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For a Good Time, Call…: A Buddy Comedy With Girls and Phone Sex (Awesome!)   Leave a comment

“Hi there, I’m Amanda.  What are you up to?” – “Amanda”
“Oh, hi, I just, uh, thought I’d give the hotline a try.  What are you doing?” – Randy Marsh
“I’m making a pan roasted chicken.” – “Amanda”

Top Line:For a Good Time, Call…” is a fantastic comedy and a very good movie to boot.  It’s very funny, doesn’t drag out its inevitable ending, and is well acted through and through.

Who (probably) should see this movie: Anyone who’s ever had an orgasm they didn’t feel bad about.

Who (probably) should not see this movie: Those who have not, especially weirdly prudish people.

Box Score:

Runtime:1h:25m – And good for it.Start Time: Showtime + 15 minutes
MPAA:R – “for strong sexual content throughout, language and some drug use”Feh.  There is a lot of masturbation, but that’s hardly adult material, most Americans start doing that in junior high.  All in all, it’s a very chaste sex comedy.  There’s no nudity, and while the language is a little raunchy, it’s nothing kids can’t hear on South Park.  The only drug use is marijuana, which is already white-people-legal in most places and might be all-the-way-legal in like three states before this movie gets to home video, so that’s hardly something worth shielding from the kids.

Should Be Rated: PG-12

Three Stars:

  1. Lauren Miller – Upper Middle Class Manhattan Stereotype:
    Miller pulls off the more complex of the two lead roles as the one who thinks of herself as above phone sex.  Miller co-wrote the movie (so her character is, naturally, ambitious and literary minded), and gave herself plenty of opportunities to shine.
  2. Ari Graynor – Lower Middle Class Manhattan Stereotype:
    Graynor gets the shallow party girl who’s not as hardcore as she pretends to be and makes her believable and sympathetic when the time comes.
  3. Justin Long – The Only Mostly Stereotypical Gay Girls Friend:
    Pops in and out of the movie like some Shakespearian sprite, but does his part well.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +2 Flat out good movie.
  • +1 Good comedies are always better seen with an audience.
  • -1 There’s nothing here that won’t play just as well on your television in a few months.

Final Score: 4

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +2 Again, flat out good movie.
  • +1 It’s a funny sex comedy.  This was practically made to be a date night movie.

Final Score: 8

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +5 Passes Bechdel Test Easily

Final Score: 10

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • Jamie Travis:
    Canadian who’s only done a bunch of obscure indie stuff and shorts.  First time in the big chair.

Writers:

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 59% Top Critics: 63% Audience: 74%

Dots:

  • Those Rotten Tomatoes numbers are all terribly low.  This is a fantastic film.
  • Seth Rogan’s cameo is a reminder that he is often much funnier when not asked to carry the story.  It’s almost worth the price of admission.
  • How can you not love a movie that contains lines about a job being “filled by nepotism” and “that’s a lot of dildos”?
  • They even snuck in a successful pedophile joke!  That’s not easy to do.
  • This movie is what the overly discussed HBO show Girls is trying so very hard to become.  It’s goofy and wacky and feminine all at the same time, but, unlike Girls, For a Good Time, Call… isn’t foolish enough to think that weird and maudlin are the same thing as profound and dramatic.
  • I’m not sure if this exact concept is durable enough to support a sequel, but if Miller and Graynor want to make another buddy comedy together, I’d pay to see it.
  • Mimi Rogers and Don McManus are wasted on rail thin uptight parent parent roles that probably had to be there but weren’t a great deal of fun or fleshed out beyond the bare minimum.

Bottom Line: For A Good Time, Call… is a very funny movie that follows a standard buddy movie template by having two people who can’t stand each other become partners and then friends.  It stars two women, so it ends with hugging and declarations of love instead of the more traditional drink and a slap on the back, but it executes the formula exceedingly well, with plenty of comic adventure and screwball characters, and it doesn’t linger over the inevitable falling out and reconciliation that drag down the last third to half of so many other comedies.

Along the way are an absolute ton of sex jokes, catty wordplay, sex jokes, pop culture gags, and sex jokes.  The movie doesn’t get bogged down with any unnecessary subplots, but does manage to work in plenty of amusing side characters, only a few of whom are, ahem, gentlemen callers.  Nia Vardalos is the harsh boss at the literary agency, Sugar Lyn Beard is another phone sex operator, and Martha MacIsaac provides some perfect comic relief to keep the third act from becoming dreary and overly dramatic.  In the gentleman caller division, Kevin Smith plays the worst taxi driver you’ve ever had and Seth Rogan steals a scene as a masturbating airline pilot who would rather delay his flight than delay his orgasm.

All those distractions are a great part of what makes For a Good Time, Call… so consistently fun.  The movie has a story and sticks to it without any obvious forehead slapping moments, but it is primarily concerned with watching Lauren Powell and Ari Graynor enjoy themselves as upwardly mobile ladies of the city.  They laugh, they learn, they say wonderfully filthy things.  All in all, it makes for a very good movie that is very much worth watching (provided you don’t think non-procreative sex is a sin or something, then you might not like it).

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before For a Good Time, Call…:

The Sessions – Whether or not this sucks will depend greatly on the drama/cutesy : funny ratio.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Your standard coming of age comedy about kids coming to terms with things.  The trailer wants you to know it comes from people behind Juno (2007).  Remember what I said about the drama/cutesy : funny ratio above?  Goes just as much for this one.

Anna Karenina – Your standard historical costume movie that makes Americans think everyone in the past spoke with a British accent.  This one comes with the added artistic pedigree of Tolstoy, so get ready to pretend that you read and/or remember it.  This isn’t so much Oscar bait as an Oscar meal.

Pitch Perfect – I remain apathetic about this movie, but if it’s actually as self aware as the trailer makes it seem, it could be very watchable.  It’ll depend greatly on whether or not its nearly two-hour run time is justified or filler.

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Posted September 14, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Box Score Cinema, South Park

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Branded: A Grimm Fable For the Twenty-First Century   Leave a comment

“Even as I speak, the scourge of advertising could be heading toward your town!  Lock your doors, bar your windows, because the next advertisement you see could destroy your house and eat your family.” – Kent Brockman
“We’ll be right back.” – Homer Simpson

Top Line: Branded is the rare kind of movie that you just have to file under “Other”.  Though very funny in places, it is not a comedy; though there are many suspenseful moments, it is neither a thriller or a drama; though there are computer animated monsters; it is not a science fiction film.  It’s odd enough that the trailer above makes it look like some sort of conspiracy or horror movie, which it isn’t (except in the places where it is). 

Who (probably) should see this movie: Font and design geeks, film fans generally, and people who don’t like advertisements. 

Who (probably) should not see this movie: People looking for a calm or formulaic movie that they can veg out in front of and lawyers who work for McDonald’s. 

Box Score:

Runtime: 1h:47m – The movie has a big story to tell and, with one or two exceptions, it moves at an entertainingly brisk pace to get to all of it in less than two hours.

Actual Start Time: Showtime + 12min

Rated: R – And for no good reason at all.  A movie like this with an R rating is one of the reasons why people think the MPAA has a political agenda beyond merely letting parents know when there’s boobs and swears.  This is the MPAA’s official line, per IMDb, “Rated R for language and some sexual content".  But there’s only one very brief, very clothed frottage scene in a car and hardly any bad language at all.  Its main threat to young minds would seem to be expressing some rather dark ideas about advertising and consumerism and especially McDonald’s (a big friend to movie studios).  The R is ludicrous here. 

