Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hancock (2008)

Hancock (Will Smith): [after seeing a video of him throwing a whale back into the ocean] I don't remember that.
Ray (Jason Bateman): Well, Greenpeace does.

Ray: You're an asshole. I know. I call it like I see it, though. It's not a crime to be an asshole, but it's very counter-productive. Not a crime, but you are an asshole, don't you think?
Hancock: Be careful.

Mary (Charlize Theron): [referring to Hancock] We broke up decades ago. Long before you were born. He just can't remember.
Ray: But you can, right? You knew? That's something you might want to bring up on the first date, Mary. I don't like to travel, I'm allergic to cats, I'm immortal.

At a glance: Will Smith’s turn as an offbeat, crass superhero has plenty of originality and a good supporting cast, but it suffers from a redemption story that will be unbelievable for most viewers.

Hancock (Will Smith) can best be described as a superhero street person who perhaps was just let out of a mental institution. He drinks heavily, sleeps on park benches, wears dirty clothes, and pinches women’s behinds as they walk by. He saves lives, too, but, like an overgrown, clumsy child, he always causes plenty of residual damage to surrounding cars, roads, and buildings while he is doing it. Consequently, the public, for the most part, despises him. Enter (Jason Bateman), a perky but unsuccessful advertising executive who believes he can fix Hancock’s image. The concept is original and promising, but where can it go? Hancock does not seem to care; indeed, he seems depressed. But Will Smith’s Hancock is less of a charming oaf and more ‘mentally challenged’. And admittedly, I had some misgivings about the safety of having a mentallly challenged person with superhuman powers gallivanting about the film. The redemption story works if you can accept the fact that Hancock goes from being crass and mentally challenged to being, well, Will Smith, all in the space of about 30 minutes. This is Smith’s own personal The Last Action Hero. It’s probably considered a failed effort – the reviews were, for the most part, negative – but I found enough originality here to make it worthwhile, and the supporting cast (Bateman, and Charlize Theron) help. Rating: 2.75 of 4

"Hancock is a movie that tosses the genre cookie cutter under the bus."
- Lori Hoffman (Atlantic City Weekly)

"The phony mythos turns into equally spurious pathos that plays like bathos because not one iota of the sentiment or sympathy has been earned."
- Ken Hanke (Mountain Xpress [Asheville, NC])

"Hancock endures by finding the right rhythm to match its star, and by lashing enough amusing moments together to provide a trim 92 minutes of entertainment."
- Rob Vaux (Flipside Movie Emporium)

"While by no means a perfect film, I still found a lot to enjoy here. There have been at least two dozen superhero movies in the last six or seven years. It's kind of nice to see one that looks at things from the other side of the coin."
- Mike McGranaghan (Aisle Seat)

Monday, August 25, 2008

In Bruges (2008)

"After I killed him, I dropped the gun in the Thames, washed the residue off me hands in the bathroom of a Burger King, and walked home to await instructions. Shortly thereafter the instructions came through - "Get the fuck out of London, you dumb fucks. Get to Bruges." I didn't even know where Bruges fucking was. [pause] It's in Belgium."
- Ray (Colin Farrell) (first lines)

Ken (Brendan Gleeson): Coming up?
Ray: What's up there?
Ken: The view.
Ray: The view of what? The view of down here? I can see that down here.

Ken: Harry, let's face it. And I'm not being funny. I mean no disrespect, but you're a cunt. You're a cunt now, and you've always been a cunt. And the only thing that's going to change is that you're going to be an even bigger cunt. Maybe have some more cunt kids.
Harry (Ralph Fiennes): [furious] Leave my kids fucking out of it! What have they done? You fucking retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!
Ken: I retract that bit about your cunt fucking kids.
Harry: Insult my fucking kids? That's going overboard, mate!
Ken: I retracted it, didn't I?

Ray: Why didn't you wave hello to me today when I waved hello to you today?
Jimmy (Jordan Prentice): I was on a very strong horse tranquilizer today; Wasn't waving hello to anybody. Except... maybe to a horse.

"An Uzi? I'm not from South Central Los Angeles. I didn't come here to shoot twenty black ten year olds in a drive-by. I want a normal gun for a normal person."
- Harry: (to Yuri)

"Not only have you refused to kill the boy, you even stopped the boy from killing himself, which would've solved my problem, which would've solved your problem, which sounds like it would've solved the boy's problem."
- Harry

Eirik (Jérémie Renier): I was trying to rob him. And he took my gun from me. And the gun was full of blanks. And he shot a blank into my eye. And now I cannot see from this eye ever again, the doctors say.
Harry: Well to be honest it sounds like it's all your fault.
Eirik: What?
Harry: I mean basically if you're robbing a man and you're only carrying blanks and you allow your gun to be taken off you and you allow yourself to be shot in the eye with a blank which I assume that the person has to get quite close to you then, yeah really it's all your fault for being such a poof, so why don't you stop whinging and cheer the fuck up.

