Archive for action

Wednesday Faceoff: The Adventures of Tintin vs. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vs. Mission Impossible 4

Posted in Friday Faceoff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by judsonw

                       

The holiday season seems to be becoming another summer when it comes to studios releasing high budget, high expectation vehicles. The only difference this time of the year (besides the freezing weather) is that most of these movies are high quality as well. For whatever reason, most likely the approaching date of the Oscars, Hollywood seems to save all its best films until the end of the year. Christmas this year brings 3 huge movies.

The Adventures of Tintin (76% RT rating) is a little confounding. On paper, it should be a surefire hit. It’s a Steven Spielberg film, it features a world famous character, and it’s Hollywood’s next step in the motion capture craze (following Avatar). However, I can’t help but think this movie is going to bomb hard. Why? Well one, Tintin is a phenomenon everywhere in the world….except America. If you went up to 10 people on the street a few months ago and asked if they knew who Tintin was, 2/10 would say yes. And that would be lucky. Spielberg makes me a little excited to see this, but the motion capture makes me hesitant. Everything I’ve seen so far seems…off. But, still, it’s freaking SPIELBERG! How amazing is it that he’s releasing 2 films in one month?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (84% RT rating) is definitely as popular in America as it is on the rest of the planet. After a critically and financially successful Swedish version a few years ago, David Fincher steps in to follow up his masterpiece The Social Network. Many people have neither seen or heard of the Swedish film of this story, which is a shame. It’s a solid film with one intense performance by Noomi Rapace as the title character. So I keep asking myself…what’s the point of remaking a film that’s already great? If it was any other director, I’d be skeptical. Instead, I’m pumped.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (93% RT rating) has every reason to be great. The first three films are all excellent action flicks backed by talented directors. The new installment is helmed by the critically acclaimed director of such Pixar hits as The Incredibles and Wall-E. So why are expectations so low? It may be that 5 year gap between films. Or maybe Tom Cruise’s demise into one of America’s most despised celebrities. Nonetheless, the buzz on this movie is incredible. And all I hear is to see it in IMAX, IMAX, IMAX. Not the digital LIEMAX at your local AMC, but a real IMAX theater that you’ll probably find at an aquarium or air and space museum. Not since The Dark Knight have I been blown away by an IMAX experience, so fingers crossed for this one.

Winner:

Mission

Impossible:

Ghost

Protocol

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Friday Faceoff: Rise of the Planet of the Apes vs. The Change-Up

Posted in Friday Faceoff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2011 by judsonw

The summer movie season is finally coming to a close and that usually means that the studios dump the films they have the least confidence in after months of tent pole movies. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (80% RT rating) has every reason to be awful. It’s a prequel to a movie series that hasn’t had an installment since Tim Burton’s remake in 2001 and just screams cash grab. And that awful, awful title. However, the word of mouth has been surprisingly excellent, with a lot of the praise going to the incredible WETA effects and Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance. Maybe we’re in for one of the summer’s best blockbusters?

The Change-Up (23% RT rating), on the other hand, looks like the most formulaic, unfunny mainstream comedy. Two drastically different people switch bodies and come to terms with the fact that their original life is something to cherish. How many times has this story been told? Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds may be able to make the material fun, but honestly, we’re on the cusp of Ryan Reynolds overexposure.

Winner:

Rise of the

Planet of

the Apes

 

Movie Review: “Sucker Punch” is the year’s most interesting failure

Posted in Action, Movie Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by judsonw

Zack Snyder sure knows how to make visually stimulating movies. His talents as a writer, on the other hand, don’t come close to his talents as a director. Sucker Punch was released this past March and was expected to be a smash hit, Snyder’s first completely original movie. Unfortunately, critics and audiences alike ravaged the film, claiming its incoherent plot made for an uncomfortable 2 hours. So is it really that bad? Well, in my opinion, no. Actually, I kinda dug it!

Sucker Punch is one thing so many bloated, mediocre blockbusters aren’t today: ambitious. Snyder attempts to tell a story that takes place in 3 different dimensions, or “dreamworlds.” We have our main character, Baby Doll, who is sent to a mental institution by her evil stepfather for accidently killing her sister (his fault). Once she’s at the institution and she hears word of plans to lobotomize her, Baby Doll teams up with a few of the other female inmates in an attempt to escape. The movie opens with a red curtain raising up, which is appropriate because from this point on the entire movie is virtually indistinguishable between reality and fantasy.

First, we have the actual reality of the girls in the mental institution which is rarely shown. Second, we have the fantasy of the girls in a brothel-like institution where they are forced to dance scantily clad in front of rich old men so the owner can get rich. It’s in this dreamworld that the girls band together to escape. Baby Doll determines that they need to find 5 objects to become free: a map, fire, a knife, a key, and something else. So a map of the institution, a lighter for a distraction, a knife for protection, and a master key for the institution’s doors. The strange thing about the movie is that whenever the girls go after one of the objects, Baby Doll imagines a world where they are kick-ass machine gun-toting babes battling slow motion-style through breathtaking set pieces and landscapes. In one scene, they fight masked Nazis to retrieve the map. In another, they must slit a baby dragon’s throat to retrieve the fire. While it may not make much sense, it’s pretty damn entertaining to watch.

