Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

SPOILERS! (Beware)

I may be in the minority here as I did not like the movie. I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it, and I'll do my best to explain why. Though this could take a while.

* I liked Peter initially. He’s a bit of loner with a touch of teenage rebellion. They did a great job establishing him as a tinkerer with understanding of cutting edge machines. The problem is that he's also kind of a jerk and far too often the solution to any given problem is handed to him rather than earning it.
Examples; 1.) Ben tells him who Connors is rather than Pete looking it up himself. 2.) The cop tells Pete that the gunner had a tattoo on his wrist rather than Pete noticing it himself. 3.) The web fluid comes from an online store, rather than making it himself like he told the car thief that he did.

* I liked the montage of Peter skateboarding over gradually big objects and swing on chains to train his powers. It’s used to plug a corny song for the album, but its effective. However when he tests his webbing, the first thing he does is jump off of a skyscraper WHAT?! This Pete is supposed rebellious, not stupid!

* Martin Sheen is great as Uncle Ben who tries to play hero and go for the gun, practicing what he preached about responsibility. However, after Ben is shot, Peter hangs him over screaming "Call an Ambulance!" Even though we established two minutes ago that he has working cell phone in his pocket and could have called 911 himself at any time.

* Why did the cop tell Pete that the guy had a star tattoo on his wrist? That should have been something that Peter saw, and the camera would linger on enough for us to see. Otherwise it makes it sound like the cop is supporting his roaring rampage of revenge.

* Peter's new motive is revenge and not responsibility. We see that he's only hunting a specific kind of guy rather than be shown helping people in trouble. He gains some points back for saving the kid on the bridge, which is easily the best scene and is the only part that felt like it was from a Spider-Man movie, but its a little too late in the game for me to start really rooting for him.

*That there isn't any resolution to chasing/catching the criminal after this point feels like another dangling thread that they're saving for the sequel, of which there are too many in this film. Without that resolution its difficult to see how Peter becomes any better than the outlaw he is branded as by the police.

* Evil Indian Guy tells Connors that they're going to test the serem on veterans, and they're also shutting the project down. Hey moron, if fire the guy who made the serum and then shut down the facility making it, and it turns out that it doesn’t work, then you’ll have to start from scratch and things will be even worse! How did you make it to such an authoritative position with no common sense?!

* Captain Stacy grumbles about how thirty of New York's Finest can't catch one guy in a unitard. Yeah, one guy in a unitard who is incredibly fast, agile and can scale a building in under a minute without any sort of climbing equipment. That line just sounds wrong. It feels like its written from an outsider's perspective and ignores the events we have actually seen.

* The Dinner scene is probably the worst part of the movie for me. As Peter just seems to be there to aggravate Capt. Stacy's blood pressure. You'd think someone with 15 years of experience as a cop would be more calm and collected in explaining the details of police procedure to the public, especially around his own family. The fact that Peter can get under his skin so easily should be a red flag for Gwen.

* Speaking of Gwen, while Emma Stone is active and attractive, and easily the best thing in the movie, but this relationship with Pete just isn't going to last. He just dumps on her that he is Spider-Man. They've only know each other marginally beforehand, so this is really going to strain an already new relationship of any kind much less one with so many complicated feelings attached. They had some decent chemistry, but while Peter's inability to come up with the right words felt realistic, it really wasn't all that enduring. Its puppy love at best and wouldn't last more that a few months even if her Dad hadn't died.

* The Story feels fragmented in a lot of places. What happened to the mutant mouse? Did Pete kill it? Cage it? Or it just running wild?

Peter and Gwen swing off together after she mops up his chest. Where did they go and what did they do?

The plot with Peter trying to photograph the Lizard feels crowbared into the story to justify including the Bugle and Pete's shutterbug hobby.

* The Lizard’s Master Plan is a Doomsday Device with an audible countdown that of course can be stopped at the last possible second. That’s already cliche, made worse by Connor's rather limited motive. I'm pretty sure you can't stop a rocket from launching when its in its final minute of launch preparation. Plus you’d think that changing out the projectile would stop the countdown as a failsafe measure.

