As I sat down to write a review for this film, I found myself struggling with what angle to take. See, I think movie reviewers take a position on whether or not they like a film, whether or not they would recommend a film, then they find a clever or witty angle to present their position. Granted, I'm not a professional reviewer, although I'd love to be, but for now, I just do this for fun and I have an opinion on just about everything. But, be that as it may, there are a few ways to approach this and I'm not sure which is best. So let's just get the basics out of the way:
I didn't like this movie.
OK, having said that, now I need to find the ice breaker, the witty way of presenting my reasons why I didn't like it. I could go with:
Comedy is more and more a difficult sell, particularly in movies. In my opinion, the last really funny movie (outside of Bridesmaids, which lost me in the last act) was 2010's The Other Guys. Before that, off the top of my head, I gotta go with Meet The Parents, yes, all the way back in 2000 (note to self: rent Ted). Unlike drama, which reliably has a protagonist who is beset with any number of obstacles he or she must overcome and there is usually an antagonist, be it a person or an event, that is meant to undermine the protagonist, comedy is very subjective. I don't think anyone in comedy could honestly tell you why something is funny, let alone why something is funny to one person and not another. Comedy is more intimate; I believe comedy usually plays better on the small screen in small doses. Plus, comedy is subject to the changing times, the changing mores of society. What passes for mainstream comedy today most often consists of raunch, filth, shock and so on. Not saying I have a problem with that, but many comedies take the approach that the raunchier and filthier it is, the funnier it is. Not so. Something funny, with the right amount of raunch and filth, can be hilarious. But this movie is far from hilarious.
The Heat stars Sandra Bullock as the straight-laced by the book FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, the Stan Laurel to Melissa McCarthy's Oliver Hardy; the foul and obnoxious Det. Shannon Mullins. It's the mismatched cop story you've seen a million times except for the absence of Y chromosomes in the two leads. While Melissa McCarthy provides a few laughs, she is proof of what I said earlier: comedy, or rather what passes for comedy today, plays better in small doses. Putting aside the few and far between laughs McCarthy provides, this movie clocks in at 117 minutes, an eternity for a comedy, and McCarthy becomes so over the top obnoxious, I wanted to plug my ears at a certain point. Some of the funny moments are in scenes where she resorts to ad-libs; the funniest scene of the movie involves McCarthy's character arresting a john, played by Tony Hale (superb on Arrested Development and Veep). What makes it funny (as I attempt to explain humor after saying it can't be done) is that McCarthy approaches the perp with a charming smile and does her shtick to entrap the guy, but we the audience are in on the joke and we laugh at the poor schmuck who doesn't realize she's a cop. Because Hale is so brilliant, the two of them make the scene very funny. But unfortunately, that scene occurs at the very beginning of the movie and it's the only scene in which Hale appears. And as mentioned, McCarthy's shtick becomes grating fast, as in a joke that goes on WAY too long about her looking for her precinct captain's balls.
Inevitably, through an improbable series of events, Ashburn and Mullins team up to take down a Boston drug lord. Sandra Bullock, bless her heart, does her best to move mountains in order to make this movie work. It's not that she's not funny, she has sharp comedic timing, but I just couldn't help feeling bad for her, as the Oscar winner is made to strip off clothing, dance badly and shove a guy's head in her cleavage (as you watch this scene, remember the filmmakers want you to believe her character is a top notch agent). As she's made to wrestle the plus size McCarthy through a door. As she's made to wrestle McCarthy over a cell phone. Are you getting the pattern here? Then there's the inevitable montage sequence of drunken revelry, where we smash cut between vignettes of the two leads in various supposedly funny activities with the locals at a dive bar. But I give them credit for one thing: the montage doesn't take place in a kitchen while cooking and dancing as a 60s Motown song plays in the background.
