Saturday, June 30, 2007

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD MOVIE REVIEW























CAST: BRUCE WILLIS, JUSTIN LONG, TIMOTHY OLYPHANT, MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD, CLIFF CURTIS
DIRECTOR: LEN WISEMAN
RUNTIME: 130 min.
RATING: *
GENRE: ACTION

Who is that bald dude running around in that poor excuse for an action movie with the name of one of my favorite characters? This isn’t the John McLane I fell in love with, not even to the remotest possible degree. This dude isn’t funny and this dude can’t even say “Yippeekiyay”. All this guy seems to be is a leftover from all those superhero movies this summer, with a couple of angels riding on his shoulders.
John McLane was never the one man action force. He was so special because he was the quiet essential underdog, an arrogantly funny man who despite all his vulnerabilities and all odds saved the day. He was who we identified with. He was never a John J Rambo. But I guess Len Wiseman missed the bus on this one. I guess he saw the DVDs of the Die Hard movies with Rambo ones. How else could one explain this ugly metamorphosis of John McLane?
Forget about the Die Hard series, this movie isn’t worth even the price of the admission ticket. Whatever action there is could be caught right there in the official trailer. This is not your father’s action movie, this is a super dumb, super awful action movie with all the vices of the 70s action movie with absolutely no improvement whatsoever in any department. There is a line in the original when the Feds plan to defeat Hans Gruber. Sgt. Al Powell tells us John-“The feds have the anti terrorist manual and they’re following it step by step.” Well that is exactly what the men behind this fourth installment have only that the title on the manual is “How to cash in on the name of a brilliant action movie and steal money out of audiences’ pockets?” To be honest, the Die Hard series was dead and buried with the awful third outing that just didn’t end with that awful puzzles and all. Still, it was fun. But this here is enjoyable for only one class of audiences-the mentally retarded. As for its PG-13 rating, well I advise, nah, I implore you please don’t take your kids. These vile capitalists are out for your hard earned money. I could clearly see Bruce Willis mouth the golden “f” word but what I heard was jackass. Believe me, even your kid will notice that.
Plot, let me think. Some wise man once said-“It is better to keep your mouth shut and let people wonder than to open your mouth and dispel all doubts.” This movie obviously is under the impression that using something like cyber is the in-thing. Well it sure is but please do it intelligently. It is so embarrassing to see brain-dead hacking applications with a big, glaring “VIRUS UPLOADING: YES: NO”. The bad guy is the designer and the bad guy hacks because he wants money and blah, blah, blah. He jams everything and the United States in under a cyber attack. Chaos reigns. How is wish that chaos reigned on the sets and we wouldn’t have been here to witness this blatant rape of one of my cherished series.
For a sidekick, John McLane has a real, fully functional virus/pest in Mike Ferrell (Justin Long). Are these people morons? I mean, when the pairing with Samuel L Jackson didn’t work, how in the wide world was this one going to even find its bearings? I have no idea what heavenly purpose he served that couldn’t be worked around by the super dumb script. And why didn’t god be with the bad guys for once, just once and kill him right in the beginning? That would have saved me from a lot of brain damage. Then there’s Cliff Curtis as the FBI man who is in charge of preventing this kind of cyber attack. All the screenplay asks him to do is walk tight around his office. In a way, he has the toughest job because he has to mouth the lion share of the dialogues from the manual I mentioned above. And the villain, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant). One word, god awful. There’s one lady sidekick of his too, whose job is too look sexy and kick ass. Oh good lord, how uncreative these guys are. They were making a Die Hard sequel and all they could come up for a sidekick is a leather-clad karate proficient hottie. And the biggest joke is that Mai (Maggie Q) doesn’t exactly fit the bill of a hottie. Not even once did my eyes roll. Lucy McLane, John McLane’s chick, er, daughter is way, way hotter. And she is the only one who isn’t a pain on your senses. And what was that thing about Warlock (Kevin Smith)?
As for Bruce Willis, he is strictly okay. Not bad but okay. Nothing special at all. He seemed to be tired as well.
The most important point is the action. As I said, watch the trailer and you have the best part. Rest of it is pretty generic with zero thrills. It is all the more assaulting to the senses when these boring action sequences are spiced up with some humor, some very, very forced humor. Best is one helicopter sequence which takes forever to end as our “heroic” pair has a dose of humor for us. I have seen Mr. Bean shows funnier than this and I thought that was for mentally retarded.
To be honest, Die Hard movies haven’t ever been stupid. DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE was long, silly but never so incredibly dumb. This one not only asks you to suspend your disbelief with a titanium string, it even tries to cut that string. I had a tough time with my brain; times that I thought only existed in Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay movies. John McLane does everything from hitting a chopper with a car to playing duck to an F-35. And he always comes out on top, needless to say that.
Len Wiseman, what can I say about his masterwork here? He seems to have walked straight out of the sets of those awful UNDERWORLD movies. What was the need for all that color de-saturation is out of my comprehension. It looked good in that make-belief world of Underworld movies but here it pinches in the eye. Half of the action looks fake and the other half isn’t clear. How is that for an action movie? As for the parts between, it is a big yawn.
The best action movies don’t ever rely on the action. The action is just one part. The parts in between is what make them so special. Imagine what DIE HARD would have been without Hans Gruber and his explicitly pronounced accent and the exchanges between him and McLane. It had so many quotable quotes. Here, I can’t remember one, not a single one. What’s more, these guys even managed the tough task of brutalizing McLane’s Yippeekiyay.
Everything here is inevitable. It takes a miracle to kill somebody; mere worldly bullets won’t do the trick. Not even when a whole power grid explodes does our hero muster a scratch. And there’s a sequence where a whole room explodes but our hero, hidden behind a table or whatever again doesn’t have even a splinter come his way. I really liked what Justin Long’s character says when the whole power grid explodes but their vehicle and they themselves don’t get affected a wee bit. “What’s the point?” I’m sure he meant it in a different way but it sure explains a lot of stupidity in the movie. The rest is inexplicable by mere mortals like me.

