Unlike most of my generation, I didn’t grow up with Robocop in my nostalgia filter. I only saw the original 1987 film for the first time last year, around the same time the remake was coming out, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Joel Kinnaman, Omar from the Wire and Rorschach, plus of course, Michael Keaton. Notice something missing from that amazing cast? There are no women in it. In the original Robocop film, there were two important female leads: Robocop’s partner (who was replaced by Michael K. Williams) and Robocop’s Doctor (replaced by Gary Oldman). I love those actors and the new movie was available on Netflix, so I gave it a shot.
(Robocop Detroit Map T-Shirt from our vast Movie T-Shirt catalog.)
What made the original a classic and the remake suck? It’s certainly not the cast, as Michael Keaton gives a subtle but slimy performance as the corporate bad-guy and the lead, Joel who plays Murphy actually reminds me of a young Michael Bhein more than a young Peter Weller (not a bad thing, either way). If anything, they wasted a perfectly good cast.
The two problems I had with the structure of the remake were evident in the opening of it: there is no protagonist to root for (we meet Sam Jackson’s horrible TV personality first) and instead of focusing on a gang and drug war torn Detroit, we see a stereotypical depiction of war torn Middle East needing the US to save the day. Worst of all sins however is just the new Robocop is boring. It’s shiny plastic PG-13 crap with no blood, no bite and no wit. The Paul Verhoven headed original was an epic blood-caked parable of Christ in a drug apocalypse interwoven with scathing gallows humor and sly satire of commercialism, indoctrination and addiction. The new one had… Black armor and some sloppy, semi-racist talk about police militarization and privatization.
Just watch DREDD for the 1000th time instead.
A little less expendable than the last one.
In my bizarre form of personal narcissism I naturally assume that everyone I meet knows who I am and is familiar with me and my life. In particular I assume everyone has at least read my blog (if that were true then according to my tracking data California has a population of about 87 people). Of course my rational brain understands this is tremendously far from the truth and most people I meet assume I am some kind of mover, truck driver, or thug in the employ of the local criminal element. However when I let my blog fantasies write themselves in my head I see all of Hollywood eagerly reading each review, rejoicing at each crumb of praise and bemoaning each gentle criticism (“I really don’t want to hate it and him on all levels (even subatomically) but he just makes it so, so very easy” – recent Transformers review) and taking in my feedback to the betterment of their craft or at least committing ritual seppuku.
(classic Expendables poster from the movie t-shirt category)
The point is it almost feels like the producers of the Expendables 3 read my Expendables 2 review and took out 70% of the stuff that really bugged the hell out of me. They cut back on the classic action star deluge to a manageable level and didn’t have them popping out of the scenery like heavily armed prairie dogs. They got rid of the horribly invasive plot devices to include all of them. They had a story that didn’t suck (and was almost coherent). The non-classic action movie actors they hired could deliver a line with more nuance and emotion than an Animatronic buccaneer from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The plot advanced organically and didn’t leave giant plot holes in its wake like massive road apples. The film felt adequately long at 126 minutes. There was no completely unnecessary and annoying romantic love interest. The comic relief was actually pretty cool and fitted in well. In general a true improvement over the last film.
What, then, about the remaining 30% that annoyed me you ask? Well, unfortunately nothing was done to improve most of that. In fact it got tragically worse. The biggest problem this movies suffers from is the fact that they went in for a PG-13 rating. I have talked about PG-13 draping over other action films like a wet blanket but in this film it is like an ocean container full of wet blankets landing on the screen and flattening it out. They tried to push the PG-13 boundary as far as they could and took full advantage of the one per film allowable S-word and F-bomb but were I a witness in court and was asked if I had actually seen any of the several hundred peopled killed in this film die I would have to answer “I don’t know”. For all I know they were all stunned with rubber bullets fired by a completely different team never shown on screen.
Kind of OK.
The day will come when I finally learn to not get excited by good trailers but that day is not today. (I also like to tell myself that the day will come where I win the lottery, get Congress to pass my mandatory death penalty for Mimes and Clowns law, complete my unstoppable world conquering army of mutant atomic super men, and get a girl to go on more dates than I have fingers on one hand but that day is also not today.) I have been seeing Maleficent trailers for months and each time I get more and more excited. Angelina Jolie as an evil fairy with horns and wings? A clever re-imaging of a classic fairy tail? A battle between what we in the Warhammer world we would call the Wood Elf Forest Spirits and the Bretonians? Amazing special effects and CGI? How can this be anything less than amazing?
Then I see the movie. I’m not going to disparage it. It’s not bad. It’s just not great. It’s more or less just…there. It really tends towards the standard design-by-committee take no chances pap that every other main stream movie is, counting on visuals and star appeal to make up for the lack of creativity and quality writing. Angelina Jolie is pretty amazing and more or less carries the whole movie on her sexy shoulders but her character is so watered down that everything she does leaks impact from every seam. The CGI is as amazing as a $200,000,000 budget will get you (in case you were wondering, $200,000,000 is enough to send 307,692 children to school in Africa. I’m just saying) and there is not a hint of bad acting. It’s just clear that this film was paralyzed into mediocrity by a fear of doing anything outside of the formula.
In truth I am pretty disappointed by Hollywood’s inability to do the whole fairy tale redo thing and have it do more than just suck. I really want to see some cool stories come from the classic Brothers Grim but instead we are fed dross such as Hansel & Gretel, Snow White and the Huntsman, Jack the Giant Slayer, and Mirror Mirror. They didn’t all totally suck (well, Hansel & Gretel did, and Jack the Giant Slayer will put you to sleep in the veterinary sense. Image courtesy of the Movie T Shirt category) but every time they come out all I see is more wasted potential. It’s like the goal is to come out with the blandest porridge possible, fulfilling all the minimum nutritional requirements but not much more. Pretty much the gruel they ate in the Matrix. I’d put this movie at the top of that list of films but not by more than a nose.
3 days? How about 113 minutes that felt like 3 days?
I am experiencing a weird phenomenon with writer/director Luc Besson. Up until a few years ago I would have told you I am a Luc Besson fan. The Fifth Element, Taken, and the Professional used to rank up in my favorite films.
