Tuesday, August 11, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

For the most part Hollywood has done nothing but bastardize almost everything I loved as a child.  Let’s run down the list.  Star Wars?  Check.  Transformers?  Check.  Friday the 13th?  Check.  Daredevil?  Check.  Texas Chainsaw Massacre?  Check.  Red Dawn?  The remake is set to be released next year.  Indiana Jones?  Indy may have been flushed farther down the crapper than any of them.  All that is really left for them to fuck up at this point are “Magnum P.I.” and Lego’s.

Because of this track record, I was taken aback when I first heard they were making a G.I. Joe movie.  However, I do have to admit that the resulting film, G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra, isn’t as bad as I anticipated.  The movie is not good.  I don’t want to be misunderstood on that point.  G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra is not good.  It is simply not as bad as it could have been.  I didn’t hate this as much as I felt like I should.  I’m conflicted on that matter.  I am sure it will take years of intense therapy for me to fully come to terms with these feelings.

The vast majority of the acting is atrocious.  That’s what you get when you fill a movie with the lesser Quaid (just for the record Randy is the superior Quaid), Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller (who, to be honest, I only know from my subscription to US Weekly, not actually from any acting work), and a Wayans.  Sure Jonathan Price is there, but he’s only onscreen for a minute or two, and doesn’t play much of a role except as a set up for the inevitable sequel.

The story is stupid.  The plot bounces all over the place, and from one minute to the next the script can’t decide whose story it actually is.  It is like they are trying to make this an ensemble piece with main character, and failing miserably.  There are flashbacks all over the place, and the fucking movie even starts in France in 1641.

But you know what?  You didn’t pay your ten bucks at the multi-plex to see masterful acting.  You didn’t say, “Hey, let’s go see G.I. Joe” to get a coherent, tightly written plot.  You want to see shit blow up.  I know this.  You know this.  And the filmmakers are well aware of this. 

Stephen Sommers, who directed the Mummy movies, which I also didn’t hate as deeply as I felt I should, doesn’t waste a lot of time.  The entire movie is action action action action action.  This movie is about shit happening.  They can’t be bothered with things like making the audience care about characters.  No.  There is a chase scene to choreograph. 

G.I. Joe succeeds here where movies like Transformers totally fail.  There is action.  They’re lucky if they get to fit in a character’s name.  I don’t care what the big dude with the machine gun is named.  Do you?  Of course I could get into the nitpicky, they-left-this-character-out, they-shouldn’t-have-done-this-with-that-character stuff, but I’ll leave the fanboy minutia to someone else.

As opposed to so many recent action movies, G.I. Joe has a lot of action, and it isn’t bad.  What I appreciate about the chase scenes is that they feel real.  How often do we see a silver Mercedes chase a black BMW through crowded metropolitan streets, and neither one even gets a scratch?  Here when they barrel through a crowded intersection in the middle of rush hour, you know what happens?   They get hit by a car.  When they weave in and out of traffic, sometimes they don’t quite make it and get nicked by the fender of a Chevy.  There is an actual sense that the characters are in danger, or that something bad might actually happen to one of the central characters.  No one in this movie feels like too big a star to die.

I actually really liked the Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow fight sequences.  There is a very simple reason why, because they got people who can really fight.  Ray Park (X-Men) and Byung-hun Lee (A Bittersweet Life, and one of the most physically beautiful men alive) actually know how to fight.  So instead of getting quick cuts of Jason Statham throwing a punch and an extra reacting to said punch, we get something that closely resembles two guys actually fighting and actually trying to kill each other.   I love that.  There is woeful lack of that edge in most modern action cinema.

One more thing that I have to mention is that the climactic scene, where the Joes attack the COBRA base, is really just one long homage to Return of the Jedi when the Rebel Alliance attacks the Death Star.  Seriously, think about it when you watch this scene.  I’m not going to go into the specifics, and at first I thought it might just be me, but no, it is one thing after another, and I’m pretty sure that’s what they were going for.