Should Be Rated: PG-12

Three Stars:

  1. Ed Stoppard – Leading Man:
    I can’t give a better description of Stoppard’s character than that.  He’s not really a hero, but nor is he an anti-hero.  He’s just the guy with the most lines, but he delivers all of them very well. 
  2. Leelee Sobieski – Leading Woman:
    She’s an ambitious television producer who becomes involved with Stoppard.  Shit gets increasingly crazy from there.
  3. Jeffrey Tambor – Advertising Spy:
    Is enjoyably cynical and corrupt in a minor role.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +2 Movies this strange and well done don’t come out that often.  It’s worth a trip down to the theater.

Final Score: 4

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 There’s no telling if this movie might be a cult favorite ten years from now, but it might.
  • +1 There’s also no telling if Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Dulerayn are going to keep making more movies that stand out this well, but they might.
  • +2 Unlike so many other independent films, this one doesn’t feel like a studio cookie cutter on a budget.  It’s impossible to think a big studio would ever produce this film.
  • -1 A lot of people are going to hate this movie, and you might be one of them.  Hell, I might be one of them. 

Final Score: 8

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 Sobieski gets to play a believable and three dimensional person.
  • -1 She is more of an observer than a participant later in the movie, though.
  • +1 This movie has only two really big parts, and she got one of them.
  • -1 But it’s definitely the smaller one.

Final Score: 5

IMDb Sez:

Directors:

  • Jaime Bradshaw:
    Total Noob.  Only credited with having written or directed this and a short eight years ago.
  • Aleksandr Dulerayn:
    Has a couple of Russian credits, other than that, also a noob.

Writers:

  • Same as above.

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: N/A Top Critics: N/A Audience: 58%

Notes:

  • It doesn’t really look like it from the trailer, but the creature design is fantastic.
  • For a movie about a world where fat becomes sexier than skinny and the population blooms accordingly, our leads remain real-world fit and trim. 
  • The movie does not disappoint in the surprise department, and the ending is appropriate and no more gimmicky than the rest of it.
  • This is a very strange movie, one that is going to confuse and/or piss off a lot of people, so don’t let the low crowd score discourage you.
  • That said, it may be best to wait for video so you can turn it off halfway through if you find yourself bored and unhappy.
  • At its most basic, the movie is a fairy tale in the oldest sense of the term.  It’s a fantastical folk history, with advertising in place of the usual monsters. 

Bottom Line: I’m actually not sure if Branded is a good movie or not, but that’s because it fits very few preconceived notions.  It is unclassifiable as any common kind of film, and so it may be that, given a second viewing and some time to think it over, I’ll eventually find it lacking.  But I don’t think so.  My suspicion is that this isn’t just a good movie, but a very good movie that falls just short of being outright excellent, like an early Coen brothers picture but without the glacial pacing. 

It is full of clever visual and audio tricks, the script is top notch, and the voiceover narration, which is usually a sign of a weak story, actually fits in well.  A few of the movie’s gimmicks do have the rough feel of an inexperienced hand, and some shots and transitions don’t flow quite the way the movie seems to think.  But those things are mostly minor.  Overall the movie is consistently engaging on every level. 

It is also utterly bizarre, but in a very good way.  The movie opens with an invocation of the supernatural, followed by Ed Stoppard’s Misha as a boy in Moscow.  Out of nowhere, he is struck by lighting, and marked to have an eventful life, which the movie wastes no time in showing us. 

In the present, Misha is a hotshot marketing executive who works for Jeffrey Tambor (who is himself moonlighting for the CIA).  He quickly gets hooked up with Sobieski, Tambor’s niece who’s in Russia for the fun and the money.  From there things shoot through a fake reality television show, a real global conspiracy, animal sacrifice, and plenty more on their way to those computer generated monsters. 

Underlying it all is the idea that advertising and consumerism are irredeemably evil concepts that have mutilated our species and exact a hideous toll we scarcely notice.  And these are not abstract costs or abstract brands leeching off of our shared humanity.  The design people did a great job of creating legally distinct but clearly evocative brands (there are stand ins for Apple, Microsoft and seemingly dozens of others), so when McDonald’s (played here by “The Burger”) starts to infect people with invisible, belching parasites, the movie isn’t exactly being subtle about its points.  On the other hand, it also plays a number of less blatant notes, including the idea that advertising is ultimately Lenin’s(!) most lasting curse on the world. 

Any film messing around with ideas that far outside the mainstream almost has to reach for the kind of visual flair and satirical absurdity that Branded relies on a bit too much, but the movie is redeemed by not taking itself too seriously and by having a great deal of fun at everyone’s expense.  At least, I think it is.  I reserve the right to decide that this movie is just so odd that I’m too puzzled by it after one viewing to realize that it actually sucks.  But it is easily original and distinct enough to merit a repeat viewing and further consideration at some point, and that’s a compliment that very few movies earn. 

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before Branded:

[Note: Was a couple minutes late to the theater, so I probably missed a few of these.]

Cloud Atlas – The Wachowskis have made precisely one good movie and several terrible ones.  This leans more toward terrible, but it’s odd enough that it should at least be worth trying to watch.

Unconditional – It certainly looks like a melodramatic racial fairy tale, so that’s probably what it is.

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Posted September 7, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Box Score Cinema

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Lawless: Moonshine Should Be More Fun Than This   Leave a comment

“You see, boy?  The real money’s in bootlegging, not in your childish vandalism.” – Homer Simpson
“Oh, so many wasted nights.” – Bart Simpson

Top Line: Lawless is, not to put too fine a point on things, a very bad movie, and for a number of reasons.  It manages to get bogged down by several subplots despite the fact that it never bothers to flesh out and finish any of them.  It takes itself very seriously even though the plot is cliched and dumb.  Its pacing puts the term herky-jerky to shame.  And it assembles a fine cast only to focus on the least interesting and likable member of it. 

Who (probably) should see this movie: The very bored, historical junkies with a penchant for masochism, and people drunk off their asses on moonshine.

Who (probably) should not see this movie: Most people, historical junkies who do not have a penchant for masochism, and anyone with anything better to do. 

Box Score:

Runtime: 1h:55m – It feels longer than it is and could’ve easily been a half hour shorter.
Rated: R – And just barely.  Most of the really nasty violence is implied rather than shown, there is a disappointing lack of creative hillbilly profanity, and Jessica Chastain gets briefly naked and topless (and looks fantastic), but it’s more perfunctory than necessary to what’s actually happening. 

Should Be Rated: PG-12

Three Stars:

  1. Tom Hardy – Mumble Prone, Hard Boiled Bootlegger:
    There isn’t much of this movie worth stealing, but what there is, Bane takes.
  2. Guy Pearce – Mincing (But Heterosexual) Villain:
    Does everything he can to provide a little bit of fun in a terribly weak and underwritten part.
  3. Jessica Chastain – Ex-Showgirl From the Big City:
    Crams a decent chunk of feeling into a criminally tiny role.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • -1 Meh.

