Thursday, July 31, 2008

Trailer Trash: The August Gang Bang

Hey Stargazers! I thought I was going to settle into a nice critique of the Dark Knight tonight when I realized...today marks the end of July! That means, I'd be remiss not to lube up and pound out a gang bang of all the major releases slated for August. And August is a doozy with, count 'em, nineteen films listed at IMDB , plus another seven opening in limited release. Quite an increase from last month's ten paltry offerings.

Those familiar with August knows it serves a dual purpose: it's the dog days of summer when the last of the big blockbusters open, and it's the dawn of the dumping ground for the studios' junk. I've soaked up all the trailers' juices and here's how I've sorted my August viewing.

Exercise the Right To Cinematic Celibacy.
Fly Me To the Moon (08/15): One of last month's animated films featured chimps being launched into space. Apparently those same chimps were crammed into a room with PCs and whipped into a frenzy until this bastard child was born. I think Nayana over at the Center Seat summed this up better than I ever could in her friends won't let friends see... feature.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (08/15): Am I wrong or wasn't this a TV cartoon series a few years ago? Is this just a theatrical reminder of the lackluster Episodes I-III or is this choppy-looking CGI hoping to replace the foul taste left in our mouths from the other Anakins' performances?


The Longshots (08/22): Growing up is all about life lessons. I'm guessing Keke Palmer's misstep into pop music just as her acting career budded is what has her slumming alongside Ice Cube. Miss Palmer stars in this Necessary Rougness/Gracie/Remember the Titans mash-up directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. Yes, stargazers, a memorial will be held on the 23rd to mourn Keke's fallen star.

Disaster Movie (08/29): If it all started with Meet the Spartans with Superhero Movie providing the filling, I'm guessing that Disaster Movie is the top slice of bread to this shitty spoof sandwich. Although, I have to admit seeing that dude dressed up like Sex & the City's Carrie in the trailer cracks me the fuck up.

Babylon A.D. (08/29): Ah, my favorite Face-Punchee Vin Diesel stars in yet another film that looks like it warranted the straight-to-DVD treatment. It's an apocalyptic sci-fi film where Diesel plays a guardian angel of few words who must use his I'm-too-sexy-for-this-shirt biceps to save the world. That's a stretch... I mean, I've yet to believe him as the hero in any of his films to date so maybe this'll be the one.

College (08/29): Remember those enslaved writing chimps? Well, Ryan Pinkston is the one who can speak and does so to set up the premise of this hella lame affair. High school guys visit a college and all sorts of sophomoric antics ensue. Sounds great, and it was...two years ago when it was released as American Pie: The Naked Mile. I can guarantee you that AP:TNM has lots more male and female nudity, and it doesn't star American Idol douche Kevin 'Chicken Little' Covais.


It's Friday, I Don't Want to be Alone.

Swing Vote (08/01): I have to admit, I enjoy Costner when he has a turn at the slacker like in Upside of Anger or Tin Cup. Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane always give it a good turn in movies and I'm never turned off at the prospect of drooling over Robin Thicke's ultra-fine wife, Paula Patton, whenever the chance arises. The every-vote-counts sentiment may weigh down this outrageous concept, but I hope it will still be funny.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (08/08): I got two words for why I will most likely see this film: THUNDER MONKEY. America Ferrera has proven that real women have curves underneath even the most "ugly" attire. Granted, this is mostly about the studios and America's three less popular costars basking in her limelight, but guys, it'll win you serious brownie points without causing too much suffering.


Tropic Thunder (08/13): I love Robert Downey, Jr. and I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't shill out evening prices to see his portrayal. That said, this trailer has never really sat well with me, nor have the excessive promotions I have seen as far back as the starring trio's appearance on the Idol. Besides, it's no secret that my Stiller tolerance level is mild at best.

Mirrors (08/15): Even if he did direct High Tension, I'd normally shy away from Alexandre Aja directing another remake, especially of a Korean horror flick. But casting Amy Smart and Paula Patton is pretty much double strength Kryptonite to the Reel Whore's resistance. Hopefully, these two sirens are luring me into a better film than I expect.

Traitor (08/29): Don Cheadle kicking ass and taking names?! If anyone has the chops to make himself a tortured soul, it's Cheadle. I'm curious what the Steve Martin-penned script is all about, but the twisty-twirly-can't-tell-good-from-bad makes me worry that the real film is far less thrilling.

Moist With Antici...Pation!

