Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

PAIN & GAIN (2013)
Three deluded bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie, Dwayne Johnson) get involved in kidnapping and theft. I know it's weird to say this about a Michael Bay movie, but this is astonishingly good. It's witty, even. It's got a smart script that never plays this sap trio as ridiculous, even as they get breathtakingly more deluded as the film goes on. The actors themselves commit to the roles; they don't deign to play numbskulls, playing them as genuinely as they can; they're constantly surprised that their stupidest moves don't work out they way they're supposed to. It's the right note for the characters. These guys are idiots, but not in a way that's pathetic; that would just make the movie cruel. Instead, it pulls off these audacious trick of making you fascinated by what happens to them even as you just cannot believe the level of ridiculousness they're living on. It's... it's good. It's a Michael Bay movie, but it's good. It helps that there's actually a coherence to the visuals instead of a lot of whipping the camera around and strobe-cutting. And the actors are all good. Especially the Rock. This is Bay's first watchable movie since the 90s. It's clearly the one he was born to make. He... he can stop now. ***1/2

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (2013)
Well, it's better than the first one, but it's still not good. I wouldn't have watched it if Dwayne Johnson weren't in it, really. I like him. Adrianne Palicki's good, too, but the guy playing Flint is just lost in the shuffle. Flint has no personality. Bruce Willis's presence adds nothing. It's giving nothing away to say that Channing Tatum dies in the first 10 minutes, which is too bad, because Tatum and Johnson have good screen chemistry and the film never recovers from losing Tatum. (I know that sounds like a weird thing to say, but Tatum has genuine meathead charisma and seems more committed to his character than people who have 10 times his amount of screen time.) Cobra Commander is played better in this one, and there's one truly good action sequence (the ninja fight on the mountain side that seems like it really has nothing to do with the rest of the movie at all). It's just dull and poorly made enough to be pretty numbing; it doesn't demand your attention and, let's be honest, even if it did, it wouldn't know what to do with it. They're continuing to make the mistake of cutting out all of the goofy weirdness that made G.I. Joe so unique and different, and if you're going to do that, why bother even calling it G.I. Joe? At this point, they're basically poorly made Mission: Impossible flicks. This one wants to be Ghost Protocol so badly that it smacks you in the face with it. Most of the cast don't seem sure what their roles are and get out-acted by Jonathan Pryce going just over the top. **1/2

CABLE CAR CHAOS (2014)
FIRE ESCAPE (2014)
Two more Mickey Mouse cartoons. I love these. Love them so much. That is all. ****

2 comments:

GarrettCRW said...

That goofy weirdness you like in G.I. Joe is more native to the cartoon (that's what happens when 65 out of 95 episodes have Steve Gerber as lead story editor), and Hasbro and pretty much anyone they'll hire will just badly mine the comic. It astonishes me that Community was able to play off the Sunbow show this season with Hasbro's approval.

SamuraiFrog said...

I think the comic shared a lot of that weirdness, to an extent (even beyond the stuff that was forced on Larry Hama, and which he entertainingly dropped as soon as he could, like Serpentor's very sudden death).

The second movie did, I thought, an appallingly clumsy job with the elements of Storm Shadow's origin and the murder of the Hard Master. I was complaining about it to my wife; it should have been the movie's most interesting and emotional aspect, and it was just artlessly dropped into all of this other noise. I think the thing Hama pulled off the best was the way Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, the Baroness, Cobra Commander, Zartan, Destro and Stalker were all united by a series of events in the past.