Savages (2012)

Directed By: Oliver Stone

Written By: Shane Salerno, Don Winslow & Oliver Stone (screenplay)

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Benicio Del Toro and Blake Lively

Synopsis:

Stoners vs. Mexican drug cartel. A new take on “The Tortoise and the Hare”.

Musings:

*&#*$%!

I keep going to Oliver Stone movies hoping that I’ll get to see another Natural Born Killers or Platoon. Is the Oliver Stone that directed Savages the same guy who directed those beauties or is this Oliver Stone, the used car salesman with the same name and mistakenly was asked to direct a piece of schlock, filled with attractive Hollywood B-listers and only a sprinkle of actual talent (Benicio Del Toro) to try to legitimize this piece of shit movie? I’m not even exaggerating, it‘s excrement.

The script is filled with dialogue that is fit for an imbecile. The 3 main actors that deliver the script stink of imbecility. Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch (forever Tim Riggins) and Blake Lively are a disgrace to the craft acting, but not to the eyes, that’s for sure.

The cinematography is pretty damn good and has all the polished elements of Hollywood. The violence in the film keeps the audience’s attention because we all like to see gunfights and asses being kicked. This is the Hollywood machine at its finest – lacking substance but looking pretty. Thanks for nothing, Ollie.

I will patiently await his next biopic, “Obama! Don’t Get Any On Ya”.

Problem: Tim Riggins

Mood for watching: Asleep

What to eat and drink: Carne asado and Tecate

If I made it: I would have written a protagonist that could actually fight a Mexican cartel

Why watch: Don’t

The Avengers (2012)

Directed By: Joss Whedon

Written By: Joss Whedon (screenplay) & Stan Lee & Jack Kirby (comic book)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson

Synopsis:

Two powerful forces battle for control of a powerful energy source. Sound familiar?

Musings:

I’m not going to lie, I had a great time watching this light hearted comic book romp, filled with heroes and villains a plenty. I don’t have much of a personal connection to any of these characters (like I do with Batman) so I let myself have fun, which sounds strange given my history of ripping on movies.

The special FX straddle a fine line between over the top and campy, which gave it a comic book feel. The Avengers isn’t dark, even though they fight evil. Rather, it just feels like a team of strong people, some with superpowers, having fun frolicking and fighting evil. They do seem like they’re having too much fun.

The standout performance goes to Mark Rufalo who didn’t say much but played a great Bruce Banner/Hulk. The rest of the cast was fine, Sco Jo and all. My only negative comment is saved for Jeremy Renner who played Hawkeye. Renner’s character is about as useless as he is. How did he crack the Hollywood scene? He’s even been given the keys to the Bourne franchise. I don’t know him personally and he may be a really nice guy but shit damn he’s a terrible actor. I will have to skip an Avengers sequel if he’s in it, so I hope he disappears quickly.

Story is simple, acting is simple, FX are good and everybody loves Joss Whedon (don’t really know why), sounds like a recipe for success. Enjoy!

Problem: Sco Jo’s accent

Mood for watching: Hyper

What to eat and drink: Caviar and Snake Oil

If I made it: Nick Fury would recite Ezekiel 25:17

Why watch: To let loose

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Directed By: Joe Johnston

Written By: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (screenplay)

Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell and Tommy Lee Jones

Synopsis:

America builds a superweapon against the Axis of Evil.

Musings:

Not to shabby at all. Like cilantro in a batch of fresh salsa, I was pleasantly surprised by this superhero comic book flick. I’m not overly into the patriotic American bullshit but the character was created in 1941 so I give them a pass. Captain America can kick some serious ass and that shield of his is magical.

I like the casting of Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith from The Matrix) as Red Skull the super villain, he was pretty bad ass and his little sidekick played by Toby Jones was perfect. I feel like they nailed all of the characters from Stanley Tucci all the way to Hayley Atwell who looked perfect for the time period.

Truth be told, I personally have a soft spot for superheroes and supervillians. That’s not to say that I won’t be critical of them, I just give them more of a pass because they aren’t trying to be anything other than the special effects extravaganzas they are (accept for Batman because that should be perfect). I did appreciate that they didn’t go overboard on the terrible one-liners.

Problem: It was only made to set up the Avengers

Mood for watching: Patriotic

What to eat and drink: Spinach and Castor Oil

If I made it: The movie would have ended later in time

Why watch: Vibranium

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Written By: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan (screenplay)

Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway and Gary Oldman

Synopsis:

Gotham City is a craptastic place to live.

Musings:

I will admit that I had a great time watching this film. How can you not when you’re sitting in an IMAX theatre with your senses being inundated by a larger than life screen and sound so big that it makes your organs vibrate. It was a rush and I recommend watching in this format.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman is by far the biggest in terms of action and special FX, but in this third installment I found myself a little disappointed. Yes, it was a fantastic piece of action-comic spectacle, but was it really as great as the fanatics think?  Sequels are rarely as good as the original with the exception of a few gems (Back to the Future and Indiana Jones).

So what didn’t I like? The story line was too similar to The Avengers, which started off the blockbuster season. Bane was an okay villain, but doesn’t stack up to Heath Ledger’s Joker, but who can? The vocal effects made him difficult to understand and he sounded too much like Darth Vader with a peculiar accent. Also, some of the major plot points were weak sauce, like bland Indian food. In the back of mind, I just hoped that this final Nolan Batman would blow the roof off of comic movies.