The Midnight Meat Train (08/01): WOOHOO! Clive Barker's Midnight Meat Train opens in my city...at the second-run theater? What the fuck is up with that? Who cares?! I get to see Vinnie Jones gut people on subways for an hour and a half on the big screen. And really, isn't that what entertainment's all about?


The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emporer (08/01): This almost slipped into "Friday" territory but I think watching Monkeybone versus the Monkey King will be fun. This'll also be my only chance to see Michelle Yeoh in a good action film this year (cough Babylon A.D. cough). Besides, this is the last official adventure flick of the summer so I gotta see it just on principle.

Pineapple Express (08/08): Who knew James Franco could pull off playing a loser so well? He and Seth Rogen enlist Danny R. McBride into a zany escape from the hands of a menacing Gary Cole and irate Rosie Perez. I am expecting great things...even if the trailer seems awkwardly devoid of funny moments.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (08/15): Honestly, a film starring Scarlett Johansson exploring her lesbian side could have been written by those space chimps and I'd still be first in line to see it. Lucky for us it was written by Woody Allen and also stars the sexy Javier Bardem. I know we won't see any of the goods, but I'd advise you not to sit near any guys in trench coats when this releases.

The Rocker (08/20): The teaser for this seemed a little weak but the latest trailer really sets the stage for fun. Plus it looks like our favorite Arrested Development star GOB has a small role in the film. It looks slapsticky and cheesy but I think everything will be coming up Milhouse for Rainn Wilson.

The House Bunny (08/22): Why would you not go see the lovely and funny Anna Faris in her latest starring role? You better have a damn good reason for missing it like a car crash or being raped in the face or something like that. My girl needs your support; just one movie ticket on this day can give her the bump she needs to be the next great thing. What are you waiting for?


Death Race (08/22): Jason Statham + guns + fast armored cars + hot chicks + ass-kicking + R rating = A movie the Reel Whore wants to see! Granted, this is only thinly reminiscent of the original Carradine-Stallone 1975 film, but if its action-packed heart is in the right place, I can get down with that.


***

Ouch! I gotta say, I am not used to sloughing through so many movies. I guess I got soft over the lean summer months. If you're curious the limited release films include: Frozen River, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Hell Ride, Bottle Shock, Elegy, Henry Poole is Here and Hamlet 2! I will be chatting positively about the last in the coming weeks, but for now I need to relax before my eyes explode from the trailer-pounding pressure!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More than a Mouthful (07.29.2008)

Hey Stargazers! This was to be originally posted on July 18, 2008 BEFORE I left to go on vacation. However before I got the opportunity, my personal internets went out on me yet again. So I've scratched all my nifty pre-vacation banter and opted for a quick explanation of where I've been.

I had a great 10-day vacay in sunny California. Wifey and I went to San Francisco, parts in and around Fresno-Bakersfield and finished up our time in San Diego as we immersed ourselves in the madness of Comic-Con! We saw all the beautiful people, met some really nice folks and bumped into a few douchebags along the way. On the whole, the entire trip was a blast and I am hopingto share some of our escapades and many of our photos once the dust of our return landing settles.

For those who don't give a rat's ass about the celebs we met or all the places we have gone, have no fear. The wonderful folks at Focus Features gave us the opportunity to preview Hamlet 2 followed by a Q&A with writer Pam Brady (Hot Rod), writer-director Andrew Fleming (The Craft) and star-uncredited contributor Steve Coogan (Hot Fuzz). It goes without saying that I have seen The Dark Knight as well so expect some great new reviews in the pipeline shortly for both of those and more.

Thanks for checking in on me. Stay tuned.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, July 18, 2008

Who's That Lady? - Christine Baranski

Greetings Stargazers! My latest feature has been simmering in my brainpan for quite some time, but for one reason or 'nother I kept delaying it. I call it Who's That Lady? Those who frequent Blog Cabins will find it functions much like Fletch's Familiar Face-Unknown Name, a feature that focuses on character actors who are recognizable instantly for playing their minor roles with such fervor and passion that you wish they were higher profile. The obvious difference between my column and Fletch's is that my That Guy(s) are, in effect, That Gal(s). After all, women need love, too, and who better than the Reel Whore to give it to them?

I've got dozens of ladies in the queue but I decided to start with one costarring in the non-Batman film of the weekend, Mamma Mia!.