But as I said, one of the secrets of comedy is to know when to get off the stage. Hell, Seinfeld devoted a whole plotline to this concept with the Costanza character, and we all agree that Seinfeld knows a little about comedy, right? 117 minutes, jokes and bits that go way too long, setups and scenes that become repetitive, etc. I mean, how many different times can we see one guy with a gun get the drop on another guy with a gun before it gets boring? And there are really big missed opportunities as well. Take for instance the scene where Mullins introduces Ashburn to her family. Of course, the family members are as loud and obnoxious as she is; but unfortunately, characters that could've been funny are grating from jump because we've already been subjected to McCarthy for nearly an hour. They do wring some small laughs out of the Bah-ston accent, but at this point in the film, it's just more annoying characters. Take another scene where the movie decides to take a grisly turn and we get to see an emergency tracheotomy performed. Could've been funny, but as this movie does all too often, it goes for forced shock value as opposed to coaxing a laugh. Take yet another scene where Ashburn is stabbed in the leg not once, not twice, but three times. Laughing yet?
You want more unfunny repetition? OK, well, there's a scene which follows a needless subplot about Mullins's evidently numerous flings as guys plead with her to take them back. See, it's supposed to be funny because she's so fat, yet all these guys want her so bad! Get it? Yeah, maybe the first time, but twice? However, it was cool to see the reunion of McCarthy and real-life husband Ben Falcone (the air marshal from Bridesmaids). But much like the ridiculous subplot, the scene kind of goes nowhere. And then there's the subplot about a black street dealer who gets arrested not once, but twice, and gets a watermelon thrown at him. Seriously. No, I didn't make that up.
I haven't really delved into the plot. There's a reason for that. It's because it makes little sense and it really doesn't matter. Even if the movie were good, it wouldn't matter because the point of this film is to laugh at the two mismatched characters. But there's the rub: IF the movie were good. And it's not.
OK, I could take that angle. Or, in keeping with the spirit of the film, I could take a ruder, raunchier angle:
What the hell is going on with Sandra Bullock? Why does she keep appearing in lame comedies? Jesus f**king Christ, didn't she learn ANYTHING from All About Steve? I mean, she's a f**king Oscar winner! Is she aware that the Oscar clique consisting of Halle Berry and Cube Gooding, Jr. is one that she DOESN'T want to join?
And what the f**k's going on with her face? In certain lighting and in some camera angles, she looks like f**king Joan Rivers. Not that I would kick her out of bed for eating crackers, she's still got a smokin' body, just check out the scene where director Paul Feig makes her debase herself by ripping off her clothes! Man, I've got some swollen goods she could take into evidence! I'm just disappointed they didn't make her do a striptease since that's the "thing" now. Just ask Jennifer Aniston or Gwyneth Paltrow. And THANK--GOD they actually wrote dialogue into the script as to why McCarthy is not required to strip. That would've been a tragedy. The filmmakers make it clear that McCarthy's girth is meant to make us laugh by putting her in weird situations where her size is a detriment. And she seems all too eager to please in that endeavor.
This movie just ain't that f**king funny. 2/5 reels
P.S. I don't know if it was the speaker system in the theater where I saw this, but even the sound was off. There's a club scene where the music is mixed way low and the crowd walla is non-existent. It literally sounds like it was shot on a soundstage and they forgot to foley the scene. This happens in a few other scenes. And the rap background music seems unnaturally loud, further amplifying the unnecessarily crude lyrics. It seems forced and out of place, particularly when they go into a Boston Southie bar. Rap music in a Boston corner bar, really?
Superman and Tony Stark face off over Man Of Steel.
Ever since I started reading the Walking Dead comic book, I've become a fan of the genre, even though I've never understood how zombies work. Aren't they comprised of necrotic tissue? If so, how do they manage to shuffle for such great lengths? Wouldn't they decompose or succumb to environmental extremes like heat or cold? How does dead muscle tissue allow them to ambulate? Or in the case of modern zombie films, including World War Z, how are they able to run like Kenyans in a marathon?
