I stand before you, humbled, and tasked with explaining, in comprehensible terms, just what the heck 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' is all about. Attaining comprehensibility, however, is a chore the filmmakers didn't wrestle with, doubling-down on pure adrenaline and big movie star charisma. It's a risky move and sometimes it works. Sadly, this is not one of those cases.
While there are chuckles to be had (I mean, that Cobra Commander helmet is just too incredible to dismiss) there isn't enough whiz-bang in this film to fully deflect the utter lack of a story or absence of intriguing characters. It is, surprisingly, the lesser of the two 'G.I. Joe' films, with Stephen Sommers' 2009 'The Rise of Cobra' featuring much more team spirit, pep and fun.
Cartesian Dualism lights up the screen in 'The Host' as Saoirse Ronan's alien-possessed soul loudly thinks, "don't you smile at him! Uch! You are not goin' there!" Then she leans to smooch #TeamIan. And who said there was nothing deep happening in mainstream cinema?
Let's not kid ourselves about this. Part of consuming Hollywood entertainment is that, on some level, we like these people. It's strange, but I probably like Tina Fey and Paul Rudd more than actual live humans I've met and have to deal with on a regular basis. Yes, I recognize that I only know them through the characters they play (and that includes their "as themselves" appearances on Letterman's couch or the Golden Globes stage) but their finely sculpted personas of vibrant, clever, likable people automatically gives them lift in any project they choose. When they star together in 'Admission' - a romantic comedy that is just a little bit smarter than the other leading brands - and one where they find a degree of happiness together, well, this puts the movie far off the likability charts.
To watch 'The Place Beyond the Pines' is to observe characters making discoveries. Discoveries about their past, their environment, their heritage. When the revelations come they aren't met with gasps or dropped objects, but with an understanding, an acceptance that, yes, this is, indeed, the way things are.
While you'd swear with every bone in your body that this vast, rich, symbol-heavy tale was surely based on a thick doorstopper of a novel, the surprising fact remains that it is, actually, an original screenplay. It seems, though, a natural progression after the character portraiture of Derek Cianfrance's last film 'Blue Valentine.' This new one has the essence of 'Blue Valentine' but blown open far and wide.
A few titters wafted through the screening of 'Dead Man Down' as the WWE Studios logo came up on the screen. “Prejudice!” I thought. “Who is to say that Vince McMahon's new(ish) venture can't produce a quality piece of filmed entertainment?” Turns out all skepticism was justified.
'Dead Man Down,' a tiresome, predictable slog through every “in too deep” crime story cliché you've ever seen has as much subtlety as the average Face or Heel shouting into the mic during a Monday Night Raw. This is a dull movie that only perks up when it veers into the laughable, as when Noomi Rapace's character intentionally spikes Colin Farrell's character's two-years-in-the-making vengeance plot because she “had a moment,” but then bounces back into plan five minutes later anyway. Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself.
'21 and Over,' despite being the directorial debut of the odious 'Hangover' writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, isn't quite the bro-fest you might think it is. Yes, it definitely treads a bit into date rape jokes and offers an easy layup to any and all homophobes in the audience (more on this in a bit) but, by some miracle, more scenes than you might expect will actually make you laugh. Despite a premise that has the blur of a Xerox of a Xerox, there are individual sequences that are, surprisingly, clever and endearing.
'Snitch' begins when middle-class 18 year old Jason (Rafi Gavron) agrees to accept a giant box of ecstasy tablets sent to him via FedEx from a dumbass friend. Now he's facing a harsh mandatory minimum sentence unless he gives up another name to the Feds. Problem is, the one guy he knows in the drug trade is the one who snitched on him, so he's got no room to negotiate. But not so fast - his father is Dwayne Johnson.
Crime doesn't pay. It'll just make you feel bad when your parents have to jump through all sorts of crazy hoops to rescue your ass.
Funny is, of course, subjective. I find Woody Allen funny but there are plenty of people who find him about as amusing as being slowly asphyxiated in plastic bags from CVS. Still, I'll hazard to guess that there is no one who will find Melissa McCarthy obnoxiously singing along to Kelis' not-at-all-current "Milkshake" funny. Especially when 'Identity Thief' - a new "comedy" with McCarthy and Jason Bateman - goes to quite successful lengths to make you HATE her character. And you just might wind up hating this movie too.
Nobody asked for this movie. But someone was going to make it. I'm just glad it was Matthew Johnson, a young (but not as young as he looks!) Canadian director/co-writer/co-star who has the chutzpah to take on a really difficult subject and the chops to deliver without coming off as crass or exploitative. There are plenty who will refuse to give 'The Dirties' the time of day, and that's somewhat understandable, but if you believe that, in order to correct a problem it must first be discussed, 'The Dirties' is, I feel, a noble mix of entertainment and social importance.
'Warm Bodies' is a supernatural teen love story with a brain. (Excuse me. . .BRAINS!) It is hardly a memorable film, and certainly a step back for director Jonathan Levine after the masterful '50/50,' but it's cute, and if you are a high schooler looking for a date flick or slightly older and chaperoning your niece you could do a hell of a lot worse.
For some psychotic reason my parents showed me '2001: A Space Odyssey' when I was around ten. Ever since, I've been chasing that dragon. I've been looking for someone to use the powerful tools of cinema to show me - not tell me - something important about the Universe and have me work to (almost) understand it.
There have been times that have come close - Godfrey Reggio's 'Koyaanisqatsi' probably closest, with 'Eraserhead' and 'Enter the Void' in there, too. I'll need to see Shane Carruth's 'Upstream Color' again, but it may belong on this short list. Almost everyone who watches 'Upstream Color' will come out of it saying "I need to see that again."
Allow me to mar the sophisticated, near-painterly screenplay of Richard Linklater's 'Before Midnight' with these purple lines from the Steve Miller Band: time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.
Oozing sagacity, melancholia and, if you work at it,
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