Final Score: 1

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 You will get to see Guy Pearce viciously beat Shia LaBeouf, so it’s not all bad
  • +1 Tom Hardy is great
  • -1 This is an otherwise very unremarkable Prohibition flick
  • -2 It’s a movie about back country bootleggers and there isn’t a single car chase! 
  • -1 See Bechdel section below

Final Score: 3

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 Jessica Chastain is hardly in the movie, but makes her tiny subplot believable.
  • -1 They make Mia Wasikowska play LaBeouf’s girlfriend, a rebellious minister’s daughter, but don’t ever let her think or rebel on her own.  They didn’t even have the common courtesy to give her a chance to act a little by being rescued from the bad guy.  You could cut literally every scene with her character and not affect the main plot at all.
  • -2 Forget a scene where two named, female characters talk to one another, I’m not even sure there was a single scene with more than one woman in it.
  • -1 Even the romantic subplots are one-dimensional.

Final Score: 2

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • John Hillcoat:
    Directed The Proposition (2005), which was as tough and bleak as Lawless wanted to be.

Writers:

  • Nick Cave:
    Wrote The Proposition, which is astonishing because it avoided a number of the problems this movie has in spades.

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 65% Top Critics: 55% Audience: 83%

Notes:

  • Gary Oldman is barely in the film.  This is not a good thing.  Early on, the movie seems to simply forget that he’s supposed to be in it.
  • The movie has no sense of narrative pace or momentum.  It moves very fast in spots, then drops important plot threads for long, meandering diversions. 
  • Guy Pearce’s crooked cop is never given remotely enough room to grow into the amoral menace he should’ve become.  We only get to see him be really evil a couple of times, which is nothing against the larger number where he seems to be weak, confused, or incompetent. 
  • A sharp editor could probably make a much better movie out of this without filming any extra scenes by dumping the minister’s daughter tangent, most of LaBeouf’s part, and bumping Tom Hardy up to the lead role.  It’d be a nice and tight hour and a half, and it would go a hell of a lot faster than this meandering mess.
  • Easily the movie’s best scene involves Guy Pearce beating Shia LaBeouf into a sniveling, bloody mess.  It’s not enough to make up for the Transformers franchise, but it is a lot of fun to watch.
  • Hardy is initially even more difficult to understand than when he was wearing the Bane mask, but you get used to it.  And in a movie that’s got accents that run from okay to “seriously?”, he actually has something that sounds unique and consistent. 
  • The ending is just awful.
  • The violence, which should be this movie’s calling card, is distinctly underwhelming.  There are two different scenes where guys get tortured to death, and we barely get to see either.  People heal from their wounds ridiculously quickly and cleanly.  And the gunplay isn’t the least bit creative.

Bottom Line: In 2005, Nick Cave wrote and John Hillcoat directed a movie called The Proposition.  It had a phenomenal cast, lots of memorable lines and scenes, and didn’t flinch away from its more brutal violence.  In 2012, those same two guys made this Lawless movie, which also also has a phenomenal cast, but suffers terribly from a number of structural and stylistic problems and isn’t nearly as good as The Proposition

Of those, the biggest is the fact that Shia LaBeouf’s character is easily the least likable and least entertaining of the three brothers at the center of the story, but is also, for some reason, the main focus of the film.  LaBeouf isn’t terrible, and his Virginia accent could’ve been a lot worse, but his character is a self important dipshit hothead who should’ve been given third billing, at the absolute most. 

Tom Hardy gets the far more interesting role as the stoic, hard core hillbilly, a man of few mumbles at the head of a small time crime family.  A real, old fashioned grudge match between him and Guy Pearce’s crooked, murderous, citified cop would’ve been great fun to watch.  Instead, the movie wastes huge amounts of time on a completely unnecessary (and cliched as hell) romance between LaBeouf and a minister’s daughter, as well as a couple of incidental distractions like other bootleggers, a minor member of the gang, and Gary Oldman. 

Altogether, Lawless is a strange tweener kind of movie.  It’s clearly not dramatic and self important enough to hang with the real Oscar bait later in the year, but it’s also not nearly fun enough to be a summer romp.  It’s forgettable and overly long, which is too bad because somewhere in here there could’ve been a great movie. 

Suggested Alternate Viewing:

The Proposition (2005) – If you want to see grim men engage in a battle of wills and bullets, this delivers that much better than Lawless.

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before Lawless:

Alex Cross – Tyler Perry Presents: Madea’s Revenge Fantasy.  

Oz the Great and Powerful Trailer – Disney, I know you’ve got a lot riding on this movie, but I’ve seen this trailer like six times already and it doesn’t even come out until next year.  Relax. 

Trouble With The Curve – If this movie features an empty chair as the villain I’ll be the first in line.

Taken 2 – Take harder.

Killing Them Softly – Great looking cast, but other than that it looks like a pretty regular hitman movie. 

The Master – Bog standard Oscar bait, but Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams can be fun. 

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Premium Rush: Adventures in Bicycle Messengering   1 comment

“Do kids go on bike rides anymore?” – Marge Simpson
“Yes.” – Lisa Simpson
“I don’t know, I thought maybe bikes weren’t cool anymore.  Do kids still use that word, ‘cool’?” – Marge Simpson
“Yes, Mom.” – Lisa Simpson

Top Line: Premium Rush is basically a bicycle messenger fairy tale where the cops never use their radios (except that one time when the plot needed them to), all the crashes result in only minor injuries, and there is nobody cooler or more capable than (mostly) young New Yorkers on bikes.  However, it is a very well done fairy tale, with plenty of action, no throwaway characters, excellent stunts, and enough comic relief (of various kinds) to keep things lighthearted throughout.  (Which is good, because if this movie had taken itself seriously it would’ve sucked.) 

Who (probably) should see this movie: New Yorkers near and far, bicycle lovers (though I’ve no idea how real bike messengers feel about it), and anybody in need of an entertaining hour and a half in front of a screen.

Who (probably) should not see this movie: Safety conscious pedestrians and drivers, New York cops, people who aren’t in need of an entertaining hour and a half in front of a screen.

Box Score:

Runtime: 1h:31m – The story is a little flashback heavy, but does a fine job of keeping things moving and doesn’t feel longer than it is. 

Actual Start Time: +17 minutes from showtime

Rated: PG-13 – Enh, seems about right.  The most blood in the movie is from footage during the credits of a real crash that happened on set.  The language is very tame, a couple of “shits”, “suck its” and “douchebags”, but nothing out of the ordinary for cable television.  
Three Stars:

  1. Michael Shannon – Nasty, Gambling Addicted Cop:
    Could be playing the great-grandson of his tightly wound federal agent on Boardwalk Empire.  He brings a believable fury to the role of a guy who has been in over his head for a long time and finally finds himself sinking deep.  Book him some more villain roles, Gary Oldman is getting a little long in the tooth for this shit.
  2. Aasif Mandvi – Fast Talking, No Bullshit Dispatcher:
    Steals every scene he’s in.
  3. Dania Ramirez – Bad Ass Bicycle Messenger:
    This could’ve easily been Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Wolé Parks, all three of them are believable as hard driving bike messengers with varying levels of adrenaline issues.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +2 Cool stunts and chases always look better big.
  • +1 August is almost over, and this is one of the last shiny summer movies we’re getting before things go dour for autumn. 
  • -1 It’ll look almost as cool on a decent flatscreen.

Final Score: 4

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 Has a great sense of place in showing Manhattan as being more than skyscrapers and dickheads in suits.
  • +1 Is so gentle in terms of violence, blood and language that they won’t need to cut much out when this lands on basic cable a year from now.
  • – 1 It’s a late summer, PG-13 movie about bike messengers.  Unless you know one or are one, it’s doubtful you’re going to be left out of a lot of conversations for not having seen this.