Monday, June 11, 2007

OCEAN’S THIRTEEN MOVIE REVIEW




















CAST: GEORGE CLOONEY, BRAD PITT, MATT DAMON, DON CHEADLE, ELLIOT GOULD, ELLEN BARKIN, AL PACINO, ANDY GARCIA
DIRECTOR: STEVEN SODERBERGH
RUNTIME: 122 min.
RATING: ***1/2
GENRE: CAPER, COMEDY, BUDDY, THRILLER

The latest OCEAN movie isn’t exactly bad; in fact it is good. The OCEAN movies work on the basics i.e. character development, story telling stuff like that which never get outdated and are more often than not the surest way for a good movie. Add to that the talents of Clooney, Pitt and Damon helmed by Soderbergh and you have got more than what is necessary for a sure shot success formula. These movies work especially like one of those sitcoms where the charm of the characters makes even the silliest of jokes funny. Ditto here. Only that, the individual charm sure is intact but as a whole it is wearing thin.
The second one that was a party many felt uninvited to would be particularly satisfied as this one returns back to the formula of the first. Just in case you forgot the eleven, Daniel Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) are the architects, the planners behind every score. Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) is the superb trickster. Anything to be blasted and you turn to Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle). And for anything else from hacking to machinery, you turn to the ever quarrelling Malloy brothers, Virgil (Casey Affleck) and Turk (Scott Cann). Livingstone Dell (Eddie Jemison) is the expert with surveillance and bugging. Old Sam (Carl Reiner) is just that, an old conman. Frank Catton (Bernie Mac) is your vintage inside man with a superb background as a casino gambling operator. Yen (Shaobo Qin) is the physical genius, bending into anyplace. And last but certainly not the least, more so for this movie is Reuben (Elliot Gould) with all the insider knowledge of all the casinos. Reuben decides to go straight in the casino business and in the process is deceived with his land and money by Vegas casino man Rudy Bank (Al Pacino). Reuben, losing all his money suffers an all but fatal heart attack. Rudy Bank was one of the people who shook hands with Frank Sinatra and now by duping Reuben has broken the code. Ocean and his crew gather around Reuben’s death bed and decide to avenge him. How they do it and what are the odds to get even is OCEAN’S THIRTEEN.
The performances are what drive a movie like this. George Clooney is right back after his rather uninspired turn in THE GOOD GERMAN. And back is the good old charm. One thing that always amazes me about Clooney is the impassive expression he so effortlessly draws out; every time he does that I just can’t help laughing. And his chemistry with Pitt is as good as ever. Pitt is sleepwalking too, although neither the role nor his performance is as remarkable as the earlier two. Damon is as good as ever. The supporting members of the Ocean family all have their moments, especially Carl Reiner. As for Pacino, he is okay. Loud as he is nowadays, there isn’t anything special about it. One interesting thing, Scott Caan gets to act in a movie alongside Pacino and his father James Caan was Sonny in THE GODFATHER. Speaking of which, Ellen Barkin is the one being seduced here after she was the seductress in the Al Pacino starrer SEA OF LOVE.
