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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: The Marine: Home Front

Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin stars as the title Marine Corps sergeant who has come home on leave to visit his sisters. They’re struggling to keep their home, and the youngest (Ashley Bell) is unemployed and seeing a total douchebag he doesn’t like the look of. One day, Bell and said douchebag boyfriend are witness to a killing carried out by Neal McDonough and his crew, who quickly round the duo up. McDonough is a nutjob domestic terrorist who is anti-capitalist...to the extreme. Get it? ‘Coz he’s an extremist? Anyhoo, Miz gets wind of this and decides to go into action to rescue his kid sister...and the douchebag if he has time. Meanwhile, the FBI (headed by Nicola Anderson) are attempting to get Miz to help them out, or ask him to stay away altogether. Michael Eklund and Darren Shahlavi are McDonough’s goons, with the former about as reliable as...well, nothing really.


Having watched WWE/F on and off since 1986 means that when reviewing their films, I come from a completely different perspective than most reviewers (And so, if you’re not familiar with wrestling at all, there’s plenty of other reviews of this film out there if you’d rather read those. I won’t be offended...much). Now seeing this, the third film in the “Marine” series, the casting alone makes for interesting pondering. I mean, the first film had John Cena, then and now pretty much the biggest superstar (or, to use the cringe-worthy WWE parlance, ‘Superstar’) in the company. The second film featured third-generation superstar Ted DiBiase Jr...who was borderline middle of the road at the time (if not even worse), and who now doesn’t even work for WWE. Now comes this 2013 film from director Scott Wiper (WWE’s “The Condemned”, with ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin) and his co-writer Declan O’Brien (writer-director of the “Wrong Turn” sequels). The star? Former WWE Champion and former “Real World” reality TV star Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin. When he was champ, he was one of the most obnoxious heels (bad guys) in the business, but off-screen was also a pretty good rep for the company in terms of media attention. Right now, Miz is unfortunately struggling to find traction because someone thought it would be a great idea to turn the naturally charismatic (in a super-annoying way) bad guy into a ‘babyface’ (good guy). It has been a disaster. He’s playing the hero in this film too, and to non-wrestling fans out there who see this and wonder how such a relatively bland guy could have ever possibly been one of the top stars in the company, believe me he’s capable of being much, much better. I understand why they turned him (he has marketability, social media presence and seems like a decent enough guy) and I understand why he was cast as the hero in this, but both times he has failed pretty badly. Whether he’s a nice guy in real life or not, when playing a good guy in fictional circumstances...he’s generic as hell, as it robs him of everything he does well as a performer(annoy people, for instance). I will say this though, from a ‘Superstar’ status, at least Miz is (and always has been) ahead of Mr. DiBiase. I bet WWE regret that decision now (though in fairness, “The Marine 2” is a better film than this one and DiBiase proved no worse at acting than Miz does here. I’m just coming from a wrestling POV).


Plot-wise this is standard, if not incompetent stuff, but the problem is that it plays a lot like the first film, but on a lesser budget and with lesser stars. Wiper and O’Brien seem to have realised this and so they’ve replaced super-bad bank robbers with half-baked extremists. Sadly, it doesn’t come off, through no fault of the supporting cast. Neal McDonough’s character is simply not hateful enough. He’s actually good in the role as written, and the character is certainly doing bad things, but he seems like the wrong bad guy for this particular film. A more clear-cut hissable villain is what this film really required, possibly one with a more physical threat to him, too. This guy’s just trying to force America into wealth redistribution via violent means. Nuance should not exist in this dojo, that’s for sure, and I just don’t think the hero, the villain, and the film itself are a good match.


But to be honest, the hero isn’t especially well-written, either. One of the things I liked about “The Marine 2” (which seemed to do a bit more with its meagre budget than this one does) was that DiBiase’s military training came in handy quite frequently. Here...not nearly as often. Miz is flat and not cast to his best advantage. Say what you will about John Cena, but he was spot-on as a hero in the first film (albeit a hero with seemingly no wrists), and has undeniable screen presence. Miz...can’t even deliver narration with much enthusiasm, and it makes a wrestling guy like me spend most of the film thinking of who would’ve been better in the role (My short list? In order of best to least suited; Chris Jericho, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, and Xavier Woods). Miz thankfully doesn’t have the freakish physique of a wrestler, which makes him seem more of an everyman kinda guy, but he simply has his limits.


