About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Torn Curtain


Julie Andrews plays the fiancée and assistant to American scientist Paul Newman, whom she discovers might be defecting to the Russians. Wolfgang Kieling is Gromek, Newman’s assigned bodyguard, who has a fascination with American slang. Gisela Fischer is also impressive in the small role of Dr. Koska, one of Newman’s ‘comrades’. Lila Kedrova turns up late as a curious Polish Countess looking for a ‘sponsor’ so she can get into America.

 

1966 Alfred Hitchcock (“Psycho”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, “Sabotage”) film is easily one of his weakest, a surprisingly dull, dour spy film that seems so impersonal compared to his great films like “Strangers on a Train”, “Vertigo”, or “Spellbound”. The leads are miscast; Newman might have often played unlikeable characters, but they’re usually more interesting characters (he’s actually not in the film enough, if you ask me), and his disinterest in the project (and perhaps in the director, if rumour has it correctly) shows here. A much better choice would have been someone like James Coburn or Joseph Cotten. Maybe Burt Lancaster or even Steve McQueen who could play cold-fishes very well and probably wouldn’t show the disdain for the material that Newman does here. Andrews, meanwhile, just plain shits me as an actress and sexy, she ain’t. Seeing the asexual actress and Newman in bed is liking watching your maths teacher doing it- she’s just so proper, and ever-so pleasant, and with perfect elocution. I don’t think of myself as a misogynist nor a violent man, but so help me, there were times here I just wanted to wring her neck. Or maybe just give her a spoonful of arsenic.

 

But in the end it’s the dull story and indifferent direction that sink this admittedly nice-looking film. Kedrova is a little hammy in what amounts to a mere cameo that grinds the film to a halt near the end, and by then I was way past the point of giving a fuck. Kieling’s and Fischer’s lively performances and an infamously gruelling, sloppy and drawn-out murder sequence (despite “Frenzy” doing it better) are the only standouts here. The latter is indeed the only moment where it appears Hitch is awake at the helm (his cute cameo not withstanding- one of his best, by the way) and even Newman is drawn out of his slumber for it. The screenplay is by Brian Moore, from his story. Subpar John Addison (“Tom Jones”, “The Entertainer”) score is another underwhelming aspect of this very forgettable film.

 

Rating: C

Friday, April 5, 2013

Wrestlemania 29 Predictions and Analysis


The grandest stage of them all. The WWE's premiere PPV. It all leads up to this. So why aren't I as excited as I should be?

Looking at the list of names set to appear at Mania, it certainly looks impressive; Cena, The Rock, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, The Undertaker, Team Hell No, Randy Orton, Sheamus, Ryback, The Big Show, etc. All pretty big stars, several future Hall of Famers among them. I even like some of the lesser names on the card such as Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, The Miz, Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, AJ, Damien Sandow, and Brodus Clay. And when the matches first started to come together, I thought this would be one of the better WM's of late, even if Kofi Kingston has been shamefully left off the card.

But just a few days out from the big event, and those matches just don't seem as interesting to me now. Hell, one or two matches don't interest me at all. The storylines/booking in some cases haven't worked. Look at the WHC match. Del Rio is apparently getting a lot of the blame for this, but I think he's done better as a Face in this feud than Swagger has as the heel. Most crowds at least get behind Del Rio in the ring (I'm not convinced those 'USA!' chants were from smarks, so much as morons), if not on the mic. But the feud itself just hasn't worked. Swagger and Zeb's act grew stale after two weeks because they had nothing new left to say. That's a shame, because although the act had potential to go very, very wrong, it also had the potential to go through the roof. Instead, the crowd has gone mild. I think that is less the problem of the individuals involved in the feud and more to do with how it has been written. I think Del Rio could make for a very good badass babyface, but playing this 'Born in Mexico, Made in America' stuff just doesn't suit him, especially when he's not the most expressive speaker of the English language (His facial expressions, presence, size, charisma, and ring skills, however, are all superb). The use of the empathetic and popular Ricardo Rodriguez has helped, especially in recent weeks, but it's still not where it needs to be. An American heel vs. Hispanic face feud might've seemed like a great idea, but it isn't coming off that well. Mostly this is because the specific promos being delivered are tired, repetitive and not the best fit for the respective talent involved. It feels forced. I have no doubt the match will be great to watch from a technical perspective, but it will be hard to really  get into it because I, like seemingly most of the crowds leading up to WM, haven't felt connected to the feud itself. Having Del Rio wrestle a non-wrestler presumably in his 50s or 60s, also does not help the feud, nor the talent involved. Racist or not, Del Rio (the face) is beating up a fat old man. That's not cool is it, Carlito?

Some of the feuds feel like they should've started a week or two earlier, as well. To me, the the Undertaker vs. CM Punk match just needed an extra week or so to really get things hot between them. It has felt far too rushed to me, and based on the most recent RAW, I have issues with the feud itself, or what it is based on. Is it wrong to use the real-life death of the man known in WWE as Paul Bearer for a storyline? I think it's worse to simply have jumped on this mid-feud, because it plays like the WWE weren't happy with the feud simply being about The Streak. I doubt that's the case, but it plays that way, and thus it has me less invested in the feud. A feud that could've been amazing, but instead has the faint whiff of their previous underwhelming encounters. I wonder what the feud would've been like had Bearer not passed.

