Sink It!

God damn you Transformers! Look what you’ve done! Since the first BIG movie of the summer has now come and gone, we are now forced to sit through the smaller, though still loud and garish, feats of escapism. Loud and garish are certainly words that come to mind when describing the first of those said movies, Battleship. Other words that come to mind are brainless, pointless, derivative, overly long, and generally awful. Of all the movies to be coming out this summer, this one, above all others, has no reason to exist, nor does it deserve to.

We are so fucked!

Scientists searching through the vast nethers of space discover a Goldilocks planet, one that has an atmosphere similar to Earth. Being that it can support life, these scientist, wisely, beam a signal to this planet, hoping for a response. Well, they get it alright. A welcoming party, or sorts, crashes to Earth and lands in the ocean surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. Unfortunately for anything human in the area, these visitors are looking for a bit more than Reese’s Pieces and some acceptance. Their ships soon rise from the ocean and start wreaking havoc.

Coincidentally, this coincides with RIMPAC, a gathering of the Navy’s from various Pacific Rim nations, including the US and Japan. Along for the ride is Alex Hopper, a gifted, but dumb as bricks, lieutenant on a US destroyer. He’s only in the Navy because his brother, Stone, forced him to join to get him off the couch. He also just happens to be in love with Samantha, who just happens to be the daughter of the US Fleet Commander, Admiral Shane, who hates Alex. And Alex also just happens to be the guy who is tasked with taking on the the alien menace, so if only he can nut up and become the leader he is meant to be… OH DEAR GOD, WHO THE HELL CARES????!!!!????

Seriously! Name a single element of this thing that hasn’t been done in countless other films! Just one! I’ll wait!

Can’t do it, can you? That’s because Battleship is one the most hopeless derivative movies to come out in awhile. Forget how there is next to nothing tying this thing into the product it is supposedly based off of. This movie is trying so hard to ape the likes of Transformers, Battle: Los Angeles, and any of the countless, military loving, explosion filled, jingoism fueled excesses of light, sound, and flame. You get the heroes walking dramatically, and you’re not even sure if it’s in slow motion. You get the big tracking shots of untold amounts of destruction. And you get a central female character, and all you can hope to wonder about her is what she would look like without a shirt.

Allow me to rephrase. God damn you Michael Bay!

And all that would be fine, but the performances here range from bad to even worse than you would expect from a movie like this. As Alex, Taylor Kitsch is merely passable, displaying some sort of comedic timing and decent line delivery. This is in direct contrast to Alexander Skarsgård, who is unfathomably awful as Alex’s brother, Stone. Skarsgård is great as Eric on True Blood because he’s cool as ice and never really loses his cool. He is the exact opposite here, completely over the top and stupidly dramatic!

Rihanna makes her screen debut as the Michelle Rodriguez archetype, but as an actress she makes a pretty good singer. Brooklyn Decker is the girlfriend, and she has huge breasts. Seriously, that is the only thing that is memorable about her character. And Liam Neeson is the crotchety old Admiral Shane, because he was Oskar Schindler and Michael Collins and Alfred Kinsey so he can do all the idiotic action movies he wants and you can’t say shit about it!

Looks like she could use an umbrella ella ella ella

This really is a very weird movie for director Peter Berg to be making. Though he does specialize in big action, most of his movies, from Friday Night Lights to The Kingdom, have some sort of a brain. Ok, Hancock was an all out travesty, but at least it tried something interesting. But Berg just cannot salvage this thing. Battleship is far too stupid and far too big for Berg’s sensibilities. He has gone on record about trying to portray the Navy in a way that they haven’t been on screen before. He is clearly trying here, making an effort to think. I’m sorry, but when your product is trying so shamelessly to ape Transformers, thinking probably isn’t what you should be doing. And it’s not like Berg can’t do pop entertainment well. He made one of the best, dopiest action movies of the last decade with The Rundown. 

Really, it’s not all his fault. The script by Erich and Jon Hoeber is mired in cliché. You know instantly what is going to happen 20 minutes before it does. And dear god, does it meander. It takes, like, thirty minutes for the aliens to actually show up, another 15 before a single shot is fired, and another hour and thirty before it all wraps up in a hurried climax. Couple that with some atrocious dialogue, some questionable effects, and some of the ugliest alien design I’ve seen, and there’s barely anything to recommend here.