So that raises a nitpick question I have about this film. Are the creatures here really zombies? At the beginning of the film, we see people being attacked, and within seconds, they turn, rather violently, in herky-jerky spasms, I might add. So, I'm led to believe there's no death involved, rather viral mutation. And the fact that Brad Pitt's Gerry Lane goes globe-hopping to find Patient Zero as well as the source of the pandemic makes it seem like a disease rather than preternatural undead activity. For those of you who read the book, maybe you can clear that up for me. And if you have read the book, my understanding is you probably won't like the movie because it diverges from the source material significantly.
I didn't read the book (I plan to now) but in what I've read about the differences between film and novel, it strikes me that, while this was a very effective horror-thriller, the filmmakers may have missed a chance to do something really unique with this quickly-becoming-played-out genre to make it stand out from the 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, Dawn Of The Dead series of films, and of course not to mention the awesome Walking Dead program. My understanding is the book's narrative unfolds through a series of reporter interviews and news reports in the aftermath of the Zombie World War. Imagine how original this film would have been, had it been presented like a documentary; the zombie set pieces could've been shown in flashback or in vignettes as the interviewees recount their stories. I remember only recently, after I became somewhat of a fan of zombie lore, I bought Romero's classic Night Of The Living Dead on DVD and I was amazed at how ahead of its time it seemed. In that film, the zombie onslaught is reported very realistically over TV and radio; that technique was effective back then and it could've been put to good use here.
But despite the fact that towards its conclusion, the film becomes just another series of horror cliches, the cliches are presented masterfully. I like the fact that it starts out very innocuously, where we see the Lane family rising out of bed, preparing to take on another ordinary day. Without warning, in the middle of Philadelphia gridlock, the zombies attack. Perhaps in reality, a zombie uprising would garnish a little more advance attention, but I imagine it would probably happen as suddenly as portrayed in this film. As an allegory, much like a cold virus overtakes me with no advance notice, so might a zombie apocalypse. Right away, we see how zombies are quickly able to overrun the global population. Apparently, these zombies don't take the time eat you; they bite and move on. Once you're bitten, you turn. The efficiency of it allows the zombie horde to increase exponentially. And these zombies can move. They jump, they hurl themselves, they climb over each other, they move like a swarm of insects (cleverly alluded to in the opening credits).
But as I mentioned, the film moves along and serves up a series of derivative set pieces, but they're so well done, I kind of didn't care that they were cliched. Tense and exciting scenes included the refueling of military air carrier in North Korea, the overtaking of Jerusalem (if zombies are attracted to noise, it's probably not a good idea to shout your midday prayers over megaphones), a zombie attack on a plane ("I've had it with these motherf**king zombies on this..."--no, no I won't go there), and most effectively, a standoff at the World Health Organization.
I was a little conflicted by the scene at the W.H.O. You have this film which does manage to stand out from all the other zombie films and TV shows because this is the first time I've seen a zombie apocalypse on a global scale. Usually, we're dropped in the middle of the story after the zombies have infested the world. Here, we get to see humanity address the crisis as it unfolds. Considering the Walking Dead, one could imagine that this film takes place in between the time lawman Rick Grimes is shot and after he wakes up alone in his hospital bed. I really liked seeing the onset of the pandemic, and seeing things before they completely go to hell. I also, once again, liked the worldwide scale this film presented. So, I was slightly disappointed that so much of the weight was reduced to a scene at the W.H.O. But once the scene unfolded, I got over that disappointment quickly. It's a great setup, which I don't want to spoil, it's a thrilling series of obstacles the hero has to overcome. I will say that the W.H.O. has some of the noisiest doors and machines I've ever seen in an office. But I wouldn't have expected any less in a sequence like this.
