Friday, August 17, 2012



Written by Tony Gilroy and Dan Gilroy
Directed by Tony Gilroy
Actors: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Scott Glenn, Zelijko Ivanek

I did not expect to like "The Bourne Legacy" and I dragged my feet into the movie. Did we really need to see another Bourne movie, without Damon and not based on a Ludlum story? Well I am happy to say my eyes were glued to the screen during this intense potboiler even during the long, talky opening hour. After a hour of seeming to go nowhere but enticing me still the movie explodes with an awesome last hour. That last hour is intense, exciting, action packed and a lot of fun. Oh and the car and foot chases are very well done by director Tony Gilroy.

Tony Gilroy wrote and directed the excellent masterpiece "Michael Clayton". He is now two for two for he has made a surprisingly top notch Bourne movie. The original trilogy was a hard act to follow and even though I found the second two movies of the Damon Bournes better (the first Bourne was the weakest) than this reboot I didn't expect this solid of a movie. I like Damon better but Renner gets the job done and makes a great action star. To me the real star of this movie though is the wonderful and beautiful Rachel Weisz. She gives an amazing performance as a scientist and doctor who gets mixed up in the plot.

I won't explain the plot becuase it is too complicated and I want you to enjoy unraveling it. I will say that there are reports that Jason Bourne has resurfaced and the CIA has to wipe out everything and everyone involved with Jason. From there I will let you find out the surprises and all the wonderful suspense. I will say that I was very intrigued by the slow, talky first hour and then in the last hour I was on the edge of my seat! This is a crackling good spy yarn with great intensity and action. Plus you get a performance by Weisz that brings down the house for me. You also get Stacy Keach, Scott Glenn and the awesome Edward Norton. Not bad for an action series reboot. I am actually looking forward to a sequel!



Written by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Simon West
Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Arnold Scwarzeneggar, Liam Hemsworth, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jet Li

I am just like a kid when I see the action stars I grew up with in the 80's come back and make two movies that are better than a lot of the movies they made in the 80's. "The Expendables" and now "The Expendables 2" are dumb and full of wall to wall fights, explosions and snarky one liners but I love it! It really doesn't matter what the plot is here and I won't explain it. Let's just say that the wooden Van Damme, yes still wooden, is a bad french guy who wants to steal plutonium to make nuclear bombs and take over the World. I was never a Van Damme fan but hell if I didn't want to give him a hug and say "I Miss Your Wooden Acting, stiff ole lovable self!"

The plot doesn't matter and the one liners are dumb but I laughed at every one! I loved how Chuck Norris pops up and steals the movie along with the hilarious, yes hilarious, Dolph Lundgren. Stallone actually looks the most relaxed I have seen him in ages! Seeing him, Arnold and Bruce together made me laugh and feel all warm all over. The action is good and actually this sequel is better than the more cluttered, messier original now that director Simon West took over the reigns. I didn't like the fight at the end, it could have gone on longer, but this is fun. There is also a nice moment between Stallone and a young soldier played by Liam Hemsworth.

"The Expendables 2" is fast food junk but it gets the job done better than most movies with higher ambitions have this year. It doesn't take itself seriously and some say it is close to a self parody. That is of course the point here. This is also lighter than the original movie. I found the decent first movie more serious thus weaker than this more satisfying sequel and I had more fun here. Though I have a question, where does Jet Li go after the opening scenes? Oh, who cares?



Written by Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell
Directed by Jay Roach
Actors: Will Ferrell, Zach Galfianakis, Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa, Jason Sudeikis, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd

"The Campaign" should be a perfect fit for what is happening today with the presedential race heating up now. The problem is that the real thing is funnier than this movie. I don't mind a raunchy movie but all this comedy has is again sex and dick jokes. Did we not just see this with "The Watch"? This is another lazy and very dissapointing comedy wasting great talent. I don't expect a biting satire on politics but I at least wanted something to laugh at. I did laugh slightly a few times but this comedy goes nowhere.