Unfortunately as each of his more recent projects comes out my love and respect for him drops by another considerable margin. It started with Columbiana and kept going with Taken 2 and the Family. My best friend still holds that any director only has three good movies in him or her and should bow out after the third and I can’t disagree with him.
The weird part is the disappointment and bitterness I feel towards his new movies is bleeding backwards and staining my enjoyment of the few movies I like. I don’t think I can watch the Professional now and not see how ridiculous Gary Oldman is, or how dumb Leon’s war cry in the apartment sounds. A cop wipes out an entire family and there are no repercussions? How about the fact that Liam Neeson took the Intensometer so far into the red that it has come around like a watch second hand in Taken?
Of course I could never watch the Fifth Element without laughing at it’s campyness, but now that I see what his typical movie is like I strongly suspect that the camp elements of that film were the result of incompetent direction rather than intentional fun. Now the laughter is laced with tears.
I guess it’s fair to say Luc Besson’s talent and career are in the final stages of a death spiral and when you hit rock bottom it is inevitable that you meet up with the dregs of Hollywood, specifically my old favorite punching bag McG. This is the perfect storm of bad movie teamups; a once talented writer and director who seems to be suffering from some form of talent dementia and a man who is to Hollywood what mercury is to tuna fish.
The mystery of McG is one that defies description. All of his movies have sucked, and for the most part what he does best is mediocre television. I watched Chuck for a while before getting painfully bored (really I only watched it to see Jayne in a suit) and Supernatural, which got a lot better after McG left. I refuse to watch the O.C. (I grew up in Orange County. No one down there calls it the O.C. and as far as trite pretentious bull goes I don’t have to watch a show about it. I lived it). Yet in spite of this, his refusal to use vowels, and his massive ego (the letters McG showed up on the opening credits about 14 times. “McG studios and McG presents a McG production” etc.) studios keep handing him budgets. It’s almost as if there is an unspoken agreement to produce a certain number of craptastic movies in order to make the good ones look better and McG is their go to guy (actually now that I think about all the crime-against-cinema movies that issue forth from Hollywood like pus from an infected wound that is not the dumbest theory I have ever come up with).
At the top of the laundry list of failures this movie contains is the fact that McG can’t seem to maintain a tone (something I also noticed in Luc Besson’s The Family, so maybe it’s not all McG). It is equal parts action spy movie, erotic femme fatale, teenage girl angst, and cheesy family love story. I’m not saying that all films have to maintain a tone but shifts in tone need to be for a purpose, NOT the random changing of channels by a remote control in the hands of an epileptic having the mother of all fits. At any given moments you could be watching Kevin Costner shoot any number of guys, torture somebody, hang out in a strip club with his CIA director/latex bondage queen, have a tender moment with his estranged wife, or get into an argument with his teenage daughter and the shifts come with the randomness of Bingo balls. Doing a successful shift in tone requires directing, a commodity in short supply in this film.
The other thing about this film really being four separate films is that each of the sub films sucks horribly too. The spy/action part of the film seems to boil down to “shoot everyone and/or torture everyone”. The femme fatale is so laughably out of place and cartoonish she is like a kids pencil drawing of a penis hung on the wall next to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The teenage girl’s angst is so hamhanded and trite it wouldn’t survive as an after school special, and the family drama so bizarre and fake you have to wonder if Luc and McG actually grew up in a family or were created in some lab somewhere and raised by feeder tubes. Each part of this film is worthy of a separate blistering review but really I only have so much time.
One more thing before I get into the story. Something I have noticed that seems to be a common thread for all Luc Besson and MgG joints is they both seem to believe that the CIA is some kind of God like creation that can kill anyone they like and reign havoc across the world with impunity. While this may or may not be true the problem is when you show them going into mass shootings in other countries such as France (well known for letting American spy organizations do whatever the hell they want) and don’t show any kind of repercussions the reality of the film starts to fragment. Showing even the slightest bit of an attempt at spin control when an entire floor of a crowded hotel gets blown to bits would keep a film such as this (already on it’s last threads realistically) from looking like I wrote it back in Jr. High for a Top Secret campaign (there’s a test of your geek-fu).
I better get on with it. The film starts with Agent Vivi DeLay (Amber Heard-Zombieland, Drive Angry, Pineapple Express) of the CIA in very conservative business suit (my mentioning of this will become relevant shortly) being briefed about her next target. She is supposed to kill a bad guy named “the Wolf”. He apparently makes it his business to sell radioactive material to terrorists for dirty bombs (My eyes rolled at that one. What’s the matter Luc? Was that really the most evil thing you could think of? How about in your next film you make it about a guy who kidnapps children and grinds them up into hamburger meat?). He is supposed to be selling a bomb through his lieutenant “the Albino” (the code names are so dopey I’m going to keep on putting them in quotes to drive home the ironic point). Somehow they know where the buy is going to happen, what is being sold, when, and for how much but have no idea what “the Wolf” looks like.
She travels to the hotel where CIA Agent Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner-Waterworld, Dances with Wolves, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) is there to kill guys for her or something. He needs to call his daughter for her birthday and is sick. “The Albino” recognizes one of the other CIA women and the whole deal goes kablooy. Ethan manages to shoot “the Albino” in the leg while pursuing him but passes out from his sickness, letting “the Albino” get away. He wakes in a hospital bed and is told he has cancer and only a few months to live.
He quits the CIA and heads back to Paris where his wife and daughter live. He finds a family of racist stereotypes squatting in his apartment and after establishing himself as the Alpha male (with the help of his gun) opts to let them live there for a while (oh, yeah. At parts the film shifts over into the Haitian Brady Bunch. Hilarious). He goes to see his ex wife Christine (Connie Nielsen-One Hour Photo, Gladiator, The Devil’s Advocate). He tells her he is dying but doesn’t want to tell his daughter because…honestly I have no idea and I don’t think McG did either. Maybe they think a sudden death is better for a teenage kid to absorb.