Add to all this two part-time wrestlers with schedules that have made the WM build difficult (The Rock and Brock Lesnar). The Triple H vs. Lesnar feud just doesn't seem to have gotten over at all. In fact, Triple H's crowd reactions have been quite underwhelming over the last year or so. Lesnar's infrequent appearances though, are what has really killed any potential heat or interest for this match. The brought HBK back on the most recent RAW to try and add some interest, but I'm not sure he has had much effect, outside of guaranteeing there will be a lot of 'HBK' chants during the bout. Maybe the so-called WWE Universe has moved on from Triple H and Lesnar, or perhaps the retirement stipulation has made many fans feel the match result to be transparent, and thus they don't care.
 
The Rock's infrequent appearances have been an issue too, but the feud and promos have mostly been better than their last bout, so it's not as much of an issue. I'm more concerned with the fact that they did not have any interaction on the most recent RAW. I know the match largely sells itself, but still, I don't like it, and wish the two most recent weeks of Cena-Rock had been switched. I'm also concerned about Cena getting 'boring' chants during his final promo on the last RAW before Wrestlemania. Those chants might just be from all the Cena-haters who woulddo that any week of the year, but how is it a good thing to have the company's #1 babyface star and WM headliner getting 'boring' chants whilst trying to sellthe upcoming PPV? I bet Vince was mega pissed about that, even if the plan IS to turn Cena heel. Cena acknowledging the 'boos' in recent years, however, might well be worked into a heel turn.

So I'm just not as into this year's event as I'd normally be (And no Kofi Kingston? Fuck you, WWE! Seriously, Fuck you!). But still, it's Mania, and there are still things I'm interested in. How will The Shield be booked in their first WM appearance? Ditto Big E. Langston, Ryback, Fandango, and Damien Sandow. AJ Lee is always a fascinating and unpredictable element to any match. Will Dolph Ziggler prove to be the ultimate show off and cash in on the grandest stage of them all? Will John Cena finally for the love of God turn heel? So I'm excited...just not as much as I could've been. Anyway, on to the predictions:

 

The Rock (c) vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship: These two seem to legit not like each other, don't you think? I mean, Cena's never been much of an actor, so it seems pretty legit to me. The feud itself has been more interesting than last time, due to a mostly serious attitude by the two guys involved. However, Rock missing a crucial RAW or two has in my view dampened things a bit. I can understand why some people are picking The Rock to retain, but think about it. Yes, there will be a third match at the next WM, but there's more chance of the much-wanted Cena heel turn than there is of another Rock win. Something different needs to happen. Whether that is simply a Cena win leading to a third match, or a Cena win and a heel turn, The Rock will not win. Yes, if ever Cena is going to turn l, it's gonna be here, and he doesn't need to lose to set it up. The seeds have already been planted and he can resort to heel tactics to win because he's desperate. I want that to happen, hell, we ALL want it to happen, right? Hell,  if it doesn't happen, then why have they been hinting at it so strongly? It seems like Cena has to go 'rogue' here. Even so far as red herrings or fake-outs go, it's pretty bloody strong. Even Cena vowing to keep Rock's version of the WWE belt (it's a frigging belt, Vince. Deal with it!) seems like a heel move to me. Why else would he want to keep that particular belt if not to gloat about it? Well, maybe he can gloat and still be a face.
What WILL happen? Cena wins, stays face, we get a boring-arse excuse for a third WM match (gimme my belt back, Fruity Pebbles!) and all those hints have been red herrings, just 'coz they can (Just like they can suggest Cena had a bad year, when he sure seemed to win a lot!). I hope I'm wrong about that, but I doubt it.

Prediction: John Cena wins to set up the WM30 tie-breaker, and send the crowd home happy. Crowd boos loudly 'coz that just plain sucks.


Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger for the World Heavyweight Championship: I believe the title will be moving away from this feud soon, and not just because of Swagger's legal issues. As for the prediction for the match, I assume the match won't actually go on as early as many seem to think (I wouldn't mind betting it goes on third last actually, unless the Punk-Taker match does), but Del Rio will go over for two reasons 1) To help get him over even more, and 2) He didn't fuck up and get busted by the cops. Wrestling-wise, this should be top stuff if it goes long enough. I predict the result won't much matter, though, because Ziggler's gonna cash in and show off at the biggest stage of them all. If not now, when? I don't buy the 'time running out' storyline, myself. Dolph is winning, folks.
 
Prediction: Alberto retains, Swagger goes on to feud with undercard minorities instead. Ziggler cashes in on Alberto, to become the NEW World Heavyweight Champion.

