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04 February 2009 @ 11:04 pm
January Movie Review Dump!  
So in my new year's resolutions I said I wanted to keep up with my movie reviews better this year. Well I'm already WAY behind so here's most of what I watched in January.

Black Snake Moan - Rarely have I ever been so offended by a movie and yet still thought it was well done enough that I might actually recommend it to people. All I'll say is that director Craig Brewer has some unique views about women. His first movie Hustle and Flow was about how hard it is to be a pimp when your hoes want to think for themselves. I kid you not that's actually what it's about. This time around you have sex-addicted 22-year-old Rae (Christina Ricci) who falls in the lap of (or more accurately gets almost raped, beaten, and dumped outside his house) blues musician Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) who then tries to help redeem her in this Southern-fried drama. Justin Timberlake is in it too, but honestly he wasn't so bad or so good in it that he's really worth mentioning here.

I learned so many new things from this movie. Like did you know that nymphomaniacs go in to seizures if they aren't having sex 24/7? And a great way to cure people of nymphomania is to chain them to a radiator, and if that doesn't work then just go ahead and marry them off. Also Samuel L. Jackson can NOT sing. Really he's horrible at it but he was supposed to be a washed-up blues musician so maybe it fit his character after all. The funny thing is the acting and the atmosphere of the movie was very good. I didn't get bored watching it and the plot, although preposterous to the extreme, was pretty solid.

Honestly the whole chaining sex starved women to radiators and watching Christina Ricci wrath around in her underwear for three fourths of the movie stuff would have bothered me more if I could have taken it at all seriously. All the characters morals in this movie were so skewed it was almost like watching a foregin film where you don't get the cultural context of it so you don't know if you should be offended about what's happening or not. Overall I think I ended up giving it 3 stars and sharp warning to people that if there's any truth to this movie at all I would stay out of rural Mississippi if I was you.

Hancock - What a bizarre movie this ended up being. Will Smith always seems to be oddly cast in roles like this where it's a more adult themed concept of what would normally be a movie for say teenagers. In this case Smith plays Hancock, a drunk, socially inept, superhero who seems to cause mass destruction whenever he tries to save someone. The public generally hates him, but when he happens to save an idealistic PR rep by the name of Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) he wants repay him by helping Hancock improve his image. This was the best part of the movie in my opinion. Ray convinces Hancock to turn himself in and go to jail to try to reform. Unfortunately the movie goes in a whole different direction from that point on and focuses on Ray's wife to Mary (Charlize Theron), who seems to hate Hancock for no good reason and keeps giving him knowing looks in the mean time. It's at this point you get a whole rather silly subplot about Greek gods and how if there are two together in one place it makes them lose their powers or something like that, it didn't make a whole lot of sense really.

The good part of this movie would have to have been the acting. Will Smith did, as usual a competent job as the main character and I particularly liked Jason Bateman in his role. Even Charlize Theron didn't annoy me as much as she usually does. The bad part, the rather weak writing (seriously writers get a new insult besides "asshole", it got really old really fast), the rather lazy CG effects (they weren't horrible but I've seen much better in even really bad superhero movies) and the silly plot twist at the end, which wasn't much of a plot twist seeing as how Theron's acting was about as obvious as a fog horn going off. Also an annoyance was the complete lack of a good villain character. Actually I don't even need a villain, just don't give me a half assed one like the random guy Hancock put in jail once who was out to destroy him with like a pen knife or something, I can't even remember he was so pathetic. 3 stars but I would skip it and watch something else if you have time since there are better movies out there to watch.

Slumdog Millionaire - I'm pretty sure the only reason this movie won best picture at the Golden Globes is because a) last year was an extremely slow and lame year for movies and b) it somewhat brings to light the plight of orphaned children in India. That being said this movie wasn't bad by any means, but it was also pretty dang predictable with a very typical Hollywood plot that just so happens to be set in India, which makes it special even to get an Oscar nod I guess.

It's the life story of Jamel (played by at least three of four different people) and to a lesser extent his brother Salim (also played by three or four different people) as well as the pointless love interest Latika (you get the picture by now). The story is told mostly in flashbacks to the police after Jamel is arrested on suspicion of cheating on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, which is apparently the only show in India that everyone watches. The first part of the movie actually is pretty interesting about the brothers and what happens to them after their mother is killed, what they have to do to survive and where life takes them. Indeed the youngest actors playing Jamel and Salim were my favorites by far, although I found the teenage actors a little annoying because the teenager playing Salim was trying way too hard. As the movie went along and the plot became more clichéd it sort of disappointed me though. Jamel's love interest Latika never did get much a personality, besides being the weak female unable to get herself out of bad situations where she kept having to be rescued from, and Jamel and Salim never did seem to progress their characters much after they were teenagers. Salim remained a ganster wannabe and Jamel remained a hopless romantic to the very end.