That being said, the acting was fantastic. I’m going to miss Christian Bale’s version of Batman, I think the character has definitely benefitted from him. Michael Caine was a touch on the weepy side (belivable weepy) and I had a hard time keeping a straight face because I couldn’t stop thinking about Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s impressions of him from The Trip. Also, a quick shout out to Gary Oldman, JGL and Anne Hathaway (never thought I would give her a shout out), who were perfectly cast in their roles.

Finally, the opening sequence was top notch; with a great cameo from Aidan Gillan a.k.a. Tommy Carcetti from The Wire. The stunts/CG made me giddy. It was the most impressed I have been since staring into the eye of the great T-Rex in Jurassic Park.

Problem: Not dark enough

Mood for watching: Psyched

What to eat and drink: Twix and Root beer

If I made it: I would have pit Batman against Maxie Zeus or The Mad Hatter

Why watch: For the spectacle

25th Hour (2002)

Directed By: Spike Lee

Written By: David Benioff (screenplay and novel)

Starring: Edward Norton, Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Synopsis:

I always thought there were 24 hours in a day. I guess I was wrong.

Musings:

This film is a slice of the protagonist’s life before he spends 7 yeas in the clink.

Normally, I like Spike Lee movies better when he also writes them. Luckily, 25th Hour seemed to be a good compromise: it is still set in the New York City that he knows so well, he managed to sneak in a little diatribe about racial tension and used his floating character dolly shots.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, or as I know him,  PSH, is one of the most talented actors in the biz. His list of classic characters that he has played is immense (Big Lebowski, Twister and Capote). He has rarely disappointed me, even when he takes on a shitty movie like Pirate Radio. In 25th Hour, he manages to capture the subtlety of his inappropriate High School teacher character, while giving him some humanity. I will gush more about PSH in the next film I review that he is in (I think he might be in the next Hunger Games, boo hiss).

Also in this movie is Barry Pepper, who may be one of the most underrated actors. He puts together a heavy performance, with a tough exterior shell and tender interior, like a lobster or crab. I hope I get to work with him one day.

What makes this film great is the simplicity of the story and how it relies on mood alone to carry it. If I was being sent to jail for 7 years, I think it would suck as much as Edward Norton’s character makes you feel.

A great one to revisit if you’ve already seen it and if you haven’t then what are you waiting for?

Problem: Crucial element unexplained

Mood for watching: Gangsta

What to eat and drink: Street meat and champagne

If I made it: I would continue making movies with PSH in them

Why watch: It’s a Spike Lee Joint

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

Directed By: Goran Dukic

Written By: Goran Dukic (screenplay) and Etgar Keret (short story)

Starring: Patrick Fugit, Shea Whigham, Will Arnett and Tom Waits

Synopsis:

Purgatory doesn’t sound so bad. A nice place to vacation, like the Hamptons.

Musings:

I’ve always wondered what happened to Almost Famous star Patrick Fugit? This movie is what happened to him; accept now he has a sweet five O’clock shadow.

The only thing that makes me more frustrated than watching a horrible movie is watching a movie that has potential but for whatever reason the director is afraid to take it somewhere interesting. Maybe that’s why director Goran Dukic hasn’t made anything since Wristcutters.

The clever setting in this movie provides a spark of intrigue. The journey begins and then expectations are not met. I wouldn’t be as hard on this movie if the expectations created, shifted focus and took the audience to a completely different destination, but the train was loaded and never left the station.

What’s craziest about this whole endeavor is that somehow Dukic managed to dupe Tom Waits into being part of his lackluster sideshow. Tom waits was great but neither him nor his amazing music could save this.

I completely understand that making great independent cinema is extremely difficult, but once you’re in the belly of the beast you might as well give it a go. There’s no way that good cameos and bad Russian accents are going to get you anywhere.

Poop!

Problem: It doesn’t go beyond the creative setting

Mood for watching: Cracked out

What to eat and drink: Cinnamon toast crunch and Pims Cup

If I made it: The soundtrack would only have songs by artists who committed suicide.

Why watch: Because you’ll watch anything with Tom Waits in it

Take This Waltz (2011)

Directed By: Sarah Polley

Written By: Sarah Polley

Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman

Synopsis:

The grass is always greener, but is it really? Maybe if you put some kind of crazy ass fertilizer on it?

Musings:

I really wanted to like this movie. In theory, I think that Sarah Polley is cool, she drinks at Crooked Star and all that good stuff, but let’s face it, in reality, she’s a suck ass writer/director. Ya ya ya, she is Canada’s little sweetheart from Road to Avonlea but I can’t give her a pass. I don’t want to be a hater but I have no choice.

Somehow she landed 3 very talented people, but didn’t manage to utilize them at all. Michelle Williams was endearing as she always is, but that has nothing to do with the movie and more to do with her hipster wardrobe. Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman were caged comedians that weren’t allowed to come out and play. I’m not sure what the atmosphere was like on set, but it seemed like nobody had any fun making this movie.

If you’re going to make a movie where the city is such a central focus (like Toronto was in this movie), then make the travel in the city realistic. Nothing annoyed me more than the incongruence in travel from point A to point B, where the hell is the Toronto continuity?

Also, using the title of a Leonard Cohen song doesn’t automatically make your movie cool.

Problem: Lame discussion on how fickle relationships are

Mood for watching: Frustrated

What to eat and drink: Tacos El Asador and an espressado

If I made it: Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman would have 8 min to rip on each other

Why watch: For an extremely saturated Toronto look