* Captain Stacy tells Peter he needs to keep at it. Wait what? He just yelled at him about how Spider-Man screwed with their sting operations and now he’s telling him to keep at it? Stacy won’t be around to tell the other cops to let Spidey have a free pass, so he’ll be in even more danger. Oh and then he dies, because after you have a magic countdown, you need to top it with an even bigger cliché.

* Capt. Stacy should have been kept alive to serve as a mentor role to aid Peter in become more effective at crime prevention, maybe even going were the law couldn't. Stacy would have the resources to help Pete find Ben's killer and what happened to his parents. Plus a closer relationship with Dad would have scored big points with Gwen. Adding allies to his cause would have helped Pete go from Outlaw to Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

*The teacher says "There is only one plot, “Who am I?” Don’t get meta on me now movie, its too late for that.

So yeah, a lot of nitpicks. Maybe my opinion can be upgraded with a re-review on DVD. There were some parts I liked, but very few and far between. A few more drafts and rewrites could have truly made this an Amazing Spider-Man movie. The character's motives and relationships just weren't doing for me.

I give it a 2 out of 5.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trailer Trash: GI Joe Retaliation

I only saw the first GI Joe because I heard so many reviews saying "Its so bad its good" or "Its the next best MST3K movie". Actually, it was a very milquetoast action movie, and nowhere near as outrageously stupid or as "in your face" as something like the Transformers series. The original's fundamental flaw in my opinion was just how it felt like it was poorly put together by an amateur novice, and I think a lot of that blame rests on the shoulders of the first film's director. It was a very typical of a mid August action movie, and I can't really pick on it any more than that because I can't really get mad at a movie when the project is already so defective from the start (ex: Twilight).

However, I guess it made enough money to warrant a sequel, but the producers wanted to protect their investment. Given that they knew they were going up against a summer destined to be ruled by "The Dark Knight Rises" they brought out the syringes of Adrenaline and Testosterone and pumped this movie up!

Dwayne Johnson is leading this time, and thank God. Dwayne has a more experience with action cheese and better screen presence. By which I mean he takes up most of the screen. It makes you wonder how the Cobra troops were able to miss a target that big when he was sitting completely still in the water. The power of badassery! Thats how!

Jonathan Pryce apparently didn't get enough of playing the villain in "Tomorrow Never Dies" because hes back at it again.

We've got an "A-Team" kind of set up (they should thankful this wasn't released last summer!) and these build up knowing that its our small little band versus the world. It was shocking to see a break-out character like Snake Eyes being incarcerated. But then the Cobra flag is raised at the White House and banners form the Cobra eyes. The impact of that hit like a punch to the gut. Its a sequence that is simple, iconic and powerful, and sets a stage of hopelessness for this "Empire Strikes Back" vibe they have going on.

There are plenty of unique action scenes on display. My favorite is the mountainside sword fight.

Bruce Willis' apperance at the end is akin to Josh Brolin's apperance at the end of the Men in Black 3 Trailer. If the action was the icing on the cake, Bruce is the sprinkles on top.

Trailer Grade: B+

Trailer Trash: Men In Black 3

Ah, Men in Black.  I loved it as a kid and I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed it as an adult. I'd argue that it with the possible exception of "Jurassic Park" that this was the most creative and enjoyable "popcorn" movie of the 1990s.

When I was younger, I was certain this would become the next "Adventure Trilogy" series in the vein of Indiana Jones. Sadly, such was not the case because Men In Black 2 was an abysmal disappointment, so I was surprised when I saw set photos for a third movie. After all it had been ten years since "2" and a decade is usually around the time a film franchise gets a reboot rather than a sequel.

As for the trailer itself, I think it shows us a bit too much. The fade to black/ fade in edit in trailers has become a big pet peeve of mine as it treats the audience like it doesn't have any attention span. "This image has been on screen for five seconds! Quick, cut to something new before they get bored!"

The "hook", and really all we need to establish in this trailer is the "save the future" plot and Josh Brolin as Young K. Incidentally, that is a brilliant casting choice and it sets up for some potential role reversal with J as the seen it all mentor and K as the new kid. Not the mention possibilities presented in the '60s setting. I guess the producers have been doing their homework by watching "Mad Men".