Who's That Lady?
Christine Baranski


Christine Baranski is just a shade younger than my mom, but unlike dear old mammy, she's been acting, dancing and singing up a storm since her teen years on television, film and Broadway. She is a tall drink of a woman at 5' 10" but it's the funny characters she plays that you will most remember.

3 Unforgettable Roles
The Birdcage - Knowing the main character, Val, couldn't really have been the offspring of two gay men, Christine enters as Katherine Archer, the egg-and-womb of the equation, adding even more wild antics and wackiness to this hilarious film.

Chicago
- As the intrepid reporter Mary Sunshine, Chrisitine helps fuel public interest in the tragic story of Roxie Hart's downward spiral in the big city's devilish jazz and booze scene.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas - As the center of affection for both the Mayor of Whoville and the Grinch, Martha May Whovier may be Christine's most desirable character, even if she is all Who'd up.

Saw it, but even I don't remember her in it!
Maybe I was too young to appreciate her talent, or maybe her role was far too small. Either way, I'd almost certainly watch these films again just to enjoy Christine’s performance.

Films: Jeffrey, The Ref, Addams Family Values, Bulworth, Cruel Intentions, Bowfinger

From what I've seen she frequently plays the lead actress's funny, quirky friend or the story's mildly obnoxious skeptic/shrew. In addition to her film roles, she has appeared in several television shows including Cybil. She also has won two Tony's for Best Featured Actress in a Play. Guess I'm not the only one who appreciates her talent. If you'd like to see what you may know her from, check out her IMDB and Wikipedia info.

Instead of trying to scrounge up more info, I think this should be sufficient to pique your interest in Mrs. Baranski. It may even be worth sitting through the vocal stylings of Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan just to see Christine Baranski.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Repeat Bidness: Batman Begins

Stargazers: Just a reminder the Repeat Bidness feature is a reprint of my pre-blog reviews. Since you may find yourself showing up to more than one sold-out screening of The Dark Knight this movie should help tide you over.


Batman Begins


Release: 06.15.2005

DVD Release: 10.15.2008

Rated PG-13

2 hours, 21 minutes

Full Price ($$$$)




It’ll make you get up and ‘Batusi’!


Writer-director Christopher Nolan (Insomnia) and writer David S. Goyer (Blade) unite to revive the Batman movie franchise after its near decimation eight years ago at the hands of Joel Schumacher. This origin story depicts the evolution of Bruce Wayne into the legendary Batman as he encounters the first of many of the corrupt individuals who will plague the streets of Gotham while defining his own morality and mortality.


The cast is a laundry list of Grade A talent. Christian Bale (Equilibrium) steps into the role he was born to play, the young Bruce Wayne, a.k.a fledgling Dark Knight. At Bruce’s side is his loyal and flippant butler, Alfred, portrayed by Michael Caine (Cider House Rules) whose British accent, superb acting and paternal delivery effortlessly elicit emotion from the viewer. Liam Neeson (Darkman) plays Bruce’s mentor/trainer Ducard. Ducard and the League of Shadows follow the warped visions of the madman Ra’s Al Ghul, played by Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai). Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later), with his penetrating yet distant eyes, embodies the brash, deranged Dr. Jonathan Crane who conspires to shroud Gothamites in their deepest fears. The man holding Gotham in the palm of his hand is mob boss Carmine Falcone, portrayed by Tom Wilkinson (Rush Hour), whose partnership with the unhinged Crane spells disaster. Trying to fight the good fight against the city’s villainous men are district attorney Rachel Dawes, played by Katie Holmes (Wonder Boys), Sgt. Jim Gordon portrayed by Gary Oldman (Dracula), and Wayne Enterprises exec Lucious Fox, well-delivered by the always entertaining Morgan Freeman (Se7en).


Given such an abundance of stellar talent, there was no doubt that this film would be a welcome return to the cape folds. The plotting and subplots of the story are woven together elegantly through the simple adage of fear. Fear sets the tone of the film as very dark, with only brief moments of levity to relieve the gloom. Pacing is quick enough to keep audiences from being bogged down in melodrama but does not leave any crucial elements hanging. Begins takes a technique from the Spider-Man movies by introducing characters and themes from the mythos that will take on more pivotal roles in the inevitable sequels. The events and characters are altered but faithful adaptations of their comic counterparts to gel the story for film audiences. My only problem is the inclusion of the semi-romantic relationship with Rachel, which could have been easily excluded for the purposes of the prequel. Batman truly does begin again, erasing missteps of the past and paving the way for promising viewing experiences to come.


