Sunday, April 29, 2007

1 Man... 18 Hours... 3 Crappy Movies... Whoever Wins, I'm out $17

Since I'm a loser, and have no life, I managed to take in three movies in an 18 hour span. It began Friday night, when I felt that an evening of In and Out Burger and a movie about vikings would kick a little ass.

It's worth noting the Neopolitan Shake over at In and Out is top notch, and wound up being the highlight of all three cinema excursions.

Pathfinder: I heard horrible things about it, but at the end of the day, can one truly expect great things from a movie about Native Americans fighting off Viking invaders? Especially if it stars Karl "If They're So Smart How Come They're So Dead" Urban. It couldn't be that bad, right? At the very least, it should contain some good action scenes and provide me a mild escape from the world that surrounds me.
(this is Karl Urban in a much better movie. That says a lot)

The answer is sadly no on all counts. It's not even mildly entertaining. It's like a dumber, less competent (yet more honest) version of Apocalypto. It stars Karl "He's a Holy Half Dead Who's Seen The Underverse" Urban as the son of a great viking leader, who was left behind and raised by the native Americans. They call him Ghost, because he's white. They raise him as their own, but Ghost is still conflicted by his past demons. Meaning his viking heritage.

Luckily, some Norse invaders come along and begin slaughtering everybody. They speak in subtitles, and are led by Clancy Brown. They kill everyone, leaving Ghost to find the other villages and warn them. But not before kicking a little ass first. Which he does for about a minute. Then the movie gets stupid, as he finds the village and warns them, but they don't believe him or something, and then he has to become a pathfinder... I don't really know, I kinda tuned out halfway through. All I remember is that every possibly cool idea was used in another movie, and used to a less satisfying result. (The ice breaking scene from King Arthur, hiding in mud like Predator or Rambo, etc). Oh, I also seem to recall that a lot of the dialogue was ADR, and a lot of it seems to be trying to make up a story in voiceover, and with a lot of people's backs turned to the camera.

Oh, and how do you take Moon Bloodgood, the actress with an awesome name who was unbelievably hot on that show Daybreak, and turn her into someone unrecognizable? No sense at all of the woman's hotness! That's how you know you're dealing with a dumb movie. They should have just bought a tripod, and cut all the action scenes together while Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song plays. That would have made this a better movie. Maybe I should start bringing my iPod to the movies.

The Condemned: I was really looking forward to The Condemned. It looked like it could be in the vein of Surviving the Game, or any number of early 90s Van Damme or Seagal flicks. WWE Films made The Marine which, while not the finest of films, had some entertaining moments. And Stone Cold Steve Austin is a hell of a lot more charismatic than John Cena. This movie looks like dumb, goofy fun.

But it's not. It's not fun. Far from fun. It makes the stupidity of Pathfinder look like an exercise in Merchant Ivory restraint. The Condemned is mean and brutal and godawful. After giving it much deliberation, I can fully conclude that I hated this movie. It's not horrible on a sad level, like House of the Dead-bad. It's a whole new kind of loathsome, repugnant beast. What makes it all the more insulting is that it could have been really cool.

The movie's about some rich megalomaniacal douchebag who's excited because he's just discovered the power of the internet. That's seriously an apt description. You'd think it's about Stone Cold and Vinnie Jones and a bunch of other not so fearsome people put on an island and forced to fight it out, Battle Royale style, right? But it's not. It's like if someone remade the Running Man, but made it all about Richard Dawson's character but forgot to make it interesting. But then instead of showing you contestants fighting, it just kept coming back to this douche, and people who are just as annoying as he is.

Oh, and then they'll slap around a lot of big talk about morals and ethics and how we the audience are the ones demanding the gratuitous violence. They'll even outright state this, calling we the viewers the true condemned. Seriously. Ok, I understand that, maybe we are a nation of sick voyeurs who enjoy violence more than the rest of the world. But don't go wagging your finger at us then glorify (almost fetishize) Vinnie Jones as he coldly guns down a room full of internet techies (some of whom are hot chicks, glasses girl I'm looking in your direction). And not for nothing, given recent events with practically the entire country going nutty and gunning down folks from VA Tech to a mall in Kansas City, maybe they should have excised a little restraint themselves and held off on the movie for a bit. Sure, they have nothing to do with one another, but when you linger on the violence, it's creepy and distasteful.