Bottom line, I think you could have cut thirty seconds worth of establishing shots, and put more attention on setting up the characters, the establishing the humorous tone that were the heart of the original rather than close up shots of gadgets. I suspect that the trailer is loaded with some many dramatic pauses to build this "mystery" and hide the fact that Tommy Lee Jones will likely have a smaller role. If it the trailer had shown more scenes of the two them together I think that it might have packed a bigger punch. But if Tommy's part is small like I suspect with an appearance at the beginning and the end with Brolin in the bulk of it in the middle, then you would just get people complaining about false advertising. 

Trailer Grade: B

Trailer Trash: The Three Stooges

Theres no denying that in today's media, brand recognition is everything. In a world were we have seven different ways in instanteously send ideas to a dozen other people at the same time, you need something distinctly memorable to get peoples attention and hold on to it. Like it or not that means that remakes, reboots and revivals of older franchises are the front runners in entertainment, because they carry names that go back a ways in people's memories and make quick identification and easy marketing. As a result we get movies like "The Three Stooges".

I've got to admit I don't know what I was expecting. I had heard this was in development for a couple years, but I guess when I heard "Three Stooges Movie" I kept thinking back to that made for TV docudrama they about the guys who played the original stooges.

Having seen the trailer, I still don't know what to say. At first I was surprised that the film was taking place in the present rather than the Stooges original Great Depression setting, but then I remember that the Stooges had a C del trope That and Hollywood likes to have its cake and eat it too, mixing "classic" characters with modern styles and attitudes, often resulting in a mixed bag.

Best I can say is that the people behind the film did their homework, as the slapstick scenes feel like they're perfectly lifted right from the shorts, so its very much in the spirit of the original, for good and for bad. That and Moe gets to poke Snooki from Jersey Shore in the eyes. Bwhahaha! Yes, not since Curly dressed up as Hitler have the Stooges provided such biting, edgy humor that is relevant to our current culture!

Trailer Grade: C

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trailer Trash: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The trailer begins with the establishment the disappearance of Peter’s parents , which may be another reason why we have a younger May and Ben.  Why May gets her hair done by Helena Bonham Carter I'll never know.

There are also and many scenes that show Peter as an awkward loner, which would be more characterization than he received in the original trilogy with Tobey Maguire just playing him as “Nice Guy”… with no money. Again we’re seeking alternatives.

Gwen Stacy shows up many times in the trailer even though she isn’t named. Based on this plus the pictures in Entertainment Weekly I’m thinking she’ll be a close friend who gradually becomes the love interest rather than Mary Jane, the seemingly unobtainable girl who later becomes the love interest. The writers are likely putting this Gwen in the role MJ had in Ultimate Spider-Man comics. Again, different in a good way.

It looks like Pete steps into a reactor at a lab and is bitten by the spider, it makes me wonder if Peter will show off some science skills this time.

The Lizard is the Big Bad of this film even though we don’t see him in the trailer. Given that this is Spidey’s origin story too, I wonder if they will have parallel themes of transformation, or perhaps draw their powers from the same source.

The trailer closes with a POV shot of swinging across the city, which looks fantastic. The swining scene in the original was easily the weakest portion of that film (effects wise) so this new offering is refreshing and dynamic. It  offers a satisfying big reveal for the costume reflected in the skyscraper. If they do this right, it will look amazing in 3D, and I never thought I’d say that.

Eagerly anticipating this Marvel movie moreso than the Avengers, who can get back to me when they've shot scenes of then the team in something other than a small room.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trailer Trash: Fright Night (2011)

Some of my readers may recall my review of the 1985 horror film "Fright Night", and how I bad mouthed most of it. For as much as I didn't like the original, I do understand what the film makers were trying to do with it. It was a love letter to the Hammer Horror movies of the late 1950s with Roddy McDowell's character of Peter Vincent based heavily on Peter Cushing's Van Helsing Vampire Hunter. It was also an attempt to break away from the formulaic set up of the new and extraordinarily popular slasher films. Peter Vincent becomes the mouthpiece of the creators and makes no effort to disguise the disgust at this particular horror sub-genre that had over-saturated the market of the time. Hollywood is known as a land of copycats, so trying something fresh like this is something that I both commend and encourage, its just the execution, plus time, that I think is what prevented me from enjoying it more.

