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Gangster Squad fails as a “film”, but it can succeed as a movie if you have the right attitude going in… sadly, you’ll mostly get negativity here.
I’m going to keep this rather simple and short, as a negative review need not layer on too much emphasis on the awfulness that is Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad. We’ll start with the fact that I’m not entirely certain that this was directed by just one person, because at times the movie seems to jump from genre to genre, if not from style to style. It is a film that falls short on so many very levels, not the least of which is an utter failure of the production team and the director to present a coherent vision.
Which is not to say that there isn’t one redeeming characteristic of Gangster Squad, because there is: it is, in general, a pretty fun watch. What, say you? Yep, if you’re in the right mindset and can overcome the shortcomings of the whole, you’ll generally enjoy the movie. You’re not going to ever be on the edge of your seat (as you would with Argo, my runaway favorite movie of 2012) and you won’t ever connect with any of the characters (as with In the Bedroom, the 2001 drama which perfected that element), but if you go in to it with the expectation of the violence and historical accuracy of 300 and the seriousness of Leslie Nielson’s Police Squad / The Naked Gun series series, you stand a pretty good chance of enjoying it.
Unfortunately, Captain America was not as bad-ass as this Private Ryan meets Steve Rogers poster portended.
So I broke my normal rule and went and saw a highly anticipated movie on its opening weekend (or at least I think it opened this past weekend). After a full day of playing basketball and sweltering at a Yankees game, I headed out trying to get hydrated and air conditioned at a jam packed theater for Captain America.
I had pretty high hopes for Captain America. It is one of the follow-ons to one of the better superhero adaptations, in Iron Man. Indeed, in some ways this serves as a prequel to Iron Man, with Tony Stark’s father playing a prominent role and edging further toward the awaited Avengers series of films.
Captain America also featured some pretty solid casting. If you thought of one actor who could best serve as an action star and embodiment of what Hollywood would imagine as the truly American look, you’d probably end up with Chris Evans. Toss in Tommy Lee Jones as his grumpy commanding officer and Hugo Weaving (of Matrix Agent Smith fame) as your bad guy and you’ve got a start for some good scenes. Brits Dominic Cooper (as Howard Stark) and Haylee Atwell (as Agent Peggy Carter) rounded out the principal roster.
I’m a bit torn on whether or not I should be looking forward to “Falling Skies” on TNT. I got all jazzed up to relive one of my favorite childhood series in “V” on ABC, which series has been a damning failure in its efforts to recapture that cult series’ feel — even after bringing back the actress who played Diana and the Beastmaster himself, Marc Singer. Then again, “Battlestar Galactica” far exceeded everyone’s expectations with, perhaps, the most intelligent show not named “The Wire” to air in the last decade (sorry my fellow “LOST” comrades, BSG actually was better).
In any respect, “Falling Skies” seems to be a second effort at getting “V” right. Perhaps inspired by Stephen Hawking and his statements regarding the wisdom of attempting to contact alien species (which statements were made on the good, but not great “Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking” documentary series on Discovery Channel), Executive Producer Steven Spielberg adds his considerable heft to this project, making one think that it will at least have a higher production quality than the sometimes lacking ABC venture. The basic premise appears to be jumping from a quick invasion to the development of a resistance, several months after the alien invaders have shock-and-awed the world into relative submission.
It also marks Spielberg’s second Executive Producer jaunt into the alien-horror landscape in 2011. He’s also teamed up with JJ Abrams (of Cloverfield and Star Trek) for Super 8, an unrelated follow-up to Cloverfield. The movie is largely under wraps, but I believe it is shot, like Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project as a “found footage” movie, involving the escape of an alien being transported through the heartland on a train that derails in rural Ohio.
Click through for the trailers to both. Read more…
This movie looks like the perfect mix of Michael Bey and entertainment gritty enough that you don’t wish you could watch Michael Bey get… well… Bey-ed. It has a very District 9 look to it, which is cool.
For a movie billed as "near perfect" and a directorial performance considered a front runner for the Oscars, I was a bit disappointed in "Hurt Locker".
I caught Hurt Locker late night at my buddy’s on the first night of my Los Angeles vacation last February. Given that it was competing with drunken viewing of Olympic curling off his DVR on the other nights I spent during my vacation there, it should come as no surprise that Hurt Locker just didn’t stand up. The film had garnered a whopping nine Academy Awards nominations, so I was genuinely excited to give it a look-see. Unfortunately, the film just doesn’t do enough to warrant the awards season hype. This remains true as a complete this review almost a year later after watching it on DVR and gritting my teeth as it cleaned up at the 2009/10 Oscars.
The most notable nomination always is for Best Picture and Best Director. Hurt Locker took home both awards with Katheryn Bigelow becoming the first female Best Director award winner. It also took home the award for Best Original Screenplay (from embedded journalist Mark Boal, who spent part of 2004 with an Iraq-based bomb disposal unit), Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing. While the three technical awards are more than well-deserved, even when up against the formidable technical accomplishments of Avatar, the three creative awards were probably less spot-on.
This is not to say that Hurt Locker isn’t very good or that it isn’t a film (this most certainly isn’t a “movie” like Avatar). I just take the position shared by veterans and military-aware reviewers that the film lacks authenticity and presents itself as “gritty” and realistic, even though the story is grossly ridiculous at times.
