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Red (2010)

I remember the CIA being tougher.

— Marvin Boggs

I was sold going to see Red was when the image of the regal Helen Mirren in holding a machine gun spraying at the bad guys. I was over for me. I had very little knowledge of the limited comic book series created by Warren Ellis a couple of years ago. My research showed that the comic and film are two different entities and I wish that it was like the comic book.

Former CIA black ops agent, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is not content been retired, living alone in his empty Cleveland house. The only break to his monotonous life is calling a customer service rep for the Social Security Administration, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) who he likes.

In the middle of the night, a group of South African militants try to kill Frank, but he quickly disposes of them. He sets out on a road trip that vaguely reminds me of Knight and Day last summer. Frank knows that the people trying to kill him bugged his phone. Sarah could be in danger. He is considered R.E.D. which means “Retired Extremely Dangerous.” Going to Kansas City, the reception of Frank’s presence is not what he expected. He has no choice but to kidnap and protect her.

After the botched assassination attempt, CIA operative William Cooper (Karl Urban) is dispatched to personally bring down Moses, because of what he knows about a mission in Guatemala in 1981.

Frank knows the same information when a New York Times reporter is killed because of uncovering the story and compiling a list of people who where there. Frank seeks the advice of fellow Joe (Morgan Freeman), who is in a rest home in New Orléans to find out who is still alive and find out why the CIA is coming after old operatives in their retirement.

They enlist the help of Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) who due to his years long exposure to LSD is extremely paranoid about anything and everyone around him and a former assassin for the MI-6, Victoria (Helen Mirren) to bring down the bad guys once and for all.

Learning about the original comic plot with Moses dealing squarely with the CIA would have been a great action thriller. I don’t mind that writers Erich and Jon Hoeber made dramatic changes to the movies to make a team of retired operatives taking down their former bosses, but I thought the movies was very clunky. I understand that director, Robert Schwentke wanted to make an action comedy, but the romance part of the movie with Frank and Sarah seemed off-putting. An act of Stockholm Syndrome in a comedy is a fantastic plot device. (I was being sarcastic.) Some of the jokes fell on deaf ears.

I did enjoy the actors, especially Helen Mirren (My girl) and Malcovich! The action sequences were expertly well done. I enjoyed the hell out of the movie when that was going on, but the rest left a lot of be desired.

Judgment: Helen Mirren shooting a machine gun. Come on. It can’t get any better than that.

Rating: ***

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Cop Out (2010)

When I heard that Kevin Smith was making a movie that was not written by him, I thought it was nice change of pace for him to expand his horizons. Cop Out was the finished product of the spec script A Couple of Dicks written by the Cullen Brothers that was listed on the 2008 Black List of the best unproduced screenplays. Given that, this movie was like a fish flapping around the floor.

Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan play the most the unlikely NYC cop partners for nine years, Jimmy Monroe and Paul Hodges. They have a suspect in the interrogation room, Raul (Juan Carlos Hernández) who they want to wrestle some info about a major drug exchange happening. Hodges wants to take over the duties, but Monroe is the more serious of the duo. When Hodges bursts into the room, he unleashes a cavalcade of cheesy one-liners from literally every movie in existence.

Worn down from the assault on his eardrums, Juan gives up the deets for the drop later that afternoon with a local gang member, Juan Diaz (Cory Fernandez) at his cell phone store. The partners go undercover with Hodges dressed as giant cell phone and Monroe being the lookout.

The deal goes bad when the informant tips Juan that he was a snitch. Juan is killed. They try to capture Juan, but he gets away. Their boss, Captain Romans (Sean Cullen) suspends them for thirty days without for botching the job and not informing the local gang task force who consisted of Hunsaker (Kevin Pollack) and Barry Mangold (Adam Brody). Jimmy doesn’t want that because his daughter, Ava (Michelle Trachtenberg) is getting married in six weeks. He needs at least $50,000 to pay for her dream wedding.

Not having a job, Monroe thinks of selling his most prized possession; a 1952 Eddie Palko baseball card. When Jimmy tries to his card to a collector, Big Al (Keith Joe Dick) the place is robbed by Dave (Seann William Scott) and his friend (Ernest O’Donnell). They tase Jimmy, steal his card and the gun that came from Paul glove compartment with his spars badges.

Jimmy noticed a distinctive tattoo on Dave’s forearm. They track him down to a beach house breaking into it “Crouching Tiger” style. With Dave in custody, he tries to distract with repeating Paul ala Michael Scott when he’s upset and telling knock-knock jokes. They handcuff Dave to the back of their car. Dave calls their bluff. He is dragged behind. Dave tells them that he has sold Jimmy’s card and Paul’s gun to a local gang leader, Poh Boy (Guillermo Díaz) so he could get high.

In a meeting with him, Poh Boy being an avid baseball collector wants Monroe and Hodges to trade. If they could bring back Poh Boy’s black Mercedes with precious cargo inside, then he could give Monroe his baseball card back.

I saw that the movie was getting some mostly negative reviews. I wanted to see how bad the movie is. It’s not bad. It feels uninspired. It’s like Kevin Smith didn’t care about the material, even though the material is laughably bad with the subplots about Hodge’s wife, Debbie (Rashida Jones) maybe cheating on him, the fascination of Mangold with a pair of cowboy boots, and countless other. I did not believe Tracy Morgan’s character in this movie. I did not believe that the bumbling idiots would be a cop for more than ten minutes, let alone nine years. Willis was okay playing another cop. Scott was fucking annoying as hell. Why was he there?

This movie didn’t know what it was supposed to be. It is supposed to be a buddy comedy? Is it supposed to be a gritty action flick? Is it supposed to be a parody of those movies? I was left bewildered by the end. This is on par with the Project Greenlight made movie to me.