"The Campaign" stars Will Ferrell as Cam Brady who is the incumbent senator who has no challenge to his run in office. That is until two rich brothers, played by Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow, pick a regular citizen to run against Cam. He is Marty Huggins and he is a fussy, naive man who should get swallowed up alive by the competition. That is until a crafty and arrogant campaign manager played by Dylan McDermott gives him some gravitas.

The movie then runs a series of jokes that make fun of Marty's family who I didn't find that funny. I got tired of Zach Galfiankakis's schtick after 15 minutes and the movie's big joke is shown in the trailer and it doesn't play as funny in the movie. This is where Cam punches a baby by mistake. What is funnier is when Marty punches the star of "The Artist", the dog Uggie. Actually the only times I laughed was during jokes that dealt with the abuse of dogs so there you are. I also loved Dylan McDermott's performance and he steals the movie away from Zach and Ferrell who aren't as funny. This minor, usually serious actor stealing the laughs away from the big comedy heavyweights happened with last week's disaster "The Watch". "The Campaign" is devoid of laughs and ideals.

P.S. For a better movie like this that is a drama but is ten times funnier check out "Primary Colors".

Thursday, August 16, 2012



Written by Seth Rogen, Jared Stern and Evan Goldberg
Directed by Akiva Schaffer
Actors: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Billy Crudup, Will Forte, Doug Jones, Rosemary Dewitt

I kept thinking about the classic 1984 comedy "Ghostbusters" while watching the dissapointing "The Watch". It isn't fair to compare this movie to that classic but something funny could have come out of "The Watch". It starts out pretty well for the first 15 minutes reminding me of something like "Up the Creek" where we are introduced to all the characters quickly. There is only a 5 minute exposition and then we are off to the races!

We are in a small town in Ohio where four men band together to form a neighborhood watch after a Costco security guard was killed by something. The four men are very different and are played by Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade. The four do find out that it was aliens that killed the guard. Now the watch has to protect their little town and the Earth. There are scattered laughs throughout "The Watch" but a lot of dead spots. Stiller, Vaughn and Hill try their best and do their schtick that they have done in other movies. This is not their shining moment and this is another squandering of a killer comedy lineup.

I didn't expect a classic like "Ghostbusters" and I am afraid that 84 classic is a one in a lifetime deal for a comedy mixed with special effects. The aliens look similiar to other aliens in alien movies, now wouldn't you want to make them look weirder and funnier? So I didn't like Jonah Hill's character and Stiller and Vaughn are boring. What I did like were two funny performances that belonged in a funnier movie. Richard Ayoade plays the fourth member who is British and African American. He steals the movie away from Hill, Vaughn and Stiller because he doesn't mug for the camera like the others which makes him slyer and funnier. I also loved the great comic performance by Billy Crudup (Almost Famous) again laying the comedy down better than the big three along with Ayoade.

"The Watch" is lazy, uninspired and a waste of good talent. It also doesn't help that the movie comes out around the time of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. If the movie had more imagination instead of sex and dick jokes we wouldn't mind. There are little corners of the movie where real comedy is trying to get out but everyone except for Ayoade and Crudup look like they are phoning it in and stealing a paycheck. Why can't anyone ever make something as inspired as "Ghostbusters"? I am begging someone to do it!

P.S. For better movies like this check out "Super 8", "Ghostbusters" and even "The Burbs" which is a guilty pleasure of mine.


'HOPE SPRINGS' (PG-13) (1 1/2 STARS)

Written by Vanessa Taylor
Directed by David Frankel
Actors: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Elizabeth Shue, Jean Smart

You know you are in trouble most of the time with a movie that has a generic title. You can expect a lot of dull predictability but with names like Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones attached you would expect a better movie to honor it's stars. "Hope Springs" is a phony, sappy letdown and one of the worst screenplays I have witnessed in a long time. This movie annoyed me more than almost any other movie this year. Streep and Jones try to save it and of course they are good but this story plays out like a simpleton wrote it.

"Hope Springs" is centered on a married couple, Kay and Arnold, who have been together for 31 years. The love seems to be gone from their marriage and in an opening shot that kind of bugged me Kay looks in the mirror to see what is missing. That is the first of many obvious, phony moments lifted out of screenwriting 101. The couple go through the same routine in the morning and they both come home at night, Arnold falls asleep in front of the TV and they go to their seperate rooms and beds. In another phony and obvious groaner joke at dinner one night Kay and Arnold tell their kids for their 31st anniversary they got the new cable package (Groan!).