Another aspect of the film I really appreciated was the soundtrack. Snyder used to direct music videos for a living and you can definitely see that here. All the fight scenes are almost dance-like in their nature, with the girls in perfect synchronicity with the song/music. It really does come across like a video game mixed with a music video. Though there are a lot of things I enjoyed about Sucker Punch, overall it’s not a great movie. The plot is simply too convoluted to fully follow and becomes quite frustrating after a while. That being said, the film can be looked at in so many different ways after its ambiguous ending and is certain to spark debate and conversation among film fanatics.  It’s a shame because I think that if Snyder was a better writer or really fine crafted his storytelling techniques Sucker Punch could have been something spectacular. However, I won’t be surprised if a few years from now Sucker Punch becomes a cult classic.

B-

Movie Review: “Battle: Los Angeles” a soulless representation of everything wrong with action movies of today

Posted in Action, Movie Review with tags , , , , , , on March 17, 2011 by judsonw

The summer blockbuster movie season seems to start earlier each year than the last and 2011 is no different. The upcoming buffet of big budget special effects-laden movies starts off this year in early March with a plate of an alien invasion film entitled “Battle: Los Angeles.” The question is, will “Battle: Los Angeles” live up to past successful alien invasion blockbusters like “Independence Day” and “World of the Worlds” or fizzle like recent turkeys such as “Skyline?” Unfortunately, “Independence Day” could be considered a masterpiece next to this soulless and brainless mess of a movie.

“Battle: Los Angeles”, as can probably be guessed from the title, is about aliens invading the world, and the film focuses on the fight to save Los Angeles. If you’re looking for more detail than that, you won’t find it here. Thus lies the biggest problem with “Battle: Los Angeles.” There is absolutely no story to be found in the film. Characters are briefly introduced; the aliens attack, and the soldiers fight back. The film is very similar to a videogame, where instead of deep characterization and a coherent storyline, the viewers are essentially thrust into the middle of a battlefield. The problem is that here the audience is forced to sit and try to comprehend who is winning and losing, rather than taking part themselves with a videogame controller. The videogame comparison doesn’t stop there, however, because it’s very believable that “Battle: Los Angeles” was written by a 10-year-old gamer after a 12 hour Halo binge. The dialogue moves past simply being mediocre and becomes hilariously awful. With such gems as “I didn’t get this far because of my good looks” and “that was some John Wayne shit,” it’s hard to resist from bursting out laughing at the unintentional hilarity of it all.

Once the aliens make contact, the film becomes a non-stop action romp. In spite of this, the movie is still a bore to watch since the overreliance on shaky cam leads to hard-to-follow, headache-inducing action sequences. Five minutes into the first battle sequence, I already found myself dozing off. Because the film puts close to no effort developing memorable characters or a story, the action is the most important component of its success. With that being said, the movie fails miserably in that aspect.“Battle: Los Angeles” boasts some great acting talent from such actors as Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez, but unfortunately all that talent goes down the drain with a terrible script. Poor Rodriguez gets the brunt of the cringe worthy lines. It’s a wonder she was able to keep a straight face, uttering off lines such as “they’re going down like bowling pins!” It’s never a good sign when you can’t name a single character’s name after seeing a movie, but that is exactly what happened to me after seeing this disgrace of a film. Though some actual character development would have been appreciated, it doesn’t help when almost every character’s name starts off with the title “Staff Sergeant.” Despite the characters being extremely one dimensional, the film is desperate for an emotional response when one of them sacrifices their life or loses the battle against the aliens, even making it a purpose to throw in some cheesy saccharine music during the death scenes. A film that doesn’t earn my minimal interest will certainly not earn my tears.

The main draw for a film like “Battle: Los Angeles” would seemingly be the movie’s main villains: the aliens. Unfortunately, the film decides to barely focus on the world’s attackers, instead opting to spotlight some of the most dull and unsympathetic human characters put to screen in recent memory. When we actually do get a look at the aliens, they are briefly shown in the distance or out of focus. When they finally do get a close up, it’s hard not to be disappointed by their unmemorable and lazy design. Seeing the aliens in this film raised my appreciation for the effort and work behind such alien invasion films such as “District 9.” Much of the CGI and alien technology on screen here simply does not even measure up to today’s best videogames.

“Battle: Los Angeles” is merely a mediocre videogame posing as a summer blockbuster alien invasion movie. It follows the “Transformers” model, with a lot of loud action with little to nothing to get out of it all. The truth of the matter is that I’d rather spend two hours playing a videogame. At least that way I’d be able to make it an enjoyable and exciting experience, two qualities that “Battle: Los Angeles” does not posses.

F