Dirty Undies

Many of the stunts in the film are simply put, astounding. I was a bit disappointed by the stylized violence in lieu of good old fist-to-face contact but we all know my beef with the PG-13 puss-out. The fights were plentiful, even if not clearly discernible at times, making for a worthy shout out for violence and destruction. Cutie Katie Holmes is in the film to keep it from being total sausage party. She does add a desperately needed dose of femininity, though the forced inclusion of her character does little else to enhance the story. Christian Bale regained his healthy physique after wasting away for last year’s The Machinist. Many of you will be pleased to see some brief moments where he flexes his well-honed guns and tightens his uncovered pecks. This doesn’t really pertain to this film, but Bale remarked that he hoped the next Batman film would be released in both PG-13 and R rated versions so the character can be broadened to show a more sexual, darker side. A man after my own heart he is. Let’s hope his idea gets consideration, both for top-notch fight choreography and to give Katie a reason to return.

The Money Shot
So if you can’t get into Batman Begins remember that the talented Bale also lends his voice to Howl’s Moving Castle, which opens this week. I’m sure you’d rather spend your money on the caped crusader but Hayao Miyazaki anime can also be a winner. Now that my Batman appetite is sated, maybe I can report back to you on that film next week. To quote Adam West of Batman TV series fame “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late” so get in line now. To the batcave!


Join me in a little Batusi?



Is THAT what I am to become?!



Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wanted is Just What I Needed!

Wanted

Release: 06.27.2008
Rated R
1 hour, 50 minutes

FULL PRICE ($$$$)


Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland) is a pussy. Maybe it'd be more appropriate to call him a little bitch. His life sucks. He gets pushed around by his boss and his girlfriend every waking day. His best bud is a mega-douche who's screwing his girl. Of course, Wesley knows all this but he's too chickenshit to do or say anything about it. Instead he keeps his anxieties in check with a stew of medication. That is, until a wild lady named Fox (Angelina Jolie, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) shows up bearing gifts. Wesley is given a sense of history, of significance, of mad skills and as the newest member of the assassin's guild, the Fraternity, he starts to make up for his pathetic existence.

Director Timur Bekmambetov tweaks the tale of Wanted with the visual stylings of his vampire films, Nochnoy dozor (Nightwatch) and Dnevnoy dozor (Daywatch). As with any supernatural -superhuman tale, establishing the parameters of your new world is as important as telling the story itself. From the onset, Wanted brands its violence as humans who not only live above the law, but also react beyond the limits of the natural law. The assassins can run faster, heal quicker and literally sling bullets; feats far beyond those of the sheep of the world.

It's not all about the expanded limits of the assassins. It's also about crafting characters that remain true to their nature and beliefs. Wanted follows Wesley as he emerges from his fragile shell into a cold-blooded killer struggling with the moral implications of his new life. His tutors, Fox and Sloan (Morgan Freeman, Lucky Number Slevin), guide him in the ways of the Fraternity even as he is tested by those whose oppose the guild. It's the sense of order within the madness that gives Wanted more of a kick than your garden-variety summer fluff.

Dirty Undies
Though his part is very small, I'm glad Bekmambetov brought 'Watch star Konstantin Khabensky to play Wesley's other compatriot, The Exterminator. He adds some emotional moments to a film that would be sorely lacking otherwise. But it's not really about the emotion; it's about the flurry of wickedly awesome chase scenes and kick-ass bloodbaths that overload your senses. Killing for the sake of carnage. Wanted is not for the weak of stomach; McAvoy is seen being beaten to a bloody pulp that's reminiscent of Fight Club beatdowns. McAvoy and the crew also drop, and in some cases, spell, F-bombs liberally. All in all, my kind of movie.

The Money Shot
I'll say it again. Wanted is my kind of movie. My only sticking point I had was that it veered greatly from the premise of the comic upon which it was based. I liked the more palatable story used in the film. However, I wish Wanted the film could have abstained from Wanted the comic's condescending slant towards its audience.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Missed It By THAT Much!