Anyway he picks up his daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld-True Grit, Enders Game, She’s a Fox) at school. She hasn’t seen Ethan in like 10 years or something (or maybe he had visited. The nature of Ethan and Zoeys relationship was ill defined at best. Keeping the audience informed of relevant character details is apparently not in McG’s job description) and is understandably pissed off at him. She has grown up into an extra from Mean Girls and all around annoyance.
At that point Vivi resurfaces looking like she just got off her night job as a dominatrix (the change up was really off putting. I spent the first 10 minutes not really sure if it was the girl from the beginning of the film) and wants Ethan to help her. She believes that Ethan saw “the Wolf” at the bomb buy and wants him to help her kill him (I guess the CIA doesn’t bother to hire sketch artists or uses mug shots). She offers him an experimental drug that will magically cure his cancer but also makes him hallucinate and pass out whenever his heart rate increases. Good thing he never does anything like get into a gun fight or have to chase bad guys through most of Paris.
Oh, wait he does. In spite of the fact that he has a medical condition that makes him painfully unqualified to do “wet work” she has him agree to kill “the Wolf”, “the Albino”, and ten other random jackoffs. At that point the shifting of tones goes from every few minutes to putting all the raw footage into a blender and hitting puree. Zoey really starts to cramp his style. Every time he is about to kill some hapless bodyguard or attach jumper cables to the nipples of a car rental service owner who respects his clients privacy she calls him with her “hilarious” pop music ringtone. Meanwhile he keeps on loosing his ability to remain conscious every time bullets start flying.
That’s the movie in a nutshell. I hated this film so I am going to drop a ton of spoilers but in case you really think you are going to be surprised SPOILER ALERT. He catches up to “the Albino” and “the Wolf” just in time to pass out but instead of just killing him like anyone who had ever seen any James Bond film ever would “the Albino” puts him in a position where Ethan can easily reverse things and kill him. It turns out “the Wolf” is friends and business associates with the parents of Zoey’s boyfriend so the final gun fight can occur at a party where his family is around. Christine gets pissed off at Ethan for working for the CIA when he said he quit. Oh, yeah. The drug cures his cancer in like a week (what was it, like super chemotherapy? Also why did they transport it in a leather pen case? Not exactly hygienic).
Meh. I still like Kevin Costner, although he sort of phoned this one in. One star. Some of the gun fights were pretty good, although if you have seen the Professional you have already seen them. One star. Is that it? I guess so. Two stars.
The black holes.
One for each of the crappy movies that were sewn together into this Frankestein. Four black holes. No tone, and tonal shifts that played out like having sex with a hot girl while her ex boyfriend holds the control to your shock collar. One black hole. A bonus hole for having a professional spy think the way to keep a low profile would be to dress like one of the The Merovingian’s henchmen from the Matrix Revolutions. One black hole. The only character that seemed remotely real was Ethan, and his realism made all the rest of them that much more laughable surreal. One black hole. Poor editing and pacing. One black hole. Another movie where the title has little to nothing to do with the actual film. There was no clock or pressing time requirement in the story. It is obvious they came up with it post production when the studio shot down the more functional title “McG Pleasures Himself all over the Audience” (I assume). One black hole. Overall an attempt at glitz and glam over substance that managed to fail to glitz or glam the audience. A general failure. Two black holes. Total: eleven black holes.
So nine black holes. Pretty lame IMO. Should you see it? Probably not, unless you really, really, really want to be brainlessly entertained and your only other option is staring at a wall. With the right mix of drugs and/or alcohol you might be able to enjoy it. Probably drunk off your ass is the best way to see it. Nothing screams big screen to watch in the comfort of your single wide with a box of your finest wine. Date movie? Naw. There is nothing here to encourage a girl to take off her clothes. Bathroom break? There is a bonding scene towards the last half wherein Ethan teaches Zoey how to ride a bike (at age 16) that drags on for like 100 years (or so it seamed). Who says McG can’t do family drama?
Thanks for reading. I saw Pompeii last night and will write it up tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Feel free to leave comments here on this film or my review and off topic questions, suggestions, or fan mail (I almost managed to type that last one without bursting out laughing) can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great night and I will talk to you soon.
With bonus Jason Stratham game!
Another movie that disappointing me by not being as horrible as I expected, based on other reviews and past experience. I guess even I can be surprised. The disappointment, however, comes from the fact that I was all prepared to dump my pent up bile and frustration at my own dating life on the movie of a guy who probably does pretty well with the ladies, Jason Stratham. Now I have to give it an honest review.
Of course, the parts I liked had little to do with Mr. Stratham. And don’t mistake my opening for a rousing endoursement of this film. It is at best an above average action movie. It’s just that in my opinion it does not deserve the 32% rating my “fellow” critics (most of them would be highly insulted that I put myself in their exalted box, but I am free to delude myself as much as I like) gave it on Rotten Tomatoes (on the other hand the 70% audience rating seems a bit generous). Normally these modestly above the mean films make for pretty boring reviews, so to spice thing up I think I will start off with a game I invented called “Write the next Jason Stratham movie”. I’m sure at some point in your childhood you have done Mad Libs, so you should be able to play pretty easily. Just fill in the blanks and I’m sure Fox or New Line will green light it.
“Jason Stratham plays an ex (cop, military, or criminal of some kind) who wants to get out of the life and settle down with his (female relative or significant other of some kind) someplace quiet. He has a few tender moments with her but then randomly runs into (local criminal, mafia, or rogue agent/military). The antagonist acts aggressively but Jason (shoots or beats up) him and (a number between 3 and 10) of his henchmen.
The antagonist goes back to his (crime boss, superior officer, older more powerful relative) and the boss decides Jason is a threat. Meanwhile, Jason investigates the group by (asking around town, calling old associates, or finding a nerdy computer hacker) and then confronts the lesser antagonist and (tries to make amends or threatens him). His romance is kindled further with (significant other or local hot chick with heart of gold).
Jason gets captured by the antagonists and is (water boarded, tortured, or threatened) but manages to escape when the bad guys (leave him alone with some loose tools to escape with, don’t tie his legs, or untie him in order to show they can beat him in combat) rather than just shoot him. He (shoots or beats up) (a number between 3 and 6) of the henchmen and gets away. As he escapes his female relative is kidnapped by the bad guys while his black friend who helped him earlier is killed.