Add on top of that the horrible scenes of backstory involving Stone Cold's character which include a group of people in a bar somehow gathered around an internet stream of the show and cheering along. Oh, and the fact that the director has absolutely no clue how to shoot an action scene, or a comedic scene, or any kind of scene, and then these non scenes add up to feel like a three hour movie, even though it's barely 90 minutes . And then, there's all the amazing opportunities to have a really cool movie that celebrates over the top violence with condemning the viewers for liking it. But no. this movie has nothing. This movie could have been something worth watching, but instead we get this festering boil of a movie that just grows uglier and more disgusting the longer it goes.

Next: Trying to get the taste of Condemned out of my mouth literally brought me to the theater next door, which was showing Next. Next is another one of those Philip K Dick movies that takes one solitary idea from a Philip K Dick novel or short story, and then expands that idea into something stupid with a lot of chases. (Paycheck, Imposter, etc.) The thing is, this time, if they didn't put the action movie cliches on, it could have been a really neat flick.

See, the premise is Nicolas Cage can see into the future. Only about two minutes into the future, and only if it affects him. So most of his life, he manages to come out ahead, having been able to see the immediate future. (Strangely enough, when I was in college, I was in a student film with a similar premise, and I played a guy who used this particular sense of the future to decide whether or not I'd be happier with an apple or a Snickers bar. Having viewed both options, I decided it to be a win-win situation.) Oh, but Nic Cage lives in Vegas and is an illusionist whose stage name is Frank Cadillac. Why is that his name? "Because it's two things I like. Frankenstein and Cadillacs."

That's seriously a line in the movie, and it's actually pretty funny when delivered by Cage. Mostly because that makes a lot of sense to Cage's character. Actually, his character lives really well with his ability, making money at casinos, avoiding trouble with the law by narrowly escaping before it's too late. Although he can only see for two minutes, and only about himself, he is able to see into the future long enough to see Jessica Biel sitting in a diner. Now, I often dream of this myself, but in this case, it has meaning, and Cage knows he must meet up with her. And then comes the best scene in the movie.

Cage knows that Biel is in this diner, but doesn't know why he can see that far ahead, or what she has to do with anything. He just knows it involves her. She enters the diner and sits by herself. Thus begins the many attempts of Nic Cage to find the best way to introduce himself without freaking her out or coming on too strong. Each attempt is shot down. The way the scene plays out is really good, kind of like a variation on Groundhog's Day, when Bill Murray keeps coming back the next day to fix the mistakes he made. Only quicker, because this is an action movie after all.

Yeah, the action plot involves a bomb, and Julianne Moore's relentless pursuit to become Tommy Lee Jones. I mean, to find Chris, because his abilities are so accurate, he must be able to help find the bomb. Never mind that it's a hairbrained scheme, and the FBI should be dedicating more time to finding the bomb over finding Nic Cage, but still. Moore gets to kick a little ass later on, but you still wonder what she's doing in this movie. So she's chasing him, Biel gets kidnapped, Cage agrees to finally help, and there's a pretty cool shoot out in a barge that involves Nic Cage using his powers. Then something AMAZINGLY COOL happens, but then when the movie should end, it doesn't. Oh no, it provides something horrid. Something so mind blowingly annoying I had to decree the film as "Shenanigans". It's something that pretty makes much of the last hour of the film pointless.

Oh, mild spoiler warning, I guess.

But the point is, I was digging Next. It was breezy, fun, a little silly, but not too dumb (not like the others I've seen recently), and Nic Cage played a neat character. If they made a romantic comedy about his character, and how he uses his powers to always know what to say or do next, THAT would be a movie worth watching. But after they pull that ending on me... well, I stand by my declaration of Shenanigans.

There you have three crappy movie reviews for three crappy movies. Go see Hot Fuzz.

No comments: