Posts Tagged ‘movie reviews’

Let us suspend historical accuracy for a moment and watch a movie.

I am a male with red blood.  Explosions, girls, guns, slow motion bullet-time photography, and pithy one-liners are among the one-dimensional things that I enjoy.  I will even admit to having a tiny man-crush on Josh “Tough Guy” Brolin and Ryan “I Play A Damn Good Retard” Gosling (see also: Blue Valentine, Lars and the Real Girl).  So why, oh why, was I unable to wrap myself around Gangster Squad?

The opening scene of the movie depicts Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen torturing a man who crossed him in some way (drugs? money? gambling? laughing at Sean Penn’s performance?).  During this scene, we learn several inauspicious things about the next two hours:

  1. Sean Penn is not very good at pitching a 50’s gangster Americana accent.
  2. As a result, Mickey Cohen sounds like a drunk man with Bell’s palsy.
  3. What Mickey Cohen was doing in Los Angeles, for the historically uninitiated, is not important, along with the development of the rest of the story.  Based on what I was being shown, I felt that he was the Freddy Kreuger of the 50’s: everyone knew about him, dreamt about him, but no one actually figured out what the hell he was doing and why he was there.
  4. Aside from Mickey Cohen, I do not remember anybody else’s name.

The last point is particularly dangerous when setting up a movie that contains characters.  It is impossible to expect character development when you cannot remember who the characters are.  Visually, yes, I can distinguish between the good guy and the bad guy, Josh Brolin’s razor-shorn face from the scruffy mug that chomps a cigar, but when my internal MST3K is play-by-playing “The Ugly One” and “The Guy with the Big Teeth,” it becomes a distended bore.  Rather than a film about a story, it becomes a film containing several disparate stories that happen around each other, with no unifying thread.

There were no overtly bad performances by any one SAG member; they all did fine, nothing to win an Oscar or a Razzie over.  The movie suffered from poor writing.  An important part of writing is what I call “connecting the dots”: it’s all nice and fine that you have a bunch of gangster cops who come together to wipe out a common threat, but how are you going to get there?  The writers left that part out.  One scene jerked to the next with no trail to follow, like a dry mop pushing Gangster Squad-sized dirt across the floor.

Okay.  Time to reinstate historical accuracy.  At the grand conclusion of this waste of a reel, we are treated to a fight scene between Mickey Cohen, the former boxer, and the main character sergeant dude, who we’ll just call Josh Brolin.  Cohen predictably has the upper hand in the fight until Brolin eats a magic mushroom, finds intestinal fortitude, draws longingly from a mental image of his wife and child growing up in a gangster-infested City of Angels, and beats the piss out of Cohen.

What was I talking about?  Right, historical accuracy: it was nearly a punch for punch ripoff of the final fight scene of Lethal Weapon.

1/4.  AMC will have it on regular airplay within a year.

Ted is a tough movie to summarize, but here’s my best effort: bongs, boobs, booze, and Boston.

Seth MacFarlane wrote some jokes and then wrote a movie around them, plugging in his favorite medium along the way: flawed but lovable cartoon characters.  The movie’s over-reliance on the skewering of popular culture and recent events washes out plot and character development; things happen, and more things happen, and characters arbitrarily respond to them, leading to over-acting and dry screen relationships.  As a result, the movie follows a cookie-cutter impression of buddy romcom.  Here’s a quick plot summary without any (major) spoilers: two boys become friends and stay friends forever; a girl gets in the way; the two friends part ways over the girl; the two friends become mortal enemies and beat the shit out of each other; the two friends find common ground to eliminate a mutual enemy and reunite for the greater good.  See also: The Green Hornet.

But – did I expect a deep, thought-provoking experience from the creator of Family Guy?  Not really.  My main concern going into Ted was that it would be a dirty reflection of a Family Guy marathon crowded with drugs, sex, alcohol, and snappy pop culture references.  It delivered on that.  But why create the ghost of something?  Why not create a movie about Family Guy, an established franchise, rather than disguise Peter Griffin as a teddy bear?  The Simpsons Movie pulled off the silver screen transition gracefully, and is a shining example of what a cartoon movie should be at the box office.

Of course, MacFarlane knew that the Family Guy comparisons were going to be lobbed in by the hundreds, so he dedicated a line to addressing it.  During a party scene, Ted looks at the camera during a fast cut that Family Guy sports so often and says, “I do not sound like Peter Griffin.”  Ah, touche; I’ve run out of peanuts.

The movie is funny; there’s no doubt about that.  It chugs along on humor alone and is a decent way to waste a Friday night.  If there’s any one reason to see this movie, see it for Mark Wahlberg’s award-winning performance of Boston trash.  Hilarious.  Don’t see it for the plot.  Questionable at best, and the city of Boston is used as a plot device to awkwardly move the story forward.  In The Town, Ben Affleck’s character shows up and shoots Fenway full of holes; in Ted, Wahlberg’s character chases a car through the streets of obviously-not-Fenway and Ted climbs a light stanchion on the Monster.  If it were only that easy to get a Monster seat on game day.

Ridley Scott uses a lot of great special effects to deliver a film that is satisfying to both thrill enthusiasts and action adventurists.

If that appeals to you, see it. If it doesn’t, read on.

Prometheus is a great film to look at. All of the candy is there: flashy special effects, a robot trained in the art of British butlerism, a giant ship with a dozen and a half expendable souls, and religion in a new sector of the galaxy. The problem with Prometheus is that it covers too much ground.

The premise is quite simple: after analyzing cave paintings that span 35,000 years of history on Earth, archeologists discover that humankind worshipped a common god though the worshippers were independent and separated by several epochs. The solution? Build a huge ship and say hello.

The huge ship is awe-inspiring. It creates hope for the future; even in the greatest political and socioeconomic strife, mankind can build a ship that will traverse the galaxy and initiate first contact. We find out later that it was built by a company at a cost of one trillion dollars, invalidating all hope for mankind.

What impressed me most about this movie was that they introduced items of scale correctly.  When the ship Prometheus is shown against the inky blackness of space and existence, it’s a massive cargo bay with rockets strapped to it.  When the planet in question is introduced, Prometheus is tiny, and disappears against the texture of the planet it orbits.  When the alien civilization is introduced, Prometheus lands next to it, kicking up a little puff of dust next to domes scraping the atmosphere.

I will not spoil the movie for you, but if you do see it, tell me this: how did the first scene contribute to the rest of the film?  What did the holographic recordings add to plot development?  Why did David do what he did?  Why would you build an interstellar craft without the means to defend itself?  Why was Theron’s character necessary to the story?

If you’re going to find God, find God.  You have a blank canvas; there’s no reason not to.  The movie ends with more questions than answers, and while it’s important to allow the viewer an interpretation that won’t be broken with a cursory Google search, it’s also important not to build an obligatory sequel just because you can.