He finds out where they are keeping her by (capturing the wimpiest of the bad guys and forcing it out of him, arousing the sexual desire of the antagonists girlfriend with his bald bad ass good looks, or by having his computer hacker friend or former associates track them somehow). He collects a (trunk full of guns, homemade explosives, or a crossbow) and assaults the bad guy stronghold like a one man wrecking machine, killing (a number between 14 and 50) henchmen. He runs into the lesser antagonist in a (warehouse floor, warehouse roof, or warehouse basement) just as he runs out of (bullets, crossbow bolts, or throwing knives) and they have to fight with (bare fists, a pipe, or a fire axe). Jason wins by (breaking the guys neck, pushing him off a tall building, or impaling him on a pipe and then breaking his neck).
Finally he finds his female significant other being held at gun point by the head bad guy with a waiting (helicopter or boat). All seems lost but then the female (stabs the guy with a hidden knife, stomps on his foot with the stiletto heel he made her put on, or bites the hand that he has wrapped around her neck). He loses control of her, allowing Jason to (shoot, stab, throw off a building) him, thus saving her and putting a stop to whatever nefarious (drug deal, world threatening espionage, or arms deal) the guy had cooking. The end.”
See, you all thought writing these things was hard.
I think what I just illustrated is how simple most of these stories are, and this one hit every mark. At that point the only thing distinguishing one formulaic action film from the next is the quality of the characters, and that his honestly where Jason fails to deliver. He pretty much acts like a pissed off terminator through the majority of the films, and I’ll tell you in advance any of the scenes involving him alone with his daughter is the perfect time to run out and use the bathroom, flirt with the concession girl, or just step outside and appreciate the wonder of being alive on this planet. The rest of the cast more or less makes up for his robotic delivery.
One more thing before I get into it. I guess the director of this film made the mistake of seeing Spring Breakers and realized as I did that the only redeeming thing in that film (aside from hot girls in bikinis, I mean) was James Franco playing an Everglade hillbilly and opted to write that into this film in the role of Gator Bodine, only without the flare. Also, is it even remotely possible they could have found a more stereotypical name for this guy? This is almost as bad as creating a bad guy out of thin air between two sequels and just calling him General Grievous in case you missed the point (that he is bad).
The story. Honestly I just gave it to you up above. Jason Stratham (Parker, the Transporter, Killer Elite) plays Phil Broker, an ex DEA agent who is wanted by a biker gang and moves to a small town in Louisiana with his ten year old daughter (Izabela Vidovic-Zombieland, Home for the Holidays, Grave Secrets). She gets into a fight with a school bully (Austin Craig-no other credits) and kicks his ass. His mother (Kate Bosworth-Superman Returns, Straw Dogs, the Warriors Way) is a meth head with a temper and wants revenge. Jason ends up kicking the ass of her wimpy husband (Marcus Hester-Looper, Lawless, the Conspirator), embarrassing her in front of the town.
She goes to her brother Gator Bodine (James Franco-Spring Breakers, The End, Oz the Great and Powerful), local drug manufacturer and sort of bad ass. He looks into Phil and discovers that he was DEA. He opts to sell him out to the biker gang with the help of his girlfriend (Winona Ryder, looking super hot in a dirty way. I’ve always had a thing for her. Edward Scissorhands, Girl, Interrupted, Black Swan. The scissor hands diagram comes from the Movie tshirt category). At that point just follow the Mad Lib. Jason gets captured and beat on, escapes, the bikers come to kill him, his daughter gets kidnapped, yada yada yada. Don’t come to this film looking for surprises.
While the story was flat and predictable, if you treat it like the serving platter to deliver a decent meal of mundane food on it was nigh perfect. One star. Action was decent, and at no point did my disbelief feel a lack of oxygen. One star. James Franco was pretty good, as were most of the rest of the local color. Kate Bosworth kind of tore it up as a psychotic meth addict. One black hole. I’m definitely going to give them a star for using Clancy Brown as the sheriff. Oh, who is Clancy Brown you ask? Only the Kurgan from Highlander. You suck if you did not know that. One star. Another star for Winona Rider. I’m always glad to see women who turned me on as a high school student still looking super hot. Also she was pretty good here. One star. In general this film did not suck in the many ways that I expected it to. It was actually fun to watch. Two star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes:
The story was indeed flat and predictable. If your doctor has prescribed no surprises in your life this is the film for you. One black hole. Jason Stratham really is stuck with exactly one character in all his movies (well, all his movies not directed by Guy Ritchie). He still has the five o’clock shadow clause in all his contracts too I noticed. One black hole. Total: two black holes.
So a grand total of five stars. Not bad, really. You could do worse by a lot. Credit to Sylvester Stallone. While formulaic he definitely knows what works in an action film. If you are looking for fun without a lot of brain exercise perfect for you. Date movie? Meh. If she’s into action films sure but otherwise the romance and the little girl are not enough to keep her engaged I think. Bathroom break? I already told you, any of the one on one scenes with Jason and the little girl.
Thanks again for reading. I’m seeing Oldboy later tonight and will write that up tomorrow I guess. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Feel free to leave any comments on the film or this review here, and if you have an off topic question or suggestion email it to email@example.com. Talk to you soon.
Killer of fun.
I, like many people, enjoy frozen yogurt. I usually go for french vanilla with strawberries and those mini M&M’s, or sometimes Reeces Pieces. I don’t do it often as it can be a lot of calories, but find it to be a nice treat for when I’m feeling self indulgent or am dealing with getting dumped (I guess I do eat a lot of frozen yogurt).
If the original Machete were my nice cup of frozen yogurt (and the trailer from Grindhouse the free sample on a wooden spoon) than Machete Kills is a water tower full of rancid yogurt with the output hose inserted into my mouth and turned on full blast until I have yogurt spurting from every orifice, ruining yogurt for ever and probably giving me diabetes. I’m sure you’ve heard of too much of a good thing, but this is too much of a bad thing that is supposed to be good but in the end is just bad.