Ray: A lot of midgets tend to kill themselves. The disproportionate, I meant. Herve Villechaize offed on Fantasy Island. I think somebody offed on Time Bandits. I suppose they must get really sad about like being really little and that people looking at them, laughing at them, calling them names. You know, short arse. There's another famous midget. I miss him but I can't remember. It's not the R2D2 man; no, he's still going. I hope your midget doesn't kill himself. Your dream sequence will be fucked.
Chlo (Clémence Poésy): He doesn't like being called a midget. He prefers dwarf.
Ray: This is exactly my point! People going around calling you a midget when you want to be called a dwarf. Of course you're going to blow your head off.

Ken: You from the States?
Jimmy: Yeah. But don't hold it against me.
Ken: I'll try not to... Just try not to say anything too loud or crass.

Ken: Ray, did we or did we not agree that if I let you go on your date tonight, you'd do the things I wanted to do today?
Ray: We are doing the things you wanted to do today.
Ken: And I would do them without you throwing a fucking moody, like a five year old who's dropped all his sweets.
Ray: We didn't agree to that.

Ray: [crying] I killed a little boy!
[Ken embraces Ray]
Ken: Then save the next little boy. Just go away somewhere, get out of this business, and try to do something good. You're not going to help anybody dead. You're not going to bring that boy back. But you might save the next one.
Ray: What am I going to be, a doctor? You need exams.

 "There's a Christmas tree somewhere in London with a bunch of presents underneath it that'll never be opened. And I thought, if I survive all of this, I'd go to that house, apologize to the mother there, and accept whatever punishment she chose for me. Prison...death...didn't matter. Because at least in prison and at least in death, you know, I wouldn't be in fuckin' Bruges. But then, like a flash, it came to me. And I realized, fuck man, maybe that's what hell is: the entire rest of eternity spent in fuckin' Bruges. And I really really hoped I wouldn't die. I really really hoped I wouldn't die."
- Ray (last lines)

At a glance: Writer/director Martin McDonagh’s first feature length film is a well-blended mix of low-key, quirky comedy, quite reflection on morality, and emotionally charged violence.

Two hired killers have finished their work, and, following instructions from their employer, wait in Bruges, a small town in Belgium, there to muse comically on the local historical architecture and seriously ponder the morality of their ways. Ken (Brendan Gleeson) is a patient man, and he is enjoying the wait in Bruges, but Ray (Colin Farrell) is not only bored, but he is haunted by his mistakes. Their strange partnership/chemistry is tested when they both decide to kill the same man – but it’s not exactly as simple as it sounds. Thoroughly enjoyable comedy/drama starts almost whimsically, peppering the script with quirky characters, then slowly builds tension, and amuses constantly simply with good writing and characterization. Both Gleeson and Farrell are exquisite; Ralph Fiennes does an unexpectedly brilliant turn as their malevolent employer. Note that the film turns decidedly more serious in its final third. Cartel Burwell’s moody music complements the Bruges visuals. Writer/director Martin McDonagh impresses with this, his first feature length film. Rating: 3.5 of 4

"There's a Mametian rat-a-tat to McDonagh's dialogue, but the offbeat humor and the characters' genuine pain and regret feels unique."
- Alonso Duralde (MSNBC)

"Farrell has brought his A-game to this cracking little comedy-noir written and directed by Martin McDonagh. He is absolutely superb."
- Peter Bradshaw (Guardian - UK)

"Brooding, tense, allegorical, quirky, tragic and unbelievably funny, In Bruges may be the most intelligent, introspective and bizarre gangster thriller in quite some time, perhaps ever."
- Prairie Miller (NewsBlaze)

"A morality tale with a distinctly Coen-ish air, making excellent, occasionally surreal, use of a great location and lacing the comedy with bloody unpleasantness. It even has a quirky score by Coen collaborator Carter Burwell."
- Elliott Noble (Sky Movies)Reviewer quotes

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Bank Job (2008)

Young Soldier (Cameron Anderson): [while being fitted for a jacket] A bit tight under the arms, don't you think?
Guy Singer (James Faulkner): Traditional fit, sir. One can't raise one's hands above one's head. It tends to inhibit any impulsive acts of surrender.

At a glance: Jason Statham’s powerful screen presence anchors this entertaining based-on-a-true-story bank caper, which is replete with a large number of interesting characters and a great 70s soundtrack.

