Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ninja Assassin – Not redundant, trust me

Its thanksgiving and I just finished eating my turkey, I wonder if I can bang this out before I pass out. Let’s take the chance…

The cast of Ninja Assassin reads like a who’s who of who? If you’re into Korean pop or by chance saw the brief rivalry he had with Stephan Colbert in 2007 you may know who Rain is. If you’ve seen the Brit-com coupling then you’ll recognized a slightly more aged Ben Miles, though to be fair, he’s the biggest name in this film. That’s not to say the acting is bad in Ninja Assassin, it’s not particularly great, but it’s about what you’d expect for an A budget B-movie. The focus is clearly on the action and it seems like a large chunk of the budget is put towards the CGI blood FX. Personally I’m a bigger fan of practical effects and would much rather see a gallon of real “blood” sprayed across the screen than a splattering of CGI blood that never lands and that has no possible way of maintaining it’s continuity, but I digress…

Let me say this first, Ninja Assassin is not a bad movie, though it did have a few faults, I’ll touch on those in a minute. The first two acts of this film were great. The opening scene is possibly one of the greatest bits of action I’ve seen in some time and the way Ninja Assassin plays with the ninja mythology is actually quite well done and does nothing to diminish my love for the darkness dwellers. The film tells the story of the ninja as that of supernatural beings, almost demons if you will. They slip in and out of shadows unseen and you’re standing there holding your heart before you can even see them.

Raizo (Rain) is a ninja of the Ozunu clan, Stolen as a child and trained to be a ninja under the guidance of the harsh clan leader. As is apt to happen with young boys and girls living together training to be ninjas, the young Kiriko falls for Raizo and helps heal his feet after an exceptionally brutal day of training. The flirtation never really develops beyond the occasional helping of the one another when they’re in trouble, but you can tell there’s something brewing under the surface. This all culminates the night Kiriko decides she’s going to leave the clan (apparently they frown upon this kind of thing in the clan). She kisses Raizo goodbye and scales the wall and of course, because they’re fucking ninjas, she’s brought back the following day to be dealt with. And dealt with she is, severely and poor Raizo can just sit there and watch.

This terrible event in his life apparently takes an awfully long time to matter to him and what seems like six or seven years later he decides to leave the clan after he’s called upon to “deal with” another fellow clansman who tries to leave. This is about where the real action starts, this is also where all the problems start, but I’ll get to those in just one more moment. Raizo successfully escapes and is living on the run, he also spends his days hunting down his former clansmen (get it? He’s an assassin of ninjas, a ninja assassin, if you will). At the same time (in a nearly pointless b storyline) Mika, A Europol agent, is uncovering a conspiracy going back a thousand years. Apparently the ninja can cover up all their trails except the paper trails left by bank deposits, yeah apparently ninjas accept wire transfers for payment for assassinations, who knew?

So aside from the fairly flimsy storyline, the film has a few other minor issues that struck me as rather irritating, A.) The director, James McTeigue, shoots the action so incredibly close that you may just get motion sickness trying to crane your head in the hopes you might catch a bit more of what the hell is going on! There are scenes in Ninja Assassin that if they had pulled back just two inches on the action you would have been hooting at how awesome the action is, but it was just lacking when you can barely tell what’s going on. This isn’t the entire movie, it seems to start around the time Raizo escapes the clan, I believe in that particular scene they zoom in and out so much that it’s like you’re watching an old home movie where your father is just discovering the zoom, I say your father because mine never bothered with most technology, but that’s another story all together. So here’s my advice to you Mr. McTeigue, pull it back a little bit, trust me you’ll be one of the best action directors in the market and everyone will love you. There are action scenes in NA that are shot wonderfully, so I know you can do it James. B.) I’m not going to spoil third act for you, so I will leave this complaint at this. The third act takes everything it builds up to with the first two acts and turns it on its ear. If they had followed the logical conclusion the story was heading this would have been an obvious five star movie, but sadly they do not and deservedly it does not get a five in my book…

Three assassinated ninjas out of five

Next up: Fantastic Mr. Fox - better be fantastic

P.S. Now I'm off to take a nap

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pirate radio – The boat that rocked