Get Smart

Release: 06.20.2008
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 50 minutes

Matinee ($$$) <
> Second-Run Seats ($$)




Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell, Bewitched) is without a doubt the best CONTROL analyst behind a desk. For those unfamiliar with the popular '60s television series upon which the film is based, CONTROL is a super-secret U.S. government spy agency whose mission is to thwart the criminal undertakings of the evil organization KAOS. Aside from being the best intelligence gatherer for the agency, Max wants to be a field agent and has worked diligently to hone his mind and body into a spy machine. Max gets his chance when the identities of all field agents save Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway, The Devil Wears Prada) have been compromised. The Chief (Alan Arkin, Gross Pointe Blank) sends Max a.k.a. Agent 86 with 99 to track down KAOS's operation and discover their fiendish plans.

I fondly remembered watching this show in my formative years. Don Adams was hilarious as the bungling agent whose faithful partner 99 also managed to bail him out whenever his elaborate plans or loud mouth got him into trouble. It was somewhat surprising to see that the new- millennium Maxwell Smart has evolved into a competent agent whose only shortcoming is that his colleagues baselessly assume he's a buffoon. If you came looking for a faithful reimagining, the best you can hope for are a few of the famous lines, a scene with the classic car, a shoe phone call and a wonderful cameo by Love Boat's Dr. Bricker, a.k.a Bernie Kopell, who played Max's nemesis Siegfried.

I'm not going to hold the creative changes against the film. There's plenty of other issues with the Get Smart remake to let that go. The trailers for the film showed some witty jokes with the promise of bigger and better to come. Once in the theater, we discover the trailer is a highlights reel showcasing the funniest jokes. I still laughed at those, and found myself giggly at the scant handful of other funny moments, but throw us a bone! The overall film turned out to be only mildly interesting with many unnecessary scenes devoted to the awkwardness of Smart and Agent 99's working relationship. Supporting roles by Dwayne Johnson (Be Cool) and Terence Stamp (Superman II) added a few laughs but seemed almost wasteful of their talents.

Dirty Undies
What Dwayne Johnson was not allowed to do with his role, he at least made up for with his winning smile and charismatic swagger. He doesn't show any skin; that honor is left for megastar Carell, but few men can look as good as Johnson in a suit. Looking like she owns the entire coat collection from a fashion catalog, thug-lovin' Hathaway manages to look scrumptuous though she keeps it all well-covered.

The Money Shot
I feel like I haven't said a whole lot about Get Smart. I guess that's because there isn't a whole lot to discuss. It's inoffensive and genial enough that you can't outright hate it. If you go see it, you'll just wish they had put a little more conviction behind their premise.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thank God for Hellboy!

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Release: 07.11.2008
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 50 minutes

FULL PRICE ($$$$)

This sequel picks up after the events of 2004's Hellboy, but a few quick introductory sequences alleviate having to have seen the original. Hellboy (Ron Perlman, Blade II) still proudly wears his mantle as the red-skinned stepchild of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense). He's got Chief Manning (Jeffrey Tambor, Eurotrip) at wit's end as it is becoming harder and harder to hide the big lug's existence from the general public, especially when Red doesn't consider himself stealth. To make matters worse, Liz (Selma Blair, The Sweetest Thing) is a bit sensitive to Hellboy's insensitivities, straining their relationship and making the team’s missions even more awkward.

Meanwhile, the elven Prince Nuada (Luke Goss, Blade II) has surfaced from the underworld to recover the missing pieces of the Crown of Bethmoora. If Nuada reassembles the crown, he will command the industable, um, indestructible, Golden Army and all of mankind will suffer and cower at his feet. Sounds like a job for...

Based on the comics of the same name created by Mike M
ignola, writer-director Guillermo del Toro crafts a tale brimming with action, laughs and complex characters that is widely accessible to audiences both young and old. Where the first film focused on the conflict between Hellboy and the villain Rasputin, Hellboy II tackles the team's acceptance issues. Del Toro takes his character-driven story and polishes it with some spectacularly imaginative creatures. From lumbering ogres with mechanical appendages to diminutive and ravenous tooth fairies to a massive forest elemental; the richly crafted underworld creatures are breathtaking to behold and pose a variety of challenges to Red and the gang. There are a couple changes to the make-up and effects for Abe and Liz that perplex me, but they are easily overlooked. Del Toro's script is heavy-handed in foreshadowing, but given the deep characters he's created, it is easily forgiven.

