Category: "Movies: Don't Watch"

300: Rise of an Empire

March 18th, 2014

I was happy to learn that this movie takes place during the story made famous in the previous movie, not after -- 300 didn't leave much room for a sequel. While Sparta's King Leonidas leads his brave 300 to the Battle of Thermopylae, Athenian Themistocles engages Xerxes' warships. The vast Persian Navy is lead by the ruthless and beautiful Artemisia (Eva Green) and Themistocles must do everything he can to outsmart this dangerous foe and save Greece from Godking Xerxes.

Maybe this is the signal that I have officially gotten too old (sad that I'm only 33), but I found almost everything in this movie to be gratuitous: the defined musculature, the IMAX touches, the violence, the sex, the wannabe-Braveheart motivational speeches and my goodness the blood. So much blood. There isn't much story and this is a simple exploitation of the popularity of the first movie and an exaggeration of each of its successful elements.

I am sure that this movie will still entertain a lot of people, but if I was ever in that demographic (and I loved the first 300 movie), I'm clearly not in it anymore.

The Expendables

November 8th, 2011

The ExpendablesSylvester Stallone stars as Barney Ross, leader of The Expendables, a tight-knit team of skilled combat vets turned mercenaries. Hired by a powerful covert operator, the team jets off to a small South American country to overthrow a ruthless dictator. Once there, they find themselves caught in a deadly web of deceit and betrayal. Using every weapon at their disposal, they set out to save the innocent and punish the guilty in this blistering action-packed thriller.

Sylvester Stallone is Barney Ross, who leads a group of (aging) mercenaries and accepts a contract that leads the team to some remote island nation to kill its military head. While on location, Stallone's character falls for some unlikely lady in an attempt to sneak some plot into this movie that is really just an all-star cast for fighting sequences and big explosions. I love fighting sequences. I love big explosions. I love movies with Jason Statham and movies with Jet Li and movies with...each of the guys in this movie (Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews and Mickey Rourke). So one movie with all of them together is intriguing, right? There is one AMAZING action sequence that is worth seeing, but the rest of the movie fails to entertain. Consider The Expendables to be the action-equivalent to what Wild Hogs was for comedy; a last hurrah of sorts for a cast that has been around the block a few too many times.

Somehow The Expendables earned itself a sequel and hopefully they'll get this one right and stick to fighting and explosions.


City of Ember

May 25th, 2011

City of EmberBill Murray, Tim Robbins and Saoirse Ronan star in this heart-thumping, edge-of-your-seat adventure that comes to light in this exhilarating family film based on the best-selling novel by Jeanne Duprau.

For centuries, the residents of the underground City of Ember have flourished in an amazing world of glittering lights and quiet contentment. But when the City's massive power generator begins to fail, the street lamps start to fade -- along with the hopes and dreams of the townspeople. Now it's up to two courageous teenagers to follow a trail of clues left by the ancient Builders and find a way out of Ember before their world is plunged into darkness forever!

A group known only as "The Builders" has built a city around a giant power generator, surrounded by darkness. The city, called Ember, has flourished for 200 years but now the generator is beginning to fail. Many of Ember's citizens panic, others accept on blind faith that The Builders will return to the city and save them all, and two teenagers decide that they will find a way out. To even suggest that there is life outside Ember is treason. The two young protagonists must work against authority to try and save everyone. 

I got this movie because Bill Murray plays the Mayor of Ember. I enjoy Murray's body of work and was curious to see what he would bring to this part and this movie. I knew it was a children's movie, but I did not know anything more. Suffice to say City of Ember is for a very young audience and Bill Murray should not be a reason to see this movie (he wasn't bad, he just didn't need to be good either). Instead of reading that as a negative, hopefully that will serve to encourage parents to allow their young children to see this. 

Everything is watered down, scaled down for a younger audience. The suspense is light. The "scary" parts are not scary. This movie would be a fun sci-fi flick for the little ones and it is cute enough to watch with them. This is not really a movie that adults should see on their own. I liked the idea, I thought the story was very creative. I'm encouraged that there are stories like this out there that young sci-fi fans can enjoy.


Sunshine Cleaning

March 8th, 2011


Sunshine CleaningAcademy Award Nominee Amy Adams, Golden Globe Winner Emily Blunt, and Academy Award Winner Alan Arkin find an unexpected way to turn their lives around in this "colorful, refreshingly quirky comic drama" (Leah Rozen, People).

