bill bodkin has watched a lot of movies the past few weeks, here’s what he has to say..
Over the past few weeks I’ve been racking up the Netflix and Redbox mileage recently in between weddings, birthdays and holidays. I saw so many that I decided just to do one column filled to the brim with reviews — many of which just hit DVD.
Sex & The City 2: So let’s start out with a baddie right off the bat. My wife is a massive Sex and The City fan — which means I’ve had to watch the show a lot. To me, the series, while not my masculine cup of tea, was a well-written comedy/drama that focused on four independent and strong-minded New York women. However years later, the cast and crew have done everything in their power to undermine the strengths of these women in the two big screen adaptations. The second film, is particularly terrible. You know you’re in for a weird, over the top and frankly absurd film when within the first 10 minutes you get an extremely long scene of Liza Minelli performing Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” at an over the top gay wedding. The central plot, if there is one, is that all the girls got their happy ending…but now they aren’t happy anymore. They’re bothered by real life problems and instead of dealing with them with wit, humor and a sense of realism, as they would in the series, they take a ridiculously lavish “girl’s weekend” in Abu Dhabi where they dress in the most ridiculous clothes, over-analyze banal, everyday situations and frankly annoy the hell out of the viewer. In the end, this film is a vanity project for Sarah Jessica Parker and co. who can’t get away from their famous characters. Maybe because none of them have found sucess outside of the series or they just want to lavish themselves in tropical destinations, high fashion and fat paychecks. If you love the series, avoid the film and keep the well-written memories of the series alive.
Predators: Every summer, there’s a film or two that fly under the popular radar and it’s a shame. Predators is one of these movies. A motley crew of killers, mercenaries, soldiers and Topher Grace, are dropped into a massive jungle…slowly getting picked off one by one by an unseen assailant. That’s right, it’s Predators and they are using these skilled killers as the ultimate game. Violence ensues and basically we all leave happy. Why? Because we’re given an extremely solid, high octane sci-fi/action shoot ’em up, something we haven’t seen in quite some time. Adrien Brody is surprisingly good as the all muscles and guns amoral anti-hero; something one wouldn’t think the guy from The Piano could pull off. Much like the original Predator, the film is straightforward blood and guts with a bit of a twist ending that’s pulled off quite nicely. The filmmakers also give our “heroes” a little bit more of a chance to knock off or at least put up a fight against The Predators. It was always kind of a shame that Jesse Ventura got knocked off so quickly in the first film. Here everyone, except Danny Trejo, gets a piece of the action. But let’s face, Danny Trejo in any film, even if he doesn’t do much, is awesome.
How to Train Your Dragon: This film was hyped by everyone as one of the best films of the year, worthy of being a Pixar release, in short amazing. After watching the film, I can easily say that this film did not live up to it’s near impossible hype. It’s head and shoulders above all the CGI dreck that’s released and makes boatloads of cash. However, I don’t think it can hold a candle to any of the last few Pixar flicks. With that being said, How to Train Your Dragon is an extremely fun and beautifully shot animated film that is highly enjoyable and worth a few viewings. The plot revolves around the nerdy viking Hiccup (voiced perfectly by Jay Baruchel) who wants nothing more to impress his dad (Gerard Butler) by slaying dragons. Well, he tries to slay one, in fact he captures one of the most elusive dragons of them all, Toothless. You can pretty much figure the plot from here — Hiccup constantly disappoints Dad til the moment he’s needed most and he’s able to quell the hatred between the Vikings and Dragons once and for all. This is all done in an eye-popping action sequence worth the rental alone. In the end, this film is highly enjoyable and worth the rent, just don’t expect Citizen Kane.
Jonah Hex: A box office and critical disaster. Yet, I liked it. Jonah Hex is a film that could’ve been awesome. A resurrected and brutally scarred former Confederate officer who can speak to the dead and has an arsenal of cool weapons — how does that not sound awesome? The thing that handcuffs Jonah Hex is its PG-13 rating. The creators were going for a popcorn movie franchise and by doing so it took all the teeth the Hex mythology has. Had this been kick-ass and gory, say like Kick-Ass, it could’ve made its mark a cult classic. Blood and guts matched with mysticism and mayhem, sounds good to me. The driving force of the film is Josh Brolin as the titular character. He’s gritty, salty, completely badass and he makes the most out of half-baked lines and ridiculous situations. Sadly if handled properly, Jonah Hex, would’ve made a lasting impact on film fans, becoming their little secret they want to share with their friends. It could’ve become a dorm room classic, Brolin’s scarred mug on various university stucco-ed walls. Yet, the end product will force it to be swept under the cinematic carpet like many a summer box office failure before it.