The actors' portrayals are equally impressive. Goss's haughty attitude and impressive acrobatics make Nuada a worthy nemesis for Red. Perlman is still perfect as Hellboy. He delivers a great one-two punch with his combination of brawn and wittiness. Granted, some of his one-liners are a little weak, but are you gonna be the one to tell the big guy he shouldn't be so cheesy? Besides, hearing Hellboy utter 'oh crap' mid-battle instead of always having the perfect turn of phrase is what makes him so damn endearing. Blair's Liz is vastly improved from her minor role in the original. Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, Pan's Labyrinth; Voice: David Hyde Pierce, A Bug's Life) is also given a hefty subplot and much more screentime to admire his fantastic makeup. It's a film where you get the feeling everyone is having a lot of fun, especially when Manilow reverberates through the halls.


Dirty Undies
The fight sequences are intricately choreographed yet not overly bloody, nor do they need to be. Del Toro's eye for action makes you almost feel the brute force behind every blow from Hellboy's red right hand, every ground-shaking blast from his Samaritan sidearm. When that quality of action mixes with the amazing visuals, the team's mild cursing and just plain funny stuff, the results are oh-so-satisfying.

The Money Shot
Prince Nuada wants the humans to cower before his superiority. Hellboy desires to be at the center of the public's adoring eye for his heroics. When the two collide, the result is fun and excitement for everyone. What makes it even better is that del Toro, in an effort to keep the franchise viable, inserts so many subplots that future installments will not only be necessary, audiences will demand them!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Quickie: The Ruins

The Ruins
Release: 04.04.2008
DVD Release: 07.08.2008
Rated R (DVD UR)
1 hour, 31 minutes

Second-Run Seats ($$) <
> Matinee ($$$)

College grads Jeff (Jonathan Tucker, Hostage), Amy (Jena Malone, Donnie Darko), Stacy (Laura Ramsey, Lords of Dogtown) and Eric (Shawn Ashmore, X-Men) are chillin' by the pool as their vacation in Mexico winds to a close. Along comes a friendly German, Mathias (Joe Anderson), who invites them to visit his brother's archaeological excavation of an unmapped Mayan temple. Jeff, excited at the prospect of cultural immersion that does not involve swallowing the worm, convinces his friends to broaden their horizons. Early the next day, they venture off the well-worn tourist path and uncover the elusive location of the vine-ensconced ruins. An enraged local tribe that doesn't speak Spanish corrals the young adults within the bounds of the old temple before anyone can comprehend why. As the tourists' limited supplies dwindle as they struggle to escape, the foursome realizes the tribe isn't malicious; they're safeguarding the world from the evil enclosed in the ruins.

The Ruins, similar in premise but better in execution than The Happening, warns that when plants attack, we are screwed. Quickest to catch onto this phenomenon is Jeff, the hero figure of the group because of his extensive pre-med knowledge and able leadership. Jeff's character is moderately well-developed, unlike the remaining characters who amount to little more than dead weight with no motivations save living to party another day. It's sad because all the actors give emotionally strong portrayals to these hollow shells.

Writer Scott B. Smith (
A Simple Plan) creates a breed of floral vine that employs motility, mimicry and carnivorism to propagate. As the group is injured while trying to escape, the plants take root and fester as does panic and paranoia. The gruesome injuries and infections require some archaic surgical methods to be employed, shifting the impending air of doom of The Ruins into little better than a showcase of brutal evisceration. I'm as much a fan of graphic, gory horror as anyone, but the self-inflicted torture employed destroys what a lot of the appeal this terrible premise held.

With its solid acting and intriguing premise,
The Ruins was on the path to being a quality horror contender. I’m hesitant to admit this, but a stronger focus on character and a little less dipping into the blood bag for cheap thrills would have resulted in a much more gratifying horror film. However, The Ruins is fertile in sequel potential, meaning its creators will have plenty of opportunities to screw it up even worse next go-round.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hancock Explodes Box Office, Implodes Onscreen

HANCOCK

Release: 07.01.2008
Rated PG-13

1 hour, 32 minutes


Second-Run Seats ($$) <
> Matinee ($$$)


Will Smith (I Am Legend) stars as Hancock, a super-powered being sorely in need of an attitude adjustment. After rescuing Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman, Smokin' Aces), "the Bono of public relations", Ray encourages Hancock to turn over a new leaf, to give the public a reason to value his help and not scream bloody murder over his costly messes. Hancock's curmudgeonly ways stem from his belief that he is alone, but he soon learns that he is not as unique as he believed, a revelation that comes with a hefty cost.