Final Score: 6

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +5 Passed the Bechdel Test!
    There’s only one full scene between the two major female characters, but there is one, and neither of them is a willowy girlfriend type who doesn’t do anything.  Both of them are smart and good at what they do.

Final Score: 10

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • David Koepp:
    He’s spent more time behind the keyboard than in the big chair, but he’s got some capable movies to his credit.

Writer:

  • Also David Koepp:
    Has written (in one way or another) such memorable movies as Jurassic Park, The Paper, Mission: Impossible, and the first Tobey Maguire Spiderman.

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 72% Top Critics: 78% Audience: 78%

Notes:

  • It wasn’t something you’d expect from the trailer, but it has a great story.  New York City isn’t in danger, no atom bombs are going to go off, there’s no shadowy conspiracy, and no one got assassinated before they could hand over the secret formula, but the stakes are still high (life and death, even), the plot is reasonably tight, and the characters don’t need to be over-the-top silly to add some punch to things.  No one ever has to say, “Shit just got real”. 
  • The romantic subplot is well buried, believable, and doesn’t get in the way of the main story at all.  This is a rare thing and deserves praise. 
  • The “Gordon-Levitt turned his back on white collar work to ride bikes” subplot is left mercifully unexplored. 
  • The movie spreads its numerous flashbacks out well enough to keep them from becoming too distracting. 
  • There isn’t much in the way of overt cheese or beefcake, but all the bikers (male and female) are in good shape and spend their time wearing tight and revealing clothing.
  • The ticking clock gimmick does get a little tiresome, but it’s not terrible.
  • Ditto the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes thing where Gordon-Levitt sees his plans unfold before they actually happen. 
  • A short way into the credits is footage of the aftermath of a crash Gordon-Levitt had with a taxi cab.  Wikipedia tells me it required thirty-one stitches.  I think it’s there because a) how often do you get to bloody your movie star and he’s not pissed off about it? and b) the movie gets funny after awhile with how often they cut between Gordon-Levitt, Parks, and Ramirez riding toward the camera and talking before cutting to a rear view of a person whose face you can’t see doing the really impressive stunts.  The bloody arm is proof that the stars really did ride the bikes some of the time.
  • Speaking of the stunt work, it is excellent.  I sort of think a police impound warehouse wouldn’t actually be quite that well setup for X-Games antics, but who cares? 
  • There is either very little CG or no CG.  They crashed a lot of bikes and a couple of cars making this movie, and bless them for that. 

Bottom Line:

Premium Rush is a very good genre movie with plenty to occupy its relatively short runtime.  Unlike so many other mid-budget action movies, the script doesn’t slow things down or make you shake your head, and unlike so many other movies putatively set in New York City, this one actually has lots of non-white people in it so there’s no mistaking “New York” for a few blocks on the Upper East Side. 

The stunt work is phenomenal, the cars and bikes really do get crashed, and there aren’t any cheeseball scenes where Gordon-Levitt has to save his girlfriend or the music swells as a minor character makes a tragic sacrifice.  The trailer actually sells the story short for once. 

Michael Shannon is fantastic as a rage prone cop with a terrible gambling problem that pushes him to extreme behavior that even he knows is going to get him into trouble.  He’s a far deeper and more interesting villain than movies like this usually bother to create, and the gangsters he deals with aren’t central casting meatbags. 

Similarly, our assorted gang of tough, streetwise bike messengers all fit well into their time and place.  They have cool phones and cool skills and a cool job and they hang out at a cool bar with other equally cool people, but they’re also still regular people working a job for a paycheck.  A movie like this isn’t designed to make half a billion dollars and move mountains of merchandise, but it’s very good for what it is. 

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before Premium Rush:

Chasing Mavericks – Coming of age surfer movie with Gerald Butler as the wise surfer veteran.  The trailer actually contains this dialogue:

What if you’re wrong?
What if I’m right?

Feh.

Pitch Perfect – Another hyper-cultural singing/dancing team sport movie. 

Paranormal Activity 4 – Honestly, I thought they were only on 3.  Guess I missed one, and this looks just as miss-able. 

Sinister – Is there a haunted house with an unsuspecting family living in it?  You know there is. 

Here Comes The Boom – Kevin James plays a high school teacher who learns mixed martial arts to raise money and show the kids how to believe in themselves.  Yikes. 

Looper – Premium Rush himself plays the younger version of a time traveling hitman.  The older version is played by Bruce Willis and this was written and directed by the consistently excellent Rian Johnson.  Yes, please. 

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

ParaNorman: Laika Breaks Into Pixar’s League   1 comment

“What have we become?” – Jasper
“We’ve given the word ‘mob’ a bad name.” – Dr. Hibbert

Top Line: Far better than last year’s underwhelming Super 8, ParaNorman is a worthy successor to those great 1980s movies where gangs of kids solve supernatural problems (e.g. Goonies, Monster Squad, and the one with the bulbous headed alien).  It’s inventive, beautifully animated, funny for kids and adults, and has the kind of heart and message that kids’ll eat up and adults won’t think is too cheesy. 

Who (probably) should see this movie: Anyone who saw Coraline, animation and stop motion fans generally, eight and nine-year-old kids of all ages. 

Who (probably) should not see this movie: Strict Christian parents, people who hate animated film. 

Box Score:

Runtime: 1h:33m – And not a dull moment. 
Rated: PG – This movie is about the limit of what you can get away with in PG, and excellent for being so.  There are a couple of things that might be scary for your average six-year-old or younger, but the movie is more exciting than frightening.  There are some surprisingly raunchy jokes, but they’ll sail way over the head of the kids (and probably a few teenagers too). 

Should Be Rated: PG-8

Three Stars:

  1. Kodi Smit-McPhee – Plucky Hero Kid:
    The kid from The Road deserves the lead here.  He plays it heroic while still believably childlike.
  2. Tucker Albrizzi – Fat Sidekick Kid:
    Like all 1980s kid movies, this one has a sweet and brave fat kid sidekick.  Played and written well.
  3. Jodelle Ferland – Mysterious Girl:
    The youths rule this movie movie, including those who only have small parts.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +3 (The 3-D isn’t a gimmick and adds to a lot of scenes.  Since 3-D TVs still suck, this’ll be your last chance for a while to see it the way it was meant to be seen)
  • +1 (Kids movies that don’t patronize their intended audience are few are far between)
  • -1 (3-D TVs won’t always suck, though, and this movie should age extremely well)

Final Score: 5

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +3 (Just a flat out good movie from start to finish)
  • +1 (Seriously, it’s funny, action packed, scary when it wants to be, and a lot of fun)
  • -2 (It lacks the marketing brutality of Happy Meal toys, video games, and the like that get behind bigger, franchise-by-design movies, so it’s unlikely that it’ll become something little kids will demand of their parents over and over and over and over and over . . .)

Final Score: 7

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 (Anna Kendrick breathes a lot of life into a stereotypical teenage girl part)
  • +1 (Hanna Noyes (nerdy smart girl), Jodelle Ferland (see above), and Elaine Stritch (dead grandma) all do great work)
  • -3 (Sadly, they are also stuck in decidedly secondary parts)

Final Score: 4

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • Chris Butler:
    First time in the big chair, but he was the “storyboard supervisor” on the outstanding Coraline (2009).
  • Sam Fell:
    Also directed The Tale of Despereaux (2008) and Flushed Away (2006).