 
 

CM Punk vs. The Undertaker: In some ways, I hate the idea of a streak being introduced but not broken (why have one in a storyline-based sport then?), but the streak doesn't need to be broken IN a match with Taker, does it? Someone else can have their own streak. Anyway, the build to this has been seriously disappointing to me, and although I think it should be a great match, I don't think it will be. Punk is a very good worker but has a tendency to be sloppy at times in the ring (worst top rope elbow ever!), and Taker is...old. So the storyline really needed to be something, and it really hasn't. But these are still two of the biggest icons in the business today, Taker is an all-time great, so even an average match if given time will still likely be entertaining and interesting. Also, if anyone ever did beat the streak, Punk wouldn't be a bad way to go, so in that sense I'm still excited about it. Like the Cena heel turn, it's pretty bloody unlikely, but a possibility. It's certainly going to be less predictable than most of Taker's recent WM matches. I just hope they keep Paul Bearer's corpse doesn't run interference here. Anyway, Punk gets to be a statistic, and I reckon Taker retires here too. I just have a feeling about that. Oh, and Punk?If you want to play mind games with someone, it's a good idea if you don't say that's what you're doing on live TV. Just a suggestion there for 'ya, buddy!

Prediction: 21-0, Taker retires, and Punk takes a short amount of time off too.

 

 

Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H (No Holds Barred): This feud just doesn't seem to have gotten over, and it surprises me a bit. I'm no HHH fan (good wrestler, political jerk as a wrestler, seemingly much fairer and smarter as a businessman- or perhaps just older and wiser), but I've been shocked at how apathetic crowds have been towards him during all of this. The guy peed his pants for you damn people, show him some respect, OK? In all seriousness, Heyman is doing all the good work here. Lesnar's a beast, but his infrequent appearances have kinda killed this (even moreso than in the case of Cena/Rock II) along with the crowd's seeming disinterest in HHH. Lesnar has basically been a bust here, I think, despite doing his job of looking like a beast rather well. When he has turned up, that is. I could actually see HHH lose and retire here, as I do believe he'll pretty much retire anyway, making the stip kinda stupid if he DOES win AND retires, but I think he'll win, stick around for a bit and then retire. It makes no sense, but that's HHH's career as a wrestler for you. It's all about him, whether you want to hear it or not and whether it makes sense or not.

Prediction: Huntor The Barbarian beats Brock Lesnar to a bloody pulp, HBK kicks Heyman's head off.


Team Hell No (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston for the Tag Team Titles: Firstly, it needs to be said that this is not Big E's first match. He's been on NXT for months and as I write this, is still seen on TV (in Australia anyway) as the NXT champion. And a face, for that matter. WWE can say whatever they want, but they aren't fooling me (BTW, Why they turned him heel when he was mega over- and still is- as a face on NXT is mindboggling). Anyway, I would've preferred a DB vs. Kane match, but since this is what we have, it's obvious that Ziggler has business elsewhere to attend to and doesn't need to be a tag team champion. So, I say Team Hell No retain, and despite looking dominant at times, Big E. will take the fall too. It'll be interesting to see him perform on a big stage and in front of a crowd that may not care to see him. I'm not a huge fan of his (I think he should be a Devon/Anvil-like power guy in a face tag team), but I hope he doesn't get booed out of the building. He certainly has potential, and that would be unfortunate. AJ interference is a given, and will probably be the highlight of the match, though I'm sure Kane and DB will be lots of fun too.

Prediction: Team Hell No retain, Kane chokeslams Big E. for the win.

 
Big Show, Sheamus, and Randy Orton vs. The Shield: I have issues with The Shield. Dean Ambrose's wannabe tough guy act looks like Craig Hobson from The Wonder Years trying to ignore the fact that he just pooped his pants. Seth Rollins is a bit better, even though I think he's better as a CM Punk-lite babyface. He might be the sleeper of the group, though. I'm getting tired of their redundant promos and am still waiting to find out what their brand of justice is really all about. I also believe Roman Reigns is a legit star of the future and has the perfect combination of size, lineage, and charisma that Vince loves, so it's a shame to see him as part of a group. That said, The Shield are pretty over, they're a big part of WWE programming, and best of all, unlike The Nexus, The Corrrrrre and Aces and Eights, The Shield have been booked strongly. So because I like new talent being pushed, I'd really like them to win, as this would be a huge boost for them. Unfortunately, this is Wrestlemania, heels generally don't win at Wrestlemania (another reason why I doubt Cena turns heel), and so although one or two heels will likely win during the event, the faces here are gonna dish out their own brand of justice to The Shield, and  their first big loss. A heel turn from Randy Orton is on the cards, but I don't think it happens until at least after the match. Maybe Sheamus steals a pin from Orton or there's some communication breakdown. This is definitely one of the matches to watch, purely to see how The Shield are booked and how they perform, though I've always enjoyed Sheamus and Orton's work too. But if The Shield were to win, they'd need nine members, wouldn't they? It takes all three of them to take out one person, doesn't it? And given one of their opponents is Show, I'm not sure how they manage to get an advantage. On RAW it's easier because the other guys have to run out to the ring, but unless they attack during their entrances, the supposed even match-up isn't even at all.


Prediction: The World's Largest Celtic Vipers win.