But then it gets into act three. The first two acts are awful, and a good amount of that has to do with the fact that they take themselves way too seriously. There’s no attempt at self-parody or humor; it’s all just shouting and meaningful speeches. And then act three rolls around, and the movie switches gears completely. It completely ditches the seriousness and goes for flat out absurd.

Picture this…

A group of WWII veterans convert a museum battleship back into its combat ready state. They then help crew it and deliver some serious pain on the extra-terrestrial encroachers. A group of men epically carry a thousand pound explosive round down a hallway, roaring like beasts all the while. And then, I shit you not, a double amputee punches an alien in the face. I wish I was making that up. Will Smith proved that punching an alien in the face is always awesome, so I guess the only way you could make it more awesome is if you threw in some missing limbs.

The third act is what I wanted from the whole movie. It was crazy, over the top, and didn’t take itself seriously at all. But most of all, it was sort of fun. A movie like this needs to be fun above all things, and the final third sort of was. But it’s far too little, far too late. Battleship is one deplorable piece of work. It’s trying so hard to copy the Transformers formula without first recognizing that which made Transformers special in the first place, that being… wait, hold on. What the hell am I saying?

Sour Little Ditty

Day 9 gets ugly! The JGL train hit a coin yesterday with Uncertainty, and now it goes flying off the tracks, Fugitive style, with this latest film.

Let me get this out of the way right quick. I really did not like Sweet Jane! Like, I vehemently hated it! And, from the moment it ended, I knew I would derive no pleasure from writing the review in the style I usually do, so, if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to mix things up a little bit. Instead of verbally abusing this small indie from 98 like a regular person, I’m going to do it in limerick form. This will probably suck!

So, there’s this film.
The title, Sweet Jane.
Of my existence,
This is the bane!

Concerning two people,
One big and one tiny,
They are all messed up,
With AIDS and needles so shiny!

A standard plot,
This one tells,
With nary a glimpse,
Of original spells.

There’s nothing of interest,
And empathy’s lost.
You don’t like these characters.
A terrible cost!

At a sluggish snails pace,
This one merrily moves.
That an hour can feel like five,
Sweet Jane handily proves!

Samantha Mathis plays Jane,
all distressed and hard-assed!
Her other performances,
have this one, surpassed!

On that annoying note of angst,
the whole thing, she stays.
Never wavering or course changing,
It leaves you in a craze!

And now the man,
Jo-Go himself,
Looking so small,
He might be an elf.

As a young one, he’s lost,
But the performance ain’t bad.
It’s a lack of experience,
That brings it down a tad!

The actor’s aren’t good,
But Mathis stands out.
She’s simply horrific,
Of that, there’s no doubt!

So now the director,
Who’s also the writer.
Name of Joe Gayton,
Which sounds to me, like the name of a street fighter!

His script is juvenile,
With dumb and lacking syntax.
The attitude of the project,
Feels decidedly ho-hum and lax!

Plots holes aplenty,
With no explanation.
From weird start to finish,
There is no salvation!

Sweet Jane sure ain’t sweet!
It’s is more often sour.
There’s nothing to like;
It’s really quite dour.

This is a film
I’d like to lock in jar!
That’s all I can say.
I give it one star!

Broken! Not Bent!

Summer 2010 will go down in history as THE WORST SUMMER MOVIE SEASON EVER!!! Seriously, what game are the filmmakers trying to pull here? Studios! Are you intentionally giving us shit, because, if you are, just tell us, and then we’ll stop going. There have been some truly terrible movies this past summer, ranging from dumb rom-coms to joyless action flicks, but none of them sink to the level of The Last Airbender. The latest film from has-been director M. Night Shyamalan is one of startling ineptitude and infuriating laziness. Summer 2010 has hit a record breaking benchmark in terms of drek.

Bald is the new mohawk! 

