Archive for the ‘The Critic’ Category

Bond 24: Action! Nostalgia! Sequels!   Leave a comment

“Our last film tonight is the new, politically correct version of James Bond, ‘On His or Her Majesty’s Secret Service’.” – Jay Sherman
“Well, darling, thanks to my efforts, Blofeld’s army will now admit homosexuals, the blind, and midgets.” – James Bond

Top Line: Skyfall is exactly what we’ve come to expect from a Daniel Craig James Bond movie.  It’s executed much better than Quantum of Solace, and has a better bad guy than Casino Royale, but it isn’t much different than those two in terms of what happens or whether or not you’re likely to be entertained by it. 

Who (probably) should see this movie: James Bond fans (obviously), and anyone looking for something other than kids fare and overly serious Oscar bait here at the end of the year. 

Who (probably) should not see this movie: People who don’t like Bond movies, and/or anyone who wasn’t all that thrilled with Casino Royale (2006).

Box Score:

Runtime: 2h:23m – It certainly could’ve been a bit shorter in places, but it never drags.

Actual Start Time: Showtime + 20(!) Minutes

Friday Evening Demographics: Packed house. 

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking

Seems about right, though it is funny that we now actually point out when someone lights up a cigarette in a movie.  (Don’t worry, it’s not Bond.)

Should Be Rated: PG-12

Three Stars:

  1. Javier Bardem – Mincing, Blonde Psycho-Spy: 
    No surprises here.  Bond villains always get to have the most fun, and Bardem is great every time he’s on the screen.
  2. Daniel Craig – James Bond:
    His ultra-tough, ultra-muscled Bond is back for a third go.
  3. Judi Dench – M:
    Her ultra-controlled, no nonsense M is also just what you’d expect.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +1 (Definitely some action sequences that look very good on a big screen.)
  • +1 (James Bond is usually more fun with an audience, and that’s true of this one as well.)
  • -1 (It’s a Bond movie, it’s going to be on television and in home video releases from now until the Sun explodes, so it’s not like you’ll never get another chance.) 

Final Score: 4

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 (James Bond!)
  • -1 (James Bond.)

Final Score: 5

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 (for Judi Dench being in much more of the movie than she is in most of her Bond appearances.)
  • -1 (for Naomie Harris not doing much of anything after the opening scene.)
  • -1 (for Bérénice Marlohe not having much to do, period.)

Final Score: 4

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • Sam Mendes:
    Well respected director of middlebrow critic pleasers like American Beauty (1999), Jarhead (2005), and Revolutionary Road (2008).

Writers:

  • Neal Purvis:
    Wrote the previous two Daniel Craig Bond movies.
  • Robert Wade:
    Pretty much the same as Purvis.
  • John Logan:
    Has been involved with plenty of big budget Hollywood screenplays over the years, ranging from very good (Rango (2011), The Aviator (2004)) to the not so good (Gladiator (2000), Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)).

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 93% Top Critics: 91% Audience: 91%

Notes:

  • Skyfall is a good James Bond movie, but I’m surprised at the rapturous Rotten Tomatoes numbers.  It suffers from way too many typical Bond problems (incompetent henchmen, a bad guy who prattles on instead of getting shit done, goofily dumb computer jargon/hacking) to be a truly excellent move on its own. 
  • The opening chase scene in Turkey is just wonderful.  It’s exactly what you want from a Bond movie: a cool location, lots of neat stunts, and over the top action. 
  • As Bond and the bad guy are riding motorcycles on the roof in Istanbul, there are two close shots of Craig that are hilariously, obviously shot in front of a fake background.  I’m honestly not sure if they left it looking that fake deliberately as a nod to the countless times that Sean Connery, Roger Moore, et al did the same thing. 
  • Okay, Sony, we get it.  You make cool electronics. 
  • Speaking of the many instances of product placement, they do feel more out of place in these grittier Craig movies.  Near the beginning of the film Bond is holed up in some tropical paradise drinking himself into a pleasant stupor after being accidentally shot by one of his own.  Despite his state as a physical and emotional wreck, he remembers to keep the label of his beer bottle facing the camera. 
  • Oddly enough, and somewhat disappointingly, the final showdown is probably the weakest part of the movie.  For a film that likes its twists and machinations, there’s something inherently unsatisfying about a bunch of nameless henchmen getting blow’d up and shot in a pretty anodyne action sequence.  There’s nothing terrible about it, but the rest of the movie’s big moments show a bit more creativity. 
  • The numerous nods and winks to Bond traditions and predecessors is a constant and amusing undercurrent.  So, for example, we get Bond wearing a tuxedo in a casino, but when he goes for the drink with the beautiful woman we don’t see him order his martini shaken not stirred, we see the bartender shake it and then simply have him thank her. 
  • Many of the above are subtle, the Aston Martin DB5 is not.  It’s just pure fan service, so much so that it actually got a smattering of applause. 
  • For all its talk about Bond getting old and broken down, Skyfall makes very sure to leave the table set for the further adventures of Daniel Craig as James Bond. 