Writers:

  • Chris Butler:
    Also his first time behind the keyboard.

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 85% Top Critics: 81% Audience: 76%

Notes:

  • The least surprising thing I learned from the Wikipedia article was that “ParaNorman was conceived in the 1980s for Disney, but was turned down”.  Like those very durable films I mentioned in the opening, this is a particularly well executed version of the “bunch of kids band together to save the day” movie.  They have adventures, they grow as characters, they face danger with humor and courage, but they’re still recognizably children. 
  • The movie is agreeably childlike in its perspective.  For example, when the old ghost played by John Goodman needs to get our plucky young hero to agree to fulfill his destiny, he says, “Swear?”, to which the kid replies, confused, “You mean like the F-word?”.  Too many movies with kid characters write them as adults these days (looking at you, Super 8).  The kids in ParaNorman feel like kids.
  • The kids run the show in ParaNorman, but Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Anna Kendrick, and Casey Affleck round out the crew as the teenage comic relief very well. 
  • Like several classic horror movies, the mob (and by extension the grown ups who comprise it) is the real villain here. 
  • Always nice to see a movie that doesn’t have a cheap cell phone scene where signal gets lost and/or batteries mysteriously die.   
  • The animation is gorgeous without being as unnecessarily shiny as so many CG kids films are these days.  The stop motion and computers compliment each other beautifully. 
  • The movie takes inspiration from various pop culture sources, but it doesn’t get overly self conscious by constantly cramming references into your eyeballs.  It has an unobtrusive level of self awareness about how well this kind of story has been told before, so, for instance, I counted two Scooby Doo jokes, both of which were quick and subtle.
  • There’s a surprisingly clean masturbation joke.  No shit.
  • There’s a quick animatic after the (very brief) closing credits that shows you a little of how they animated everything.
  • They really stick the ending.  It’s fantastic. 

Bottom Line: There is a lot to like in ParaNorman and very little to dislike.  The story is engaging, original and fits together like a Swiss watch; the acting is all first rate; and the animation, like Coraline before it, is just flat out awesome.  The 3-D effects aren’t overused (I can think of only one time when stuff seemed to fly at the screen unnecessarily), and add genuine depth to scenes and faces. 

As a studio, Laika isn’t off to the megabucks start that Pixar had with Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, but with Coraline and now ParaNorman, its films are every bit as cutting edge and endearing.  Perhaps best of all, none of ParaNorman feels like it’s being done only for a paycheck.  People cared about this movie long after they left the office each night.  Let’s hope they keep it up. 

Suggested Alternate Viewing:

Coraline (2009) – If you haven’s seen this, watch it.  If you like it, and/or your kids like it, you’ll probably like ParaNorman as well.

The Monster Squad (1987) – Has aged surprisingly well, and follows much of the same path as ParaNorman

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before ParaNorman:

THE HOBBIT Trailer HD – Yes, yes, we know already.  Why do they even bother to market movies like this?  It’s going to garner so much free press when it gets released that ads for it seem like bribery.

Rise of the Guardians: Official Trailer 2 – This doesn’t look great or anything, but far worse looking holiday movies come out around Thanksgiving most years. 

Frankenweenie Trailer – There was actually a Frankenweenie “turn off your cell phones” message after the regular one from the theater.  I wonder what that cost Disney?

Despicable Me 2 – Feh.

Posted August 17, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Box Score Cinema, The Simpsons

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Bourne 4: The Roger Moore Era Begins   Leave a comment

“That is a rare photo of Sean Connery signed by Roger Moore.” – Comic Book Guy

Top Line: Bourne 4 is, quite literally, retarded.  It is very slow to start (the first real gun & fist fight doesn’t happen until halfway through the movie), but it finishes strong.  If they want to make a Bourne 5 with Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, and Edward Norton, I’m cool with that. 

Who (probably) should see this movie: People who liked the first three Bourne movies.

Who (probably) should not see this movie: People who didn’t like or didn’t see the first three Bourne movies.

Box Score:

Runtime: 2h:15m – The beginning feels longer than it is. 
Rated: PG-13 – Standard bloodless violence.  Renner gets briefly shirtless a couple of times (as does Robert Christopher Riley), but Weisz keeps her clothes on to such an extent that there was more raunch on screen in the trailer for this year’s Judd Apatow movie. 
Three Stars:

  1. Jeremy Renner – The New Bourne:
    Is asked to carry the movie and carries it.  Is likeable despite being a guy who keeps killing innocent guards and police officers.
  2. Edward Norton – Main Bad Guy:
    Plays the heartless “patriot” well, and even manages to make him seem effective despite a couple of glaring plot holes.  Now that’s acting!
  3. Rachel Weisz – Token Female Scientist:
    Manages a less than sympathetic and unethical scientist well.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +1 (it’s better than Total Recall 2)
  • +1 (not much summer left to get out of the house)
  • +3 (if you’re a Bourne fan.  They actually had midnight shows of this.)
  • -1 (it’s still a fourth sequel, there’s no rush)

Final Score: 3 if you’re not a big Bourne fan, 6 if you are. 

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +2 (the Manila chase scene at the end is pretty cool)
  • +1 (the science isn’t grade school level gibberish like Prometheus)
  • -1 (but it’s bad enough that Rachel Weisz’s character is both unbelievable and unsympathetic)
  • -1 (like, zero comic relief)

Final Score: 6

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +5 (Passes the Bechdel Test)

Final Score: 10, and I’m a little surprised, but there was, indeed, a scene between two named female characters that wasn’t about a guy.  It was just the one scene, and if they do make another sequel Weisz’s is by far the most disposable character, but it was there. 

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • Tony Gilroy:
    His only other times in the big chair are the overrated Michael Clayton (2007) and the forgettable Duplicity (2009).

Writers:

  • Tony Gilroy & Dan Gilroy:
    Tony wrote or co-wrote Bournes 1, 2 and 3, a bunch of other Hollywood fluff, and the entertainingly over-the-top The Devil’s Advocate (1997).  Dan’s done similar but less impressive stuff. 

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 52% Top Critics: 56% Audience: 76%

Notes:

  • There’s a guy credited as “MSNBC Man Analyst”.  Ha! 
  • They aren’t fucking around with that PG-13 rating.  I chatted with two nice women who looked to be in their sixties or so on my way out, and they were impressed that it had no sex and no swears. 
  • It took years, but the Universal logo finally caught up with the Disney one in terms of sheer, unabridged computer graphics. 
  • They do a good job of making Norton (b.1969) look older than Renner (b.1971) even though the two of them are almost the same age. 
  • Real drones are much less incompetent than the one here.
  • Odd geopolitical note: they listed Seoul as “Seoul, Korea”, not “Seoul, South Korea”. 
  • There are a lot of reasons why it’s a cliche that the black guy dies first, and movies like this are a lot of them.  It manages to kill off not one, not two, but three (3!) minority super agents before Jeremy Renner has even broken a sweat. 
  • Given recent events in Colorado and Wisconsin, I’ll bet they wished the plot didn’t include a workplace shooting scene. 
  • Which is why I think the off screen newscaster voice saying “another American city” was experiencing tragedy was probably the last thing to get added in. 
  • There are several gaping leaps of logic in the main plot that are hard to forgive because this movie is relentlessly serious.
  • It takes half the movie before we get to see people in a fancy crisis center talking on the phone and yelling at giant monitors.  Don’t make us beg.  We love that shit. 
  • Not coincidentally, that’s when the movie starts to pick up some speed.  There’s only two real action sequences in the whole thing, but the one at the end is superb.
  • I’m serious about that sequel thing.  Renner does a great job, and if they wanted to reboot the franchise with him, they’ve mostly succeeded.  At no point was I pining for Matt Damon.  Ditto with Edward Norton, who slides into the role of amoral government dickwad well.  Please to be pacing it more like the second half of this movie than the first, though. 