Much better are bad guys McDonough (whom I don’t normally like) and Michael Eklund, and the film would be so much lesser without them, believe me. McDonough at the very least makes up for his awful bad guy turn in “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li” (Seriously, can anyone explain to me why he had an Irish accent in that piece of crap?). Eklund in particular is great as the guy you spend the entire film wondering why no one has knocked him on his arse. The dude is begging to be decapitated from moment one, even pissing off his cohorts. He’s that much of an annoying pissant...kinda like Miz in his heyday, really, but much scummier. I always enjoy Eklund on screen, and hope he makes it big someday. He’s good at what he does. It’s a shame that badass Darren Shahlavi is wasted, really only allowed to show his stuff in a late fight with Miz. It’s the film’s action highlight, but no freakin’ way would Miz win if that fight was legit, man. No way. Credit where it’s due, Wiper has learned his lesson from “The Condemned” and doesn’t shake the camera like he’s Michael J. Fox every five seconds, but when shaky-cam is employed it’s gimmicky FPS stuff which is just stupid, really.


The down home scenery is nice, the bad guys bring it, but with familiar plotting and a miscast and underwhelming lead, this is frankly a bit boring. Way too many characters, which doesn’t help either. I’m not sure I’ll be checking in if they make another one of these films, unless someone really insane is cast in the lead like Santino Marella, The Great Khali, or Yoshi Tatsu (Hey, it’s not like they’re using Yoshi much these days, is it? Not sure if his English-speaking skills are anywhere near up to snuff yet, though).


Question for wrestling fans: Anyone else find it funny that Miz’s character name is Jake Carter, which was the ring name given to former WWE wrestler Vader’s son on his brief stint with NXT (before getting released for being frankly a bit ordinary)? I mean, the Jake Carter character and the guy playing him seemed very Miz-like to me, and now Miz is playing a guy with the same name. Bizarre.


Rating: C

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Review: Red Dawn (2012)

When North Korea (led by Will Yun Lee) appears to invade the American Northwest, returning US Marine Chris Hemsworth hides out in the woods with his estranged brother Josh Peck and several others (Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, and Connor Cruise among them). With their hometown taken over the group rebrand themselves ‘The Wolverines’, and trained by Hemsworth, decide to take the fight to the Koreans. Isabel Lucas plays Peck’s girlfriend, who isn’t able to be rescued before they head into the woods, leaving her status unknown. Brett Cullen is the father of Hemsworth and Peck, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a real military guy the kids run into whilst in the woods.


The world didn’t need the right-wing, reactionary juvenile action pic “Red Dawn” when it was first made in 1984, and the world doesn’t need this good-looking but bland remake, filmed in 2009 but not released until 2012. Directed by debutant Dan Bradley (a stunt co-ordinator by trade), it doesn’t offer anything the original didn’t provide, except that one had genuine star power (Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, and then-popular stars like Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, and C. Thomas Howell), and the basic story was already recently told with the bizarrely titled Australian film “Tomorrow When the War Began”. It’s hard to get into a story you’ve seen twice before, and it wasn’t much chop either of those times. In fact, whilst this one’s livelier than “TWTWB”, I think the original “Red Dawn” probably stands slightly ahead at the end of the day.


The dialogue is putrid here, especially Chris Hemsworth’s supposedly profound speeches. He’s a one-note actor at the best of times, but is even less than that here. His former “Home and Away” co-star (and real-life ex-girlfriend) Isabel Lucas is her usual horrible self, but thankfully barely in the film. Two terrible former “Home and Away” actors sharing major screen time here would’ve been unbearable.


The best of the young actors by far is Josh Peck, who now looks alarmingly like a young Patrick Dempsey (Am I the only one?). Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a perfectly acceptable replacement for Powers Boothe (Brett Cullen ain’t no Harry Dean Stanton, though), and although improbable and on the nose, the action is occasionally exciting and well-staged. The car chase early on in particular is good fun, and even the shots of planes overhead are done more convincingly than in “TWTWB” (Some shots are eerily similar).


If you can get past the offensive, right-wing reactionary stuff (there’s even some actual flag-waving, proving that Americans have absolutely no self-awareness), some of this is schlocky fun, but not enough of it, and I just don’t think this kind of film should exist beyond the 1980s. Scripted by Carl Ellsworth (“Red Eye”, “Disturbia”, and the remake of “Last House on the Left”) and Jeremy Passmore, I just find the idea of getting youngsters to go to war offensive and frankly not convincing most times. Also not convincing? North Korea amassing an invading army against the US. They might have a large army, but they also only have about 25 million people in total, whereas everyone knows America is a true superpower. The film flopped, so I guess I’m not the only one who felt this was all a bit unnecessary. Truth be told, I think the filmmakers probably knew this wasn’t the right climate for a reactionary teen action fantasy, as they even went so far as to digitally remove all traces of the original Chinese baddies and made them Koreans. ‘Coz you wouldn’t wanna piss anyone off with a reactionary action flick, right? In all seriousness, it probably had more to do with economic/box-office concerns, but still...if the filmmakers were truly honest, the ‘baddies’ would’ve been Islamic extremist terrorists, wouldn’t they?


Rating: C