Thursday, March 27, 2008

Funny Games Review

This movie is horribly difficult for me to review. On the one hand the film is really tremendously well acted. Naomi Watts, though she may play the crying girl role a bit too often, is truly one of the best actresses working today. She manages to bring something real to a character that is not dissimilar from the crap you see in something like Hostel. Tim Roth and Devon Gearhart fill out the family nicely. Michael Pitt is unbelievably creepy as the main tormentor; though I found his co-tormentor, Brady Corbet, gave something of a lacking performance. The film is well lensed, well constructed and wonderfully framed.
The big problem is Haneke's method of delivering his message - that there is something perverse and wrong in the enjoyment of violence in films - is unbelievably heavy handed. Haneke has all the subtlety of Michael Bay when he has his tormentor's break the fourth wall and talk to the audience about their torture and the progression of the story. That doesn't even mention the ridiculous moment when one of the villains pulls a Click by rewinding with a remote control to undo a mistake in execution of the plan. We get it, we're a perverse society for embracing violent films, but, perhaps, we could have some sort of subtle delivery of that message? Mr. Haneke, this isn't the art you think it is and the hubris of making a shot-by-shot remake of your own film from a decade ago makes me ill.

Overall Score: 4/10

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Doomsday Review

While I found Doomsday's because of competitor Never Back Down to be a loving homage and take on the cliche sports genre I found Doomsday to be much more of a cheap rip off better material. While I grant it's a fine line that Doomsday crosses no part of it ever feels like more than just a relensing of better movies with worse actors. Scenes are torn liberally from films like (among many others) Escape from New York, 28 Days Later, Mad Max, Aliens, Road Warrior and Lord of the Rings each to far less effect than the first times. I'm surprised at how this turned out as I think Marshall's own The Descent is one of, if not, the best horror film of the past decade. For every creative and well played decision in The Descent, he has made a poor choice in design and concept in Doomsday. The acting is uniformly mediocre to awful. Alexander Siddig, an actor who made small roles memorable in Kingdom of Heaven and Syriana, gives a career worse performance, as does Malcolm McDowell (who is in my running for worst performance of the year). Rhona Mitra seems to be trying but she lacks the action presense of Kate Beckinsale's Underworld character who she seems to be modeled after, down to the tight leather outfit (let alone great action heroines like Linda Hamilton in T2 or Sigourney Weaver in the Alien series). To be honest this was so mediocre and inept at times that I'm a bit worried The Descent was a happy accident in Marshall's career. While it has some enjoyable and exciting (if poorly editied) action scenes I really can't recommend this at all.

Overall Score: 3/10

Never Back Down Review

Steal liberally from as many cliche sports and fight movies from the 80s and early 90s as possible, add in a dash of Fight Club and a hint of The O.C. and, presto!, 106 minutes later you have Never Back Down. It's difficult for me to give this movie a serious review because objectively it isn't very good but I'll be damned if I didn't have a great time at it. The performances are surprisingly earnest and tolerable, which isn't to say they're good but they're probably better than the material deserves. Djimon Hounsou, a great actor who is far too frequently in bad movies, gives a pretty nice Mr. Miyagi impersonation here. Sean Faris plays the same sort of troubled wrong side of the tracks kid with a heart of gold dragged into an upper class society not dissimilar from the lead character, Ryan Atwood, on The O.C. Cam Gigandet, once a villain on The O.C., plays an amusingly hammy heavy here. I think I found this film most amusing because it was so unabashed in it's dedication to adapting the best moments of so many fun cliche films (it's really more of a homage than anything else). This film features the karate move our hero struggles with at first returns in the climax (I'll let you guess if it's successful or not), Mr. Miyagi (or whatever Djimon's character is named) spouts pearls of wisdom throughout and, possibly most amusing of all, are the FOUR music video style training montages (all of which have a nice Rocky feel to them). Turn off your brain, see this and have a good time.

Overall Score: 7/10

Drillbit Taylor Review

Superbad Jr anyone? Basically replicating the Superbad premise of the awkward kid and the fat kid who are fodder for bullies (complete with a supernerd little buddy) and attemting to fit into their high school, Drillbit Taylor adds the wrinkle of them hiring a bodyguard to protect them from bullies. While the film's screenplay (in part from Seth Rogan) has some really funny moments, too much of the premise falls horribly flat. The bullies are so cruel and violent (including legitimately trying to run over our heroes) that it really took me out the film. Further Wilson's homeless buddies are unfunny and, frankly, kind of uncomfortable to watch. Both lead kids, Alex Frost and Josh Peck, are surprisingly tolerable. Owen Wilson does his usual routine, though some of his interactions with the kids are pretty funny. Leslie Mann gives the best performance here, but alas her role is too small. It's got a few laughs, but it's just not very good.

