Low-rents of Arabia

•June 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It looks like producer Jerry Bruckheimer is trying to bottle that lightning that crackles in his studio’s logo with the latest film, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” (or, better yet, Prince of Persia: Beware the Colon in the Title, For if This is Successful, We’ll Make More of ‘Em).

For just a few years ago, the producer took roughly the same formula: Leading Man Known More for Dramatic Work, Esteemed Cast, Talented Director, Lavish Sets, and Fun-Breezy Vibe  with a Plot Involving Transport of a Sacred Artifact, and crafted it around a theme-park ride.

That movie, of course, was “The Haunted Mansion,” starring Eddie Murphy. Continue reading ‘Low-rents of Arabia’

Pedal to the metal

•May 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“Iron Man 2” does nothing new, but it does everything right.
Robert Downey Jr., who was already comfortable outside the metallic suit as billionaire playboy Tony Stark, welcomes a few new players to the game, and further fans out the Marvel comic universe.
And judging from “Iron Man 2”, that universe holds much promise.
Ditching the brooding of the “Batman” franchise, the “Iron Man” sequel is perhaps even lighter on its toes than the first. Stark’s now more confident than ever, despite some minor daddy issues (which come and go quite quickly). He’s living comfortably out of the costumed closet and loving the glitz and glamour that comes along with his newfound star status.
In fact, he’s so busy partying like a rock star, he names his gal Friday, Pepper Potts (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), CEO of Stark Industries so he can play.
Deep in the heart of Russia, though, Ivan Banko (played by Mickey Rourke) is stewing over the fact his father died virtually neglected by Stark Industries, following years of service. He devises his own mechanically modified supersuit in an attempt to knock Tony down a notch or two. His allegiance with a Tony’s hotshot competitor, Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell) allows Banko to complete his transformation to Whiplash.
The film springs between action sequences, introducing new characters and broadening the returning ones.
Where Christopher Nolan, director of “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” decided to burrow beneath the surface and explore basic human flaws, “Iron Man’s” director Jon Favreau merely polishes his hero’s surface. It’s a smart turn, given the lead character’s shallow tendencies.
Entering Tony’s world this go-round is his pal Lt. Col. James Rhodes, aka War Machine, with Don Cheadle lock-stepping into the proceedings in the role Terrence Howard played in the first. Scarlett Johansson slinks aboard as a Stark Industry employee who can push around more than just papers. Johansson has never made much of an impression on me in prior performances, but I now welcome her return to future instalments. And not just because she wears a leather jumpsuit well, but that does not hurt.
And Samuel L. Jackson returns as the too-cool-for-school Nick Fury, the head of a group of super-secret superheroes who are quietly coalescing. Here, Fury is given more space to grow and share his master plan, whetting the appetite for a Grand Guignol of comic book adaptations, “The Avengers.”
As the velvet-smooth Hammer, series newcomer Rockwell has some of the best throwaway lines, but it is once again Downey who owns the picture. His mouth is the motor for ‘Iron Man 2.’ Furiously firing off one-liners, non sequiturs, and able-bodied sight gags, it’s easy to see how so many are magnetically drawn to this man behind the metal. But he also skilfully handles the random drips of drama the seep into the picture, giving him just enough nuance beyond the bravado.
If there were any spots of rust on the franchise, it would be with its villains. With actors such as Jeff Bridges (as the original’s Obadiah Stane) and Rourke, their marks on the franchise should be indelible. But despite their ability to make many things go boom, there are little aftershocks felt.
It’s a small complaint with a film this fun.
And speaking of fun, don’t think that the end credits signify all “Iron Man” has to offer its devoted fans. For those who have not seen the tease on the internet yet, do yourself a favor and sit tight for a peek at what’s to come.
Along with “The Dark Knight,” “Iron Man 2” is proof that “sequel” does not have to be a four-letter word.

And now…a word from our sponsor

•May 4, 2010 • 2 Comments

Hi. My name is Rob. I live at the beach. I consider myself very fortunate to dwell is such a picturesque locale, and have spent my life with my toes in the water as much as possible.

