Monday, July 22, 2013

Movies I've Seen While In Europe

The Heat

(Technically, this was the last movie I saw stateside but who cares?) The Heat is a riot. A fun comedy that both guys and girls can enjoy if you're looking for a good date movie. Bullock and McCarthy have strong chemistry, and their characters work well as foils for one another. There were some inconsistencies in tone towards the film's third act with less laughs but more violence and drama. 8/10

Jack Reacher
Nothing especially important to write home about here. Just a solid crime caper with stellar performances from the entire cast which includes Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike and Werner Herzog. Nice old-school feel, but it's essentially a less intense version of The Bourne Identity. 7/10

Hall Pass
I usually like Jason Sudeikis, Owen Wilson and The Farrelly Brothers (the duo behind Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary). But Hall Pass is drearily unfunny with a script so dry and stupid that it isn't even worth watching for the eye candy (Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Nicky Whelan, Alexandra Daddario). 2.5/10

Identity Thief
Like Hall Pass, this is another occasion of talented stars coming together with less-than-stellar results. From the director of the hilarious Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief marks the first occasion that I've seen anything starring Jason Bateman or Melissa McCarthy and not laughed. I think I chuckled twice in a run time of just under two hours. That's not a good laugh-to-length ratio, Cotton. Watch Arrested Development, Bridesmaids or The Heat to have your faith in the stars restored. 3/10

Here Comes the Boom
Predictable, unfunny and riddled with tired sports-drama cliches, Here Comes the Boom is still the best thing Kevin James has done since The King of Queens. This PG-rated family film still made me laugh more often than the R-rated comedies Hall Pass and Identity Thief. James's likable hero carries this mild diversion on his big shoulders with little trouble. 6.5/10

Pacific Rim

The latest from Pan's Labyrinth creator Guillermo Del Toro is a marvel of technical wizardry in more ways than one. Not only are the visual effects impeccable, but the scale lent to these Kaiju and Jaegers is insane. Bigger than any Transformer, Godzilla or King Kong I've ever seen. Pacific Rim does an excellent job of recapturing that giddy feeling you had when you were 10 years old watching Dragonball Z, playing with action figures and drinking Kool-Aid through Sour Punch straws. Most of the battle scenes are darn-near perfect. They're gripping and last just long enough so that the narrative isn't lost. The characters are well-drawn out with surprising depth for a movie like this. That being said, Del Toro seems to have a constant need to film his creatures in the dark and/or rain, making them hard to see and fully appreciate. The ending is also a serious buzz kill. The climax doesn't quite match the intensity of some of the earlier sequences, and there's no resolution for the characters at all. Credits roll immediately after the last job is done. I wanted to see what happened to them and to their world after the climactic events. This would've made for a richer, more complete story. 7.5/10

Thursday, July 11, 2013

In-Flight Entertainment ("The Call" & "Olympus Has Fallen")

On the plane to Amsterdam, I watched two movies: The Call and Olympus Has Fallen. Both were actually okay. The Call was intense, and Halle Berry gave a solid performance. It just had one of the worst endings of any movie I've ever seen. (Right up there with The Devil Inside, if not worse.) It literally just stopped. You had your rising action and climax, but no falling action or resolution. You don't know whether it's a happy ending or sad for the main characters because they don't come down from their heightened emotional level. The entire film is a frenzy with police officers traversing L.A. looking for a kidnapper and his victim. Everyone's in a tizzy, and they stay that way the entire time. There's no breath of fresh air or sigh of relief to be had with The Call, even though it was consistently intense and featured fine acting performances.


Olympus Has Fallen was Training Day director Antione Fuqua's attempt at out-Die Hard-ing this February's A Good Day to Die Hard; something that, in my opinion, shouldn't be hard to do. Gerard Butler plays our John McClane-esque hero Mike Banning, a former Secret Service agent who is forced to use his old knowledge in order to rescue the president (Aaron Eckhart) from an underground bunker after terrorists launch an attack on the White House.
It's entertaining, despite some pretty horrific CGI, an entirely far-fetched premise and maybe one or two hokey stunts. But it's also a classic, badass "damsel-in-distress" / "save America and, essentially, the world at the same time" story. Olympus Has Fallen also boasts a stellar cast, featuring Butler, Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Rick Yune and Radha Mitchell. Regardless, I couldn't help but feel ho-hum as the credits rolled across my 4 inch x 4 screen.