Bottom Line:

Bourne 4 is a worthy installment in the gimmick heavy Bourne franchise, albeit one that takes a very long time to get going.  It’s not without problems.  It takes a very long time to get moving; it plays a lot of scenes for tension that are too ridiculous to be the least bit suspenseful; and there are several “wait, huh?” type moments when they skip over some inconvenient plot problem.  Rachael Weisz’s character is so underwritten (despite the glacial movement of the first act) that you can’t really dislike her even though her actions in the movie would’ve made her a pretty awful person.  And the main physical threat is some anonymous dude we don’t even get to see until the movie’s almost over. 

That said, the chase scene in Manila is pretty cool, Renner’s good in a deliberately cold hearted part, and Norton barks orders believably.  If they want to do that again in Bourne 5 sometime around 2014 or 15, I’d probably watch it. 

Suggested Alternate Viewing:

The Bourne Identity (2002) – If you haven’t seen the first three, it’s probably best to watch this instead.  You won’t be lost if you skip right to Bourne 4, the franchise’s story isn’t really that complicated, but the first movie does all the same things well that this one does well, plus it gets interesting at the beginning instead of halfway through.

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Atlas Shrugged Part 2Tee hee

Zero Dark Thirty – For political reasons, the controversy has been postponed until December. 

Trouble with the Curve – From Ayn Rand to killing Bin Laden to a romantic comedy starring Clint Eastwood.  Historians are going to laugh at us. 

Life of Pi – Oscar bait.  But at least’s it’s unusual Oscar bait. 

Oz the Great and Powerful – When they change from black and white to color, they also change the aspect ratio from normal to widescreen.  It’d be neat if they do that for the whole movie, but this isn’t coming out until March, so we won’t find out for awhile.

This Is 40 – Apatow is back with a spinoff of Knocked Up.  There’s more skin in this trailer than there is in all of Bourne 4

Les Miserables – Meh. 

Total Recall 2: Attack of the Clones   3 comments

“If the movie used to be a teevee show, just don’t go.  After Roman numeral two, give it a rest.  If it’s a remake of a classic, rent the classic!” – Jay Sherman

Top Line: Total Recall 2 is a straight to video reboot that somehow landed big name stars and a theatrical release.  That said, it’s mildly amusing for most of its runtime, which is about what you can usually expect from an August movie.

Who (probably) should see this movie: People who have seen Batman 7 twice or more, the mildly bored, and anyone who thinks, all evidence to the contrary, that Colin Farrell isn’t awful in almost everything.

Who (probably) should not see this movie: Paul Verhoeven, people who thought the loopy “Roger Roger” robots in the Star Wars prequels were menacing and competent, those who have seen Batman 7 only once or not at all, anyone with access to the Arnold Schwarzenegger version (this is why Movie Jebus gave us Netflix), and Schwarzenegger himself, but only because he’s such an asshole that he’d probably be giddy at how much worse this is than his.

Box Score:

Runtime: 1h:58m – And it could’ve been twenty minutes shorter without missing anything important.
Rated: PG-13 – I’m not even sure why.  I counted three “shits” and one “asshole”, but there isn’t even anything close to nudity besides the perfunctory and fake three-boobed-hooker.  The violence is all bloodless and silly.  It’s like, PG-8 or so.
Three Stars:

  1. Bokeem Woodbine – Minor Bad Guy:
    Really should’ve been playing the hero instead.  He’s way better than that twitchy, Irish pretty boy.
  2. Kate Beckinsale – Main Henchwoman:
    I suppose there are worse things than getting type cast as the ass kicking hot chick.  Does a good job with a too small part.
  3. John Cho – Clueless Salesman:
    One of the silver linings to relentlessly white movies like this one is that the few token minorities like Sulu get the best written parts, even if they are very brief.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +1 It’s hot out there
  • +1 It’s August, only a few weeks of summer left, and it’ll get you out of the house
  • +1 The upside down car chase is actually pretty good
  • -1 Colin Farrell is a terrible action hero
  • -1 Kinda weak computer graphics

Final Score: 3

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +2 They remade one of Schwarzenegger’s classics, you kinda have to see it at least once
  • -1 It’s shiny graphics and beautiful people running around in tight clothing, one of these comes out every few weeks
  • -1 Five years from now nobody will remember they remade this because it’s not nearly as much fun as the first one

Final Score: 5

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 Ass kicking Kate Beckinsale
  • +1 Ass kicking Jessica Biel
  • +1 Girl fight that’s not a catfight
  • -2 They are both dating Colin Farrell though

Final Score: 6

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • Len Wiseman:
    You may remember him from such mediocre to bad movies as the endless Underworld series and the crashingly dull Die Hard 4.

Writers:

  • A Whole Bunch of People:
    IMDb credits five of them, which is always a bad sign.

Ratings:

  • Users: 6.4/10
  • Metascore: 44/100

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics:

31%

  • Average Rating: 5.2/10
  • Critic Reviews: 96
  • Fresh: 30 | Rotten: 66

Top Critics:

19%

  • Average Rating: 4.8/10
  • Critic Reviews: 32
  • Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 26

Audience:

73%

  • Average Rating: 3.7/5
  • User Ratings: 35,005

Notes:

  • The Rotten Tomatoes audience (73%) score looks high at first, but then you remember that they use the 6-9 scale, and that score translates to 33%.  (73-60=13(10/4)=32.5%.)
  • Farrell isn’t fit to flex Schwarzenegger’s biceps.
  • Biel and Beckinsale do a decent job of filling Rachel Ticotin and Sharon Stone’s leotards.  (The fashions change, the form fitting nature does not.  This is not a coincidence.)
  • Bryan Cranston is a pretty wimpy bad guy.  That’s not all his fault.  I don’t know whose idea it was to make him wear some kind of future-flack-jacket the whole time, but he looked like a hostage.  Ronny Cox and his power suit laugh at your rumpled weakness.
  • Speaking of weak bad guys, have I mentioned the “Roger Roger” robots?  The movie seems to think they’re menacing, but they are so relentlessly incompetent that they’re about as scary as Teddy Ruxpin.  (4 D-size, non-rechargeable batteries!  No wonder they advertised with Duracell.)  Late in the movie, Farrell and Biel stumble into a room full of them in “stasis mode” or some shit and the music goes ominous a la Will Smith in that same scene in I, Robot.  I almost laughed out loud.  Even the tougher one at the end basically just falls over (as they would).
  • The fight scenes are just plain bad.  Lots of whirling cameras and thick Foley effects, but it’s almost cartoonishly clean and bloodless.  Batman 7 does a much better job of obscuring its PG-13 rating.
  • The future used to be cooler, now it looks like Blade Runner if Sony owned the whole world and bought Microsoft’s legendarily shitty design department.
  • Childishly illogical political subtext is annoying.  You are a PG-8 popcorn movie, fuck off.
  • No gore and a decent but far too low body count.  Schwarzenegger killed more people in the reactor scene than Farrell did in his entire movie.
  • The production company is called “Original Film”, which is like calling a crappy subdivision “Sudden Valley” or having “Oceanview Estates” in Wisconsin.  It’s not original, and it’s not on film.  Two words, two lies.
  • The sets and the general “hey, it’s the future!’ vibe are very weak because all the future crap just looks like the Sony concept booth at an electronics expo.  If we’re going to have a society where all our media comes from giant companies who make most of their money from things other than media (and the occasional demented billionaire), can we at least get Google, and possibly Apple, to buy a movie studio?   Sony used to be a respected brand; now it’s a laughingstock that loses people’s credit card numbers and makes completely unnecessary remakes of movies that are only twenty years old.
  • There is a noticeable, if not quite Jeffrey Jacob Abrams level, of annoying lens flare.
  • Rifftrax, please?  It’s always fun to rag on Colin Farrell, and the “Roger Roger” robots basically mock themselves.