Kay sees a brochure to a couple's retreat that provides therapy for strained marriages. The place is in a small Canadian town I think and this town has to be the phoniest Hollywood town in history. Arnold continues to be grouchy and here Tommy Lee Jones is playing a cariacture of himself and it annoyed me. He yells at Streep a lot in this movie and the story just lays on the phoniness until I surrendered. They go to this couple's guru played by Steve Carell in a surprisingly bland and dull performance, unusual for him. Carell is given a dull character and I know therapists are serious but it's Carell! You think that they would give his character something funny to say oh I don't know once in the movie?

The therapy sessions are terribly written and maybe it's because I find therapy sessions phony and marriage counselling ridiculous but this screenplay is bad. This is based on a self help book I guess but to think any therapist could save a marriage is a bunch of crap to me and the writing here supports my point of view. This is the same kind of ego centric crap that "Eat Pray Love" was which was a memoir written by the arrogant Elizabeth Gilbert. The sessions here are badly written, boring, annoying and if it wasn't for Streep and Jones I would have walked out half way through the movie. I just couldn't concentrate on this droning, too safe lesson on how not to make a movie about marriage.

"Hope Springs" was directed by David Frankel who directed "Dan in Real Life" with Steve Carell and now the critics who panned that under rated movie now owe me an apology. This is a moronic movie made by people who think they have the answer on how to save a marriage that has lost it's passion. Well, no one has the answer except the people who are actually the married couple. "Hope Springs" proves this because if the answer is in this movie then all married couples are screwed. I can't believe this but Meryl Streep is in one of the worst movies of the year so far.

P.S. For a better movie made by the same director please check out "Dan in Real Life" which is one of the most under rated movies of the last decade. For a real look at therapy and pshycology revisit the powerful "Ordinary People".

Wednesday, August 8, 2012



Written by Tracy Letts
Directed by William Friedkin
Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Juno Temple

I love that Matthew McConaughey is shedding those dumb, romantic comedies and is now looking for roles that are deeper and can showcase his under rated acting talents. McConaughey has always been a sexy, funny and charming screen presence but the man can also act. Look at character type roles where McConaughey stripped himself of the hunk stereotype. Like 1992's classic "Dazed and Confused" where he dissapeared into his role and played someone other than Matthew McConaughey. Now in 2012 he has found his THIRD deep and wonderful character role where he dissapears into the character he is playing.

McConaughey is brilliant and subtly effective as a charasmatic but deep down very evil killer in "Killer Joe". It is a story based on the stage play by Chicago's own wonderful playwright Tracy Letts. This is the second Lett's adaptation directed by the legendary William Friedkin. Friedkin was the explosive director of "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist" and he has directed stage adaptaions early in his career and now with Letts. Friedkin lost his greatness with a lot of bad choices in movies and "Killer Joe" is his best movie since one of the best cop movies ever made, 1985's "To Live and Die in L.A." It is a deranged, very violent, sometimes sick but hilarious crime movie. It is like film noir in a trailer park and reminded me of a mix of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Double Idemnity".

Friedkin directed Lett's "Bug" a few years back and it was an intense and very well acted but claustrophobic movie. I like "Killer Joe" better because there is more room to breathe and a more wonderful, twisted sense of humor. McConaughey plays Joe who is an ex-cop who is now a killer for hire. When McConaughey first shows up he owns the screen and gives off a cool, detached but somehow charming demeanor. He is hired by Chris Smith to kill Chris's mother and then cash in on her insurance claim. His father Ansel and stepmother Sharla are in on it too. Chris can't pay Joe off the bat but Joe demands he take Chris's virginal sister Dottie as his retainer. From there the movie is set and the double crosses, outlandish scenes and extreme violence can start!