One side project is serving on the board of directors of MERR, which stands for the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute (but it’s a lot of cooler to say MERR). We are the first respondents to any marine life that comes to our shorelines — dolphin, whales, sea turtles, seals.

Our organization’s executive director, Suzanne Thurman, has been nominated for a prestigious international award from Oceana, and we could not be happier. Their list of endorsers, to tie it in with a movie blog, include Harrison Ford, Ted Danson, Sam Waterston, and some guy called James Cameron, among many, many others.

If everyone who reads this blog could take a moment and click on the image below and vote for us, I am sure we could get, like three more votes!!

It would mean a lot to me and to a cause I care very deeply about if you could do so. To see a little video about what we do, which involves a 61-foot fin whale which recently beached on our shores, you can view it here:

Thanks again. I promise to now return to our regularly scheduled reviews…

Half ‘Ass’ superheroes

•May 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Is this the pivotal moment where I have truly become my father? How else can explain my terribly mixed feelings of the film “Kick Ass.” For it is a film that embraces and executes my childhood fantasies of dispensing justice while donning a super-suit. Yet it is also a film that features repeated violence by and to an 11-year-old girl.

The film seems as though it suffers from the same tug of allegiances as well. On the one hand, it wants to be a polished, honest superhero movie, meanwhile it panders to the hipper-than-thou crowd, wanting to keep things real, with a healthy dose of hyper-violence throughout. Continue reading ‘Half ‘Ass’ superheroes’

‘Birdemic’: Get thee to a theater, now!

•May 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As a proud devotee of bottom-feeding cinema, a film like “Birdemic: Shock and Terror,” is like a French kiss from God herself.

I am not talking about the countless toilet-dwelling turds that populate the SyFy network, winking, self-aware Troma trash or mockbusters from The Asylum studio. No, I mean true, unintentional, devotion to the soul-suckingly wretched. These precious pictures are reserved for the likes of infamously horrid helmsman Ed Wood, “The Room,” or any film deemed worthy of the connoisseurs of crap, the gang at Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Writer/editor/director James Nguyen, welcome to the club. Continue reading ‘‘Birdemic’: Get thee to a theater, now!’

‘Date Night’: Get Smarter

•May 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“Date Night” is “Adventures in Babysitting” for adults. For those who do not recall the little ‘80s classic, Elisabeth Shue stars as Chris Parker, a teen whose quiet evening of suburban childcare takes a wild turn in the big city in a series of misadventures.

“Babysitting” was a modest hit when released in 1987, grossing $34 million, but became one of those reliable cable staples years later. It was a film that aired repeatedly and its inoffensive, situational humor was always good for a dependable chuckle or two.

“Date Night” reimagines that film, but this time while the kids are with the sitter, it’s the adults whose night veers far off course from its planned course. The results are predictably, safely amusing, made better by the comedic sensibilities of its leads 

Steve Carell and Tina Fey are able to supersede the direction of Shawn Levy, who’s a master at mediocrity (with flavorless films like “Just Married,” and the remakes of both “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “The Pink Panther” littering his resume). Even though we never quite buy them as an old married couple whose assembly-line life together leads little room for excitement, Fey and Carell exhibit a chemistry of two longtime comedic comrades. Continue reading ‘‘Date Night’: Get Smarter’

‘Titans’ a big myth-take

•April 5, 2010 • 1 Comment

It’s been a while since I’ve brushed the dust off the works of Homer or Hesiod, but I don’t recall so many exclamation marks in the text. According to ‘Clash of the Titans,’ though, everyone of the era punctuated every word with a number of the marks, even when they whispered.

A sampling:

Spyros: “One day!! Somebody’s got to make a stand!!! One day!! Somebody’s got to say ‘Enough!!!!”

Zeus: “This is the end!!!!”
Perseus: “This is just the START!!!!!”

Hades: “I have watched from the underworld… it is time for the mortals to pay!!!!”

Harry Hamlin: “Why hast thou forsaken me with nary a cameo in this film?!!!!!!!!!!” Continue reading ‘‘Titans’ a big myth-take’