There are places where the filmmakers drop the ball and some things are a little hard to swallow. Unless young Hispanic boys are not really attached to their parents, one would think a kid would evince a little more sadness at losing his entire family. And I'm going to start sitting near the front when I book my plane tickets because apparently sitting in front makes it possible to survive a crash where the front of the plane splits off from the rear, burst in flames, and rolls over a couple times. And the outcome of the W.H.O scene might ring a little false, as maybe our protagonist is a little too lucky with a choice he has to make, but overall, none of these leaps take away from the entertainment value of the film.
I'd forgotten how good an actor Brad Pitt is, because even though he still maintains some pretty boy features and he sports a hippie pageboy haircut, he managed to make me believe that the U.N. would send a retired investigator into these deadly zombie hot zones. It's not an original piece of work by any stretch of the imagination, but it's an entertaining entry in the zombie pantheon. 3.5/5 reels
More reviews at Lightning Strikes!
I went into this movie unaware of the "critical" backlash it was getting by other reviewers. I walked out of the film loving it. Action Sci Fi but with a emotional spin on it. I go into greater detail on why I enjoyed the movie so much in the podcast. One of the main reason I identified with this film was that it centered around a father and son dynamic. Also the imagery of a black father and son protagonists in a science fiction film is unto itself ground breaking. The fact that Will and Jaden are father in son in real life is just icing on the cake. Co host Qstorm has not seen the movie, but has read the bad reviews online. Has his opinion of the movie been tainted by those reviews? Does cynicism get in the way of our own perception of movies, before we see them? Listen to the show and find out.
Okay. I don't usually allow myself to get hyped up for summer movies any more because nine times out of ten, I walk away disappointed. But you know what? I am all IN for Man Of Steel after seeing this new trailer. I'm begging the powers that be to let this movie live up to what I'm seeing here.
There's no question this will be filled to the brim with action. I only ask three things:
- Show me a more human Superman. As great as Christopher Reeve was, and is still the gold standard, I always felt his Superman was written too much as a hero and not enough of a human being (I know Superman's an alien, but he was raised from infancy on Earth). Reeve's Superman was a boy scout, with a child-like innocence and wore his emotions on his sleeve. "For the first time in my life, everything's clear," he says, his eyes moist as he takes Lois to bed in Superman 2. Ok, that's sweet and nice, but now it's time to see more of a regular guy who's a hero in the blue costume.
- Again, as much as I appreciated Reeve's performance as Clark Kent, the physical humor he adeptly played, I want to see less of a clown and more of a normal person who's just a bit socially awkward. Not a comic character (yes, I realize the irony in that statement).
- Let the movie be as much about the action as it is about the characters. Looking at the previous trailers, it looks like Snyder will give us some characters that aren't just contributing to action set pieces. Kevin Costner's delivery of the line, "You are my son," is heartwarming (I hate that word, but it always works so well). And I like how he suggests that maybe Clark shouldn't use his powers even when others are in jeopardy. Little things like that indicate that the script gets it right. I just hope that by the 2nd act of the film, these little character beats aren't jettisoned for all balls-to-the-wall action.
To me, Superman as a movie property stands above and beyond any other superhero movie. I never read Superman regularly growing up. I thought the character was silly and juvenile, what with Krypto, Superboy, Supergirl, Kandor in a bottle, Mxyzptlk, red K, green K, yellow K et. al. But when I saw Superman: The Movie and heard the John Williams score, I was all in as a little kid. Then I saw Superman 2 and it blew my head open. Superman was fighting super bad guys on screen! The president kneels before Zod! Superman flies up the Eiffel Tower and saves Paris! Granted that film is a little hard to watch now and a little boring, maybe because I saw it SO many times. As embarassing as it is to say, that movie did for me what the original Star Wars did for many filmmakers today: it was what inspired me to go into video/film production as a career. And ever since Superman 2, I've gone into a Superman film hoping to relive the magic of the first two films. Hasn't happened yet. Bryan Singer came close, but went off the reservation ultimately. So, that's why I say, at least for me, Superman stands above any other superhero movie. And if I'm going by the trailers, this new movie has the potential of making me feel like a kid again. http://qstorm.com/lightningstrikes
May 19, 2013 \ Geeked Out \ 2 Comments
Charles Ramsey hailed as a hero and rightfully so. Is the media making him out to be a minstrel? Are some blacks being to harsh? We go in! Also Marvel may have a slight problem on there hands in regards to the upcoming Avengers 2. Rumors are circulating that the actors want more money before the come back for the sequel. Robert Downey Jr. alone made over 50 million on the 1st Avengers movie. Now with Iron Man 3 having just made over 1 billion at the box office (Worldwide), Marvel is gonna need to open there wallet to get him back. How much is to much? Qstorm thinks Marvel can pay 100 million to the cast alone., then another 200 million to make the movie. Should Marvel spend 300 million on The Avengers 2?