 
Mark Henry vs. Ryback: Oddly enough, this has been the best-booked feud and it's the match I'm most looking forward to. Yeah, a Mark Henry match. Yeah, a Ryback match. Go figure, but Henry has finally (after how many years?) come into his own as a badass heel. 'Coz that's what he do (Anyone who writes about Mark Henry these days is required by imaginary law to use the phrase 'that's what he do' at some point, right?). It won't be a technical...well, anything, really, and the crowd might be a tad snarky to get into a Ryback match (and it'll be interesting to see if either man gets blown up too early), but I'm really excited about it, even though the result is the most predictable on the card. Just look at the weight-lifting contest on SD a week or so ago. Hell, Ryback needs this win, especially considering he's one of the few newly made (well, almost new) stars who is pretty much 'over', at least with the mainstream audience and Mark Henry is likely on his way out ('coz that's what he do...ALL DAY!). I don't think Ryback is great, but he's solid on all fronts (hopefully Henry isn't too oiled up for Ryback to hit his finisher) for what his character is all about, and more talented than several other NXT guys like Darren Young, Heath Slater, and David Otunga. I'd hate it if he takes yet another big PPV loss because they're getting dangerously close to ruining his credibility at this stage. Apparently house show crowds have been a bit negative on this pairing, and that worries me considerably as well, but maybe house show crowds just plain suck or maybe given Henry's recent injury scare, he's taking it easy before the big dance. But why do house shows at all in that case? Anyway, I'm still interested in seeing how this pans out, though I hope it's not booked like a hour long Iron Man match or something.
 
Prediction: Ryback wins. Then goes out for Hungry Jacks, 'coz he's still hungry, damnit!.

 
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango: Despite the fact that I think Jericho's a great guy, a great company man, and one of the best workers in the biz...here's the one match on the current card that I give the least crap about (At least I like both Miz and Barrett!). Johnny Curtis deserves credit for prevailing through the shit he's been handed since winning that season of NXT no one saw (and returning for that other season of NXT no one saw). No matter the character (or the silly voice that goes with it), he tries his best to get it over, and although I prefer the 'Dirty Curty' character to Fandango, hey, he's going to Wrestlemania! Since I can't imagine Fandango going anywhere much after this, yet Jericho has clearly been put into a feud with him to get him over (and maybe reference his own stint at dancing), I say Fandango gets himself some heat by beating the Jebus out of Y2J, possibly in his retirement match, even. It might even be a fun match (Jericho is one of the best workers on the roster and Curtis is a solid hand too), but more likely it will stink and if it weren't Jericho involved, the crowd would shit all over this. You know it's true.

Prediction: Jericho wins by DQ after Fandango uses non-sanctioned dance moves.

 
Wade Barrett (c) vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship: Who would've though that Del Rio would make for a better face than Miz? I thought he'd be a natural as a Roddy Piper/Y2J-esque face, but it just hasn't worked. Miz's mic work (his crown jewel, let's face it) and image have been softened to being a pandering, watered-down version of his former self. He should've kept his annoying persona on full-blast and simply derided and annoyed the heels. He hasn't quite done that, though, and although I think the Ric Flair relationship is fine, they haven't utilised Flair nearly enough (though health issues have played a part, I assume). Also, integrating Antonio Cesaro and the US championship into this feud has muddied the waters. Hell, the feud has just plain sucked. The movie star bragging is actually fine, except, like Flair, it hasn't been used enough, at least not in Miz's end. I think both of these guys should be main eventers by now (along with Kofi Kingston who isn't even on the damn card despite currently being far more 'over' than these two guys), but if I have to choose a winner here, I say Miz wins to hopefully get him over as a face. They'll have their work cut out for them, though. I'm worried about the crowd for this one. Methinks they're gonna shit all over Miz in particular.

Prediction: The Miz wins, no one cares.


Tons of Funk vs. Team Rhodes Scholars: I don't like the name 'Tons of Funk' as much as say 'Funkin Fatties' or 'Heavy T and the Fat Boy', but it's better than 'The Dancing Bears' I guess. I like three of the guys here (Though, Cody's a midcarder for life in my view, talented as he is). Hell, Tensai is growing on me too, and the girls are all athletic, if not good wrestlers for the most part (though none of them are awful in the ring). I especially like Nikki's Bella Twins. Yeah, I went there. I'm a guy, so sue me. Seriously, Nikki's boobs are money well spent. Anyway, Rhodes Scholars are the perfect buffoon heels like 3MB (only talented), so Funkin' Fatties and the Soul Train dancers win.