The Last Airbender is based on the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender, although, the Avatar part of the title was dropped to avoid comparisons to this other film no one’s ever heard of. Anyway, the story is set in a mystical world where people who can control, or “bend”, the four elements, are common place among the native tribes and cultures. There are four nations, each one attributed to it’s own element. There’s the Fire Nation, the Air Nation, the Water Nation, and… well, you get the idea. The Fire Nation is compromised of a bunch of hotheaded, power hungry jerks, who decide one day that it would be a really good idea to wage war on the other nations. So, armies of pyromaniacs run wild raping and killing and pillaging and burning until two kids from the Water Nation discover Aang, a young boy frozen like The Thing in a block of ice. They soon discover that Aang is the Avatar, a human who can control all four elements! He’s basically the ultimate badass, and the only one who can bring balance to the world. Only problem is, he only knows how to control air. So, he and his two new friends go off on an adventure to master the other elements and stop the Fire Nation, and that’s about as deep as the plot goes. It is pretty much a summation of the first season of the show, so I’m told. Shyamalan also wrote this, and, Good Lord, it could not be more boring! The only remotely interesting aspect of the plot comes courtesy of the disgraced Prince Zuko, a firebender, who is constantly hounding Aang and his friends in hopes of capturing them and regaining his honor. His is the only part of the story that feels like it was touched by actual human hands. I can’t fault the movie too hard for turning in a bad story, but, it was based on something with a rich tapestry of characters and mythology. It was prime pickings for a fantasy epic, and it was completely squandered! 

Performances in The Last Airbender give wooden a whole new meaning. Newcomer Noah Ringer, who plays Aang, must have gotten lessons from the Jake Lloyd school of acting. He recites his lines like a third grader who’s just been cast in the class play and has no idea what he’s saying. Ditto for his female counterpart, Katara, played by Nicola Peltz. Neither one of them delivers their lines with any conviction or interest in what they are saying. They have no chemistry with each other, or anyone else, for that matter. I wish I didn’t have to say the same for the older members of the cast, but, I do. Jackson Rathbone plays Katara’s brother Sokka. Sokka, in the cartoon, is, apparently, a saracstic, cynical, but sweet and caring funny man. Sokka in the movie is none of those things. Rathbone sleepwalks through the role, and, honestly, he has every right to. His other movie that came out this week is going to destroy The Last Airbender at the box office. Aasif Mandvi plays main bad guy, Commander Zhao. Yes, you read that right. The correspondent from The Daily Show is in this movie. He should stick to comedy! He can’t do villainous if his life depended on it. The only decent performer featured here is that lucky slumdog, Dev Patel, who plays Zuko. His is the only character we can connect with, because Patel is the only one here who seems to give a damn! He’s at least trying, and the effort shows. He’s actually not bad in this movie, made doubly apparent by the fact that everyone else around him sucks major balls! Again, I can’t blame them too hard. These are talented people, and the majority of the fault does not rest with them. That being said, these are talented people, so they should have been able to somewhat overcome the terrible script, but, I guess, they didn’t have their coffee in the morning or some pathetic excuse like that. 

Win a game show, and then look what happens. I mean, really!

No, the real blame should be placed on writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan. Here is a man who was once the go to guy for chilling, twisty, thrillers, and now look at him. His last few forays into suspense/horror were colossal failures on all levels (see Lady in the Water and The Happening… or, actually, don’t!) but The Last Airbender is in a league all of it’s own. It is actually remarkable how bad the writing and storytelling is in this movie! “The Fire Nation is coming! They are ruining everything!”, wails Aang! I HAVE FURY! I’d be willing to overlook the scripting issues had the movie provided the escapism in its action scenes that films of this genre usually do, but, in that sense, it’s an even bigger failure then the script! The action scenes here are not the special effects fueled, epic to a epic level, crowd pleasing sequences we’ve come to expect. They feel like they were taken from the back catalog of a 90s sci-fi serial. They simply aren’t exciting! Aang’s foes just stand around like lemmings, waiting for him to blow them away! It reminded me a lot of Assassin’s Creed, only without the interactivity or gruesome counter kills. Even the finale is a snooze. Instead of having awesome displays of water vs. fire, Shyamalan is more content to have his extras beat the crap out of each other with their fists! These guys can turn a building into an inferno and can create a flood to wipe out an entire contingent of soldiers! There are countless possibilities of what you could do with this, and you opt to have them not use their powers at all? Are you fucking kidding me? It’s clear that Shyamalan is trying to use elements from films such as The Lord of the Rings, and Narnia, but he is so far off the mark that the similarities are fleeting at best! And don’t even get me started on the 3D! Yes, I saw this in 3D. I didn’t have a choice. The theatre near my house was only showing it in 3D. I took the glasses off at one point, and honestly, there was no difference. Seriously, 3D is a gimmick! Unless it’s being used by James Cameron or Pixar, it is not worth your time or your extra cash! I appreciate Shyamalan’s attempt to change things up, but I’ve had enough! Shyamalan should get out the director’s chair, hand the pen over to someone else, and crawl into a hole, because he’s officially a hack!