Read more of why I didn’t fully enjoy being stuck in the Hurt Locker. Read more…
Does Extract stand a chance at getting a laugh out of you?
On a recommendation from my boss, I checked out Mike Judge’s Extract. I actually was quite jazzed to watch it, as I am a big fan of Jason Bateman and his work on Arrested Development, as well as Judge’s prior workplace comedy. Office Space was one of the funniest movies of the 1990s and perfectly encapsulated the tedium of cubicle life. Its cast was very well chosen, featuring an oft-overlooked, likable guy (Ron Livingston) and a beautiful female lead trying to break out of TV (Jennifer Aniston).
Extract has a similar formula, with Bateman and Mila Kunis headlining the cast. Judge managed to surround Bateman and Kunis with a stellar supporting cast including SNL standout Kristen Wiig, headliner Ben Affleck and top notch character actors JK Simmons and Clifton Collins Jr. With a great supply of human capital to work with, Judge tried to tap back into the winning formula he struck with Office Space.
Bateman plays Joel, the owner and operator of a flavor extract manufacturing and packaging company. Although he’s hardly the cog in the wheel that Livingston’s Peter Gibbons was at Inetech, Joel suffers from a sort of middle age malaise. He’s ready to sell and get out of the extract business, hoping to retire and be able to spend time filling his life with something to enjoy. Unfortunately, his home life is stale and his friendships consist solely of a relationship with local bartender Dean (Affleck). When Kunis’ Cindy, a serious bid on the business and various other pratfalls enter his world, Joel’s life gets turned upside down.
They played Official Trailer #2 for Tron Legacy at the Inception IMAX showing last weekend. It got me even more jazzed than the first; also, any movie with Olivia Wilde is gonna be worth seeing in IMAX.
Over at GeekTyrant, they’ve posted a player for six tracks by Daft Punk for the upcoming Tron Legacy soundtrack. I’ve embedded the tune from the first trailer. It’s got a great vibe to it. Along with the Sunshine soundtrack, I do believe I’ll be buying that one.
Daybreakers is really nothing close to The Matrix or 28 Days Later, even though it too rests on an interesting an unique idea.
Some movies just have not a whole lot going for them when I’m about to watch them. Daybreakers is one such movie. I watched it earlier in the week while (i) suffering from a crummy stomach virus which both left me miserable and unable to really appreciate popcorn and (ii) reading “The Passage” by Justin Cronin, which is a book that, quite simply, puts most vampire stories to shame. But this isn’t a review of that brilliant book (which ranks as Amazon’s top book of the first half of 2010), that review will follow shortly when I finish it (it’s “War and Peace” long… well, not really, but darn close).
Anyway, Daybreakers is a movie I should have really liked. It actually does meld a few different themes to create an interesting back story and milieu. The basic premise is that a viral outbreak of vampirism (not the neutered “Twilight” kind, but the more Stokerish Bladevariety) has led to a shift such that vampires have simply slid into and displaced humans in modern society. Humans have become farmed for their blood and those that run free are hunted, but never killed. The story somewhat expands on the idea from Blade of vampires as a back room clan with Catholic Church style resources, but no public face. This has expanded to vampires fully running the show. It’s actually a pretty interesting departure from the standard tale of viral apocalypse. Pretty much every interesting fiction about viral apocalypse (be it “The Passage”, “World War Z“, I Am Legend, 28 Days Later, or even Zombieland) involves a mindless destruction of the world as we know it. In Daybreakers, humans are really just displaced.
I kind of wish there had been a bigger media push for this film. It really could have taken off in theaters.
Quite simply, there are a handful of movies that manage to just make one laugh out loud uncontrollably. It’s more common that you run across those comedies in a theater when mob mentality has you rolling in the rows. I last experienced this with The Hangover and, before that, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It is that more rare comedy that can have you rolling with laughter when watching at home. I present to you one extraordinary example of that in In the Loop.
Based on the British TV show “The Thick Of It,” the political drama is one-third The Office (UK version), one-third Curb Your Enthusiasm and one-third The West Wing. In other words, it’s freaking brilliant, even though its not for the faint of heart when it comes to language.
The BBC program it was based on focused solely on the antics of Downing Street enforcer Malcolm Turner (Peter Capaldi, a veteran of Brit TV shows such as Torchwood: Children of the Earth, which I reviewed yesterday). Turner is the Machiavellian, potty mouthed king of communications and the show follows his interactions with the team at the Ministry of Social Affairs. There he deals with MP Hugh Abbot and his right hands Glenn Cullen, Terri Coverley (Joanna Scanlan) and Oliver Reeder (Chris Addison).
In the film, director and producer Armando Iannucci keeps Capaldi’s Malcom Turner in place and reshuffles a few actors like Addison into new characters who retain some of the characteristics, despite different roles. As impish aide Oliver Reeder, Addison plays Mr. Fix-It as a transfer into a dysfunctional foreign development ministry and its incompetent MP Simon Foster (Tom Hollander). The story follows Foster’s role in the run-up to a UN resolution to declare war in a situation that is a thinly veiled stand-in for Iraq. No Qumar here, either. They just don’t overtly reference the country.