Prediction: Tons of Funk

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: New Year’s Eve


A bunch of famous people walk on screen and say a bunch of stuff pretending to be a group of New Yorkers going about their day (and evening) on the title date. Some of the characters from one story will also bleed into another one, ala “Love Actually”. Hilary Swank is the workaholic in charge of seeing that the ball drops in Times Square at midnight. She hits a few snags along the way, forcing her to re-hire electrician Kominsky (Hector Elizondo) to fix things in time. Michelle Pfeiffer is a lonely, mousy secretary who ropes in messenger Zak Efron to help her complete her bucket list (Seriously, this really is part of the movie). Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers, meanwhile, compete with other couples (including Til Schweiger) to ring in the New Year with a newborn baby...to win a cash prize. No, I’m not kidding. Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele get stuck in an elevator. The latter is a back-up singer to Jon Bon Jovi, and is expected to join him in the Times Square sing-song festivities. Bon Jovi, meanwhile, wants to make it work with his ex, caterer Katherine Heigl, who is busy preparing a fancy party and thinks he’s unable to commit to a serious relationship anyway. Robert De Niro and Halle Berry play a dying patient and his nurse, the latter missing her soldier squeeze Common. Josh Duhamel plays a rich guy stranded a long way from getting to the party he’s expected to be an important guest at. He’s also got a date at midnight with a girl he met one year ago, but who is she? (The answer makes a lot less sense the more you think about it) Sarah Jessica Parker and Abigail Breslin play mother and daughter, the former currently single. A bunch of other well-known people have minor roles to play (including Yeardley Smith, Cherry Jones, Sarah Paulson, Jim Belushi, Ludacris, Alyssa Milano, and Ryan Seacrest as a version of himself). Matthew Broderick has a walk-on.

 

OK, I take it back. “Valentine’s Day” really wasn’t all that bad. Actually, that’s not true, it’s just that compared to this cynical 2011 sorta follow-up from director Garry Marshall (“Valentine’s Day”, “Pretty Woman”) and writer Katherine Fugate (“Carolina”, “Valentine’s Day”), it looks a whole lot better. Like that film, this has clearly been made to rake in millions from the mindless popcorn brigade who, bringing along their date in the hopes of getting laid (moreso with “Valentine’s Day”, perhaps), don’t really care about what unfolds onscreen. I’m single, and very much care about what unfolds onscreen (in theory at least), and in the case of this film, it’s almost two hours of skull-numbing suckage. Both films are inferior American rip-offs of the charming and wonderful “Love Actually”, anyway.

 

Question: What’s worse, being in this film or being the only working actor not in this film? The answer? Being Ashton Kutcher, who was in both this and “Valentine’s Day”. Like last time, the biggest problem is that with so many stars and characters there’s not enough time to give a crap about anyone because as soon as you say ‘Hey, it’s Hilary Swank!’, Marshall and Fugate move on to someone else. It’s so superfluous a film that it’s almost an insult to superfluousness. Truth be told, as much as this film is cashing in on the holiday title, do you really think anyone would flock to see this if it didn’t have an all-star cast as well? Maybe, but you’d definitely call it crap. I refuse to believe, by the way, that these two films were written before most of the stars were already enlisted by Mr. Marshall. I’d be surprised if this one wasn’t largely written on the fly.

 

It’s also such a mopey downer of a film, despite the celebratory title, which is just bizarre, and I got absolutely no enjoyment out of it at all. The characters are underwritten, and either awful or just plain obnoxious. Marshall knows he’s making cynical cash-grabs. He’s smart enough to know that the film would actually be better with less stars (i.e. less characters). “Love Actually” was in some ways a fluke in that respect, but Richard Curtis is also more talented than Marshall. Some of the characters could’ve worked in their own film- Those played by Halle Berry, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, and Robert De Niro even. But competing with everyone and everything else? No chance in Hell.

 

And thus ends the review portion of today’s entertainment. Fuck it. I’m just going to present to you the points I made in my notes, one by one. The film doesn’t deserve a nice, tidy review, and numbered points pretty much gets across the viewing experience I had much more effectively anyway.

 

1) What’s wrong with Hilary Swank these days? Is her agent on crack?

 

2) Zac Efron’s still a thing? Why isn’t he One Direction’s roadie at this point?

 

3) Til Schweiger? Really? Why?

 

4) Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel as a couple? Uh-uh.

 

5) How can Zac Efron be Ashton Kutcher’s best friend? Isn’t Kutcher old enough to be his dad?

 

6) I keep waiting for Josh Duhamel to become a genuine star and it hasn’t happened.

 

7) Katherine Heigl gets way too much work.

 

8) She’s also young enough to be Jon Bon Jovi’s daughter. It’s creepy.

 

9) Jon Bon Jovi’s presence here is no surprise. He’s turned into a countrified hack, and yet still makes the ladies swoon.

 

10) Michelle Pfeiffer looks so old and haggard here I missed her in her first scene.

 

11) Ludacris is a sell-out. Go ahead, pop a cap in my paraplegic arse. He’s also s dull actor, by the way.

 

12) I generally like Sofia Vegara, but it becomes painfully obvious very quickly that the film doesn’t need her.

 

13) Why are John Lithgow and Michelle Pfeiffer playing Scrooge and Bob Cratchit?

 

14) Why is this film so painfully unfunny?

 

15) Bobby De Niro playing a dying man is apt casting, but not in a good way. His credibility was dying until his recent Oscar nom.

 

16) All of these Oscar winners and nominees and apparently none of them saw fit to rewrite this shit themselves? Then I guess Jon Bon Jovi and Ricockulous (Ludacris) aren’t the only sell-outs, are they?

 

17) I love Carla Gugino, but she’s a sell-out too, apparently.

 

18) Marshall misses out completely by not giving Gugino and Bon Jovi a scene together. Hopefully some of you know what I’m talking about.