Desperate to get her son into a better school, single mom Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) persuades her slacker sister Norah (Emily Blunt) to join her in the crime scene cleanup business to make some quick case. With the help of their ill-fated salesman father (Alan Arkin), they climb the ranks in a very dirty job, finding themselves up to their elbows in murders, suicides, and...specialized situations. But underneath the dust and grime they also come to discover a true respect for one another, and create a brighter future for the entire Lorkowski family.

The plot was nothing extraordinary, but the characters and the actors cast in those roles could have been very endearing. The character development left much to be desired. With a cast including Amy Adams, Alan Arkin and Clifton Collins, Jr., it might be my naïveté to assume the film makers would let them shine. Ms. Adams and Mr. Arkin drift aimlessly through this film as cliché. The former cheer captain who is unable to lead her own life and leave the star quarterback behind. The grandfather who is unlucky in business but always working some angle only to disappoint his family with unfulfilled promises. If the characters are nothing new, at least try to present them in a unique fashion. That was not done here. Mr. Collins, Jr. is too talented to take such a small part where his role is as more of a prop than a character worth developing. Regardless of Mr. Collins Jr.'s involvement, the character he played could have improved the movie with minimal expansion.

I wanted a movie about the strength of troubled relatives as they came together as a family. Perhaps it was my expectations that got the better of me. Perhaps this movie was a good idea in theory and once executed missed its mark. If you must, decide for yourself. I'm sorry, but I cannot recommend this movie.

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Hamlet 2

May 7th, 2009


Hamlet 2One high school drama teacher is about to make a huge number 2 in this wildly irreverent and completely outrageous movie from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine. When his school's theater department is threatened to be cut, failed actor-turned-high-school-drama-teacher Dana Marschz writes a play that he hopes will solve everything: a sequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Now, staging one of the most politically incorrect musical-theater extravaganzas ever seen, Dana and his class will put it all on the line for one controversial, conflicted night of hilarity.

Steve Coogan is Dana Marschz, a former actor who freely admits that the only thing that kept him from fame and fortune was his complete lack of talent. Yet his passion for theater burns on. He attempts to share his passion by teaching drama at a high school in Tucson, Arizona. When he learns that the school is cutting the theater department, Marschz decides that his first original opus is the only way to save his job. Hamlet 2 is born from this epiphany -- a story of hope, second chances, forgiveness, a time machine and a sexy Jesus.

There was a lot written about how funny this movie was when it was released. The whole movie, and Steve Coogan separately, were reportedly little-known comedic gems of the year. I thought there were some very funny moments, but the level of humor this movie is billed to contain is misleading. Marschz's life becomes a series of disappointments that lead up to a big, controversial finish. There are a few one-liners along the way that add will make you laugh, but this is not a movie that will make your sides hurt from continuous laughter.

Steve Coogan has a very "Monty Python" demeanor; he has the slapstick, physical-comedy, tragic-hero, Eric Idle approach. If ever anyone could recreate Eric Idle's cameo in National Lampoon's European Vacation, Coogan is the guy. To conceal the true controversial nature of Hamlet 2, very few details of the musical are divulged as the movie moves along. For me, this meant that the story was a little weak, but I can see how the impact of the big finish would have been lost had more been shared over time. But with so little material, Coogan was just ok. There are more laughs from situations in which he has no pants on then from much of his dialogue. I do not know much about him, but I feel that he was wasted in most of this movie. But he truly shined in his non-speaking moments, especially during the musical at the end. But then again, maybe that is where his talent lies...

Anyone remember Catherine Keener? Four years ago she was probably one of the most promising actresses (after earning an Oscar nomination for her role in Capote) and here she is as Mrs. Marschz in a bizarre comedy about a high school drama department. Now you understand my bias when I say that she was a fish out of water here.

As a story about troubled high school students who become inspired by an unlikely, but passionate teacher, Hamlet 2 is cliché and falls apart. Without the actual production of the Hamlet 2 musical within the movie of the same name there is really nothing worth seeing here. But give me a spinoff movie of Amy Poehler's foul-mouthed, ACLU-attorney character and I might even see it in the theater.

Save your time. For a better version of this movie, The Family Guy did an episode where Peter produces his vision for The King and I ("The King is Dead", Season 2, Episode 7). It's funnier and significantly shorter than Hamlet 2.

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October 8th, 2008


RedbeltREDBELT is the story of Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Jiu-Jitsu master who has avoided the prize fighting circuit, choosing instead to pursue an honorable life by operating a self-defense studio with a samurai's code.