Bottom Line: The James Bond franchise has survived, as Skyfall happily reminds you at its ending credits, for half a century now.  It has managed to stay relevant and popular through all that time by changing with the culture.  The days when Sean Connery can smoke like a chimney and more or less force himself on any woman on screen are long gone.  So too are the campy 1970s versions, the 1980s late Cold War ones, and the bombastic Pierce Brosnan movies that felt the generic Hollywood need to make each sequel bigger and louder until the audience went numb with the sheer absurdity of it all.

Since 2006’s Casino Royale we’ve had Daniel Craig’s tougher and harsher version, where Bond still comes out on top, but not without getting bloodied, bruised and emotionally tormented first.  Skyfall is a very good addition to this current version of Britain’s super spy.  Bond performs heroic stunts and impossible feats, all in the name of patriotism and beating the bad guy, but he isn’t a hopeless smartass who seems above it all. 

The particulars (the chases, the locations, the comic relief with Q) are all up to snuff, and Javier Bardem steals every scene he’s in.  As Bond villains go his ambitions are considerably smaller than world domination, but he brings a novel enthusiasm to the requisite callousness that lets him do terrible things.  He straddles the line between glee and insanity so well that you almost don’t notice him making classic Bond villain mistakes like not killing Bond and then simply asking his goons to make sure he’s dead. 

All in all, Skyfall is an entertaining and worthy addition to the franchise.  Since Bond movies are destined for a long shelf life, it’ll take a couple of decades before we can properly situate it among its peers, but I’ll be surprised if it’s considered a poor entry. 

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

Promised Land – Matt Damon sells fracking to economically distressed farming communities, becomes conflicted.  He’d like to thank the Academy. 

Side Effects – Taught, sexy thriller from the makers of . . . Contagion?  Ugh. 

Jack Reacher – Oh good, another massively cliched Tom Cruise action vehicle.  That’s what the movie going public has been clamoring for.  (Is he a loose cannon cop who plays by his own rules, but, damn it, he gets results?  Yes.  Yes, he is.) 

The Hobbit – Well, at least it was a new trailer, even if it does it’s best to make sure that the general movie going public won’t realize that Gandalf and the rest of the characters they recognize are barely going to be in these movies.

Red Dawn – Surgeon General’s Warning: The massive stupid of this movie may be harmful to pregnant women, people with heart conditions, and anyone with a BAC below 0.08. 

Die Hard 5 – As if Die Hard 4 wasn’t awful enough.

Django Unchained – I know what I’m going to see on Christmas.  Woo-hoo! 

