Archive for September, 2014

equalizer-filmAfter watching this film, I had two questions buzzing around my mind. First question – if it wasn’t for the brand name of the 80s action-drama show, Denzel Washington , the bad guy intro of Marton Csokas and being directed by one of my favorite directors (Antoine Faqua)… could this movie be easily forgettable? SecondWhat’s the difference between Denzel Washinton and Steven Seagal? The answer to the latter is that Washington is a better actor – but you’d hardly know it from this mess. Ol’ Sensei Steven could have shown up as McCall and—hey don’t gimmie those grumpy looks. Here’s a checklist for you:

In the movie, McCall is a former black ops agent who faked his own death but now comes out of retirement to play vigilante justice.

  • McCall is three steps ahead of the bad guys. Always. Check.
  • McCall knows the moves the bad guys make before they make them. Check.
  • McCall can set explosions and walk away without so much as a breeze on his back.Check.
  • McCall gets very zen. Check.
  • McCall fights Russian Mobbers who are into dope and prostitution and/or sex trafficking. Check.
  • McCall fights dirty cops. Check and mate.

Oh yes, the dirty cops. Not one, not two but three of them. Two of the three are running some sort of protection racket on local store and restaurant owners. One such store is owned by a mother of a co-worker of McCall’s at the local Home Depot-like place. The co-worker is hoping to make security guard rank at the store, but the bad cops set a kitchen fire and it sets him back. McCall – who has taken the store job while having a low profile- helps his friend and turns the tables on the two bad cops. Later we find out they were on the payroll of the Russian Mob that is hunting McCall for an unrelated but more noticable iffense – taking out a room full of guys Seagal style. It’s contrived, cliched and a big yawn. Also, do you wonder if said friend will pass his Security test and play such a part in the final shootout? Of course not.

If Denzel isn’t channeling Seagal, then he’s channeling any or all of the following: Jack Reacher, The Punisher, Clarence from True Romance and possibly Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. Never once is McCall a stand out character. It’s also a slight reinvention of the TV show character so you won’t get any callbacks to the series until the last frame of the movie where the Equalizer Want Ad is updated. Yeah, we “Need Help” alright. Stylistically, the film isn’t bad. It’s just below average.

Faqua helmed the better of the two abysmal White House themed action pictures last year (the one with Gerald Butler, if that helps- it don’t, awww shucks) but he also directed better pictures. I’ll still have a guilty pleasure in King Arthur, Tears Of The Sun and Brookyn’s Finest. Training Day was and still is outstanding. Nobody’s forgotten that. But in an answer to my first question, if if wasn’t for the TV series this is loosely based on and the talent, you’d forget this film in a week. By the way, halfway in the picture, Chloë Grace Moretz  is forgotten about.

I don’t mind at all if it wasn’t like the TV series – it should be noted Edward Woodward’s McCall was a former spy and if he wasn’t outsmarting mobbers and thugs, he’d team up with old spy friends and take down mad Euro-terrorists. That show wasn’t campy either. It had some great episodes and bright spots. But a new film at least has to be the essence of that character, and it seems to have missed by a country mile. It’s all routine. Alright but nothing special.

Would I be more forgiving if it was a Steven Seagal film? No. But this happens to star Denzel Washington, and he reteams with Faqua. I expect more.

I give The Equalizer a 2 1/2 out of 10.

Harry wasn't the only one in anguish.

Harry wasn’t the only one in anguish.

Every now and then I’ll see a film which I want to like or love but wind up despising. Sometimes Out of curiosity I will watch that film again on DVD if there’s an audio commentary and deleted scenes involved. It has to be a steadfast rule with me, though. It has to both. Sure, most of the time I’ll rent from my local library. but free or not, it has to be worth my time. But generally speaking, I’ll watch a bad movie intentionally to hear what was going though people’s minds especially if it is a writer and/or director.

My thoughts on The Amazing Spider-0Man 2 haven’t changed much since last spring. I still find it disappointing to say the least. But I’m also glad I re-watched it with commentary and viewing some deleted scenes. One can ;earn a lot from this stuff and absorb it. That’s even if you think the film is a chunk of mud.

Much was talked about Shailene Woodley being cast as Mary Jane Watson then her character edited out of the film. I wondered if those deleted scenes were on Blu-Ray, they were not on the DVD. From what it appears, it would seem that not much of those scenes were actually filmed. During the commentary with Executive Producer Avi Arad, Producer Matt Tolmach and writers Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinker, not much is mentioned about it. But I took note of a few details:

* It was Sony who wanted Felicia Jone’s character, Harry’s secretary to be named ‘Felicia’. This is a possible *and widely assumed) nod to Black Cat. However, in the previous film, the character in the post credits scene was supposed to have been Electro, only now it isn’t. That character is renamed The Gentleman. So this may or may not be The Black Cat character (and I hope it’s not)but the fans are assuming it is.