So now, like everything else, the film is being remade. I'm sure theres an executive somewhere in a Hollywood office with a catalog of properties that are already owned by his studio, biding time, waiting for the right moment to spring a remake on unsuspecting audiences. Likely this one was picked up in an attempt to ride the coattails of the sudden surge in vampires on screen over the past few years before the trend fades away completely. I'm not going to hold that against the new movie, I'm just pointing it out. It probably also helps that the film has a rhyming name, making easy for potential audiences to remember it during the fickle month of August when expectations for summer blockbusters have been severely diminished after all the razzle dazzle effects and explosions of the July releases. I can only hope that the makers of the new film don't see this as chance to rest on their laurels, but to put the same degree of passion on the screen that helped the original in order to break from the doldrums of tradition and expectation.

I'd like to touch briefly on the poster for the new movie before moving on the trailer because I saw the poster before the trailer and it helped form some of my attitudes towards this upcoming film.

This isn't a great movie poster. It reminds me a little too much of the poster for "No Country for Old Men". But there is at least one thing I like about it, and that is surprisingly, Anton Yelchin. The protagonist stands defiantly at a profile, facing left rather than facing straight on or looking to the right, this helps guide our eye past the angle of the supporting background houses, down the text which lets us know the all important what and when. The distinct axe also breaks the silhouette and sticks out in our minds. We don't need to see his face, we just need to know that our hero is a small person stands guard in front of a small pass, facing up against overwhelming odds, but that he is prepared for action!

The biggest problem is the biggest thing in the poster; Colin Ferrell's floating head. Sure he's got red tinted eyes, but that really isn't scary. If his nose is going to take up this much space, at least make that facial feature somewhat frightening! What I'd like to know is why we don't see fangs on Ferrell in the poster. Two pointed fangs are a classic feature of vampires and excellent for use in graphic design, hence why they're being used in the title's text. So why not show us a hint of any in the part of his mouth that we do see?

Then there's the tagline. "You can't run from evil when it lives next door." Wordy, but it does tell you the film's plot.

Quick comparison to the original poster:

The tagline: "There are good reasons to be afraid of the dark" is a bit generic, but the with image beneath, it works. A wide eyed pale face strikes boldly against a dark atmosphere bearing an inhumanly wide mouth full of cruel, sharp teeth and cackles menacingly while commanding the clouds, harnessing the forces of nature itself to assume the shapes of demons to assault a dwarfed house with no neighbors to allies to be seen, just two pine trees, both easily victimized by the blitzing breeze. There is but one light on in the house outlining a human silhouette, and whoever this lone person might be, they are residing in the last outpost against a devastating devil.

Okay, let's start the show

* Establish Anton Yelchin's Charlie as a typical teen with the good life in what we later see in the big city of Las Vegas.

* Charlie's peers, rather than nameless periphery females are the victims. This makes the disappearances distinct, even if we never see them because there are in the same peer group as the intended audience. Though one could argue that the fanservice victims of the original are more memorable because they were just there for gratuitous breast shots then be killed to drive the plot forward. I'm sure its no coincidence that the one victim we do see in this trailer is a pretty blonde, scantly clad woman.

* Speaking of which, theres a scene were Mom introduces us to Jerry, also provides Charlie's name, but only addresses his girlfriend as "His girlfriend". I guess that really is all we need to know about her, since the only things we see her do in the trailer is be threatened by Jerry and show off black lace bra , the latter being the official Hollywood code for "Let's Fuck". I'm going to go out on a limb a say she's going to be more of an archetype than an actual character.

* "Evil" Ed resumes his role as Mr. Exposition, but here he's the one to explain the connection in disappearances and go to Charlie about it rather than having Charlie be the one to figure everything out. He also looks more like a simple high school nerd archetype, rather than the original's big haired goofy spaz. This makes his role in the film more recognizable in the trailer and it looks like this version will be far less annoying.