"My name is Stark...Tony Stark."
To paraphrase a well-known saying, this movie as a whole is not greater than the sum of its parts...but some of its parts are pretty damn good. That's what makes the movie a little frustrating. For every scene that blew me away, there were two or more scenes that made me scratch my head.
Iron Man 3 picks up where the Avengers left off, and Tony Stark is suffering from PTSD, after having been in a battle with alien invaders, a demi-god and after having flown into another dimension with a nuclear bomb. The problem is, this subplot, which could've been very interesting, is never really developed. Rather it's shoe-horned in merely as a callback device to tie it to the Avengers and thereby remind us that Avengers 2 is on the horizon. Now that Stark has incorporated artificial intelligence and autonomous mental control between himself, his suits and JARVIS, there's a great moment between a sleeping Tony Stark and Pepper Potts which demonstrates how dangerous Stark can be when mentally unstable. But again, it really goes nowhere. But mentioning JARVIS and artificial intelligence raises another conundrum I had with the film.
There were times in this film when I thought the title should have been Iron Suit as opposed to Iron Man. I mean, there are long stretches of this film where Tony Stark uses JARVIS's AI to control the suits remotely, which begs the question, at what point does Tony Stark cease being a superhero and rather becomes a Rockem Sockem Robot player? Is it fun to watch a superhero control his suits from afar, out of harm's way? Does it beg the question, if the suits can perform so well autonomously, why would Stark ever wear them in the first place? And, by the way, Stark should forget about designing Iron Man suits and patent JARVIS, who has one hell of a wifi network.
There are also stretches of this film where I felt like Robert Downey, Jr. must have lobbied to have a James Bond/Jason Bourne action set piece, because there are scenes where Stark takes out bad guys so efficiently without the use of his armor, you wonder if he could've chopped it up with Captain America on the heiicarrier in Avengers. Really out of character and one scene in particular plays like a parody of Bond. There is also an interminable middle act that features Tony Stark trapped in Tennessee (??) with the aid of a 13 year old boy who apparently comes from the Charlie Brown universe because we never see nor are given any indication that his parents exist.
Then there's the biggest, most egregious error this movie makes: the Mandarin. Chances are you know what I'm talking about by now, but I still won't spoil it. What I will say is that, even though Iron Man was not one of the comics I read or collected growing up, I was still furious over the portrayal of the Mandarin. What Shane Black did to this character is unforgivable. And it's irreversible. Again, not spoiling it, but let's just say now the Mandarin can never exist in the Marvel movie universe. And no, he doesn't die. But despite the unfortunate turn that the Mandarin character experiences, Ben Kingsley kills it.
Having said all this, there are scenes that are incredible. Tony Stark's house being blown up by the Mandarin, the standout scene of Iron Man rescuing passengers of Air Force One, a scene where Tony Stark acquires his armor piece by piece during an escape. The climactic scene at the end is cool, but is an exercise in overkill and bad guys become nothing more than videogame targets much like the Chitauri in Avengers. GREAT scenes. This, along with some pretty cool bad guys, makes the movie worth seeing. But you might find yourself wishing than Tony Stark would get the hell out of Tennessee and get back in the suit. 3/5 reels, 3D not recommended