Sorry Philip Seymour Hoffman, I apologize Kenneth Branagh, my condolences; Nick frost, Jack Davenport, Rhys’ Darby and Ifans and to the rest of the cast. None of you are the star of this film, you’ve been shown up, you’ve been outdone and you’ve been made to look small. I sincerely feel bad for all of you. You all, despite a valiant effort, pale in comparison to the true star of the movie. The soundtrack! I’m not typically the type of guy who buys movie soundtracks, but I will more than likely be buying this one. A Stellar collection of rock, pop, soul and blues from, what the filmmakers so helpfully remind us is, the greatest era of British music in history. It seems obvious that a movie about a pirate rock radio station would have a lot of music in it, but they could have easily done this wrong. They could have easily stuck to the well worn and well known hits of the day and the majority of the population would have still enjoyed this movie, but it became apparent right from the beginning of the movie that filmmakers had a true love of the music as it is presented front and center and in several scenes actually steal the scene from the actors. A prime example of this is played out during a wedding scene where one of the shipmates is marrying a woman named Elinore, you’re probably already humming it to yourself (if you’re anything like me you are) and my guess is when they were making pirate radio (called the boat that rocked in Britain) they were thinking the same thing, so the scene closes with the entire cast singing “Elinore” by the turtles as the man carries his (soon to be ex) wife down the hall and into their room. I could discuss the music in the film all day, so I will forcibly remove myself from the topic. You’ve heard about the tutti fruity, now let me tell you about the whomp bomp a loo bomp ba lomp bam boom.

The story centers on a young man whose mother insists he spend some time on the boat that hosts the radio station “Radio Rock”, her motives are questioned later in the film, but I won’t discuss them here as it would be giving way too much away. While this is supposed to be the A storyline it quickly takes B billing to the frat lifestyle the boat offers. They spend a decent amount of time on each character and their quirks and before too long you feel like you’ve been on the boat with them the whole time. You get to meet the roster of radio personalities; the (fucking) count (Hoffman) and his love of expletives, midnight Mark (Tom Wisdom) who rarely speaks, even when he’s broadcasting (actual quote “wow *puffs cigarette* now *flips on new record*”), Angus (Rhys Darby) who no one likes, Doctor Dave (Nick Frost) who gets a LOT of woman for a big guy, News John (Will Adamsdale) who would gladly die for the news and weather, especially the weather, “smooth” Bob the dawn treader (Ralph Brown) who’s seen so infrequently that no one on the boat knows who he is when he first shows up, Simon (Chris O’Dowd) the morning guy and all around likeably awkward guy and last but not least “the legend” Gavin (Rhys Ifans) who seriously has the best wardrobe of the film, no one can pull off a purple velour suit like him. As well there’s the staff and the man in charge of the boat Quentin (Bill Nighy, in a roll showing that the dude can dance!) who runs the boat less like a father figure and more like that naughty uncle that your mom is probably right in not wanting you to spend too much time with.

On the other side of the dial is government agent Sir Alistair Dormandy (Branagh) who is desperate to get these, not quite, illegal stations off the air. He seeks the aid of a “clever young man” in Jack Davenport’s Twatt (pronounced exactly how you think it is), his name is the cause of many a laugh in the film, what can I say other than it’s a cheap joke, but boy does it work. I laughed each and every time I heard Kenneth Branagh say it. After several failed attempts he discovers a way to get the stations shut down, which directly results in the climax of the film, which is best not discussed as I’m not a fan of spoilers. The juxtaposition used between the raucous ship and the “stiff-upper-lip” government types is a wonderful running gag in the movie. On Boxing Day the Ship gets fortune cookies with facts in them and laughs it up when they realize it wasn’t a joke, Sir Alistair gets a joke, reads it to himself, chuckles and never reveals what the joke is “that’s enough excitement for the day.

There’s something wonderful about a cast of actors who understand drama and comedy on equal levels and pirate radio has this in spades. The comedy is flawlessly timed and the drama seems real, not phoned in or overacted, like most comedic actors like to do. In fact my only real complaint with the movie revolves around the editing. A lot of the movie is shot like a music video so there are jump cuts galore and most of the time this worked, but I feel it became a little too much. That aside, I say come for the music, stay for the comedy. It’s well worth it

Four Twatts out of Five

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Men Who Stare At Goats – all that staring gave me a headache

Ever watch a film and you notice one of your favorite actors is in it, but they’re being horribly misused? Welcome to the world of the men who stare at goats, this film is packed to the gills with stars. Not just any stars, big names that you’ve seen in dozens of films that you’ve loved and know they can pull off most roles thrown at them. Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephan Root and some names you may not recognize, but still deserve respect like Stephan Lang and Nick Offerman. Just take a moment to read that list again, now try to tell me you wouldn’t get excited to see a film featuring these actors. I would and I did and for the most part, when it works, it really worked, but when it didn’t you feel let down.