The Last Airbender: Simply put, The Last Airbender is one of the worst films ever made. People warned me not to watch this film, but I figured it couldn’t be that bad. No, it was. Not one character is interesting in this film. The supposed Avatar is supposed to be a sympathetic character, but you learn that through him wimping out and running away from his duty, his entire race was killed by the evil Fire empire. That’s right, he got scared and EVERYONE DIES. How am I supposed to root for this kid? The plot is also mind numbingly nonsensical, I mean it hurts my head to think about. The acting in the film is downright abysmal — all the lines are delivered with amateurish importance, as if every word was the most important word ever uttered in history. The only performance that was decent was Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel as the scarred (emotionally and physically) Fire Prince. He actually has some sort of emotion during the film, he has motivation, direction — something all the other characters lack. Seriously, this film is so bad, it’s not even funny. You sit and watch with mouth agape at the utter awfulness. It’s not even a “so bad, it’s good” movie either.
The Fourth Kind: I seriously hate movies about UFO abductions. Much like I hate any movie about demonic possessions and ghost hauntings. Why? Because they could really happen and that makes me not sleep at night. Vampires, werewolves, mutants, alien invasion (big difference for some reason) — I can deal. Why? Because I don’t think they can happen in real life. The Fourth Kind deals with the subject matter of abductions so automatically I was not happy. However, the film offers an interesting conceit — it contains “real” interviews, footage and audio from the actual sessions of Dr. Abby Tyler (played in the fictional parts by Milla Jovovich — and if it’s not Resident Evil, she’s has no charisma at all). This would’ve been a really cool concept had the film not start with Jovovich coming up as herself and explaining the premise of the film and that despite what critics say “this film is real.” Yup, when you tell me it’s real, I don’t believe it. And this move by director Olatunde Osunsanmi (who also appears in the film as himself…TWICE) is the wrong one. It’s a classic violation of the old “show don’t tell” principle. And that makes this film suffer greatly — the suspense is gone. The is it real factor is thrown out the window from Jump Street and you’re left with a run of the mill paranormal/abduction thriller.
Splice: Weird, wild style here. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, two actors who should be in better movies, star in this odd film that’s part science vs. religion morality tale, part family drama and part when the monsters attack film. In essence, it’s Frankenstein but with two mad doctors instead of one and if Frankenstein were portrayed by a French model. Splice is an engaging film because you never really know what film you’re watching til the final credits. At times it flashes solid tendencies of the previous sub-genres I’ve listed, but it never fully puts them together for one, coherent film. Polley and Brody do a great job swapping roles throughout the film wavering between nurturing and protective and jealous and murderous creators. It’s a crazy good dynamic, that’s not really explained, at least not on Polley’s end. This is sad, Polley is one of the most underrated and underappreciated actresses going — a better character would have been nice. The movie goes off-kilter during the final 20 minutes degenerating into a hypersexualized, hyperviolent and in the end hyper-ridiculous B-movie. In the end, Splice is an intriguing rental that some make like, but in the end it was just okay for me.
Red Riding 1974: The first part in a three part BBC Channel 4 movie mini-series is an interesting potboiler that’s worth a rent if you feel like investing yourself in a series. This introductory film sets up the premise — a young girl is kidnapped and eventually discovered murdered on the development property of a local UK land magnate (the always awesome Sean Bean). All fingers point to the perfect patsy — a mentally handicapped Polish immigrant. However, young chain smoking, hot shot reporter Eddie (Andrew Garfield) smells a conspiracy and will risk his life to prove he’s right. The plot of the film isn’t Red Riding’s strong suit, it merely plays the background to a brauva performance by Garfield. Born in 1983, the British Garfield is the next big thing in Hollywood as evidenced not only here but his much ballyhooed performance in The Social Network and the fact he’s the new Spider-man. Here, Garfield smolders on screen, pulling off a brilliant UK accent better than any American before him. He plays a part that he seems to young to be in, characters in the film even call him out on it, however, AG delivers a riveting performance of a cocky hotshot who goes from fame hunter to avenging angel. He is this entire film and worth the rent. The subsequent films [Set in 1980 and 1983] will lack as he’s not the main focus of them (or so it seems) however strong British character actors David Morrissey (Centurion, The Reaping), Paddy Considine (Hot Fuzz, Bourne Ultimatum) and Mark Addey (Still Standing, Robin Hood) should pick up the slack.