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 November 10, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Box Score Cinema, The Critic

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Reading Digest – 9 November 2012   Leave a comment

“Welcome to Decision ’96, it’s eighteen months till the election and tonight we’ll focus on the Vice-Presidential candidates.  Since this is so boring and pointless, we will periodically be inserting clips from Baywatch.” – Political Reporter
“Help, help!  An octopus stole my bikini top!” – Hot Blonde
“I’ll get it.  But first I better put on my octopus repellent.  Ooh, oh yeah, that’s good octopus repellent.” – Not David Hasselhoff

CNNlogo Most people greet presidential elections with relief.  To all but a tiny, gossip obsessed minority the campaigns and their attendant horseshit are aggravating and frustrating, and seeing the end of them is all to the good.  CNN, of course, is run by some of the dimmer lights of that tiny minority, and has this:

2016 Aztec Apocalypse

As profoundly embarrassing as this should be for them, they double down with the subhead:

Analysis: The 2012 election just ended, but the 2016 campaign for the White House is underway.

First of all, that isn’t “Analysis”, that’s product positioning.  Second, no the 2016 campaign is not underway.  Not even close.  The only thing that’s underway are wanna-be insiders one upping each other with pointless, uninformed speculation.  But that never ceases. 

PoliticoLogo See?  Never:

Hillary Is Already Looking to the General

Put down the crack pipe, Politico.  We’re all worried about you.

FNLogo FOX has been on Bias Alert every day since well before the election.  But as any competent naval commander will tell you, readiness goes down if you leave the men at general quarters too long, which appears to be what’s happened this morning:

Damned Entertainment Reporters

The “Reuters Journo” in question is, drum roll please, an entertainment reporter who just became a citizen and committed the heinous crime of voting for the first time on Tuesday.  Of course, none of that stopped the twitchy paranoiacs at the Bias Alert CIC quoting from the Reuters handbook to try and damn her:

Reuters journalists should be mindful of the impact their publicly expressed opinions can have on their work and on Reuters.

What they fail to mention is that her Twitter page, to which the FOX article contains a broken link, says this right at the top:

Surrey girl, Warwick Uni/USC alum. All views my own, RTs not endorsements. Also tweeting @ReutersShowbiz

It specifically notes that these aren’t the views of Reuters, and since she’s not a political reporter, it’s difficult to think how tweeting about her first vote as a U.S. citizen for Obama impacts her work. 

To review: A reporter who doesn’t cover politics used her personal Twitter account, which specifically says that it doesn’t reflect the views of Reuters, to talk about the first time she voted.  Might be time to stand down from Bias Alert before someone starts taking inventory on the strawberries. 

Posted November 9, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Reading Digest, The Critic

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Reading Digest – 3 October 2012   Leave a comment

“If you interfere, I’ll release this tape.” – Bob Dole
“Pretty kitty calico, you know that I love you so, with your fur so soft and fair . . .” – Duke Phillips

DailyCallerLogo About half of the right wing media is flogging a story about an Obama video from 2007 in which he says that the Katrina response was botched in part because of institutional racism (which is hardly news to anyone even remotely familiar with the immediate and long term responses) and talks about winger bogyman Jeremiah Wright (a year before his tempest in a teapot remarks came to light):

OBAMA’S OTHER RACE SPEECH

For proof of just how lame this story really is, FOX is all over it . . .

FNLogo . . . both at the mothership . . .:

Video Shows Obama Suggesting Neglect of New Orleans Was Racial

FoxNationLogo . . . and down at the nationalist fever swamp:

Daily Caller Uncovers Stunning New Obama Tape

But that’s it.  It’s not at the Weekly Standard, National Review or Wall Street Journal.  In other words, they released a tape that’s five years old (and has already been reported in the news) the night before the first debate, which is what every one of those worthless lamestream pundits, including many conservatives, will be yammering about this time tomorrow.  I don’t know when the wingers got this bad at bullying around the media, but it is fun to watch them flail

CNNlogo Meanwhile, in more incompetent but less ideological outlets, the top story is the one that will be all over the place today and tomorrow, the debate:

5 things to watch in tonight’s debate

Of which the stupidest is probably:

5. Taking the zing out of zingers

Well, that would just leave “ers”, wouldn’t it? 

PoliticoLogo The official village gossip rag has the same story and five different but equally stupid questions:

Colorado presidential debate: 5 things to watch

Of which the stupidest is probably:

5. Is Obama ready for prime-time?

It seems like a crazy question to ask about a man who has governed the country during one of its most tumultuous recent periods — and a guy who speaks in public nearly as much as he speaks in private. But the truth is Obama is really, really rusty when it comes to debating.