It is the premise that is the weak link in the chain. One was a decent caper, a self mocking one that knew where to be smart and where to be funny. The second one was just something else. But the third here lacks the smartness of the original and doesn’t improve even half a notch in the fun aspect. I know it is supposed to be silly; in fact I like it for that. Caper movies that come across as serious are most often stupid. Movies like ENTRAPMENT are an insult to the intelligence of even the lowest common denominator among the audience. But here the silliness gets a bit too far. The radio controlled dice to rig the craps table is fine; I was okay with sending the Malloy brothers to Mexico. But what is with that earthquake machine. And I was most disappointed with how they decide to go for the actual diamonds on the rooftop. I mean, this is all they could come up with. Or are they taking their audiences for granted? This sure is not smart silliness, this is bordering on laziness. I know that Soderbergh and Clooney are running this franchisee for the sole purpose of bankrolling their artistic endeavors; THE GOOD GERMAN, SOLARIS. And make no mistake, I respect that, rather I support that. But don’t take these audiences for granted. Next thing you know, the OCEAN movies are dead and buried.
The fun aspect is right up there. This franchisee, being for the lowest commonest denominator among the audiences, is so funny its silliness might just be overlooked. Be it Clooney’s expressions, impassive ones sometimes, be it Pitt eating and unleashing his charm, or Damon with his nose. I like how they called the nose “Adrian”; guess you guys know who it referred to. And Reiner’s shooting at Pacino was real funny, “Hey, you’re being conned out of everything and you just look at us like a fool.”
But still, there rings a feeling of disappointment. OCEAN’S THIRTEEN is no SPDIERMAN 3 or SHREK THE THIRD to fall flat on its face. Neither is AT WORLD’S END to be a fitting finale. It is like one of those sitcoms, say FRIENDS. The best seasons are funny and smart and that is what you would recommend to a first timer. But some of the stupidest seasons are the ones you would be less exuberant about. You would love them for sure; how could you not? You cannot hate them, but you know that deep down that it is being trash that is being served out. OCEAN’S THIRTEEN isn’t trash; oh boy, it is very good. But I love the OCEAN movies and I love Danny, Rusty and Linus. But I am a wee bit less excited after watching this movie. Brad Pitt in an interview has said that they are gunning for the maximum sequels, with same stars; movies like ROCKY. Well Bernie Mac has an interesting line here that goes, “You don’t repeat the gag, you make a new one.” I guess they forgot to implement it this time around. If they intend to keep financing their artistic interests, please pay a lot more attention on the plot. And if you don’t, please don’t make a new one. Kills the life out of the other movies. I honestly say this, as a avid fan of Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Garcia, Soderbergh and the OCEAN movies; had it been any other movie with any other members, I sure would have shredded it to pieces. That says a lot about my two-faced fanboy integrity there.

Friday, June 01, 2007

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END MOVIE REVIEW























CAST: JOHNY DEPP, KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, GEOFFREY RUSH, ORLANDO BLOOM, BILL NIGHY, CHOW YUN-FAT, TOM HOLLANDER
DIRECTOR: GORE VERBINSKI
RUNTIME: 168 min.
RATING: *****
GENRE: ADVENTURE, ACTION, FANTASY, COMEDY