* A test audience was okay with the death of Gwen Stacy. Specifically parents who thought young children can handle it. Yet it seems the filmmakers think such audiences (or young children) cannot handle Harry becoming the Green Goblin. Let me tell you something right now I think kids would have been okay with the Osborn transformation. I’m willing to bet they would think it was awesome. (Also, it’s in the deleted scenes, so there’s a possibility they might get a peek at it anyway)

* Alex Garfield and Emma Stone have good chemistry. I don’t doubt this, young adult relationships seems to be Marc Webb’s biggest strength. If he didn’t have Spider-Man, imagine what he could do with something like Mortal Instruments or other young adult box office misfires. That said, one of the things that annoyed me in the previous film was the character of Gwen Stacy being borderline contrived. It’s one thing if Peter was an intern or snuck into Oscorp. It’s quite another when Gwen is one of the top researchers and she’s still in High School. Gwen still works for Oscorp, in spite of a top scientist turning into a monster and there are cover ups going on.

* Many plot points were dropped over the editing of the film, but some of them made their way into the trailers, which got our interest in the first place. Reason why they were dropped was for pacing issues. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. But most of the time, a pickup or ADR line is needed in case those deleted scenes hurt the narrative of the film. That’s what happened in the previous film, where a supporting character was kidnapped by The Lizard and never seen again (a deleted scene “cut for time” explained the plot hole). In this film, a deleted scene shows off not just a Goblin transformation but the exo-suit as ell. It still doesn’t explain the pumpkin bombs (but my theory on that is the filmmakers are using our previous knowledge of the previous franchise so we know that’s “the” Goblin) but had there been a pickup to cover some of this “The Goblin” would not have some out of what seems to be nowhere.

* A great touching moment which I liked in the film, Spider-Man helping out a kid targeted by bullies. It is a great scene. While this isn’t the previous franchise; Peter Parker wasn’t bullied or pranked. it still is something which we can relate to and the fact that this sort of behavior is getting more attention is recent years. So what’s the downside? The ending. Same kid stands up to Rhino who has machine guns, rockets and a metal suit ten feet tall. Everyone watches, nobody runs. It’s kind of like an earlier scene with Electro and a barricaded crowd (as if they expected him to show up) and in that last scene, Spider-Man shows up after a few months off (as we are informed) and the action comes to a stop. The filmmakers and writer “thinks” this was a great idea. It isn’t. It backfires. Unless Rhino isn’t such as bad guy. letting down guard for a turn of remorse and mercy. Spider-Man is more of a fair fight and there’s more of a rematch opportunity.

Which of course, the audience is robbed of. Was The Rhino needed at all? His inclusion was a setup for The Sinister Six, a MAJOR problem with this movie’s marketing. Don’t believe me? Well, okay. Why then, in the marketing of the film, was there a big tease of the Six? Why tweet out a picture of a soundstage with “Sinister Six” on it and get the fanbase worked up over it? Why give us the easter eggs in the endless slew of trailers? They tell us we are getting a spinoff film with the Six and those characters teased at the end credits might not be even in the film.

Add all this up. It almost sounds like the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. That’s exactly what went wrong with this movie – it is a tug of war between camp (Rhino, Electro, the planes and convenience) and serious (Peter,Harry/Goblin and Gwen relations) with threads from the previous film left dangling but just enough for some interest only to be unresolved (mystery of Peter’s parents)The film should have been (and could have been) one or the other. Oddly, I’m siding with what was the best thing about Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. It wasn’t a cool villain (Sandman) but the…wait a minute. what did I just say?

No, I meant that. For the past few years, I am stunned by the outright hate-on Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. It has ts drawbacks, don’t get me wrong. but let’s get a scorecard, shall we? In that film, Harry becomes a mask-less Goblin. He has had some practice on his flying surfboard, has access to pumpkin bombs and such. Yet the strongest highlights of that film is the relationship between Peter, Harry and MJ. Flash foward to now and ASM2. Here we have another talented actor, who becomes a mask-less Goblin who can operate a Glider in less than an hour, laugh like the Goblin and use weapons which he had no prior access to. Strongest arc in the film? The Peter-Gwen-Harry dynamic.

It almost comes across to me that nobody quite has a handle on where to go with this. The franchise is far from in trouble, however, In fact, I’ll make a little bet. Should the S6 project get canned and maybe the Venom solo film and Amazing Spider-Man 3 has those characters…the series will be recast and rebooted once again, probably called Spectacular Spider-Man and then “the fans” will proceed to trash talk all the good things about the past trilogy as if it were all an abomination and yes, I’m also willing to bet someone in the wild screaming with a fist in the air “Give the rights back to Marvel!”

Like that’s going to work.

Kick the tires and lite up the fires!

Kick the tires and lite up the fires!

A lot of people seemed surprised that the third Expendables movie underperformed at the box office. After watching the film, I wasn’t among them. Sure, I liked some of the action – that opening scene with Wesley Snipes was great, new cast members Antonio Bandaras and Ronda Rousey shine during the film and how can you NOT dig the Desperado-like shootout and the ju-jistu team up at the end? Mel Gibson also has some nice lines here, and overall, the film isn’t bad. Yet, the film didn’t strike a nerve with audiences, Some point to the lack of an R rating, others the leaked HD copy and some the marketing. Which to believe?