The Last Airbender is being set up as a franchise. The film ends on a cliffhanger with Aang having only mastered one other element, and the Fire Nation retreating to lick its wounds. Honestly, I hope this movie does well, because there is potential for something really good here. They just need to recast everyone except Patel and get a new director and a writer with something more then middle school vocabulary! Future films in the franchise, if they ever come to be, could be good. This one is far from good. Hell, it’s even far from bad! This is simply horrible! This is enough to make your eyes bleed! The Last Airbender is the worst movie I have seen this year, and will be considered heavily for worst of the year when 2011 rolls around! Avoid it, aggressively!


How the West Was Lost!!

I have neither the energy nor the interest to write a full review of Jonah Hex, so, this’ll be quick. Jonah Hex is not worth any of the hard earned cash that you will spend on it. I went in expecting a bad, but kick-ass action film. What I got was a really bad, boring as hell action film. The acting is terrible; Michael Fassbender is the only one having any fun in his role! The action is boring and uninspired. All the “DAMN” moments that these movies should have are nowhere to be seen! Bad special effects, really generic plotting, and the most anti-climatic finale in recent memory add up to make this one contemptible piece of work. If you are looking for fun, pointless action, The A-Team will suit far better than Jonah Hex. This is movie made in the wrong time. It belongs back in the 90s, when comic book movies sucked, rather then now, when they are awesome! It would have been right at home then.

Your Worst Nightmare

Well, I guess it’s that time of the year. You all know what I’m talking about. That point in the year where nothing interesting is coming out, and the studios think it’s prime pickings for the latest horror reboot. We saw it last year with Friday the 13th, The Last House on the Left, and Sorority Row. All these remakes of classic slasher films coming out here and there, and it makes me wonder. Do the people making these new versions ever see the originals? I mean, sure; of course they have, but it seems as if they don’t retain anything. Whenever filmmakers make these reboots, they discard everything that was special about the originals, whatever that may be, and, instead, fall back on cheap scares and cliched scripting. A Nightmare on Elm Street is no different, but with one major reservation. I just want to get this out of the way. There is one really good aspect of this new Nightmare! So good, in fact, that it makes the entire movie worse when you realize that everything else in this Michael Bay produced train wreak sucks by comparison to this one thing.

Freddy certainly knows how to torture.

A Nightmare on Elm Street follows the same plot as it’s older brother. Whenever the teenagers of a small, suburban town go to sleep, they are stalked in their dreams by Freddy Krueger, a burned, disfigured serial killer in a striped sweater, who prefers a bladed glove as his weapon of choice. The basic premise is that Freddy is coming into these twerp’s nightmares as revenge for what their parents did to him in the past. See, dear old Frederick was something of a child killer (rapist in this new one), and the parents of the victims, in an ill-advised bout of vigilante justice, burn him alive as punishment. As the teens drop, one by one, the survivors band together to stop Freddy. This proves quite tricky because, as anyone who has ever, you know, slept can tell you, staying awake for long periods of time is hard! As the kids start to hallucinate and experience “micro naps” due to prolonged insomnia, Freddy closes in for the big fat kill. The twist in this new version is that Krueger might have been innocent, and is returning to get revenge on the people who wronged him. It’s a very interesting idea that is copped about two seconds after it’s introduced. Sigh. The inclusion of the “micro naps” is also an interesting choice, which proves for some pretty cool scenes. Again, it’s not utilized nearly as well as it should be. Look, if you have seen any slasher movie, you know what happens here. I am getting really annoyed that no one in Hollywood sees fit to spice up the stories of these things anymore. It’s actually starting to piss me off. If you have seen the original, this follows it to the t, more or less, so save your money.