(Machete poster from the Movie Tshirt category)
Don’t get me wrong. I am a big Danny Trejo fan, and think he is a great character actor. I loved him in Heat and From Dusk ’till Dawn, and he has been in at least two different zombie movies. I enjoyed Machete in that special bad/good sense that seems to guarantee cult movie status, and am glad his career has taken off. I hope to see him in any number of future productions.
I also used to be a Robert Rodriguez fan, but he seems to suffer from the same brain chemistry imbalance that Luc Besson has in that his movies fall apart as soon as he tries to do a sequel. El Mariachi is frickin’ brilliant, but Desperado was laughable. Machete was great but this one sucks. He is working on a sequel to Sin City and now I worry about that franchise. For every good film he has done (usually teamed up with Quentin Tarotino) he has also done a couple crappy ones, mostly comprised of the whole Spy Kids franchise.
I think the best word to describe this film is juvenile. It plays out like two 11 year old kids playing with action figures. I know it is supposed to be a parody of cheesy action movies, but if you try to make a movie to make fun of crappy acting, story, action, filming, and editing by using all those elements in the end you get a movie with crappy acting, story, action, filming, and editing. It’s like if I wanted to make a joke about how much feces smells and took a crap on your dining room table to illustrate my point. The joke is surely funny in my head but at the end of the day you are dealing with a ruined table and your fist hurting from punching me in the face over and over again. To the average viewer (i.e. not Robert Rodriguez) you really can’t see anything except the crap.
I suspect this is going to be one of those bear trap movies for hipsters. What do I mean by that? It’s like the Star Wars Holiday Special, a movie that should never be watched by any human on the planet. However, every year jackasses like me think something like “Sure, it will suck, but I’ll gain some kind of nerd credibility for having watched it and really, it has Luke, Han, and Leia in it so how bad can it be?” only to find that there is nothing in there but pain and suffering. This movie isn’t necessarily as bad as that but if you feel like you need to see it just to maintain your bad movie watching status don’t waste your time.
(By the way, at this point I have to caution you to not misinterpret that last paragraph as my recommendation that you actually watch the SWHS. Some things once watched can never be unseen, and there is nothing to be found in that film except a steady draining of your will to live. If you have any love of Star Wars, film in general, or your childhood you will avoid it. That being said I know there is some idiot out there who will disregard all my warnings and go for it. To you I say you have been warned.)
When I first started watching this film I thought I might have to do one of my double reviews; once as a legitimate (haw!) film critic and once as a fan of camp movies. However, by the end of it I realized I hated this film from both perspectives. Fans of camp are fans of fun, and this movie is not fun. It is ploddish and looks like it was filmed in someones back yard. The brilliant timing, parody, and insight that Tarantino brings to a movie like this are missing entirely, leaving something a failing film student might have done (except for the fact that Rodriguez did el Mariachi as a film student and it was infinitely better than this).
The story, in addition to being bad, is convoluted as hell. I’ll run over the highlights. Machete (Danny Trejo-Heat, From Dusk ’till Dawn, Anchorman) is accused of killing his partner in a rogue US Army-sells-guns-to-a-drug-cartel-but-gets-busted-by-special-forces-and-the-local-sheriff raid gone bad and is going to be lynched by the local hillbilly lawman. In spite of the fact that the lynching is completely illegal and secret the president (Carlos Estevez (Charlie Sheen)-Hot Shots, Two and a Half Men, Wall Street) calls to recruit him. He is sent to Mexico after a mad revolutionary Mendez (Demian Bichir-A Better Life, Savages, the Heat) who wants to blow up Washington DC with a missile (or something. It all kind of blurs together after a while). He travels to Mexico with the help of his beauty queen handler Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard-Zombieland, Pineapple Express, Drive Angry), the most fake character in a movie of characters that felt fake. There he goes to a brothel run by Desdemona (Sofia Vergara-the Smurfs, Four Brothers, Modern Family), a sadistic madame who has a stable of murderous psychotic super vixens. The last contact with Mendez is her daughter Cereza (Vanessa Hudgens-Sucker Punch, Spring Breakers, High School Musical). Desdemona gets her crew to try to kill Machete for some reason (?) while her daughter agrees to help him for some other reason (??).
They escape and are picked up in a helicopter by Mendez’s henchmen. Cereza is killed for some reason (???) but Machete is allowed to live in order to hear Mendez’s megalomaniacal rant (if you’ve ever seen Dr. Evil than this scene should be shockingly familiar). Turns out the missile aimed at Washington is hooked to a detonator attached to a deadman switch on his heart. Machete captures him but rather than just destroy the missile or calling in an airstrike he opts to try to find the one man in the world who can disarm it. Mendez has put a contract out on himself for some reason (????) and Machete so now everyone in Mexico wants to kill them, including La Cameleon (played alternatively by Walter Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr, Antonio Banderas, and Lady Gaga).
Ugh. Remember when I said this movie was like two boys playing with action figures? At some point the boys decided Machete had to fight a million Mexican police, drive an armored car, have Sofia Vergara shoot bullets at him out of two mini mini guns in the tips of her metal bra and then out of a pistol in her crotch that she fires by thrusting her pelvis, cut off a bunch of heads, and sleep with every woman on the screen. Mendez gets killed but his heart is connected to a respirator to keep the missile from firing. When things get slow they introduce the real villain Voz (Mel Gibson-the Road Warrior, Braveheart, Lethal Weapon), who is a super genius who wants to blow up the world so he can live on his satellite with a bunch of kidnapped Mexican slave labor (nothing helps establish the plot of the movie like introducing the villain 3/4 of way through the film). Machete kills a bunch of people usually by cutting off their heads. Rodriguez thinks of the joke of having a bad guy thrown into the whirling blades of a helicopter and then decides the only way it could be funnier is if he repeated it 20 more times. Stuff blows up, Machete kills more people, and the movie is left with a cliffhanger in a clear prelude for Machete 3 like a kid begging for five more minutes of TV before going to bed.
That might be my worst recap ever, but trust me when I say I don’t have a lot to work with and am already bored writing this. Let’s get to the fun part, shall we?
Danny Trejo is pretty cool, and while you get fairly tired of his character by end of the film I still like him. One star. All the women were drop dead gorgeous, and as lame as it sounds I do get turned on by girls with guns. One star. If his goal truly was to make a crappy movie than I would have to say Robert Rodriguez succeeded in spades. One star. Total: three stars.
