Monday, July 14, 2008

A Rant: Hellboy II

Hellboy II: I didn't think this movie was nearly as terrible as some of those I saw it with did. It is not even in the same building, let alone on the same level, as Iron Man or Batman Begins or even The Incredible Hulk. Ron Perlman was good again as Hellboy--despite the pounds of effects make-up and the character's surface wise-assery, Perlman is able to get it across that really, Hellboy is a big old softie. The rest of the returning cast were competent; Jeffrey Tambor was funny, the main villain was sufficiently creepy, and Selma Blair was not terribly annoying, though I did miss David Hyde Pierce as Abe the fish guy. Overall, it was entertaining. The fight scenes were pretty cool, the visuals were impressive to look at, and I got some laughs--that's all I really ask from a movie like this.

I guess this is one of the beefs I sometimes have with people who complain about action, sci-fi, horror, or comic movies. I mean, I am not a "fanboy" who gets riled about the difference between the movie and the original comic. I am not expecting Oscar-caliber dialogue. The acting doesn't have to be fantastic (although if it's VERY bad I do find it annoying--the woman who played the underworld princess in HBII was TERRIBLE, and I did find that somewhat distracting) and my suspension of disbelief can ignore a lot that others can't. Frankly, when I watch a movie like this, I want to laugh, maybe gasp a few times, shovel popcorn in my mouth and be fucking entertained. Not every movie has to have historical significance or a social message or be cinamatically stunning. Sometimes I just want to watch Bruce Willis blow stuff up or Nicolas Cage punch some dude in the face or John Wayne shoot some guys. I think movies should be FUN. I dislike the idea that movies should be like cod liver oil--that some you should just shut up and swallow because they're "good" for you. Not me! You know, I have seen Citizen Kane, okay? And you know what? It's totally fucking dull. I realize that cinamatically it's very impressive for its time, and that in a historical context it's very very important. I know all that because it's not like it's a secret. Talk to any first-year film student and he or she will probably fill you in. However--and this is of course only my opinion--it's no fun at all to watch. The characters are all horrible and I couldn't connect with any of them. It was not funny. It was not exciting. It had no suspense. It merely plodded on for what seemed to me like an eternity, and that right there is NO FUN. I spend enough of my life having NO FUN at work--I have no interest in torturing myself with films that are a chore to watch when I'm on my own time.

Perhaps I just better than most at lowering my expectations?

Movie Bonanza!

It has been a very long time since I've posted, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been watching movies...oh no, it just means I haven't been WRITING about watching movies. Therefore, I am going to wallop you in the face with several mini-reviews. Lucky you, right?

1. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull: Personally, I liked this movie. It's certainly no Raiders of the Lost Ark or Last Crusade but it's a fun movie. Admittedly, it had its flaws. For one thing, the plot was kind of weak. I think this may have something to do with the fact that while the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail are commonly known artifacts, no one (or at least no one who doesn't read Weekly World News) has heard of the Crystal Skulls, and also that there was no cool "I have to put this stick in the exact right spot at the right time and then follow the sunbeam on the map to find the location of the door..." kind of thing. Basically it was like "Here's where we're going. Let's go there, everyone!" Also, Cate Blanchett's Russian accent was rather terrible. On the upside, there were some fun fight scenes, Shia LaBouf was significantly less annoying than I had suspected he would be (in fact, I found his character to be a pleasant surprise) and it was GREAT to see Karen Allen back again as Marion Ravenwood (my very favorite of the Indy heroines.) On the fence was the issue of "over-the-topness." For me, it wasn't a problem--I expected the movie to be cartoony or comic-bookish. In my opinion, that's fun. However some of those I saw the movie with, including The Boyfriend, were put off by the ridiculousness. I said "Oh, and his running away from that giant stone ball in the previous movie wasn't ridiculous?" but apparently they are not the same. *Shrug*

2. The Incredible Hulk: I don't know who is running the Marvel Comics production studio, but whomever it is, I hope he or she is being paid well. While this movie pales in the face of Iron Man, it is still a good solid superhero movie. The special effects were pretty good, the plot was reasonable, and the fight scenes were cool. Thumbs down, though, to casting Liv Tyler (who is not only a poor actress but also distractingly cross-eyed), and also to Edward Norton, who kind of looked for most of the movie like he didn't want to be there. On the whole, though, an entertaining way to kill few hours on a hot summer day.

3. The Golden Compass: This was okay, but so very VERY obvious that there were going to be sequels. Way to not finish A SINGLE STORYLINE, stupid director. Also, I would really have liked to see more armed polar bear warrior fights.

4. Mongol: This is a subtitled Chinese movie we went to see at the local second-run movie house. It's about the early life of Genghis Khan, and it was all right. I thought some of the cinematography was breathtaking, and on the whole it was very interesting, since I know NOTHING about Genghis Khan and almost nothing about current Chinese culture, let alone ancient Chinese culture. The performances from the two leads were powerful, but not overbearing--it's difficult to express so much power with a characters who almost never raise their voices. Unfortunately, the first half of the movie draaaaags for quite a while before things start getting exciting. It's a bit repetitive, and there are times when very confusing time-jumps occur. It's like, one minute the main character is escaping from being locked in a cage for more than a decade, and the next moment it's ten years later and he has an army thousands of men strong, with no real explanation of how things arrived at that point. It's like, "I'm sure whatever happened during that ten years that took him from prisoner to leading thousands of men into battle was probably interesting too...", and it's particularly annoying when the film then spends 10 or 15 minutes on something seemingly minor. I imagine there may be a sequel to this at some point, since it was critically acclaimed (nominated for best foreign film in the 2008 Oscars) and ends right at the point when Khan actually comes into control of the mongol hordes.

Rio Bravo: I like old westerns, and even I found this a little bit stupid. That feeling was not helped any by the part in the middle when Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson randomly stop defending the town from outlaws to sing a lovely ditty about someone named Cindy.

The Grand: This mockumentary about a poker tournament is only recommended for people who are into poker. If you watch poker on TV and follow it as closely as The Boyfriend and our friends (and by osmosis, I) do, then this movie will probably be hilarious because you will recognize all the references, player cameos, and cliches. It's in the Christopher Guest style (and his old friend Michael McKean actually shows up in a small part) which means most of the dialogue was improv, and in fact the final table of the tournament was really played by the no one knew how the movie was going to end, including the director. There are some great performances, including Woody Harrelson as a lovable loser, Dennis Farina as the old pro, Cheryl Hines as the female pro, and David Cross as the loony attention whore. Seriously though, if you don't know who Doyle Brunson is or are unaware what Phil Helmuth's famous for, don't even bother with this one.

Glory: This is a really good movie. However it makes me miss the days when Denzel Washington acted instead of just chewing scenery and baring his teeth a lot for no reason.

Whew! And now I'm spent.