I know I sound like I really liked G.I. Joe, but I didn’t.  It is not a good movie.  Trust me, there is a bunch of dumb ass shit I can, and probably will, rant about for years to come.  At best it is a decent summer popcorn movie.  But here is my main point.  G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra is not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I admit that I was pleasantly surprised.  If you have the choice between this, and the new Transformers movie, go Joe.  You’ll enjoy the experience more, I promise.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Hangover

By this point you have probably heard all of your little buddies talking about how great The Hangover is.  Shit, fully half of their stunted conversation is most likely quotes from the movie.  You smile and nod and act like you know exactly what they’re talking about, but you don’t, and inside, that makes you feel woefully inadequate.  You rationalize not seeing the movie by telling yourself that you’ve already heard all the funny parts anyway, and that Chad, Brad, and Clancy, have hyped it up so much that you won’t find it nearly as funny as if you had gone in cold.  (I know this latter emotion well.  I was afflicted by it the first time I saw Anchorman.  There was a point where everyone I knew had seen it, and subsequently told me it was the funniest movie ever.  When I saw it I had expectations that could not possibly have been met by any film created by humans, and was understandably a bit let down by the entire experience.  One week in January 2006, I happened to go visit a friend in Reno, Nevada during the worst snowstorm in some time—according to some accounts it was the worst since 1986, other’s claimed it was the most snow they had seen since 1916.  Somehow, two bands worth of fellow Seattlites also managed to get snowed in with us during the final leg of their tour.  With nothing to do, and nowhere in particular to go, a dozen smelly people camped out in a living room and watched and rewatched movies.  One film we screened every time someone else came around was Anchorman.  And from that experience, a deep appreciation of content and artistry was borne.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens

Let me get this out of the way.  I don’t like Shrek, nor do I endorse any of the subsequent films, musical stage productions, or whatever capitalistic ventures created unbeknownst to me in order to flog one more shiny nickel out of that already overtaxed film franchise.  Shrek was boring, derivative, and predictable, and I have spent fully too much of my life defending my stance to the world at large, who view me as something between Idi Amin and Jeffery Dahmer.  Either way, I still eat people.
Monsters vs. Aliens, the latest 3-D offering from DreamWorks, suffers from a similar predicament.  Perkiness personified, Reese Witherspoon, voices Susan Murphy, who is about to marry dreamboat known as Paul Rudd, who plays a self-centered, low-level newsman with delusions of grandeur.  Of course we see what a tool he is, why can’t Susan?  It’s just oh so frustrating.  She deserves so much better.  Luckily for Susan, moments before the nuptials go down, a meteorite hits her.  This of course turns her giant.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

At 5:30 AM, sitting in a mountain-themed airport bar, desperately waiting for the magical 6 O’clock hour to roll around so we can restart the drinking most of us only stopped a few hours earlier, our conversation turned to possible in-flight entertainment.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Son of Rambow

It’s the early 1980s and First Blood is awesome.  And I’m not the only one that thinks so.  Two British school lads have my back on this one.  Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is shy and reserved.  I should also mention that his family is part of some wack-a-doo sect called the Brethren, and his mother has headscarves in every shade of bland known to human kind. 
Will is not allowed to watch TV, have outside friends, or do anything that even remotely resembles fun.  There is, however, a little rebellious streak somewhere deep down inside.  He makes flipbooks out of his notebooks, and the pages of his bible are covered with drawings of fantastic creatures and brilliant colors.  It’s there; it just needs to be developed.  Enter resident badass, Lee Carter (Will Poulter).  He’s the worst kid in school—think Bart Simpson but without those wussy pangs of guilt or remorse when he does something really fucked up.  Lee Carter steals and lies and uses his older brother’s video equipment to pirate movies.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Wrestler

It seems appropriate that Bruce Springsteen wrote a song for the end credits of The Wrestler, since the entire movie feels like a Nebraska era Springsteen song come to life.  The entire movie is drenched in sorrow and defeat, and you squirm in your seat as you watch characters that have no hope of ever getting out of the swamp that is their life.  The town is bleak, and so is the outlook.  It’s about as sunny and cheerful as Darren Aronofsky’s earlier smile-fest, Requiem for a Dream.  Thanks for the pick me up, Darren, I’m going to go kill myself now, but kill myself in the best possible way.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Host

I want to hug Korea. There are a couple of reasons for this uncharacteristic burst of touchy-feelyness, but today I specifically want to wrap my arms around them and squeeze because of The Host.

Monday, February 9, 2009


As someone with an undying love and devotion to the cinema of ass kicking, I have a rather large problem with so many of the new jack action movies hitting the multi-plex. Here is my issue, at no point through the entire length of these films does the audience ever for a single moment think that the protagonist is in any danger whatsoever, nor is there ever a question that he will reach his goal and save the day. There is no tension, none. I loved Casino Royale, but Daniel Craig’s second turn as Bond, Quantum of Solace, bored the living shit out of me.