I’ll telkl you what I believe. Not one of them – except a little bit with marketing, but not much. Jet Li’s role was shortened in the previous film. This time around, it’s a cameo shooting off a machine gun from a gunship. No wushu moves, no scene like Expendables 2 even. So what’s that got to do with Marketing? Everything. Jet Li got his character poster. Yet, even character actor Robert Davi has more screen time than Jet Li. In fact, let’s call it like it is – there is that great (re)introduction of Wesley Snipes at the start of the film. “The Doctor” When the team runs into a former teammate Stonebanks (played by Gibson) who is now a gun smuggler, Terry Crews’ character Caesar is severely wounded. The team is disgraced enough where Stallone’s Ross decides to disassemble the team and look for younger, fresh recruits along with Bonaparte, an ex- mercenary played by Kelsey Grammar.

And there’s your problem where the movie failed, right there. Were you looking at your watch? The film’s momentum becomes a turtle race. It just dies as we are ‘introduced’ to the new team members. Only two are memorable – Bandaras does a Zorro-like move with hypoer energy and makes a punchline. Rousey’s into is cliched (“look!the bouncer is a girl”) but charmingly good. and Yes, Grammar’s character would have been better played by Fred Willamson or Burt Reynolds, but that’s not the problem here.

Here’s a hint: remember those character posters? Remember that kick-ass opening scene? Guess who’s not around for a good hour of the movie? Let me guess- could it be half the characters the audience has grown to like and gotten used to for two films in now? Are we concerned about the well being of Hale Caesar? Aside from Rousey and Bandaras, was there anything memorable about the other recruit scenes? Dead weight scenes, all of them, and to add insult to injury. all the new young team is captured by Stonebanks.
By the way, what exactly is the underlying premise of The Expendables idea again? A film composed of older action stars for the most part, right? Right! So when the actors/characters an audience has come to see has been sidelined at Jet Li gets only a minute firing a gun? Mel Gibson had great lines, but the previous film’s Jean Cluade Van Damme was more of an exciting fight at the end. Stonebanks dies rather dumb for such an intelligent foe and with less fanfare. The team fights endless masked thugs, it’s hard to track who is doing what….yes, this isn’t a bad film but the gas is out of the tank.

You can check the brain at the door if you want to, but who and what did you want to see? Other than that, Sly went up against a talking gun toting raccoon and a ninja turtle so it may have just been bad luck. Or was it?

It’s been a little over a year or so since I posted anything here. The reason for this was that I spent my time divided in three or four places. One such place was The Movie Snitch, an offshoot of The Movie Blog . For a little over a year now The Snitch had been doing so-so in readership. There would be a spark of momentum, then *crash boom bang putter putter* there would be gaps in posts,. The fact of the matter is it was a two man show, then as Rodney got swarmed, it soon was a one man show. I can only hog a spotlight for so long, and for those that have known my rep since 2000 from the good ol’ Projector Booth days (1999-2004) , you know I ride things out until the bitter end. But despite some appearances, I tend to favor collaboration.

It feels that way for The Snitch. Late July of this year, there to seemed be, shortly after my post about how to make a Deadpool movie work, and an odd offer from Anthony White to return to The Movie Blog (co-incidence?), a slight mess on WP dashboard of The Snitch. We are now under spammer swarm, and there’s not a diddly thing I can do. I wanted to review some films both new and retro (Forgotten Friday) but I been locked out for time being. Add to that the state of most film internet ‘movie news’ sites are, sadly, only half that nowadays.

Not everyone is like this, of course, but there is a scourge, and it won’t be before long a studio promoting a film will just come out and tell the honest truth about a project with tons of bombshell spoilers. And nobody will believe them because half the “movie news” sites report otherwise. When you search the net for movie stories to put on a blog, and most of what you get is a wheel barrel of bullshit. is it even worth it anymore? The stories I tended to write about wound up being fan based and/or human interest stories and how they relate to film. Not really “movie news” per se, but I got more enjoyment and more likes when I located and shared those stories. But finding those articles are becoming more and more rare. Everyone it seems wants those hits on the page, they won’t check into facts or sources. They will reword phrases or jump to wild conclusions. And they never stop and think.

Anthony White said to me the owners of The Movie Blog (who have driven that once good place in the dirt) don’t have a problem with me, it’s with Rodney and I can come back if I choose. I said I’ll think about it. That thought went between the ears for about a minute. My answer was and iss no. I have to pass.

Really? They slapped my cyberknuckles, deleted ALL of my posts there…which if you put in a lot of volunteer work at websites and then find all your time and energy is all for naught, it does kind of feel like…despite some passion, you could have had better things to do. I climbed that peak. I reached that summit. And I was treated like dirt on a scuffy looking shoe. Less than a week later of saying no Movie Snitch gets locked. I’m not suggesting it’s connected, I’m just saying….y’know I notice stuff.

So after a month, it’s time to dust this off and start again.