The black holes:
The “plot” was like a Mad Lib story where the only words you could use were “guns”,” kill”, “tits, “machete”, “decapitated”, “whore”, and “Mexican”. Two black holes. There were a couple of times it seemed like some decent acting could have been had from some of the actors (Damian Bichir and Mel Gibson, for the most part) the combination of the horrible roles and the average effort put in (cough cough phoned it in cough cough) made me wish I were watching the Vagina Monologs as played by the Thunderbirds cast using the robot voice from Wargames. God awful. One black hole. As amusing as I find his rants I am going to say that Charlie Sheen was a particularly painful bamboo shoot under the fingernail part of this film. One black hole. Remember how the original Machete was rated R and consequently had some nudity? Well, we wouldn’t want anything interesting to taint the horrible experience of watching this film so rated R with nobody naked. One black hole. Editing and pacing from hell. There is a 24 hour countdown clock going for a lot of the film and about six weeks worth of stuff happened in that time. At the same time the editing was rushed with less than critical but jarringly elements missing. Overall a convoluted editing failure. Two black holes. Really kind of boring. 107 minutes and you will feel every one of them. One black hole. A parody of bad film making that really only subjected us to a bad film. One black hole. Action from hell, with recurring sequences all derived from other, better films. One black hole. Leaving the film as a cliffhanger with a plea for us to see the next horrible version. One black hole. At the end of the film it really felt like a waste of time. Two black holes. Total: thirteen black holes.
A grand total of ten black holes. Honestly the only reasons to see this film is if you are a screaming Machete, Rodriguez, or camp fan and even then you will lose more respect than you gain. In general a big waste of time with very little redeeming. Date movie? Do I really need to answer that for you? Bathroom break? Pretty much anywhere. The best scenes all had Mel Gibson in them so if you want to get something out of this try to do your business around him. Not a lot to miss in this film.
Thanks for reading. I don’t feel good about dumping on this film. I love camp and wanted this to be either really good or that special kind of bad that is actually good but it was neither. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Comments about this film or my review can be left right here, and if you have an off topic question or suggestion feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
Ever wonder what a 101 minute Cradle of Filth video would look like?
This is the worst kind of film for me to review. Not because it is bad. Handing me a bad film to review is like handing Jason Voorhees a half dozen college students on a spring break camping trip (Crystal Lake shirt from the Horror Movie T Shirt category). Two hours later and I am cleaning blood off my machete with a warm, satisfied feeling in my stomach. No, this film is tough for me to review because I am actually a fan of Rob Zombie.
It’s true. I like his music, and some of his films are amazing. House of 1000 Corpses and the Devil’s Rejects are horror classics. It’s to the point that as I arrived in the theater I already had the first two glowing paragraphs of this review written out in my head once this film turned out to be amazing (or even adequate).
Time makes fools of us all however, and in this case the amount of time is 101 minutes. I spent most of that time waiting for anything to happen. Ever take a long road trip and find yourself running low on gas? Ever do that and hit one of those weird stretches of highway where they don’t apparently believe in gas stations (hello West Texas) and as you approach each exit you desperately hope that you will see a Unocal or Mobil sign? Your desperation and eagerness increases with each passed exit until finally you end the movie parked at the side of the road on a desolate two lane highway with nothing but coyotes for company.
So it was for this film. Rob can definitely build atmosphere, and when it comes to horror foreplay he is a master. The problem is every time the build up reached the point where something, anything interesting had to happen it would stop with a screeching jump cut, leaving the audience with the equivalent of movie viewer blue balls. Even in the few scenes where something happens inevitably end up being dreams or hallucinations of some kind. I would like to say that having the main character wake up in a cold sweat after a vividly horrible dream is a cool movie tool to help establish otherwise intangible plot points. However, it should not be used to cover 1/3rd of the scenes. It became so standard during the course of this film that in the final scene where something actually was happening I kept waiting for the main character to wake up yet again.
This is why the film felt more like a Satanic rock video than a film. It is chock full of creepy Satanic images and hallucinations from deep in Charles Manson’s subconscious but lacking in anything really scary or disturbing. The whole thing felt like Rob Zombie messing around on his home editing system, putting together a video of some anti-Christian footage that his friends might enjoy while half drunk but not really for public consumption. Very self indulgent, and given that he cast his wife as the main character and a bunch of his friends as supporting characters I’d say that is an apt description. The whole time I was watching I felt the same burning desire for a fast forward button that I felt while watching Terence Malicks Tree of Life. I know Rob intended this film to be a tribute to the Shining but he more closely parallels Malicks film style, only without the Christian overtones.
The story, I guess. Sheri Moon Zombie (the Devil’s Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses, Grindhouse) plays Heidi Hawthorne, part of a three man late night DJ team that looks like Rob learned a lot from his interviews on the Howard Stern Show (I actually listened to his last appearance on that show and he pretty much says that is where the inspiration came from). She and her fellow DJs Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips-Faster, Hide, Unknown) and Herman (Ken Foree-Dawn of the Dead, the Devil’s Rejects, Water for Elephants) interview Francis Mathias (Bruce Davison-X-Men, Harry and the Hendersons, Short Cuts) the author of a book on the Salem Witch Trials. That night Heidi has a record delivered to her in a wooden box that screams Necronomicon from a band called the Lords. She plays it and begins to hallucinate about witches. The next night she plays it on the air and a bunch of women in the town of Salem are more or less possessed.
At that point things kind of mosey down the road with not much happening. Every ten minutes another amazing scene is set up and seems to be leading to something that could be considered a plot point or pivotal moment, but just as you think something is about to happen Heidi wakes up. A lot of Satanic and anti-Christian messages and images are use. The witches burned (for the record, no witches were burned in Salem. They were all hung. I’m not saying that makes us any more civil than Europe. I’m just a stickler for historical accuracy) are trying to come back and want Heidi to be their vessel from which Lucifer (or something) will be born. Heidi’s landlady and her creepy sisters (Dee Wallace-E.T. the Extraterrestrial, the Howling, Critters Patrical Quinn-the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment, The Meaning of Life Judy Gleeson-Gilmore Girls, Spanish Fly, the Duke) are working together to make this happen and at one point beat Francois to death with a frying pan (closest thing to exciting as this film gets, honestly). Religious images are shown over and over again and laughable Satanic verse is spoken in a voice that makes monster truck announcers sound serious.