 

19) Credit where it’s due, ol’ horse face (Sarah Jessica Parker) gets to have a teen daughter in this. She’s finally acting her damn age.

 

20) Anyone else think it was De Niro’s suggestion to hire Halle Berry to nurse him? I bet he’s a huge “Monster’s Ball” fan. Right, Bobby D? You want to make Halle feel gooood, don’t you?

 

21) Hilary Swank is the only person here whose charm and talent shine through enough here to allow her to not seem like she’s selling out. And given at one point she stands right next to a big Philips ad, that takes a lot of talent!

 

22) Larry Miller only ever plays Larry Miller, but he plays it hilariously in a film with practically no laughs.

 

23) Michelle Pfeiffer’s role and performance are humiliating. I’m not a fan, but this is beneath her. She should’ve been paired with Bon Jovi.

 

24) Katherine Heigl has nice breasts but an unlikeable presence on screen.

 

25) Sofia Vegara’s breasts steal the show. God Bless ‘em (Is this a sexist review, or what?)

 

26) I hate “Glee” passionately, it’s the cancer of the music and television industry.

 

27) Lea Michele has a thoroughly obnoxious and unlikeable presence on screen.

 

28) “Little Miss Sunshine” got chubby. And less charming. She’s normal, and normal sucks. Ask Fred Savage.

 

29) This movie almost makes me want re-watch “Eat, Pray, Shart”. Almost.

 

30) Sarah Jessica Parker’s character is only mildly obnoxious, purely because she used to play an unbelievably self-absorbed, obnoxious cow on TV.

 

31) Ryan Dick Clark Seacrest plays a douchy version of himself. Not buying it, we all know he’s a pretty nice guy.

 

32) Why is Lisa Simpson (Yeardley Smith) here?

 

33) The film irritatingly casts at least two sets of people known to be off-screen pairings (Sarah Jessica Parker & Matthew Broderick, Cherry Jones & Sarah Paulson) and...doesn’t pair them up. Why cast them in a romantic film, then? The latter in particular is annoying given the absence of gay characters in the film. 

 

34) Why cast Jon Bon Jovi and have him sing if he’s not going to sing one of his own songs? Does that make him more of a sell-out or less?

 

35) The answer to that question becomes bleedingly obvious when he performs a duet with Lea Michele.

 

36) So Sarah Jessica Parker has a teen daughter and her brother is Zac Efron? Is Ashton Kutcher her dad, then?

 

37) Ludacris’ lethargic performance makes you wonder if Anthony Mackie was busy.

 

38) The pregnancy storyline is offensively infantile (get it?) and wastes some pretty decent talent. And Jessica Biel.

 

39) Garry Marshall manages something I thought impossible. He has turned New Years into just as commercially crass a holiday as Valentine’s Day. Bravo, you arsehole.

 

40) There is absolutely no sense in making Michele’s character sing in this film except that she’s the chick from “Glee”.

 

41) De Niro has been slumming since about 1996, but he’s especially lazy here. He might be worse in other films, but he should be truly ashamed of himself here.

 

42) Given Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t sing a Bon Jovi song, Jim Belushi could’ve played the damn role, don’t you think?

 

43) Why does Alyssa Milano have an irrelevant 11th hour walk-on? In order to have a star cameo, don’t you need to be a star first? She hasn’t been relevant since she had kinky sex with some vampires in 1994.

 

44) Lea Michele’s rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ shows she has a complete lack of understanding of the song. It is not meant to be an excuse to try out your Christina Aguilera ‘Look at me, I can siiiiiinnnnnggggggg!’ impression. Vomit inducing stuff. Just sing the damn song, you try hard!

 

45) Aside from Michele and Kutcher, none of the couplings matched up at all. Parker and Swank in particular should’ve swapped roles, if not for Breslin’s presence making that an enormous stretch.

 

46) Michelle Pfeiffer’s character (and performance) is so strange and pathetic you’d need an entire film just to understand what her problem is.

 

47) Bueller? Bueller?....Bueller?

 

Look, I love a good romantic film (“When Harry Met Sally”, “Sleepless in Seattle”, “Love Actually”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Untamed Heart”, etc.), but this is an absolutely 100% pathetic one.

 

Rating: D

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: Murder!


Actor Herbert Marshall serves on a jury that convicts actress Norah Baring of the murder of a young woman in the same acting group. He’s the lone dissenting voice, and unhappy with the decision made, decides to play detective. Phyllis Konstam and Edward Chapman run the local theatre. Esme Percy plays a female impersonator.

 

Pretty good early Hitchcock (“Vertigo”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, “Strangers on a Train”) whodunit from 1930 unfortunately has a conclusion I could see coming a mile away, and a voice-over for the characters’ inner thoughts that has become tired nowadays. Marshall is particularly good in the lead, and I’d suggest “12 Angry Men” is a little indebted to this film for one sequence (not to mention Hitch’s own, later “Stage Fright” which contains one helluva similar premise). Memorable climax, even if the culprit is obvious fairly early on. Perhaps that’s a sign of the film’s vintage, though I wouldn’t exactly say the film has dated.