Finally the movie to warm up the summer has arrived. I had almost resigned myself to Jason Bourne after SPIDERMAN 3 and SHREK THE THIRD but how in the wide world could Captain Jack Sparrow disappoint. Especially when he has the company of his former mate Barbossa. Not to forget a host of other pirates and what we have here is truly the best time I have had at the movies this year.
For a summer blockbuster AT WORLD’S END is the rarest of the rare breed; it has a plot. Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio are real geniuses; how could they make such a fantastic story line that spanned cross three movies from a thing as trivial as a theme ride. AT WORLD’S END is even more complex than its predecessors and at times gets a bit difficult to follow with almost every character having a subplot. Nevertheless the movie never feels its running time and is arguably the best of the trilogy.
Elizabeth Swann, Barbossa and Will Turner go to Singapore to seek the help of Pirate captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) to rescue Captain Jack Sparrow and his Black Pearl from Davy Jones’ locker. That is not the ultimate aim; Jack Sparrow is to be summoned for the Nine lords of the Brethren are to meet at the court to discuss the threat looming large on the pirate fraternity. Lord Beckett has control over Davy Jones’ heart and thus is using him and The Flying Dutchman to get rid of the pirates one by one. The nine lords and the Naval forces re to square off for what would be the epic battle for the survival of the pirates.
I cannot remember a movie franchisee that has been as successful as this one in creating its own world with its own set of interesting characters and entertained us as beautifully as this. I guess the STAR WARS would be one. Fully fleshed characters with almost everyone being unforgettable is something that is one of the toughest thing to do in movies, especially when it is a summer blockbuster riding high on money. PIRATES here sure does fit the bill. And that too not from a book but a theme ride. God I’m amazed.
As for Jack Sparrow, AT WORLD’S END is more in tune with CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL in that Sparrow has relatively less time. He sure does have the Jack’s share of one-liners but AT WORLD’S END is more about the eventuality of the pirate world. For one, the romantic triangle between Jack, Elizabeth and William that made DEAD MAN’S CHEST all the more delicious to savor has been all but done away with and understandably so, considering the weight of the narrative. With it goes the gorgeous chemistry between Swann and Jack that was so hot. But they exchange a line right at the end, which is one of the moments to look forward to. Many fans of the original complained with all the monsters taking screen time in DEAD MAN’S CHEST. Well the Kraken is out and Beckett is more than what they were looking for. It is all about pirates and much, much more.
The character that will stay with me, apart from Jack, has to be that of Elizabeth. Who could have wondered that such a fantastic female character could be borne out of a pirate movie? She is something straight out of a noir-ish tale and is so breathtakingly charming. It sure has to do as much with the characterization as with Knightley’s performance. She for me is the character of PIRATES after Captain Jack.
What can I say about Johnny Depp and the most wonderful character he has created? Needless to say, this again is a performance right out of the top drawer. How many actors can claim to keep a character consistently funny? Peter Sellers for one, and Depp here is right in that league. He has created what is the most amazing character of our generation; Captain Jack and his quirky mannerisms is just the exterior. But hidden beneath is an amazing pirate who is as mysterious as the depths of the deepest seas. There have been many one-liners from him but the one that so beautifully encapsulates him is uttered by Beckett’s man in AT WORLD’S END – “Does he have it planned all along or does he just make it up as he goes along?” Well, former or latter one thing’s for certain, Captain Jack for me will remain right alongside Harry Callaghan from DIRTY HARRY, The man with no name from the dollar trilogy and T-101 from TERMINATOR 2: THE JUDGMENT day as my favorite movie characters of all time. And yeah, watch out for someone in the movie quite similar to Captain Jack. You are in for a very, very pleasant surprise as I was too.
Geoffrey Rush is an absolute delight. Next to Depp, he has the maximum one-liners. The chemistry between him and Depp, although not as sparkling as CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, is fantastic.
Orlando Bloom is the surprise package here. Maybe it is treatment meted out to the character, but he is no longer the weak link in the chain as he was in the other two.
Chow Yun-Fat, the only prominent new face quite elegantly mixes into the thick of things and it is not long before he is part of the PIRATE folklore.
AT WORLD’S END is a fantastic achievement as far as summer movies are concerned. In fact, the three movies are arguably the best adventure movies ever. Never have the high seas been more entertaining. I have never seen Errol Flynn’s pirate movies during that golden age of the sub-genre but I’m sure there could be none more entertaining than this here. For sheer entertainment, this franchisee is your one stop. There have been very few times when I have been entertained as much as I have been on the course of these three movies.
Gore Verbinski has done what Coppola couldn’t and that is making a third installment worthy of its predecessors. In fact, all the three movies are worthy of each other. Kudos to him and the screenwriters to go for the hard way out at the end where others would have followed the trodden path. Verbinski, along with Peter Jackson are the competitors as the heir to Spielberg’s throne of summer entertainment.
People might complain that the movie is too plot-heavy. Well, I for one like my dish dense and it is amazing that a film that has $300 million riding in production costs alone doesn’t go for the easy and stupid way out by rehashing all that the previous two installments had to offer, some thing what SPIDERMAN 3 and SHREK THE THIRD were found guilty of. AT WORLD’S END sure does have what the other two has but it is something of its own.
Watch AT WORLD’S END; it will give you everything you hope to get from a PIRATES movie, hell it will give you everything that can be given in a summer blockbuster. Every one you have come to love in these movies has been given time and a befitting ending. But sit through the end credits, will you, for Captain Jack might be back. And I hope he’s back. Savvy?