Judgment: This movie fails on every single level.

Rating: *1/2

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Terry, I can’t predict the future. I pay professionals to do that, and even they get it wrong sometimes.

— Reuben

After the massive success of the first movie, Soderburgh and company came back together for Ocean’s Twelve. This setting and story are dramatically different from the glitz and glamour from the first incarnation. Instead of the bright lights of the Las Vegas, the Eleven are focused their attention on Europe. I think that this was a mistake, because it hurt the caper aspect of the story.

When the Eleven successful pilfered Terry Benedict out of his $150 million dollars at the ending of the first movie, (spoiler alert) the beginning show how the gang was doing during the three and a half since the heist. Most of them spent some or all of their $13 million dollars cut.

They get a rude awakening when Benedict tracks them all down wherever they were hiding. He offers them a chance to correct their mistakes by stealing his money. Benedict gives them two weeks to return the money with interest, which is roughly $200 million dollars, or he will kill them.

The gang has a pow-wow to discuss how they could get the money is that short amount of time. They decide to go to Amsterdam to meet up with Matsui (Robbie Coltrane), who gives them an assignment to steal the world’s oldest stock certificate from 1602 worth $2.5 million Euros.

When they do, they realize that a famous cat burglar named “The Night Fox” (Vincent Cassel) got the stock first. Not only that, but the team realizes that The Night Fox made the call to Benedict that ratted them out.

The Night Fox issues a challenge to the Ocean’s Eleven to steal a Coronation Faberge Egg from exhibit in Paris. They want to beat The Night Fox at their own game. Eleven becomes Twelve when they enlist the help of Roman (Eddie Izzard) to help pull off the switch-a-roo.

This movie as a whole is not well executed. The dialogue was not up to par. The scenes dragged on way too long. I was bored to tears. The movie looks grainy. The interaction with the members felt clunky and stagy. There wasn’t the synergy from the first outing. I was disappointed with this movie, especially the last thirty that fell off the tracks.

Judgment: This is one of the instances that the sequel is not better than the original.

Rating: **1/2

Pulp Fiction (1994)

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I’m prepared to scour the the Earth for that motherfucker. If Butch goes to Indochina, I want a nigger waiting in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass.

–Marsellus

It has been fifteen years since the release of Pulp Fiction, which ushered Quentin Tarantino in the mainstream. The movie has been heavily quoted since its release. It did win for Best Original Screenplay. That’s says a lot. It was also nominated for seven Oscars. It’s currently #5 on the Top 250 of All Time on IMDb. It belongs there.

I owned the VHS of this movie and played it repeatedly. I could quote almost every line from the film. It sucked that my brother’s former girlfriend took the tape with her when they broke up.

It been awhile since I have seen this. After watching Inglourious Basterds, I wanted to see this movie again. I still enjoy the dialogue, the classic music and most of the performances. This fringe movie bent the rules of the Academy. It deserved a lot more acclaim.

If you don’t know the plot of the story – shame on you – revolves around multiple narrative that intercept and become jumbled up. It starts with a pair of robbers, Ringo and Yolanda (Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer) holding up a restaurant where two hit men who had a interesting day on the job, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield (John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson).

In his signature broken narrative, there is also stories about Vincent taking his boss’s wife, Mia (Uma Thurman) on a night on the town, dealing with a skuzzy drug dealer, (Eric Stolz). The boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) dealing with an aging boxer, Butch (Bruce Willis) to throw a fight.

Tarantino is known for his long, drawn out dialogue scenes with some sprinklings of violence. One sequence still bothers me to this day. It’s the moment about the origin of “the gold watch”. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why was that in the movie? Why was that the motivation to Butch?

Judgment: If you haven’t seen this movie, return your movie snob card immediately.

Rating: ****1/2

What Just Happened (2008)

In Hollywood, everyone can hear you scream.

Based on his book of the same name, famous Hollywood producer, Art Linson brings the fictionalized version of what happened to him in Tinseltown to the big screen. What Just Happened recounts two weeks in the life of Ben (Robert De Niro), a frazzled producer dealing with multiple crises at once.

One crisis deals with a renegade British director, Jeremy Burnell (Michael Wincott) unwilling to change a controversial ending tohis movie, “Firecely.” Will he change the ending to please studio boss, Lou (Catherine Kenner) so it could be shown in Cannes? Should he maintain his integrity and cost the studio $25 million in loss profits?

There is a crisis with Bruce Willis playing a version of himself refusing to shave off his beard before the start of a new picture that Ben wants to start production. His producer life hangs in the balance to the direction Bruce has to make. Will the production shut down, because of facial hair? He tries to get Willis’ agent, Dick Bell (John Turturro) to change his mind.

Lastly, there is a crisis on the personal front with his relationship with his ex-wife Kelly (Robin Wright Penn). Is she having an affair with a struggling writer, Scott Solomon (Stanley Tucci)? What is the nature of the relationship between his teenaged daughter, Zoe (Kirstin Stewart) and a dead agent, Jack McDonaugh? Will he find some stability in his life?

This Barry Levinson directed movie gaves a satricial jab to the Hollywood types. The movie is witty. Good dialogue. The pacing is frantic and choatic when Ben is in the car going from appoitment to appoinemnt. It slows down on some of the tender scenes of the film.

The best part of the movie is at the burial of Jack McDoanugh. I won’t spoil it. Let’s just say, Ben, Bruce, Dick and a shovel.

My judgment: If you want to be a producer in Hollywood, this movie would steer you from attempting such a feat.

My rating: ***1/2

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