 

The screenplay is by Alma Reville (“The Skin Game”, “The Lady Vanishes”, “Shadow of a Doubt”), Walter C. Mycroft, and The Master himself, based on a novel by Clemence Dane (“Vacation From Marriage”) and Helen Simpson (Hitch’s “Sabotage”). The film is recommended more to Hitchcock completists, but is nonetheless one of his better earlier films, certainly.

 
Rating: B-

Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: Drive Angry


Nic Cage stars as the mysterious and possibly supernatural John Milton, who is trying to track down cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke). King killed Milton’s daughter and having kidnapped his granddaughter, plans to sacrifice the baby to apparently bring about Hell on Earth. In order to make his pursuit, Milton hitches a ride with struggling waitress Piper (Amber Heard). Meanwhile, an ambiguous, droll figure who calls himself ‘The Accountant (William Fichtner) is in pursuit of Milton, for reasons only gradually revealed. David Morse turns up as an old mechanic buddy of Milton’s, Tom Atkins is a hard-arse lawman also pursuing Milton, and Charlotte Ross has a small but memorable role that juxtaposes sex and death in a way you might never have considered.

 

Directed by Patrick Lussier (the superior, schlocky remake of “My Bloody Valentine”), this 2011 example of quasi-grindhouse filmmaking will be enjoyed by about 10% of the movie-going population, whilst the other 90% will likely hate it with every fibre of their being. I’m probably a ten-percent man myself, although I actually think this film could’ve been even more extreme. For starters, it’s almost criminal that Amber Heard, one of the world’s most beautiful women (and hardly a prude) is one of the few women in the film to not nude up. Having said that, we’re talking about a film where Nic Cage’s coitus is interrupted by a bunch of assassins whom he dispatches whilst still attending to his carnal desires. So perhaps I’m just being a bit greedy, as this is a fun little B-movie, kind of like ¼ “Ghost Rider” mixed with about ¾ “Mad Max”. If you liked “Shoot ‘em Up” and the “Crank” movies, you’ll enjoy this. All fifteen of you. Hey, it’s everyone else’s loss, believe me.

 

The film’s biggest roadblock to entertainment is Nic Cage, the world’s most inconsistent actor. Often he’s the worst actor in the entire world (“Deadfall”, “Vampire’s Kiss”, “Kiss of Death”, “Peggy Sue Got Married”, “Face/Off”, “The Rock”, “Raising Arizona”), sometimes he’s pretty OK (“Con Air”, “Knowing”, “Kick Ass”, “Lord of War”, “World Trade Centre”), and other times he’s just plain boring (“Season of the Witch”, “Honeymoon in Vegas”, and “Rumble Fish”). He’s sadly in boring mode here, and one almost yearns for the nutbar Cage, as irritating and unhinged as that might potentially be, it might also suit the material for a change. So he has taken the absolute wrong approach to the role, when tongue-in-cheek and coolness are clearly called for. The only interesting thing about him here is wondering if that’s really Nic Cage or the lead singer of Nickelback gone to waste. Personally I think Lussier has made a mistake in not getting Jason Statham for this role, I’m not always a fan of his, but it’s definitely his wheelhouse.

 

The film’s chief villain, Billy Burke is only marginally better. He’s a lot better than usual, but he’s usually terrible. I’d prefer a whole bunch of other actors in the role, however: Billy Drago, Rutger Hauer, Timothy Olyphant, Michael Wincott, Mickey Rourke, or maybe Josh Brolin. Burke isn’t bad as such, but he definitely lacks menace and relish in his performance. There is one peculiarly interesting thing about his performance; His facial expressions, accent, and voice are eerily similar to a young Tommy Lee Jones. It’s a dead-on impersonation, and I refuse to believe it isn’t intentional. I’m not convinced that there’s any point to it, however, aside from showing off.

 

The amazing thing is that the film manages to entertain despite a serious flaw in both protagonist and antagonist, something you’d swear would be fatal to the film. I’m not entirely convinced that Amber Heard’s hotness is the chief reason why the film works, but her hotness is indeed hard to beat. She’s also a talented enough actress that in my opinion, should’ve seen her attain stardom by now. I also refuse to believe that her ‘I Brake for Pussy’ car sticker isn’t some kind of in-joke about her bisexuality (Stay away from her, Johnny Depp! Damn You!). Seriously, she’s off-the-charts hot here in short shorts. I Brake for Amber Heard, and I don’t think I’m alone there, am I?. Most importantly, she displays star quality here. Indefinable, unmistakable star quality.

 

The scene-stealer of the film, however, is William Fichtner, who I haven’t seen on screen in ages, it seems. Playing an ambiguous character named ‘The Accountant’, he’s having a whale of a time, particularly in an hilarious scene with a couple of stoners (Keeping with the pattern of alternate actors, one could definitely see Christopher Walken in this role). I’m not exactly sure if ‘The Accountant’ is a good guy or a bad guy, but Fichtner oozes evil so much more (and so much more easily) than Burke, and is funny to boot. Meanwhile, a small role for David Morse is rarely a bad thing, and it’s good to see Tom Atkins is still alive, in seemingly good nick, and in a fun role.