All in all it was good movie but Danny Boyle's love of filming people running all the time and fondness for EXTRME close-ups got old after awhile. I really don't need to see every single pore on all the actors and actress faces, thanks but no thanks. 4 stars from me and I'm giving it one more star than I normally would because of the Bollywood credits at the end. If the whole movie had been like the credits I probably would have loved it.

King Arthur - I’m not sure why this movie was called King Arthur because Arthur wasn't even king until the last few minutes of the movie. I will say though that I didn't think this movie was as bad a lot of people claim it is. It was suppose to be a more realistic take on the King Arthur legend with Romans, Woads and Saxons running around in it, but, as with most 'historical' movies, it was laughably inaccurate. Nothing really stood out in this movie as awesome, but nothing stood out as horrible either. Really the only thing that I had a major problem with was Keira Knightley trying to play the female Woad warrior Guinevere with perfectly sculpted eyebrows and a stick figure frame. Sorry but if she had my back in a battle I think I would be dead within the first two minutes. The movie is sort of a Braveheart wannabe, but the actors weren’t as good as the actors in Braveheart so they never really connected with me on any kind of emotional level. As far as entertainment value goes you could do worse than this movie and I was happy to see Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo from HBO's Rome ) in it, so for that reason alone I'll give it 3 stars.

Repo! The Genetic Opera - I am glad to see the fine tradition of bad cult movie musicals is still going strong. Repo is the latest movie on the list of such cult classic as Rocky Horror, Phantom of the Paradise, Reefer Madness the Musical, and Tommy. It's not a bad edition to the genre except for a few minor things, like the fact almost all the cast can't sing in the least. I'm not motivated enough to try to summarize the crazy high-jinks going on in the movie so here's a copy pasta for you.

In the year 2056 - the not so distant future - an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl (Shilo) searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family's mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera.

This whole movie looked like a cross between a Goth music video and a slasher film, but I suppose that's to be expected from Darren Lynn Bousman, the director of Saw II and III. I think I would have really liked the movie and the songs if they just would have cast some slightly better singers for it, or heck even if they just had the actors lip sing it would have been better than the horrendous sounds coming out of some of the actors’ mouths. First off you've Alexa Vega as the main character Shilo Wallace, who isn't the best singer in the world but compared to most of the cast she's awesome. Then there's Anthony Stewart Head as Shilo's dad Nathan/The Repo Man, really not having improved his singing ability at all since his Buffy the Vampire Slayer the Musical days, and a bunch of other people who aren't really all that important since none of them can sing and their characters never actually do much. At least you don't have to hear Paris Hilton trying to sing for very long thankfully, her part is pretty dang small. Right in the middle of all this you've got Sarah Brightman as Blind Mag, the opera singer who's got a life contract with GeneCo, doing her damnest to save the whole of the movie's soundtrack all by herself.

It’s about what you’d expect out of a cult musical, crazy what the hell is going on moments and lots and lots of gory blood. Honestly I’d really like the see this done live some time with some people that can actually sing because the story is pretty interesting and with a good cast I think the music would be very enjoyable. This movie was a good effort at a cult classic but a bit of a failed attempt so it gets 3 stars from me.

CJ7 - I don’t have much to say about this other then it was cute. I know it’s a Stephen Chow movie but if you’re going into it expecting a lot of Kung Fu action you’ll probably be a bit disappointed. There is some fighting action, but this is mostly a family friendly, feel good type of movie.
Story goes something like this, Dicky (Jiao Xu) and his working class father (Stephen Chow) live in an abandon building and comb the junkyard for clothes and school supplies in order to save money so Dicky can go to a upper class school. When Dicky really wants a new toy robot dog, unable to afford it, his father presents him with a strange green ball he found in the junkyard. Turns out, the unassuming gift is actually a marooned alien endowed with unearthly powers.

It was a cute funny movie and rather touching in some places. I would be willing to watch it again, but it’s not what I would call a must see. I will give it props that it dealt with some slightly more mature themes than a normal American kids film probably would, death, poverty, etc., which I found a refreshing change of pace since apparently American kids can’t handle real world issues like that. 3 and half stars and I would have given it 4 but the alien dog thing disturbed me a bit.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry - I’m pretty sure no one should watch this movie, ever. I agree whole heartedly with Peter Hartlaub, Chronicle Pop Culture Critic when he wrote, “Whatever gay stereotypes exist in this movie -- and they probably number in the hundreds -- the writers of the comedy are much tougher on morbidly obese people, hot women, the homeless, mailmen, unattractive women and particularly Asians. Even the band Journey probably deserves a bigger apology from the makers of "Chuck & Larry" than anyone in the gay community. “ It’s not even worth being offended by this movie so I’ll just be offended by people who actually like it. 1 star, but only because it has a Nick Swardson cameo and he’s awesome no matter what movie he’s in.