Terry Leather (Jason Statham) is in the luxury car restoration business. He’s not adverse to spinning a few odometers backwards to make a buck, and the cut of his cloth places him as more of small time hood than a businessman. And business isn’t going too well, with local corrupt cops hassling him for owed money. When an old friend, Martine Love (Saffron Burrows) offers him a chance at a big score – cleaning out the vault of safety deposit boxes at Lloyd’s Bank – he gather his mates and starts digging. Things don’t go so smoothly, with complications ensuing from various sources: good cops, bad cops, private security people, a porn king, the royal family and a black activist from Trinidad with a secret. There are plenty of characters, all beautifully real and fleshed out by the script and the direction of Roger Donaldson, and lots of plot threads, anchored always by the mesmerising voice and steel-cold glare of Statham. Loosely based on the London’s 1971 Baker Street robbery; many of the more unusual plot points in the film actually happened. A great 70s soundtrack helps to keep things moving. Rating: 3 of 4

"Whether the story is 'true' or not, it makes for a ripping good yarn..."
- Jim Lane (Sacramento News & Review)

"Unlike the many heist movies obsessed with high-tech gadgetry and beyond-human stunts, The Bank Job, in more ways than one, gets down and dirty."
- John Wirt (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA])

10,000 BC (2008)

"A good man draws a circle around himself and cares for those within. His woman, his children. Other men draw a larger circle and bring within their brothers and sisters. But some men have a great destiny. They must draw around themselves a circle that includes many, many more. Your father was one of those men. You must decide for yourself whether you are, as well."
- Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis) to D’Leh (Steven Strait)

At a glance: Despite the condemnation of most critics, and some problems with an excruciating opening segment and some distracting special effects scenes, 10,000 BC is at times a beautiful and appealing epic, with a solid story at its core.

Every once in a while, I have the desire to watch a really bad movie. I relish picking its faults apart and finding humor in the mistakes of judgement. So I reached for a film I was sure would be bad: 10,000 BC. It sported a rating of just 9% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. But I have to admit I was severely disappointed. Sure, the film is not totally successful by any means, but it was still entertaining and had a lot to offer. (It’s important to remember that the Tomatometer percent is not an overall rating of the movie by critics, but, rather, the percent of critics that gave the movie a favorable review. That may seem like semantics, but it means that 9 out of 100 critics actually thought the film was good).

10,000 BC starts with a long voiceover segment where the narrator, Omar Shariff, describes past mammoth hunts. As I sat there, unable to generate any interest in the film, I couldn’t help but think: what is this, a book on tape? No, it’s a film! And might it not be a teensy bit more exciting to SHOW us those past mammoth hunts, rather than talk about them? Eventually, the narration ends, the mammoths appear, the hunt is on, and the movie improves. The epic story is of a young warrior whose true love is abducted; he follows her across every conceivable terrain and climate on earth (often, some of these are within yards of each other). It’s at best an uneven film: the first mammoth hunt is an exciting relief from the long setup, but other action scenes seem to derail the momentum of the storytelling. Nonetheless, I had seen the consensus of reviews before viewing the film, most of which were negative, so I expected something terrible, and instead I was pleasantly surprised and entertained. Camilla Belle makes a fetching femme fatale, all made up to look like a young Liz Taylor. And Steven Strait does a commendable job as the hero. Anyone with a passing knowledge of ancient history may be appalled by the many anachronisms in the film (for example: sailing ships, paper, corn, and horseriding all had not happened yet at this time). Director Roland Emmerich ventured into somewhat similar (ancient Egypian pyramid civilization) territory in his 1994 film, Stargate. The breathtaking scenery and cinematography helps (filmed in New Zealand, South Africa, and Namibia) Rating: 2.5 of 4

"Roland Emmerich's prehistoric odyssey 10,000 BC is his silliest, most preposterous blockbuster to date. But it's lots of fun, too."
- Sukhdev Sandhu (Daily Telegraph)

"…strictly a popcorn flick version of Joseph Campell's hero's journey that looks great even as it plays fast and very loose with geography, biology, and anything else that gets in its way…"
- Andrea Chase (Killer Movie Reviews)

"It's just a wrong movie altogether, an elaborately nonsensical stew of crazy costumes, bizarre accessories, and funny voices."
- Eric D. Snider (

Monday, August 4, 2008

Next (2007)

"Every once in a while what we think is magic is the real deal hiding behind a $50.00 trick, because the alternative is impossible for others to live with."
- Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage)

"There's an Italian painter, named Carlotti, and he uh, ahem, defined beauty. He said it was the summation of the parts working together in such a way that nothing needed to be added, taken away or altered, and that's you. You're beautiful."
- Cris Johnson

"I've seen every possible ending. None of them are good for you."
- Cris Johnson

At a glance: Nicolas Cage’s screen persona has to fill in the gaps in this sometimes-clever, sometimes weak action film about a man who can see 2 minutes into the future.

