Quick Hit – Matt Damon with an unplaceable accent and a ponytail has a predictable character arc in this effects driven movie.
This is a movie that features Matt Damon in a period piece fighting monsters on the Great Wall of China. That is what I went into the movie knowing, and that’s what I knew after I watched the movie. If you’ve watched the trailer, you know the plot – there are monsters on one side of the wall. An army of Chinese soldiers try to keep them back in spectacular ways, in really colorful armor. Matt Damon shoots things with arrows. The end.
And really, it’s that simple. Matt Damon may go through a short character arc where he generically becomes a better person, but none of it feels like there is any conviction. His sidekick steals the show more than once, and Willem Dafoe peters in and out of the movie at what feels like his own whimsy, seemingly playing a different character each time. There is a love story (kind of) with no passion.
The only redeeming quality in the movie is the effects. The creature effects are pretty good, despite being heavily CG’d. I also thought the actual design of the creature is good. I really liked the queen idea, with the communication through her hood, and her harem of protectors that are seemingly arrow proof. But the whole thing gets lost because rarely do you make a movie that features only on monsters. Plus, the whole thing seems strangely familiar. If you know what I’m thinking of, hit me up in the comments section – I honestly don’t know why these monsters ring such a bell in my head.
I was really disappointed here, and that’s a shame. I mentioned in the quick hit that Damon does an accent, but I’m not sure where it was from. It sounded to me as if he was trying to strip the Boston out of his voice so he just sounded like a generic European, but I almost would have enjoyed it more if he at least attempted to sound like he was from somewhere.
This movie isn’t very good, and I wouldn’t waste your time with it. I’m giving it a “D-“.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: This fever dream of a Michael Bay film has tons of highlights despite being messy and having nonsense throughout.
There seems to be a large portion of the population that hates Michael Bay. I’m not going to say that he’s the devil incarnate, but I haven’t particularly enjoyed his movies of late (I say of late because I loved The Rock) – TMNT and TMNT2 were a bit of a mess, and the continued amount of Transformer films fills me with dread (despite the fact I can’t help but be intrigued by the involvement of those like Anthony Hopkins). (Yes in case you’re wondering I do have two sets of parentheses in the same sentence – my bad for not following the traditional grammar rules – let’s just say I have more thoughts than I can get out like a normal person).
So, naturally, with my recent knowledge of his films, when I saw Directed by Michael Bay pop up on my television screen, I may or may not have let out a small groan. But sometimes, (ok, quite often) my initial thoughts or groans turn into a rapid excitement. Despite writing about movies daily, I never quite seem to be entirely right about movies until I watch them.
I’m not sure how I passed over The Island which somehow stars Ewan McGregor, Scarlet Johansson, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, and Djimon Hounsou. It tells the story of Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Johansson) as they strive to reach the mythical island. The entire first half of the film is filled with a scientific dread, and even before the twists that are revealed, there is a distinct sense of wrongness throughout. You know what it reminds me of? District 13 in The Hunger Games series – rationed food, everyone wearing the same clothes, controlled amounts of fun, etc.
Somewhere around the halfway point of the film, all plot considerations seem to just leave the movie behind. It devolves into a giant chase scene for the final hour or so of the film. If there is one thing that Mr. Bay knows, it’s chases and explosions, and both are featured heavily here. It’s actually extremely exhilarating, with our characters constantly figuring out new ways to survive in the chase.
Speaking of those characters, I thought that Ms. Johansson and Mr. McGregor did a stellar job with what they were given. The fact that the agnates were essentially raised to be childlike is something that is often taken for granted when it comes to be acting. Their childlike wonder often comes across to propel conversations that otherwise would have staled out. Along with that, they play the roles with an innoncence that is rarely seen in the movies. Bit parts are fleshed out with Hounsou, who plays a mercenary, Buscemi, who plays the same character he always does, and Sean Bean, who plays a sleazy corporate doctor.
I’m not going out and saying that this is a great movie – it barely qualifies as good. But it is extremely entertaining, as well as coming out and putting forth some political views on a lot of the progress that science continues to make. That’s what good science fiction films tend to do – ask questions and leave them only partially answered. This movie fits that, and is good enough for a “B-“ from me.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Comedy at a full-blown tilt.
I’ll be the first to come out and say that this is a movie that goes at a slapstick pace, constantly has humor hidden in different scenes and intonations, and has jokes hiding in the corners and crevices of the screen. For this very reason, I can’t recommend it to everyone, for the same reason that movies like Under the Skin or Manchester By the Sea aren’t for everyone – our tastes are very, very subjective in movies.
However, if you’re looking for a comedy (or a musical for that matter) that will find you laughing at least once within its running time (and probably more if you are someone like me that appreciates spoof humor), Young Frankenstein is one of the best out there. Allow me to shed some light onto why I think so.
First, spoof/parody humor hasn’t been around forever. I mean in some ways it has always been around – Charlie Chaplin was making films like The Tramp that capitalized on that type of humor in at least one way – but never to the degree that Mel Brooks started, where it is a complete and total spoof of a genre. This paved the way for the Scary Movie, Not Another Teen Movie, Epic Movie, Haunted House, Date Movie, etc. etc. movies (albeit, with some limited results there – talk about a formulaic movie trend!). In 1974, Mel Brooks released two movies in this vein, Blazing Saddles (which parodied the Westerns of the 50s) and Young Frankenstein (which parodied the horror movies of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, particularly the Universal Frankenstein series).
Let’s talk about one of the reasons I love this movie – the attention to detail is astounding. That’s because the actual set was developed using the original props from the Frankenstein series. Mel Brooks found the set designer, who just had the stuff lying in his basement. That’s amazing, and it shows. The reality of the spoof is entirely on Brooks, Wilder, and Feldman. Wilder and Feldman are so strong delivering lines with sincerity and humor that would easily cause fits to anyone on set (and audience members as well). I can’t picture anyone else in these roles, so it makes it a little harder when I see the musical on stage. I think arguably Ygor is one of my favorite movie characters, and that's just because Feldman really sells the role. So much of his humor was ad libbed it's ridiculous.
The only thing that could be conceived wrong with this film is the pacing at times. Most moments are fully realized, but there are some that go flat, and some that drag on. As you continue through the film, there are some moments that last much longer than they need to… but are almost always redeemed with humor. Take “Putting on the Ritz” for example – it starts slower than necessary, but builds to a fun exciting climax.
Overall, I think this movie is classic comedy gold, and should be known as such. I’m giving it an “A-“.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"