An accident on a dark, rainy night at Terry's studio between an off-duty officer and a distraught lawyer (Emily Mortimer) puts in motion a series of events that will change Terry's life dramatically, introducing him to a world of promoters (Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna) and movie star Chet Frank (Tim Allen). Faced with this, in order to pay off his debts and regain his honor, Terry must step into the ring for the first time in his life.

Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) runs a martial-arts studio, always emphasizing the arts' use being rooted in self defense only. He has a reputation as a passivist, but his honor is tested when a series of events back him against a wall. He is played like a fool and has to regain his honor and come up with enough money to pay off his debts.

This was not your typical martial-arts movie -- well, it wasn't really a martial-arts movie at all. Sure Terry is a teacher, and the movie involves a competition, but the movie is more about the web woven by writer and director David Mamet. The plot is mainly about the trouble Terry suddently finds himself in with no feasible way out and the jiu-jitsu is used almost like a prop. I enjoyed how each of the characters became involved, voluntarily or otherwise. Each player was a pawn in the game. I enjoyed this movie only for what it could have been. In execution, it was a weak effort.

And while David Mamet may be known for his obscure plots and confusing endings, this movie left much to be desired by way of substance. It was VERY rushed and moved too quickly. To defend the pace, the ideas were not that complex and required little to set them in motion. But the movie could have easily been given some depth and lengthened. I feel that this story could have been better sold to HBO or someone as a mini-series rather than a stand-alone movie. There were many characters that warranted more attention than they were given, but before you knew it, the movie was over.

Maybe Mamet was trying to capitalize on the popularity surge that mixed martial arts has enjoyed recently. I fall in with the crowd that has made MMA fighting something to watch. I have to admit that I was disappointed in the lack of fight scenes.

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Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

January 7th, 2008


Dewey Cox was overshadowed by his brother's greatness. When both boys were very young, Nate was naturally gifted at everything he did and ambitious enough to really make a difference in this world. And then one day, during a relatively routine machete fight, Dewey chops Nate in half. When the doctor is unable to recombine the top of his body with the bottom, the boy dies. Dewey had made a promise to his brother to be great enough for them both, and that is exactly what he sets out to do when his dad kicks him out of the house. Dewey goes on to greatness as one of the leading rock musicians in history, while ever tormented by the loss of his brother.

Sound ridiculous? It was and I cannot even do it justice. But one thing that was great was how the movie would constantly reassure you that it was parody. Many times the dialog between two characters would explain and oversimplify the scene and suggest just how ridiculous it really was. It was pretty funny when this happened, but there were a few times when the movie tried to be serious and it didn't work. From a humor perspective, the highs were very high, but the lows were too low for me to say that I liked Walk Hard.

There was some of the most hilarious writing in Walk Hard, but the movie itself was pretty awful. Unfortunately, that seems to be the pattern to Judd Apatow's movies.

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Wild Hogs

December 12th, 2007


Wild HogsTim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy start in Wild Hogs, the hysterically funny comedy about four weekend-warrior friends who decide to rev up their ho-hum suburban lives with a cross-country motorcycle adventure. They don their leathers, fire up their hogs and throw caution and their cell phones to the wind as they hit the open highway. But a lot can happen on the road to nowhere, including a run-in with the bad-to-the-bone Del Fuegos, a real biker gang who don't take kindly to the wannabes. Filled with hilarious misadventures, screwball situations and madcap mayhem, this laugh-out-loud comedy is a movie your whole family will go hog wild over.

Wild Hogs is about four middle-aged men who live in Ohio. During the week each does his nine-to-five thing, but every weekend they armor up in denim and leather, cruise around town on their motorcycles and then have a few beers. When mid-life crisis tickled one man's nose, it was not long before it spread through the group and a motorcycle road trip ensued. What better way for them to regain the spontanaety and autonomy of their glory days? I'm not sure this plot really needed conflict, but on their way west they came across a more traditional biker gang, who did not take kindly to these four midwestern suburbanites considering themselves peers.

When the movie was first advertised I could not believe the cast (John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy). I had no issues with getting such an ensemble together, I was more taken back by the fact that these men (primarily Travolta) would make a movie like this. The more I thought about it, and certainly now that I have seen the movie, I believe that this was more about making a fun movie and working together than it was about setting box office records. I would have loved to be a fly on the camera while these men worked together; I hope it was as much fun for them as I imagine it to have been.