This implies that they think the task of debating Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann was like some kind of Rocky-esque training montage when cardboard cutouts might have been more challenging opposition. 

Posted October 3, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Reading Digest, The Critic

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Reading Digest – 25 September 2012   Leave a comment

“Ugh, they do the same sketches every week.  They’re nothing more than a string of catch phrases . . . yeah, that’s the ticket.” – Jay Sherman

CNNlogo This is rich:

Yesterday Night Live Not only is CNN treating an SNL sketch as news, it’s doing so on Tuesday morning.  Not Sunday, after it was broadcast, or Monday when everyone’s getting back to work.  Tuesday.  There are also stories about old sitcoms, weird snakes, and a famous singer who gained some weight (seriously), but I don’t think any of those top being several days behind on an SNL skit that wasn’t news in the first place.

DailyCallerLogo Tucker & Friends may be nothing but junior varsity partisan hacks, but they are loyal.  Today they’ve dug up opposition research on Obama that would have been used against him in his 2004 Senate campaign if the investment banker who paid for all of it hadn’t gotten messily divorced from his actress wife after taking her to “sex clubs” and still thought he could run for office:

One man’s playbook for defeating state Sen. Barack Obama

There is, obviously, very little of interest here.  But you’ve got to admire the tenacity that leads them to play the very long odds that a guy who was a completely incompetent politician might be sitting on some nugget of decade old information that has somehow never come to light before and could change the race for president here in 2012.  It takes real dedication to think that’s worth doing, even if someone else is paying you to do it.

PoliticoLogo I don’t think this one is going to win the morning:

President Obama’s audacity-free campaign

Opening paragraph:

Barack Obama, reconciling the contradictory realities of Mitt Romney’s hard fall with a race that remains stubbornly inside the margin of error, is running as the kind of careful, poll-watching politician he disdained the first time he ran for president, according to Democratic and Republican observers.

Only the deep fucking thinkers at America’s Thinnest Newspaper could consider a bunch of blind quotes from nobodies about something as nebulous as the tone of a campaign to be news.  And this isn’t buried down page somewhere, it’s their lead story.  Morning lost. 

FNLogo The nationalists could use a dictionary, methinks:

Infiltrate Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

It’s a campaign rally, not the KGB high command.  You didn’t infiltrate anything, you drove somewhere, parked, got out and walked around.  There was probably even food.

Posted September 25, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break, The Critic

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Reading Digest – 14 September 2012   Leave a comment

“Now, if you want to work here at the New York Post, you must know that we insert the following words into every headline: headless, nude, sewage, and governor.  For instance, ‘Subway Fares Raised’ becomes ‘Headless Governor Found Nude in Subway Sewage’.” – New York Post Editor
“What about the fares?” – Miranda Tompkins
“You’re fired.” – New York Post Editor

CNNlogo Among Today’s “Featured” news stories:

Magazine runs topless pics of Kate – Nobody on this side of the Atlantic cares about this except you dorks.  Please stop.

Sally Struthers arrested – This would’ve been news twenty to never years ago.

Lady Gaga: I want to smell like a slut – Rich Celebrity: Pay Attention to Me.

Bieber: I’m ‘not fully a man yet’ – See above.

Driver takes sidewalk to avoid school bus – Just because.

Serenaded by the Beach Boys – We’re appealing to the hip replacement demographic who are also the only people still left who think of us as a news organization.

FoxNationLogo This isn’t their usual line:

Biden Baby All Caps

And what’s with the caps lock?  Ah, this is more like it:

Slaughter Is Such a Strong Word

It takes a certain kind of nationalist media organization to voluntarily describe its biggest star with “Absolutely Slaughters” about one of America’s most famous Muslims.  FOX News: Killing Infidels (Figuratively, So It’s Okay)!  And finally:

Yeah, Baby, Work That Black Bar

The story notes that she immediately deleted it, but they not only reproduced it anyway, they also tastefully put a little black bar over the part they think is naughty because, you know, decency.

usatodaylogo News!:

Important Headlines

1) Who cares?
2) Who cares?  (And I’m pretty sure that’s not her name anymore.)
3) Not a Real Problem.