 

The best thing about this entire film is that the action scenes are easy to follow and relatively minimalist in the use of shaky-cam for a change. See, filmmakers, it can be done. It was done for decades before, and it can still be done today. I must say that I wish the more supernatural elements of the film were more overt. The film is fun, but not as much of a hoot as it could’ve been with a little more emphasis on the Satanic iconography. As is, the Cage character vaguely resembles a mixture of “Hellboy” and “The Crow”, with emphasis on the word ‘vaguely’. The screenplay is by Lussier and Todd Farmer (“Jason X”, “My Bloody Valentine”), who has a small role as a deadbeat boyfriend. Perhaps they were worried that too much emphasis on the supernatural would make it seem like another “Ghost Rider”, with a sequel to that film being released not all that long after this, if I’m not mistaken. Personally, I think it’s a bit better than “Ghost Rider” (which was slightly underrated), and could’ve been even better if it didn’t pare back the supernatural stuff so much.

 

This film won’t be to many people’s tastes, but it was pretty much right up my alley. It’s stupid, over-the-top, and fun. It also has Nic Cage, but you can’t have everything your way, I guess.

 

Rating: B-

Review: Dragon Eyes


Former MMA star Cung Le stars as an ex-con recently released who walks into a town needing a clean-up of local drug gangs and corrupt cops (chief among the latter is one Peter Weller, “Robocop” himself). Good thing he’s a martial arts exponent, tutored in prison by the no-nonsense Tiano (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Kristopher Van Varenberg (son of Mr. Van Damme) turns up as a corrupt cop, similar to the one he played in his dad’s vastly superior “Assassination Games”.
 

Ever since “Replicant”, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s performances have gotten better and his films have been consistently watchable (especially “Replicant”, “Until Death” and “The Expendables 2”), save for a few missteps here and there (notably “Derailed” and “The Order”).


However, this 2012 offering from director John Hyams (the surprisingly not bad “Universal Soldier: Regeneration”) and writer Tim Tori is a clichéd, derivative (especially if you know your Kurosawa and Charles Bronson), and lethargic affair that wastes the Belgian arse-kicker in what amounts to a glorified cameo. He’s basically playing the sensei role in a reversal to his films from the late 80s and early 90s. His tough love meets Buddha meets Bruce Lee performance is an interesting one, but the role is terrible. Hyams (who has worked with JCVD before, so perhaps he did this as a favour to the director) is quite shameless in spreading his scenes throughout the film to make it look like he plays a more prominent role than he actually does (He did, however, have enough time to manage to accidentally chip an extra’s tooth. Van Damme doesn’t much go for ‘play fighting’). He also says ‘OK’ more times than Joe Pesci in the “Lethal Weapon” series with at best 1/3 of the screen time.


Cung Le, who has a bit of a Charles Bronson vibe about him (and the film could be seen as being somewhere in between Bronson’s “Death Wish III” and the low-budget street gang flick “Angel Town”- did I mention this film is clichéd and derivative?), and fights a bit like Jet Li meets Sammo Hung, with a touch of Tony Jaa. He has a lot more presence and acting talent than “Angel Town” star Olivier Gruner, however. It’s a shame he goes the stoic Bronson-esque route, because he speaks English pretty damn fluently. I wouldn’t mind seeing him in something else (He was in “Pandorum” and “Tekken”, but with much less screen time).


As good a fighter as Mr. Cung Le is, however, director Hyams does his absolute best to cock up the fights. Slow-mo is NOT necessary, Mr. Hyams, nor is rapid-fire editing. He also overdoses on filters, really cheap-looking ones that look like those old movies that used tinted colour to make B&W movies more ‘exciting’. It’s always more annoying if anything, and gave me nightmares of Albert Pyun flicks like “Mean Guns”. Strange then, that Hyams is the son of journeyman cinematographer/director Peter Hyams (who himself directed JCVD in “Timecop” and “Sudden Death”). Why can’t filmmakers just point and shoot anymore? It’s not frigging hard. Directors have been doing it for decades.


The only true bright spot here is an amusing performance by veteran Peter Weller. The role is beneath him, but that ship has long sailed, and he’s at least the only one here who genuinely looks to be having a ball. Some of that rubs off on the audience, to lift this to ‘average’ instead of ‘crap’. He’s got a Richard Widmark vibe to him here, and easily walks off with the whole film. He’s surrounded by a bunch of boring, nondescript thugs (minority thugs, of course), and a pretty boring film.


This is a whole lot of nothing, really. If you’ve seen any version of “Yojimbo”, or if you’ve seen “Angel Town”, “Blood and Bone” (an excellent showcase for Michael Jai White), or “Death Wish III”, there’s definitely no need to see this, even if it’s a better film than a couple of the aforementioned.

 
The nadir of the film is a scene involving two nauseatingly overacting, profane drug addicts. It’s a pointless Tarantino-esque excursion that wasn’t necessary and doesn’t really belong here.


This movie isn’t much, and Van Damme is wasted (therefore I can’t really lay any of the blame on him), but Weller is good fun, and Cung Le might prove an action star to watch in the future. Just not here.


Rating: C