Director Peter Berg (The Rundown) takes on a bold project that establishes a superhero property steeped within the confines of reality and not the more traditional lore of DC or Marvel comics. Establishing a history, conflict and redemptive path for the surly Hancock proves to be more of a challenge than Berg and writers Vincent Ngo (Hostage) and Vince Gilligan (TV: The X-Files) could manage. Instead of a display of
grandiose feats, audiences are treated to frenetic camerawork and too-close visuals that explore the actors' nasal passages more so than their emotions and interactions. The story has a similarly jarring effect to that of the shaky lensing. The tale's reckless swelling and ebbing make it difficult to understand or even locate a plot at times, and rushes to wrap up the climax and other key points when time is needed.

Kudos to Smith, Bateman and Charlize Theron (Aeon Flux) for establishing rich characters that rise above the story's chaos. Bateman does the best job to me; yes, I am a fan, but his performance shows why he deserves the praise.

Dirty Undies
The sheer level of devastation and property damage by Hancock is astounding. In this case, the PG-13 rating manages to elevate the violence by cutting away from the conflicts, leaving much to the imagination. Villains thrown from buildings tens of stories high have little chance of survival if you ponder the aftermath of Hancock's actions. Berg couldn't resist visualizing Hancock's favorite threat in the prison, which to me would have been better left to our own imaginations. When Hancock's not performing feats of illogical and stupefying proportions, he's boozing and cursing. The word 'asshole' is spoken by folks of all ages, and to show his rough edges, Hancock even tosses out an abrasive 'fucked' to an enraged crowd.

You can't go wrong with Will Smith as a healthy hunk of man meat, though he doesn't give off that vibe until he gets a trim and a new attitude. Likewise, the statuesque Charlize Theron goes from cute doting housewife to fever-inducing fox with just a touch of dark makeup and tight jumpsuit.

The Money Shot
The saving grace of Hancock was that there was no competition to keep it from setting holiday records despite being a mess of a film. Never quite resting long enough to tell a thoughtful story and never revved up enough to be popcorn-munching adrenaline fluff, it settles into an nauseating, woulda-coulda-shoulda rhythm. Hancock succumbed to its greatest weakness, sacrificing substance over style.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

More Than a Mouthful (07.07.08)

Hello stargazers! Just wanted to send out a quick update. I've been sailing through movies at the theater the last few weeks. The only flick I haven't seen is the Love Guru because, well, it is the Love Guru. Now that my home internet issues appear to be resolved, the holiday weekend is behind me and the writing bug has bitten me in the arse once more. I am hoping to churn out a healthy number of reviews, post a long delayed new feature, add a new installment into the Spank Bank, and who knows what else may strike my fancy.

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In other news, the LAMB has started doing LAMBScores! What is that you may ask? It is a rating scale by the LAMBs for you! That's right. If you come to my site and, say, find yourself miffed that I pissed all over The Happening, follow any of the numerous LAMB links to see a herd of differing reviews.

Also on the LAMB, we have responded or will be responding to AFI's Top 10 lists of favorite movies. Right now we are voting on our Top 10 Comedies and the results should be up officially in the near future. If you're curious as to which comedies I think are the ten best, my list is below. I had to narrow this down from about fifty great comedies and I can't say exactly why I placed them in this particular order. Just know they can't all be winners now can they?!

Reel Whore's Top 10 Comedies
01. Ghostbusters
02. Office Space
03. The 40 Year-Old Virgin
04. Old School
05. The Big Lebowski
06. Booty Call
07. Bad Santa
08. Clue
09. Best in Show
10. Vacation



It'll be interesting to see exactly how many of these make it in the LAMB Top 10. Enough business, let's get to some reviews.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Trailer Trash: The July Gang Bang

Already a new month, time for another gang bang. I would have released this post on Tuesday had I known that Hancock's producers would be so desperate to earn maximum box office that they would open it on a Tuesday? No matter, I will give that its just desserts soon enough. July has ten major releases, all looking to be the peak of summer success before the excitement dwindles in August. So strap in and see what I think has the cojones to make me squeal.


Exercise the Right To Cinematic Celibacy.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (07/11) Brendan Fraser returns to the summer-blockbuster screen as an explorer who falls in a hole that leads him to the planet's core where he unearths the mummy of the Dragon Emperor...Um, wait, I think I am mixing up Fraser's exciting-looking August Mummy sequel with the craptastic-looking Walden remake of the Jules Verne classic. I got no qualms with Fraser, but I think I've made my opinion of Walden Media's half-assed book adaptation efforts abundantly clear.