PoliticoLogo Winning the morning with:

Obama II: Team of Insiders – Nothing.

Granholm on ‘Dating Game’ in ’78 – Diddly squat.

GOP Fed up with Bernanke – Nada.  (Is there anything the Reds aren’t fed up with these days?)

Dems use Ryan’s mug in ads – And zilch. 

nytimeslogo1 I know you guys have to appeal the old rich people whom your advertisers are desperate to reach, but this is undignified for all involved:

Geezer Tricycles

That’s right, old people tricycles are now cool, according to the Paywalled Lady.  And on the front page, no less:

A version of this article appeared in print on September 14, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Born to Be Wild, Aging Bikers Settle for Comfy.

Sheesh. 

Posted September 14, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Reading Digest, The Critic

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Reading Digest – 4 September 2012   Leave a comment

“Welcome to the United Nations school eighth grade election.  Our candidates are, Martin Sherman, Zoltan Veramirovich . . .” – Principal Mangosuthu
“Hello.” – Zoltan Veramirovich
“. . . and Michael Dukakis.” – Principal Mangosuthu
“I thought I would start small, with an election I could win.” – Michael Dukakis
“Boo!” – Eighth Graders

DailyCallerLogo As usual, Carlson’s house of wingnut welfare delivers the pure, uncut stuff.  Today’s lead:

Tucker's Tank

That is quality trolling right there.

RedStateLogo Whereas this is just second rate:

Erik's Failed Troll Attempt C’mon, Red State, you can’t lead with an incoherent headline and two Blues who not only won, but are both still nationally popular!  You didn’t have a picture of John Kerry sitting around somewhere?  Tucker & Friends did much better. 

PoliticoLogo This is the busy season for Washington’s preeminent gossip rag, but they will always make time for worthless, irrelevant click-whoring:

Let the 2016 speculation begin

No.

FoxNationLogo This certainly isn’t the sort of headline you expect from the nationalists:

Time for Workers to Take Back Labor Day

Not to worry, though, the article is what you’d expect:

This Labor Day, you won’t see union bosses acknowledging the fact that they force workers into arrangements made by other people decades earlier.

Isn’t Labor Day itself an arrangement made by other people decades earlier?  I’m pretty sure it is, just as I’m pretty sure that acknowledging that is something unions do with that whole, “folks who brought you the weekend” thing.

Posted September 4, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Reading Digest, The Critic

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Reading Digest – 30 August 2012   Leave a comment

“Alright Callahan, I got some new partners for you: a woman, a cute little kid, an ugly old dog, a dinosaur, and a leprechaun.” – Crusty Police Chief

FNLogo It’s below all the Paul Ryan love notes, but this is fun:

Make My Convention

The story actually does contain an anonymous source saying it’s Eastwood, but that doesn’t mean you can’t chew up some space with speculation:

New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, a new face of Christian conservativism, is another name being bandied about as the possible speaker.

Rachel Ayers, a senior at High Point University in North Carolina who was touring the convention center Wednesday morning, lighted up at the mention of Tebow.

“Tim Tebow would be amazing,” said Ayers, who with several others also wanted to see a former Bush president or first lady.

Oh, please let it be Tebow.  ESPN would explode. 

CNNlogo Stop the presses:

Fun Grandma (Not from the Onion)

CNN is the most trusted name in elderly fun.

usatodaylogo 

Analysis: Ryan says ‘America needs a turnaround’

Uh, “Analysis”? 

redstatelogo With the Paul Ryan fluffing well covered by the grown ups, the kiddies are free to take aim at the old standby:

Why Ron Fournier Proves Mitt Romney Must Beat The Liberal Media, Not Woo Them

Truly conservative media knows that basking in the reflected glow of the convention is for wimps, the real right wing can be and is resentful at all times. 

Posted August 30, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Reading Digest, The Critic

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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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