Overall Score: 4/10

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Married Life Review

It just really didn't work well for me but I have trouble putting a finger on why precisely. The performances are all strong, especially Pierce Brosnan who has made a wonderful career of playing on his Bond persona. Has there ever been a time in his life when he hasn't been the coolest person in the room? The post-war style really suits him. I found that Sachs' film works neither as a sly dark comedy on the era nor as a darker commentary piece (such as the far superior Far from Heaven). The film also leaves the viewer with an unbearable sense of malaise as the boring too clean ending seems somewhat nonsensical after all that had preceeded it. Well acted and a strong concept, Married Life is a missed opportunity.

Overall Score: 5/10

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Bank Job Review

I'm kind of a sucker for a heist movie so I wasn't too surprised I enjoyed this one. Donaldson is an adequate director (Thirteen Days is a good movie) but he really struggles to get the story moving in the first twenty or so chaotic minutes. After the story calms down a bit and strands start to come together the film grows exponentially more compelling. Jason Statham, more action star than actor so far in his career, is actually pretty decent here. His love triangle scenes show a surprising skill at acting that you'd never have known if you've only seen his action movies (considering his next two projects are Transporter 3 and Crank 2 I'm not sure he knows either). Saffron Burrows is fine if unspectacular in the manipulative woman with a hidden agenda role. Stephen Campbell Moore and Daniel Mays play two of Statham's chums along for the heist and give nice, often funny performance. I give Donaldson credit, much of the humor here is really effective and doesn't feel quite as forced as the genre often lends itself to. The only other real problem with the movie is that it just feels very long, aside from the miserable first twenty minutes, the film just seems to drag, never so noticeably that you're bored, just simply that the whole thing feels like a bit of an ordeal. Strongly recommend for fans of heist movies and cautiously recommended for others.

Overall Score: 7/10

Friday, March 7, 2008

10,000 B.C. Review

Well this was really remarkably awful. I mean I can barely put in to words how ridiculously stupid the plot and screenplay are. It might be the worst screenplay ever put to film. It rips elements and even scenes right out of numerous other films (Lord of the Rings, 300, Apocalypto) but it most closely mimics the plot of Roland Emmerich's own (far superior) Stargate. I'm not even going to try to touch on all of the ridiculous historical inaccuracies but I am curious as to when ostriches and velociraptors mated and created the villainous jungle birds seen here. Based on this and When a Stranger Calls Camilla Belle should thank her lucky stars that she's a beautiful woman...because she is an absolutely terrible actress. I had never heard of Steven Strait before this and I feel no urge to see any more of his work. Cliff Curtis, who has a given a number of decent performances in his career most notably in Three Kings and in Sunshine, at least seems to be trying to do something with the material. I just have trouble understanding how someone couldn't have tapped Roland Emmerich on the shoulder throughout this whole process and asked 'what the hell are you doing?' This is the worst 'event movie' that I can remember. It gets a two of ten instead of a one because the action scenes are pretty well done and because the cinematography is, at times, gorgeous. It also has one of the dumbest endings in cinema history. Don't see this by choice and if you have to then see it drunk.

Overall Score: 2/10

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Captivity Review

So I'm starting to think there is something wrong with me because I've seen far too many of these 'torture porn' movies over the past few years. I almost never enjoy them yet for some reason I end up seeing them time and time again. This one is a particularly revolting example of the genre. Some of the grotesque highlights include Cuthbert being forced to kill her pet dog (which of course doesn't merely die, it explodes from the force of a point blank range shotgun blast) and being forced to drink a cannibal cocktail of eyeballs, ears and other body parts. Additionally there is some pretty perverse sexual manipulation here. Seriously, I wish I were kidding. I should have turned it off at any of these points (or maybe I shouldn't have ever started) and I feel rather dirty that I actually made it through to the end of this movie. Suffice to say the acting is terrible. Cuthbert is an awful actress but somehow Daniel Gillies is so awful that he makes her look like Kate Winslet. It gets a 2 out of 10 because I found myself rather satisfied when Cuthbert manages to escape and kill her captors. How the hell did this come from the guy who made The Mission with De Niro?

Overall Score: 2/10