Meet Dave (07/11) If there's anyone that's done more to sully family friendly films in the last few years besides Walden Media, that person is Eddie Murphy. In this film Murphy gets to play the captain of an alien vessel/android that just happens to look just like Eddie Murphy because you can never have too much Eddie in a film. My appreciation for Elizabeth Banks and Gabrielle Union makes me almost want to support them. Almost. I know it's hard for a black woman to find good roles, Ms. Union, but to go from Tyler Perry to Queen Latifah to Eddie Murphy productions...it is a slippery slope you tread.

Mamma Mia! (07/18) I caught the traveling production last summer. The music was disco-y fun, the costumes sparkly disco-y vibrant, and the disco dancing not too shabby. Kudos to the professional troupe who puts on that show night after night and twice on weekends. What I find interesting is that this musical has lots of music in the trailer, yet we only see Amanda Seyfried singing. I don't know if I'm ready to be serenaded by the likes of Colin Firth, Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan...All great actors, but musical professionals?

Space Chimps (07/18) When I heard there was a movie with Andy Samberg voicing a chimpanzee in outer space, I was excited. Then I saw the trailer. All I can say is...it's animated. They tout that it's from one of the primates who brought us Shrek, but they didn't mention the guy also brought us Happily N'ever After the worst animated film I've seen in recent years.


It's Friday, I Don't Want to be Alone.

Hancock (07/01) More often than not, Will Smith can pull off a good summer blockbuster. This time he has Jason Bateman to provide sarcasm and wit. The first trailers, which I saw eons ago, had me somewhat excited. Then I saw the endless ads in the weekly Best Buy circulars, saw the same smarmy spot during every TV commercial break, and I even think Barack Obama called our house seeking our support for Hancock this Fourth of July weekend. Or maybe it was Michelle. Either way, I'm over it, supremely over it. I will go see it because, well, I'm the Reel Whore, but I've got little faith that I'll love it.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (07/02) With Abigail Breslin, Joan Cusack, Jane Krakowski, Stanley Tucci and Glenne Headley, Kit Kittredge has quite the acting pedigree. But it all evens out with Chris O'Donnell as Papa Kittredge. An inoffensive mystery for all ages, it shows promise for providing a few laughs, a few perilous moments and all-around warm fuzzies for anyone looking to detox from all the summer films' action and violence.

X-Files: I Want to Believe (07/25) I guess with David Duchovny's recent return to fame via Californication and Gillian Anderson's brief appearance in The Last King of Scotland, the iron is as hot as it's gonna get to strike for this belated sequel. The trailer tells us, at best, that Billy Connolly is receiving messages from something somewhere. It's the most intensely exciting trailer about absolutely nothing, and I can almost buy the hype. I am more likely to buy this as a maneuvering to Pimp My X-Files, a relaunch of the TV show with Mulder supervising the young, hip investigative duo of Amanda Peet and Xzibit.


Moist With Antici...Pation!

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (07/11) Months ago they announced that the new trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was online. I promptly watched it and felt all giggly, like a little kid. Then I noticed the trailer for Hellboy II was also available so I checked it out. My immediate reaction:Indy Who? Where Hellboy was really good, though not great, I think Guillermo del Toro has been throwing his directorial weight around to make this one awesome. If nothing else, the fantastical creatures look stellar. And, oh yeah, Ron Perlman is the fucking man.

Step Brothers (07/25) Deep down I worry that this film may only be worth a middling "It's Friday. I Don't Want to be Alone" rating. However, I have no reason not to give the Shake-n-Bake duo of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully, this won't be a Walk Hard or Kicking and Screaming where all the best jokes are in the trailer. Doesn't matter; I'll be there to see the bed fall on Ferrell and Richard Jenkins law down the law to these troubled boys.


Can Someone Bring me a Towel?!

The Dark Knight (07/18) That's right, I'm so excited about The Dark Knight I had to create a Trailer Trash designation even higher than the highest! This is Heath Ledger's final complete performance and it looks extraordinary. Does the Academy give the award for acting posthumously? Batman Begins was a phenomenal relaunch for the Batman franchise after the Schumacher years. With the inclusion of Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the movie just keeps getting better every time I see the trailer. Rumor has it Anthony Michael Hall and Cillian Murphy are in it, too. And we can see it in IMAX! Is there anyone who doesn't want to see this?! What's your major malfunction, soldier!?


***

Seriously, I think I need a towel. Hope you enjoy July at the movies. I'm out.

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