If you have an axe to grind against Christianity and love Satan then this is the movie for you. You can’t say Rob Zombie doesn’t deliver a message. One star. He does create good atmospheres. One star. His wife is pretty damned hot in the scenes where she isn’t looking like a strung out drug user. One star. Total: three stars.
The black holes:
No real horror to speak of, nothing scary, and nothing happens. One black hole. The story is about as solid as a soggy corn flake and more or less serves to connect Rob’s images together. One black hole. The course of the entire film is like a beach ball with a BB hole in it, leaking air and finally ending with a vague fart sound and a quiet settling. One black hole. At no point in the film to you get an idea of what the evil plan is or even who the villain is. No antagonist to speak of, and when the plan is finally unveiled you still don’t know what the hell is going on or why you should care. One black hole. I don’t think playing a subdued character is Sheri Moon Zombie’s forte. Furthermore I felt no interest in her character or any kind of connection whatsoever other than she was hot (or any of the other characters for that matter). One black hole. Given the number of times I have bitched about rater R movies that avoid nudity this is weird for me to say, but there is a lot of nudity in this film but with very few exceptions (Sheri being all of them) you will truly regret having seen them. Some things watched can’t be unwatched. One black hole. It’s honestly hard to take Satanic rhetoric seriously. They have all the issues that Christian rhetoric has except that it just sounds silly (if you have ever listened to an Anton Levey interview you know what I mean). I mean, worshiping Satan means you actually believe in the Christian pantheon but are going to go with the guy who will burn you in everlasting fire. One black hole. It’s rare that I have to say this since I usually find something to entertain myself with but as I left the theater I really felt like I had wasted my time. Two black holes. Total: nine black holes.
So a grand total of six black holes. To be honest I was more than generous in my stars and reticent in my black holes. If I weren’t a Zombie fan I would have probably unloaded my black hole shotgun into this movies face and the closest thing to a star I could have found would have been that it was filmed in English. Sorry dude. I honestly hope your next film recaptures some of the magic of your earlier films, or at least has something happen somewhere in the film. Should you see it? Honestly probably not. If you are a Rob Zombie fan I think you will get more from renting the Devil’s Rejects. If you do go see it load up on Strawberry Mojitos at the Applebees down the street beforehand. This movie will look a lot better if you are plastered. Date movie? If I recommend you don’t go see this film there shouldn’t be any kind of logical process that would lead you to taking a date to it unless you secretly hate all women and see dating as your opportunity to punish them all for not being your mom. Bathroom break? There isn’t a single scene of this film (including the “climax”) that you couldn’t easily miss without losing a thing from your movie experience. Cut out, drop a deuce, smoke a cigarette, run back to Applebees to recharge your alcohol battery, and come back in time for the ending credits. Using your imagination while listening to to the post movie fake newscast might just make for a good time.
I always feel dirty after dumping on a movie by someone I like. Why can’t McG come out with something? Wrecking his movies is not only fun but I feel like I am performing a public service. Sigh. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Feel free to comment on this film or my review below. Off topic questions or suggestions can be sent to email@example.com. Thanks for reading. Talk to you soon.
Time for me to do another dumb movie question, and this is one that has bugged me for a long time. If you recall from Back to the Future Dr. Brown got shot by Libyan terrorists for stealing about 500 pounds of plutonium. We go through the entire movie series and in the end find out that Dr. Brown read Marty’s note and invested in a bulletproof vest. All is good and happy.
Here’s the question: what happened to the van full of extremely well armed and pissed off terrorists that were chasing Marty in the time machine? Sure they ran into a photo booth, but it never looked like it was enough to take them all out. Shouldn’t Marty have gotten to the Doc just in time for their execution? For that matter, what happened to any other terrorists still associated with that first group? Do they really expect us to believe that they didn’t leave one guy back at the base with instructions to call Libya for more terrorists if they didn’t get back with the plutonium?
That’s pretty much it. The time machine blueprints I found in Dave’s movie tshirts. Not a lot of detail on that one.
So I heard they are working on a reboot for Vacation, only with no Chevy Chase. I’m definitely not sure how I feel about that. I mean, the actual comedy written into the movie was kind of dumb. It was really Chevy who made this film what it was.
This version seems to be about Chevy’s son Rusty taking his own trip to Wally World. I’m kind of wracking my brain trying to figure out who could play the role and do well. Dave is better at the movie stuff than I am. I should ask him.
Anyway, this is another film that bugs me in that I don’t think it’s really needed. Vacation was pretty amazing, and honestly there is no major advancements in special effects or filming you could use to justify redoing or rebooting it. It’s a family in a car. I could film that on my camera phone. Once again it shows Hollywood as being desperate for any kind of inspiration. Obviously they are so lacking in creativity and new ideas that they have to keep falling back to old stand bys.
No real point here I guess. I just thought it was interesting. I am neither excited or really offended by this. I’ll wait to see what they produce. The image I found in Dave’s movie tshirt category.
The human race is collectively stupider for each child that watches this film.
I am in all ways a man of my word. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped at the Warhammer tournament and as I promised in punishment went last night and saw the Mysterious Island. This movie is actually one of the hardest for me to review, as from a cinema point of view it is the movie equivalent of blunt trauma to the head: painful and potentially brain damaging. However, as I scan a few other reviewers I respect the phrase “good for what it is” keeps cropping up like a returning herpes sore and I have to admit, taken in the context of “moronic entertainment for kids with a story that won’t have parents wanting to kill themselves” it definitely qualifies.
I did not see the first one but honestly, I don’t think I missed much. I have read a lot of Jules Verne and watched a lot of Scooby Doo, which seems to be the basis for this movie. The problem is of course how to review it? If I treat it like a kids movie I won’t have a lot to say. If I treat it like an adult movie (and based on how much the camera lingers over Venessa Hudgens (Sucker Punch, High School Musical) very skimpy outfit outfit an argument could be made that it is an adult film) I will be dumping all over it but be revealing to the world what a bitter and horrible soul I am at heart.