Remember when you’d get in trouble as a kid and you’re mother would say to you “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed”? That’s exactly what I’d like to say to the maker of this film, Grant Heslov (who actually wrote the very well made good night and good luck). I shouldn’t be too hard on the film though because I actually enjoyed it, but thinking about it afterwards made me realize that there were huge gaps between quality jokes. I’m going to write the whole thing off as inexperience in filmmaking and will hope that Grant Heslov has the chance to perfect his craft and give us the big budget comedy that the men who stare at goats should have been.

Ewan McGregor plays Bob Wilton, a news reporter coasting through life and his career until he happens on an interview with a man who claims he has psychic powers and can travel anywhere in the world without leaving his home. Bob brushes the interview off as a fluke and through generic plot developments finds himself in Iraq where he stumbles upon a gentleman that Bob thinks he can get an un-ambitious story about contracts from which of course turns out to be a man whom is mentioned previously by the psychic who was trained by the military as part of a top secret classified experiment. This would be George Clooney’s Lyn Cassady, a man who it doesn’t seem to take too long to get going at full speed about this “top secret” training he went through, which essentially the rest of the film. The story plays out in two running storylines set 20 years apart, but back story involves Lyn’s training and introduces you to the squad, explaining each member’s quirks and the “current” storyline taking place in 2002, which we find Lyn and Bob entangling themselves in what Lyn keeps referring to as “his mission”. The movie seems to stall out around the end of the second act and picks up again during the third act for about 10 minutes before the movie ends only to end, in my opinion, on a sour note.

The film is a disservice to Ewan McGregor’s ability as an actor and I feel they could have used the supporting cast better. The only character in the film I liked from beginning to end was Lyn Cassady. George Clooney did a fantastic job playing a man who we have a hard time accepting can do the things he does, mostly because he tends to fail at them a lot, but when he gets them right boy does he get them right. One other thing I rather enjoyed was the near constant use of the term “Jedi” Especially around Ewan McGregor. So as disappointing as this film was, it was still worth watching, even if I should have waited for DVD and not so bad as to make it to my list of terrible films of the year. It finds itself hovering right in the mediocre middle

3 ½ “Debleated” goats out of five

Monday, November 2, 2009

G.I. Joe - an old review i felt like posting

Alright let me get this off my chest first, GI Joe is NOT a good movie. not in any traditional sense of the word good. The script is terrible. The acting is sub par with a few shining exceptions and the story is laughable when it's not non existent all together. Now the real question in this case isn't if GI Joe is a good movie, because anyone with half a brain will tell you a resounding "no" with out even having to watch it. No the question isn't if the movie is good, the question is "did i like it?" the answer to that question is a half hearted "sure, why not". I felt kind of manic depressive watching this "film". I was like a 10 year old with a box full of joes getting ready to set up an epic battle during the action scenes, but the dialog scenes made me wish i could take a nap and let the next explosion wake me up.

I will not discuss the art direction or directing or cinematography of this film, most of the movie was done with CGI (poorly). I will also not discuss the storyline, because most of you out there that have heard of GI Joe know that it's an epic clash between good and evil. And there's that word, of the best things the movie had going for it was that the villains were not the same cobra that we got used to seeing in the cartoons, these guys are demented and pure evil and they don't concoct half baked ideas that get thwarted around every turn, they mean business and they let the audience know this pretty early on in the film. You spend a great deal of the film actually wondering if the Joes are gonna lose in the end and some would argue that they do. The movie sets up perfectly for a sequel, not like you had any doubt they'd make a second one.

One of the other brilliant parts of the film revolve around flashbacks. In this case storm shadow and snake eyes, the kids they got to play the young versions of them are amazing fighters and the scenes really carry entire sections of the movie making to hope that you'll get another flashback of them. The duke flashbacks are there as gap fillers in the story. They help explain things that are taking place in the present. the big twist is barely a twist and the other twist is fun, but not surprising. all in all a good romp laced with fun action sequences, the accelerator suit scenes in particular are rather fun to watch. the slow mo stuff they show in the trailer doesn't do those scenes justice. so I will be giving G.I. Joe 3 out of 5 stars, but to be honest if I could I would give it a 2 1/2. wait for the dvd unless you MUST see the explosions on the big screen

(note: this is an older review i wrote and i didn't really take my time with it, nor did I proof read it too well so cut me some slack.)