I gave Wild Hogs "the old college try" since I had heard some surprisingly encouraging remarks. I talked to a few people who were very pleased with the movie. I addressed my concerns with them about how cheesy it looked and I was told not to worry. In the end, Wild Hogs was very cheesy. But it was fun enough for what it was. If you can relate with the characters I am sure there is more substance to the movie than I was able to enjoy.

Have you ever been told that, "You will love Office Space even more if you have ever worked in an office setting?" Well, you will appreciate Wild Hogs much more if your own mid-life crisis is knocking, or has knocked at your door. Since (thankfully) mine has not, once the "conflict" settled into the story my interest waned.

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Tenacious D In: The Pick of Destiny

July 26th, 2007


This is A story (not necessarily THE story) about how Jack Black (JB) and Kyle Gass (KG) came together to form the cult-revered musical tandem Tenacious D. The movie starts with a clash between JB and his oppressive father over the importance of rock music. Their fallout (and a vision from Dio) leads a young JB on a journey to his destiny. He settles in Hollywood after a chance encounter with KG upon arrival. KG teaches JB how to be a rock superstar and they team up, but something is missing. And thus they begin their trek together in search of The Pick of Destiny, a mystical guitar pick used by all great rock bands in history.

I had a hard time telling if this movie was geared for the long-time "D" fans or someone else. There were many recycled bits, which may have been homage to the loyal fans or an attempt to get new fans with the same old lines (they worked before, why not try them again?).

There were a fair share of redeeming factors to this movie. There was certainly a good amount of The D to entertain fanboys and fangirls alike. There were some hilarious scenes and great cameos.

I have been a Tenacious D fan for many years. I have followed their journey from a cameo in Bio Dome to a short-lived HBO series and on to a (relatively) celebrated full-length studio album. That self-titled CD was hilarious, but it was also little more than a reworking of old material.

While, as stated above, I am not sure of the target audience for this movie, I can narrow it down. This movie was made for die-hard Tenacious D fans and/or people males age 15-35 who fit the appropriate politically correct term for "stoner." If you don't fit into this small niche audience, it is probably not in your best interest to watch Tenacious D In: The Pick of Destiny.

While still officially a Tenacious D fan, unofficially I think they are in dire need of some new material. Or maybe their famous days are over (as the band only, since Jack Black seems to have no shortage of movie roles these days).

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The Great New Wonderful

December 19th, 2006


The Great New WonderfulMaggie Gyllenhaal (World Trade Center), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Edie Falco (The Sopranos) and Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report) deliver brilliant performances in this intoxicating, intelligent comedy. In this character driven masterpiece several New Yorkers -- an oddball office shrink, a cluelessly competitive pastry chef, and a flirtatious security guard -- reveal their eccentric private stories. It's a deliciously bittersweet comic triumph from director Danny Leiner (Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle).

How does that Meat Loaf song go? Two out of Three Ain't Bad? I guess that means one out of three is bad. This movie was neither Great, nor Wonderful. And as soon as it is no longer considered "new," it will be zero out of three.

I wanted to enjoy the movie. For most of the movie I enjoyed the characters and felt for them in certain scenarios. Something was just missing. Well, I figure two things were missing: cohesion and closure.

I can appreciate the idea of many smaller stories combined to form one bigger super-movie. Maybe I am just used to seeing it more when the stories have some common element. These stories never intertwined and nothing, except the emotional roller coaster of life in The Big Apple was the same for any of the characters.

There were emotional highs and lows. Hopes were exalted and dashed. And all the while...nothing really happened. There was no story; we simply follow a few people on their day-to-day routines and see the happiness and pain they experience at whatever intervals they experience them.

And then the movie ends. That's it.

Well to be fair they showed one more scene that only serves to compound the abundance of loose ends and detract from any feeling of compassion. I won't spoil the final scene, but it was not the most "pro-family" scene I have ever watched.

The movie does have a decent list of names associated with it. Probably my favorite of the bunch is Jim Gaffigan. He may not be the funniest comedian, but I have enjoyed seeing him in what I can when I can. He and Tony Shalhoub bantered well together as doctor and patient. Their story was a little forced, but the two had good chemistry.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is finally beginning to grow on me. Or then again it might just be the part she played was much more...wholesome than roles she has had in the past (e.g. Happy Endings)

It certainly would take much more than additional witty banter from Jim Gaffigan and wholesomeness from Maggie Gyllenhaal to even make The Great New Wonderful into A Movie Worth Seeing. I do not recommend you see this movie. I will even go one step further to recommend you avoid it altogether.

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