Bottom Line:  This is a bland, by the numbers action movie.  There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but be under no illusions that it might compare to the original.  It can’t even pull off a twist ending, so while it does have lots of gunfire, hot babes shooting machine guns, and all the other whiz bang accessories, ultimately it’s nothing special.

The upside down car chase is fun, but the villains here are hilariously incompetent.  Part of the ending involves them riding an elevator through the Earth’s core (I know, just go with it).  While in the core, they are all weightless, yet highly trained soldiers who’ve been through it many times before, some “Roger Roger” robots, and Underworld are taken totally by surprise by the gravity change . . . twice.

With bad guys that weak the movie really doesn’t have much to offer.  Total Recall had lots of gore, comic relief, and the biggest movie star in the world.  Total Recall 2 has none of those things, and would more properly be titled I, Robot 2.  And let’s not kid ourselves, going from Will Smith to Colin Farrell is a major downgrade.  This one can safely keep till home video.

Suggested Alternate Viewing:

Lockout (2012) – Vastly more fun, made the most of its PG-13 rating, and Guy Pearce was fantastic.

Total Recall (1990) – Why eat hamburger when you can have steak?

Trailers after the jump.

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Read the rest of this entry »

Batman 7: The Big Bat Finale (Until the Next Reboot)   1 comment

“Miguel Garcia, have a cigar, Cuba’s finest.” – Miguel Garcia, Cuban Diplomat
“Jay Sherman, have a Star Trek 7 pencil, Nimoy’s lamest.” – Jay Sherman

Top Line: Batman 7 is a sprawling, overly serious, nearly three hour epic that is the very epitome of a modern big budget blockbuster.  It is not without problems, several of which are serious, but it is a lot of fun and is unequivocally worth seeing on a big screen.

Who (probably) should see this movie: Anyone who doesn’t want to be left out of just about any political, movie, or general cultural conversation for the next couple of months, and people who liked the first two Christian Bale Batman movies.

Who (probably) should not see this movie: Anyone who disliked the first two Bale Batman movies.

Special Note About the Mass Murder in Colorado:  A few years ago, a reporter named David Cullen wrote a book called Columbine about the 1999 high school murders that left 13 victims and 2 perpetrators dead.  The book is the definitive account of that incident, and one of the most striking things it concluded was that, with the exception of basic facts like the number, names and ages of the dead, for the first few weeks almost nothing reported in newspapers or on television was correct.  It was all hot air generated by people who weren’t directly affected rushing to comment, conclude, and otherwise insert themselves into a situation that screamed for privacy and healing.  Theories and rumors that began as nothing more than miscommunication or uninformed speculation took on a life of their own and ended up causing serious emotional and social harm to people who should have been left to their grief.

The murders last night took place only a short drive from where the ones in 1999 happened, and there are enough other similarities that the word “Columbine” is already in the air today.  As of this writing, a very likely suspect is in custody, twelve people who were breathing yesterday are not doing so today, and innumerable other people, media figures and not, are already rushing in to speculate, comment, and opinionate.  None of the latter is necessary, and some of it may cause further trauma to survivors and others directly involved.

There is no danger to the general public related to this crime (looking at you, NYPD), and the vast majority of us who are lucky enough not to be involved owe those who weren’t so lucky their privacy.  Only with time and careful investigation will this young man’s alleged actions begin to make sense.  For now, those of us fortunate enough to be unaffected should set it aside and go about our lives.  Rubbernecking is neither helpful nor justifiable.

Box Score:

Runtime: 2h:45m – And it feels longer in places.
Rated: PG-13 – This is probably Batman 7’s biggest problem.  For all the super-serious violence and epic, city eating story, there is almost literally no blood in the entire film and the cartoonish nature of the violence routinely undermines everything that’s happening.
Three Stars:

  1. Anne Hathaway – Catwoman:
    Plays the only character in the entire movie who gets to have any fun.
  2. Christian Bale – Batman:
    Does his customarily top notch job and keeps the growling to a minimum.
  3. Tom Hardy – Bane:
    Seemed to be enjoying himself more than the rest of the cast of this relentlessly dour picture.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +2 (this is one of those rare movies where everyone really will be talking about it, best to see it quickly)
  • +2 (see above)
  • +2 (is an action movie where many of the biggest sequences aren’t totally computer animated)
  • +2 (Nolan movies tend to be the most fun the first time you see them and this is no exception, a real theater adds to the experience)
  • -1 (it’s still just a bloody movie)

Final Score: 9

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +2 (it’s easy to see movies at home these days, and this is far more entertaining than most releases)
  • -1 (it’s a third movie that isn’t as good as the second one, a year from now, only movie geeks will care)

Final Score: 6

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 (Catwoman has a female sidekick and the two of them make some minor trouble together)
  • +1 (Marion Cotillard gets a real character to play)
  • -1 (pretty much a dudes movie)
  • -2 (little to no independent female action)

Final Score: 4

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • Christopher Nolan:
    You know, he made those other Batman movies, plus Inception, The Prestige, Memento, good to great movies all.

Writers:

  • Christopher Nolan & Jonathan Nolan:
    See above.

Ratings:

  • Users: Too Few Votes
  • Metascore: 80/100

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics:

86%

  • Average Rating: 8/10
  • Critic Reviews: 201
  • Fresh: 172 | Rotten: 29

Top Critics:

78%

  • Average Rating: 8/10
  • Critic Reviews: 41
  • Fresh: 32 | Rotten: 9

Audience:

94%

  • Average Rating: 4.6/5
  • User Ratings: 361,854

Notes:

  • The PG-13 rating is a killer flaw.  This movie could’ve been one for the ages with the greater freedom and credibility an R rating provides, but the box office gods must be appeased.
  • The movie is paced very unevenly in that it jumps months ahead a couple of times with little to no warning.
  • The plane hijacking that opens the movie is one of the most innovative action sequences to come down the pipe in a while.
  • The motorcycle chase doesn’t live up to the epic car chase in The Dark Knight, but it’s damn good.
  • The Batplane is a little too goofy to be as cool as the movie thinks it is.
  • It definitely feels like the third entry in a trilogy in places, with unnecessary flashbacks and somewhat pointless cameos.
  • Way too many pieces of the excellent supporting cast are underused.
  • There’s plenty of both beef and cheesecake for everyone.  Anne Hathaway spends much of the movie in very tight clothing (including bent over riding the Batcycle, which the camera definitely notices), and both Tom Hardy and Christian Bale show plenty of well muscled skin.