* The shots in the last half focus on Charlie and Jerry going on the offensive, preparing for war and promising a greater level of violence and destruction than the original's "cry wolf" build up story.

* Sadly, there are no shots of David Tennant as Peter Vincent. The only reason I'm at all interested in this movie at all is to see The Doctor fight monsters on the big screen. If this is not delivered in a following trailer than I'm ready to write this off as a failure already.

It hits all the right notes for an action horror film, showcasing excitement and suspense, and catered to a young audience with a disposable income. Will it be any good? Well, we'll see soon enough.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trailer Trash: Age of Dragons, Three Musketeers

Welcome to Trailer Trash, were I trash trailers of upcoming films.

Age of Dragons - 2011

I like the idea of taking the concept of Moby Dick and putting it into a different setting so that we can freshen it up and use the fantasy setting to revive certain elements that would seem over tread in a straightforward adaptation.

The idea of hunting dragons for their "fire" sounds cool, and there use in stories as dangerous predators make it sound more exciting then hunting whales, but this trailer doesn't scream "Excitement"

The setting looks so small, like we're on the location of wherever they shot "Stargate SG-1" in Vancouver. We don't get any wide angle shots of the supposed "harsh terrain", let alone the sky, you know, where the dragons are flying! Theres a scene in the end of the trailer were see them slowly climbing up a tiny hill (shot from a low angle to make it look bigger) in in fact they're walking slowly because they don't have that much hill to work with an have to fudge the shots to make it look epic.

Rachel with her perfect cheekbones and shiny hair looks too good to be a huntress and her lone one facial expression renders her completely unappealing. Then we get some cleavage shots and a long look at her bare back and she actually becomes less attractive because she's clearly teasing, but hasn't given me a reason to care at all.

Then theres Vinnie Jones, with his patchy beard to let us know that he's a tough, experienced outdoorsman who has braved the arctic chill. Oh please! My beard is thicker than that and its much warmer were I am than were he is supposed to be.

This also makes be wonder why dragons, cold blooded reptiles, would be flying around in this arctic circle of a place. Maybe there internal fire flips things around, I don't know.

I can hardly be excited about the actual dragon hunt when their harpoon and rope both have the thickness and durability of a toothpick. How to you expect to injure and pull down a creature that weighs as much as a semi, with something so flimsy? You'd probably have better luck using a freshly sharpened pencil. Come back to me when you've got a double coiled rope, or enough world building were you can't be out done my a children's movie like "How to Train Your Dragon."

Grade: Person Interest Zero, but my brother is a big fan of SyFy Channel Original Movies, and this certainly has that look and feel to it. Maybe I can use the Shakespearean speech of Danny Glover to introduce him to higher quality cinema.

The Three Musketeers - October 14th

The trailer starts with a Musketeer doing a James Bond Goldfinger-Ninja submersion stunt before killing someone with spring loaded 3-D shot weapon before jumping off the roof like Batman. Then we've got Milla doing her own action scenes and reminding us that corsets showcase cleavage.

Its clear producers are going the same route with the recent "Sherlock Holmes" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, trying to spice up a period piece with lots of action scenes that are cut just like modern blockbusters and raking in millions since young people with be attracted to fast moving stuff plus a recognizable name ever if they're never read the story before.

My problem with the trailer is that it seems to be selling three things: 3D shots, Lots of swordfighting, and a thin layer of sex. You might argue that theres humor, what with wisecracks about "Are you sure it wasn't 400" but that humor isn't very effective because I don't know the character or the situation. I think I only got one of the character's names and even less of what the actual story is about, which is kind of important if you want to make it endearing. Especially when you consider that many viewers will know the name and not much else.

What do were have of substance here? Um... Shot in 3D!!!! Might as well have called it "The Three-D Musketeers".
Grade: Originally I was going to say "Mild Interest", but then I learned Paul WS Anderson, director of Event Horizon, Alien Vs Predator and Resident Evil was behind this project, thus setting the bar at "Avoid like the Plague".