The Smith family is Southern Gothic at it's best and they are incredibly stupid and real rednecks. The acting of the family is brilliant as Thomas Haden Church is brillantly funny as Chris's father. Emile Hirsch as Chris gives the best performance of his career. Gina Gershon is still sexy even though her character is made to look ugly and is humiliated in one scene. I also loved Juno Temple (Dark Knight Rises) as Dottie, she makes a huge first impression in her first big role. Friedkin does a great job at getting the Gothic tone down and the movie struck me as very original, especially after the terrible "Total Recall".

The movie is not for the squeamish for the last half hour with all the twists and depravity can get downright nasty. There is a scene involving oral sex that will never make you look at oral sex in the same way again. The movie also made me laugh out loud throughout and I haven't done that much this year. I love this kind of sick, twisted crime film and the Smith family knocked me out with their stupidity. Matthew McConaughey again gives one of the best performances of the year and by doing very little actually except making us believe Joe is cool even though he might be pure evil. With his hilarious District Attorney in "Bernie", his Oscar caliber performance in "Magic Mike" and now this he is having a career year that any actor would be jealous of.



Written by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback based on a Phillip K. Dick story
Directed by Len Wiseman
Actors: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy

In hindsight I guess it is conceivable to remake the shlocky but very entertaining 1990 movie "Total Recall". The 90's version has antiquated visual effects in comparison to today's era. The 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegar movie "Total Recall" was cheesy and very violent and this remake is very serious and more action packed. I will take the cheesy version anytime for this remake has no sense of humor, no imagination and it wastes the comic talents (Yes, I said it!) of Colin Farrell. After the movie I felt beaten up and depressed.

The new movie does not go to Mars like the 1990 Paul Verhoeven version and I am told the original Phillip K. Dick story didn't go there either. Though part of the charm of the old Recall was the over the top violence and goofy imagination. Also Schwarzenegar played his role serious in his own way in the original but the movie knew to be jokey and play on Arnold's unpolished acting. The new movie does not have one scene of humor or no sense of humor AT ALL save for the woman with the three breasts lifted from the original. Colin Farrell can be funny so why didn't they use that to lift this film's dead toned nature.

The movie's plot isn't that inspired. Farrell plays a factory worker named Quaid who goes to a place called Total Rekall. People in this future World go there to get their memories erased and live out their fantasies. Instead for Quaid he finds out he is really a spy and that his wife played by Kate Beckinsale isn't really his wife though he has been sleeping with her for years. There are two worlds that exist now and a tunnel betwween them. In the only original and inventive part of the story Quaid has to take an elevator that drops down and down to get from one world to the next. After that the good ideals stop save for some excellent production design.

Here is the problem though besides the movie not having any sense of humor. There is not an original thought in this movie save for that tunnel ride. The movie may look great but great looking dreck is still dreck. This movie has been done before even besides the 1990 movie. There are two movies that are way better than this rip off and actually this movie is an insult to both these movies. The first one is "Blade Runner" and Recall so wants to be just as cool and beautiful looking as "Blade Runner" and it fails. The second is one of the 25 best movies of 2000-2009, "Minority Report", co-starring a funny Colin Farrell (See!?) and Tom Cruise. That movie has striking visual effects like the Recall remake except it has a sense of humor, thrills, mystery, suspense and one of the most original and imaginative stories of the past decade and a half. "Total Recall" even shamelessly lifts the style, look and some of the actual scenes from that masterpiece.

Len Wiseman is not a director that exemplifies greatness being that he made the terrible "Underworld" movies. His "Total Recall" is boring, a rip off, has a lot of action you can't follow and a flat and emotion free ride of mediocrity and dullness. Plus you waste the beautiful and sexy Kate Beckinsale, the awesome Bryan Cranston and one of the best bodies you will see on screen in Jessica Biel. After seeing it the movie made me question why I have to see every movie that comes out. I wasted two hours of my time I can't get back. It is depressing that we have to remake every movie and sometimes it is not a bad ideal. It is depressing because there is no attempt to add anything fresh here from the original or anything to differentiate this from any other piece of redundant crap out there. Can we start remaking bad movies instead of good, great or successful movies? I am begging you Hollywood!

P.S. For a better remake that was funny, sexy and thrilling and starred Farrell please check out the criminally under rated "Fright Night" reboot.