Bottom Line: Batman 7 is a very above average summer movie, but it suffers from three (3) major structural problems which, long term, will probably relegate it to being considered closer to the good-but-not-great Batman 5 rather than the much loved Batman 6: the PG-13 rating, the length, and the galaxy of villains, none of whom can fill Heath Ledger’s brilliantly insane purple suit.

For a good example of how the restrictions of PG-13 snuff out the realism on which the movie relies, consider a scene near the end where one of the many (many) minor characters gets killed.  First we see him firing his gun, then we cut to the other side firing theirs, and then we cut to his supposed corpse, which is perfectly clean, bloodless, and doesn’t have a hair or button out of place.  Childish aversions to even minor gore (Batman gets a nosebleed at one point, which may be the only blood in the movie) are such a running theme that the movie feels lifeless even as it wants the audience to fear for people’s safety.

Batman 6 made up for those same shortcomings with a quick pace and a wickedly funny performance from its main villain.  Batman 7 moves much more ponderously, and Bane, Catwoman, and all the other assorted bad guys put together aren’t nearly as much fun as the Joker was.

All that might have been less noticeable if the movie had either been forty minutes shorter or forty minutes longer.  There’s a trend in franchise movies right now to split the last installment into two parts (Harry Potter did it, Twilight is doing it, and Hunger Games is going to do it).  Batman could’ve benefitted from the same expansion of space to tell its sprawling tale.  That, or it could’ve moved along much more swiftly by dropping some of its excessive backstory baggage.

Still, even if it’s got problems and could’ve used more comic relief (the audience only laughed two or three times), this is an epic film that doesn’t disappoint when it comes to spectacle and menacing characters.  Bane is an enjoyably intimidating foe, Catwoman is a bit underwritten but believably badass, and all your old favorites from the first two movies get to show up and do their thing.  It’s fluff, but it’s very well executed fluff, and if that’s what the public wants, then that’s what Christopher Nolan and company have given us.

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Posted July 20, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Box Score Cinema, The Critic

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Ice Age 4: Everybody Relies on Raymond   1 comment

“Okay, think, Bart, where have you see Roman numerals before?  I know, Rocky Vee, that was the fifth one.  So, Rocky V plus Rocky II equals Rocky VII, Adrian’s Revenge!” – Bart Simpson

Top Line: Everybody Loves Raymond was a fairly typical family sitcom: the only twist was that they brought in the grandparents more often.  Ice Age 4 is a fairly typical Ice Age movie that has more characters than previous ones, but it’s better than the trailer above would lead you to believe. 

Box Score:

Who (probably) should see this movie: People that have already seen Brave, parents with small children, and people who liked Everybody Loves Raymond and/or the previous three movies. 
Who (probably) should not see this movie: Anyone that is kinda busy this weekend or can’t easily get to a theater and people who have not seen Brave (which is distinctly better).  This will safely keep until DVD sometime around Thanksgiving. 

Three Stars:

  1. Wanda Sykes – Sassy Grandma:
    Is by far the most fun and well written character in the movie.  This may be because she’s the only female character who doesn’t have a love interest.  All the rest of them, even the conflicted villain, fall for somebody.
  2. Peter Dinklage – Villainous Monkey:
    Tyrion’s got a song and everything.  
  3. Dennis Leary – Courageous Saber Tooth Tiger:
    I think he could do this in his sleep, but he does a good job. 

Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +1 (it’s hot out there)
  • +1 (this is the kind of movie that’s typically more fun with an audience)
  • +1 (theater with other kids around might help the wee ones pay attention)
  • +1 (it’s hot out there x2)
  • 1 (but it’ll be even hotter getting there and you probably have A/C or a nice fan at home)
  • 1 (The ending is nothing special, so waiting until home video isn’t going to spoil anything)

Final Score: 4

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 (it’s only 94 minutes)
  • +2 (if “The Longest Daycare” is on the DVD)
  • +1 (Wanda Sykes has the best part)
  • 1 (it’s a third sequel, it ain’t important)

Final Score: 8 (if “The Longest Daycare” is on the DVD), 6 (if it isn’t)

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 (There are a lot of female characters)
  • -3 (Raymond’s daughter and wife do basically nothing but talk about him and the boy his daughter is chasing)
  • -1 (Jennifer Lopez would’ve been much better without the romantic subplot with Dennis Leary)

Final Score: 2

IMDb Sez:

Directors:

  • Steve Martino:
    Horton Hears a Who (2008)
    Robot (2005 art director)
  • Mike Thurmeier:
    Ice Age 1 (lead animator, additional story)
    Note: First time in the big chair

Writers:

  • Michael Berg:
    Ice Age 1 (2002)
    Ice Age 3 (2009)
  • Jason Fuchs:
    Rags (2012 TV)
    Note: Was a child actor

Ratings:

  • 7.0/10 from 5,685 users
  • Metascore: 50/100

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics:

43%

  • Average Rating: 5.3/10
  • Critic Reviews: 89
  • Fresh: 38 | Rotten: 51

Top Critics:

41%

  • Average Rating: 5.6/10
  • Critic Reviews: 22
  • Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 13

Audience:

65%

  • Average Rating: 3.7/5 (7.4/10)
  • User Ratings: 27,666

Notes:

  • The audience is much more on target here.  Sure, it’s a fourth sequel, but it feels like a second sequel (well, except for the overabundance of characters and that weird supernatural twist).
  • Total waste of Patrick Stewart (he had much better lines in Ted)
  • There are two songs, a pirate one in the middle and a friendship one at the end.  Both are pretty good, but neither seems likely headed for “Call Me Maybe” summer fame. 
  • Wanda Sykes doesn’t quite steal the show, but is by far the most fun character. 
  • There are only a couple scenes in the non-3D version that look goofy because they’re supposed to be in 3D. 
  • If you do go to the movies this weekend, even if you’re seeing something else, peek your head into an Ice Age 4 theater about fifteen minutes after the show time and catch the Simpsons short “The Longest Daycare”.  It’s only five minutes long, and it’s much better than Zombie Simpsons.

Bottom Line:

Ice Age 4 is a pretty good movie in which pretty much the same stuff that happened in earlier Ice Age Movies happens.  It’s also regular pretty, though not as pretty as Brave.  Raymond again plays the hero mammoth who hangs out with his buddies, Dennis Leary the prideful cat and John Leguizamo the comedy relief.  It’s the fourth sequel, so Raymond’s got a family by now, and there’s a love interest for Leary (the underused Jennifer Lopez plays the hot girl cat), but it’s a fairly straightforward joke around/action sequence buddy movie once the three of them fall onto a giant iceberg and float off to adventure. 

Sadly, the subplot with Raymond’s wife (Queen Latifah) and daughter (Nicki Minaj) is a boilerplate daddy’s-little-girl-is-growing-up story, with a hunky but non-threatening nogoodnik as her teenage crush and a pack of mean girls to boot.  Even though their world is collapsing around them, Latifah, Minaj and company are never in any immediate danger; all that happens is Minaj’s crush on the mammoth with the spiky hair.  It’s really a waste of a subplot.

WARNING: The comments section here is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted July 13, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Box Score Cinema, The Simpsons

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