Cris (Nicolas Cage) is a second-rate Vegas magician with a first-rate talent: he can see two minutes into the future – but only his own future. Callie (Julianne Moore) is an FBI agent who has the temperament and gender of Scully but with Mulder’s love of the paranormal. She sees Cris’ power and brings him in to solve the Case of the Missing Bomb. Nicolas Cage is looking a little worse for wear, but he’s still a smooth operator, and I find his screen energy captivating (even when the film he is in is perhaps not top notch). The beauty of the film stems from Cris’ knowledge of the future, and how that lets him effortlessly slide through dangerous situations, the highlight of which is his choreographed avoidance of a large number of security people in a Vegas casino. Director Lee Tamahori (who helmed the brilliant Once Were Warriors in 1994) does as much as he can with a script (and script structure) that is not as good as it could have been. Jessica Biel is good, and Moore is used to playing these kinds of parts, although this one isn’t written so well for her. Some pretty goofy CGI special effects add nothing to the story, nor does the shoot ‘em up finale and the needless ‘extra’ ending. As for those reviewers who found it unbelievable that the young, nubile Jessica Biel could fall for the old, ageing Nicolas Cage? You need to look at this from the perspective of this male, over 50 reviewer, and realize like I did, that oh yes, absolutely, it could happen! Rating: 2.5 of 4

"The premise is wildly preposterous, yet Nicolas Cage makes Next fun to watch."
- Urban Cinefile Critics (Urban Cinefile)

"Not a bad film if you can overlook the basic silliness of the plot."
- Robert Roten (Laramie Movie Scope)

"While Next has a few fun and inventive moments sprinkled throughout, mostly revolving around the use of Cris' power, it collapses into an exhausting litany of action movie clichés before exposing itself as a total mindjob in the end."
- Stax (IGN Movies)

"Until its trigger-happy, metaphysically-impossible-to-decipher, and anticlimactic copout of an ending, the movie is a successful entertainment -- albeit a minor, disposable, and completely forgettable one."
- Mark Dujsik (Mark Reviews Movies)

The Descent (2005)

Rebecca (Saskia Mulder): This isn't Boreham Caverns, is it, Juno?
Juno (Natalie Jackson Mendoza): Holly was right! Boreham Caverns was a tourist trap!
Holly (Nora-Jane Noone): Don't try to pin this fucking shit on me!
Rebecca: So where are we, Juno?
Juno: It hasn't got a name. It's a new system. No one's ever been down here before. I wanted us all to discover it!

At a glance: Neil Marshall’s cave-based horror film uses dimly lit, claustrophobic and dangerous caverns, and 6 chicks in danger, to enhance the monster movie genre.

From the start, The Descent uses shocking tragedy to put its audience on edge. It settles into a ‘chick buddy’ picture then, focusing on 6 young women who have traveled together to North Carolina to do some caving. These are young women with a lot of testosterone who drive fast, call each other ‘dicks’, and have more bravado than most guys I know. Maybe these are real women, or these characters were written by a male writer? Dunno, it fits the current Lara Croftish mode.

The ringleader, Juno (Natalie Jackson Mendoza), doesn’t need no stinkin’ map – she leaves it in the car. When trouble ensues, everyone gets a little angry with her, and you can understand why.

Although this is a monster horror film, it goes more than halfway before introducing the monster, and that first half is best for me (I’m not a horror fan, and didn’t realize this film was so grisly until I got into it). The first half is scary and tense enough for me, as the cavers deal with a number of claustrophobic and life-threatening situations and injuries. When the monsters start attacking, this should please gore fans, although some of them might not be so pleased they had to wait for it so long. I personally wasn’t enjoying this part of the film, as it simply was too explicitly violent for my taste. This movie rates highly (85%) on Rotten Tomatoes, so horror/gore fans seem to be happy. There are a few different endings, depending on whether you catch the theatrical release (happy, although in a horror film, ‘happy’ is a relative term) or sad (director’s cut).

Fans will be glad to know that there is a sequel due out in 2009 (although only part of the cast is returning, obviously, and with a new director and writers).

One nit: There are no elk in North Carolina like the dead one the women find as they hike to the cave. Rating: 2 of 4

"This intermittently effective UK horror thriller carefully establishes the psychological relationships among the women, then squanders this calibrated and generally plausible setup with a series of crude, implausible, and scattershot horror effects."
- Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader)

"[Writer-director Neil] Marshall makes real movies, not just schlockfests designed to sate the lusts of gore-lovers (although there is plenty of gore, too)."
-  Steve Biodrowski (ESplatter)

"You will feel like you have descended to the pits of hell."
- Kamal 'The Diva' Larsuel (3BlackChicks Review)

"...whatever qualities have made horror fans embrace The Descent are lost on me."
- Andy Klein (Los Angeles CityBeat)