible.

More often than not, that visceral first instinct is usually right when it comes to cinematic stinkers. And if you're like me, you got that feeling instantly upon your first view of the trailer for 'The Raven,' starring John Cusack ('Hot Tub Time Machine') as Edgar Allan Poe in some sort of action-adventure/mystery genre mishmash that at first glance doesn't seem to know what it wants to be.

Upon viewing the film, I can safely say this - that impression is wholly accurate.

Published in Movies
Thursday, 08 March 2012 11:40

Project X' deserves an F'

Party movie not much fun

Sometimes, a movie comes along that looks just terrible. You see the trailers and read the advance coverage and you think to yourself 'Man, what a steaming pile that movie is going to be.' Of course, you're still kind of titillated by the idea of going to see this awful, awful movie. Sometimes it's fun to see something you know is going to be bad.

But sometimes you get a movie that's beyond bad, a movie that is exponentially worse than even the terrible trailers ever indicated.

Sometimes you get 'Project X.'

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 13:01

Communal comedy with Wanderlust'

Comedy offers great performances, plenty of laughs

Screen chemistry is a tricky thing. In any sort of cinematic relationship - especially a romantic one - your leads have to have the proper dynamic between them. They are the foundation from which the rest of the movie builds; without a strong, engaging relationship in that spot, everything else falls apart.

And just because the actors involved are charismatically gifted individually does not mean that their on-screen pairing is going to work. It's all about the mixture.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 12:49

Shouldn't have Gone'

Mediocre thriller has nothing to offer

Winter is a good time for a thriller. It's cold and dark outside, and we're maybe just a little more predisposed toward the danger by proxy of the genre. Well if it's a good one. If it's a bad one, the only thrill will come when the credits finally roll.

'Gone' resides firmly in the latter category.

Published in Movies
Thursday, 25 August 2011 11:50

Rebooting the barbarian

With the current Hollywood trend of remakes, reboots and reimaginings, it should come as no surprise that the 1982 cinematic classic 'Conan the Barbarian' would eventually be given the treatment. As a fan of the original as much for its wonderful flaws as anything else I went into the remake with a combination of low expectations and guarded optimism.

What I got was an ultraviolent and bloody fantasy epic with an overwrought and underdeveloped back story, clumsy performances and gratuitous special effects, 3D and otherwise.

In other words: perfect.

The plot such as it is revolves around an ancient mask that bestows great power on the wielder. In times gone by, the mask was destroyed and the pieces scattered among the barbarian tribes. The sinister Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang, 'Avatar') searches out a Cimmerian village in his quest for the final piece of the mask and winds up massacring them all, leaving a young Conan (Leo Howard, 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra') to watch his father (Ron Perlman, TV's 'Sons of Anarchy') die, but the youngster escapes.

Flash-forward to a now-grown Conan (Jason Momoa, TV's 'Game of Thrones') still on a constant hunt for the man who killed his father and destroyed his village. When a familiar face makes an appearance, Conan finally knows who his opponent is the most powerful man in the land. And then?

It's on.

I'm going to be right up front about this 'Conan the Barbarian' is not a good movie. However, that doesn't change the fact that I enjoyed the crap out of it. While there's no accounting for taste, I acknowledge the many, many problems here. The story is thin and the performances alternate between wooden and maniacal the film often screeches to a halt when people, you know, talk.

But here's the thing Robert Howard's 'Conan' stories were pulp fiction. They were supposed to be populated with broad archetypes and gory violence. They were filled with good guys and bad guys and you knew which was which. This isn't complex psychodrama here it's a movie about a guy whose primary response to any situation is to cleave it in two with a broadsword.

And that's why I enjoyed this movie, as bad as it might be. Whether intentional or not, the filmmakers have created a true spiritual successor to the original movie. Like the original, the new 'Conan' is huge and sprawling, filled with swords and blood and skulls and fire. Bad guys get killed by the score and there's an occasional boob. It's big, dumb, ridiculous fun. It's nothing more and needs to be nothing more.

'Conan the Barbarian' simply is what it is. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

3 out of 5

Published in Movies
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