I think the answer is, like most bad comprises, to jump both ways. I will review it like a childs film but raise a lot of the points I would have raised if it were an adult film, thus creating more work for me but in truth probably writing something a little more entertaining. I will try to keep my complaints about the really, really, horrifically bad science to a minimum. Sufficed to say science and technology will have been set back 10 years when the generation of kids watching this film grows up to become scientists and have the items in this film rolling around in their subconscious (anyone else remember Idiocracy? Brawndo shirt image courtesy of the Movie T Shirt category).
So the story. Sean (Josh Hutcherson-American Splendor, the Kids are All Right, Journey to the Center of the Earth) hates his stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson (NOT the Rock)-Fast Five, the Rundown, the Scorpion King) and wants to decode a secret message in Jules Verne code from his missing grandfather Alexander (Micheal Caine-Batman Begins, the Dark Knight, The Prestige, Children of Men). Turns out Hank is a construction worker who also is an expert code breaker and he and Sean solve the complex code in about 14 seconds. It is a map and coordinates of a mysterious island of some kind out in the Pacific near the island of Palau, a small country who’s official language is happily English. In an attempt to bond with his stepson Hank agrees to take Sean out there to find this island. Once they land they find that the only person crazy enough to take them to “the most dangerous part of the oceon” is the incredibly goofy Gabato (Luis Guzman-Boogie Nights, Anger Management, Carlito’s Way) and his incredibly hot daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens). They board the most decrepit helicopter in the history of aviation and in the 7th worst decision in the history of the world (after the decision to air the Star Trek episode Spock’s Brain but before M&M’s decision to not let their candy be featured in E.T., passing it over to Reeces Peices) opt to fly into the mother of all storms.
They crash, of course, and wash up on the beach of some mysterious seeming island completely uninjured. At that point the adventure begins and they travel the island, coming across many wonderfully stupid and impossible creatures (I know I said I would avoid bitching too much about the scientific impossibilities of the things in this film, but there is a phenomenon known as scaling and strength of materials that tells us why giant ants and tiny elephants couldn’t exist. For the most part they wouldn’t be able to breath). They find Alexander in about 2 minutes and it turns out they are all experts of one type or another in tectonic plate activity, biology, archeology, and jungle survival. They find out the island is sinking (and does so ever 140 years. Sorry to be a pill but do they really think an entire complex ecosystem can develop that quickly?) and have to get out. The only way to leave is to find the hidden Nautiless, the submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea left hidden on the island 140 years ago (again, sorry about this, but the fact is my dad once left a car on a driveway for two years and when he wanted to move it had to replace the battery, tires, and about half the hoses. I don’t think a 140 year old abandoned sub would really be seaworthy).
Anyway, from a child’s point of view this movie is fun, with cool giant creatures running around on and some funny, dopey dialog. Visually impressive, and will probably make a ton of money both here and overseas. I think what I object to in this and a lot of other children’s movies is the missed opportunity to enhance rather than degrade a young persons education. Would it have been so hard to write in a few actual scientific facts that were based on reality, thus making this film slightly more less worthless than the giant sodas sold at the concession stands? I understand that Jules Verne took a liberal hand when it came to science, but still. A movie for children should, in my opinion, have something other than empty calories. That being said the kids in the audience seemed to be loving it, and I can’t argue with that.
However, if I were to treat this as an adult film I would give the film the following stars and black holes:
Stars: Vanessa Hudgens is super hot, and the movie apparently had a limited wardrobe budget when it came time to buy her shorts as there wasn’t a lot of material in them. One star. Some entertaining moments between the characters, especially the dislike and needling that Hank and Alexander had at first for each other. One star. I am a big fan of Michael Caine. One star. The CGI and camera work, while not really state of the art, worked well together and delivered some pretty impressive images. Also this is one of the few movies I have seen wherein the 3D actually enhanced the film and didn’t just leave me with a headache (actually I was headache free from this. Weird). One star. Total: four stars.
The black holes. For the most part the characters were all pretty flat and two dimensional. One black hole. As a fan of science and technology I found concepts offered here to be really offensive, and hate to imagine teachers dealing with kids thinking that you can ride a giant bee in school for the next few weeks. Three black holes. I don’t know if I can call what I perceived as plot holes plot holes, as they all seemed to derive from the concept of “we are here to make really bad decisions” (for example: Alexander is trapped on the island and makes a radio out of coconuts or something. He can only transmit every two weeks and so when he has the chance he sends out his message in a code that only one human on the planet, assuming he is even listening, will understand. Why not just send out a regular SOS and get rescued? The castaways on Gilligan’s Island would have taken him out back and beaten him with a 2×4), but the plot holes were annoying the crap out of me. One black hole. For the most part the characters were all in a secret contest to see who could be the most annoying movie character of 2012 (Luis Guzman won IMO, although Dwayne Johnson was a close second). One black hole. At one point we are forced to listen to Dwayne Johnson sing while accompanied on a ukelele. One black hole. Total: seven black holes.
So a grand total of three black holes, which is shockingly less that I thought I would give walking into the movie, assuming I were treating it like an adult movie. Should you go see it? As an adult absolutely not. If you have kids they will probably enjoy the hell out of it, but understand that you are opening their brains to all kinds of oddball future theories, such as aliens, Bigfoot, the government orchestrated 9-11, flat tax is good for everyone, or creationism. Odds are pretty good you will want to own a copy as it will keep your rugrats out of your hair for 94 minutes.
Thanks for reading one of my most disjointed reviews. Not a lot of new stuff right now, but next weekend is looking really good. In particular I am looking forward to Acts of Valor and dreading Wanderlust. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu and feel free to post a comment here. If you don’t tweet and want to ask me something or make a suggestion privately email me firstname.lastname@example.org (email me in particular if you are in any way associated with an upcoming movie and want to invite me to an advanced screening in the Bay Area. I would like to get these out before they are released if possible. I promise I will buy popcorn and not text). Talk to you soon.