Now, on to that really good thing I made mention of earlier. One point of interest that I find with these reboots is that the studios seem to make one, really sound and smart decision when making this movie, and then decide that they don’t need to try anymore. They made Friday the 13th so bloody and sex filled, then decided to add bad dialogue and a stupid story. They made Texas Chainsaw Massacre into a relentless assault on the senses, but then hired Jessica Biel. This go around, their good choice was the hiring of Jackie Earle Haley to play Freddy. With this film, Haley climbs another step higher in his monumental return to stardom, and adds another credit to his already stellar list of scene stealing performances. As the psycho killer, Haley is deranged, menacing, and downright terrifying. Using the same gravely, angry voice that he used in Watchmen, Haley commands the screen and steals every single scene he is in. His is a more realistic, deranged, sadistic interpretation of Freddy then Robert Englund’s jokester. He is actually scary. Imagine that. The killer in a horror movie actually being scary. It’s a downright shame then that he is given nothing good to do at all. He comes on, taunts and stalks his victim for a few minutes, then guts them. Rinse and repeat. The other performances fail in comparison. Based on trailers, you would think that the teens here would have a lot to do, but no. In reality, there are only two that the movie sees fit to capitalize on. Rooney Mara as “heroine” Nancy sleepwalks through her role, as does her male counterpart, Quentin, played by Kyle Gallner. Thomas Dekker and Katie Cassidy feature heavily in the beginning, and have whole segments of the film dedicated to them. But, this is just a lead up to their respective encounters with Freddy, after which they meet their ends, and the movie forgets about them completely. Oops, spoilers. And poor Kellan Lutz, one of the few people to actually turn in a good performance in Twilight, is only in the movie for a measly five minutes. It’s a memorable five minutes, but still. Whenever Haley is on screen, the movie is actually somewhat bearable. When he is not, it’s downright intolerable!

The bassist from Muse is about to have a really bad day!

Director Samuel Bayer is completely lost here. Sure, he employs some nifty effects here and there, no doubt pulled from his music video experience. The dramatic and abrupt scenery changes during the micro naps are pretty sweet, and he does a good job of framing Freddy to make him look like the boogeyman he is supposed to be. But, what about working with the actors to get somewhat decent performances? How about attempting to overcome the limitations of a dumb and conventional script? He does not succeed on any front. I know that it’s pointless to hope for award level acting in movies like this, but, when your star puts in the effort and turns in a good performance, it is, on occasion, a good idea to try and motivate your other actors to do the same. Throughout this whole film, you get the sense that everyone involved just didn’t care when making it, with the exception of Haley. It doesn’t end with the performances. The film ends on the predictable cliff hanger that all movies of this genre end on. I wish, just once, the writers here would have the balls to actually wrap up the story and close the book, rather then leaving us uncomfortably waiting for a sequel we won’t get. There’s also some pretty shoddy CGI on display here. And finally, the blood, or rather, the lack of it. Where is the gore in this movie? It’s rated R for, and I quote, “strong bloody horror violence”. I’m sorry, but there was more blood in Clash of the Titans. What’s the deal studios? You chicken out? Afraid to go the extra mile and make the “strong bloody horror violence” actually “strong” and “bloody”? Christ, you guys are lazy!

A Nightmare on Elm Street, like Friday the 13th before it, and like Halloween before that, is just another tired attempt to cash in on a franchise that ran it’s course a long time ago. One really good performance is not enough to elevate this film from the bottom of the barrel where it belongs. Now, as far as I know, now that Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, and Michael Myers have all received the remake treatment, the studios have run out of horror franchises to butcher. I’m probably wrong, but I really hope not! D+