The Gamers: Dorkness Rising - I won’t spend too much time on this one either since anyone who’s reading this has probably already seen it. Quick summary, a group of typical hack and slash role-players get a girl in their group who actually tries to role-play. The movie plays half what’s going on inside the game and half the drama that ensues outside it. I’m reviewing this one as someone who’s never role-played in my life, just so you know, but I still managed to enjoy this movie a great deal, even though I may not have known what was going go all the time. I was very glad I had a friend there watching it with me who does role play and could explain things to me when I didn’t get the jokes. Still seeing role-play acted out live action is amusing enough to get a good laugh even if you’ve never role-played in your entire life. The movie didn’t have the best acting in the world perhaps, but then again it didn’t have to be. 4 stars and a high recommendation for anyone who does role-play, you're going to find this hella amusing.

Mongol - This movie was part one of a trilogy about the life of Genghis Khan. It was very nicely done and has some excellent cinematography, acting and writing, even if it does move a little slow getting to the good stuff, aka big battles. It wasn’t really what I was expecting out of a movie about Genghis Khan though, that’s for dang sure. There wasn’t as much fighting as there was Genghis Khan the love story. Who knew Genghis Khan was such a nice guy? Most of the movie involved either his wife getting kidnapped and rescued or him getting kidnapped and rescued by her. It was only the last 20 minutes or so of the movie where he raises an army and becomes Khan of all Mongolia. I enjoyed it, despite the somewhat slow development of the story, and look forward to seeing the next installment. The only thing I could say against it is that Sara said the soundtrack sounded like a bunch of drunken guys singing most of the time and I can’t disagree with her there, it did. 4 stars and recommended if you like Mogolian romances.

If anybody is still reading at this point don’t worry, I’m almost done. ^_^

Art School Confidential - I had this movie around for months and never watched it. I kept putting it off and putting it off until the day before it was due back at the library because I thought it was one of those artsy indi films that everyone recommends but I was probably going to be bored to death watching. What I was surprised to find was a low key but very amusing black comedy about many of the stereotypes involved with art school mixed in with a rather silly murder mystery side story.

Ambitious art school student Jerome Platz (Max Minghella) goes to extremes to conquer the art world and win the girl of his dreams, Audrey (Sophia Myles) when he enters his freshman year as an art major. When his pure genius goes ignored and with a serial killer running amuck targeting students of the school, the local cops start to suspect anyone and everyone at the art school, putting a kink in Jerome’s plans to win over Audery and become the world's greatest artist. John Malkovich also stars as one of the Jerome’s art teacher mentors.

I found this movie to be a surprisingly good dark comedy, but that may be because I roomed with an art major and knew such art project absurdities as making a six foot man out of hats and how every project is suppose to be some sort of expression of your soul or something. I thought most art school stuff was a joke back then and the fact that someone made a movie about it just reminded me of that. John Malkovich was great in this movie as the art teacher who spent years studying just so he could paint pictures of boxes and rectangles. The dry humor in this movie may not be for everyone, but I very much enjoyed it so a good solid 4 stars from me.

Bangkok Dangerous - I honestly think Nicolas Cage is a good actor who often makes horrible choices as to what movies to be in. This movie would have been one of those bad choices. It’s not a bad movie per say, but Cage is so miscast in this movie about a assassin on the edge of retirement who takes on one last job, but would rather go on awkward dates with a mute deaf Thai chick, that you can’t overlook his greasy lank hair or how silly he sounds trying to deliver threatening one liners. Luckily you don’t have to follow his character around the entire movie because he takes on an assassin apprentice, Kong, who’s a much better actor for a movie like this. Why the Pang brothers, who wrote and directed the movie, decided to remake a movie they had already made is beyond me. I was actually pretty impressed by the cinematography and the action scenes were well done enough that for the hour and half it took to watch it I was never bored. 3 stars because Nick Cage wtf made you want to be in this movie in the first place, but it also wasn’t a complete waste of my time either (better than Ghost Rider anyway). If you want to watch it I would stick to the original 1999 Thai version though. It’s got less explosions but a whole lot more heart to it.

I started typing up these reviews last Saturday and tonight I’m finally done! For February I had better either type reviews up as I watch the movies or watch fewer movies so I don’t have to have a review marathon like this again. Somehow I doubt I’ll have that much forethought though. ;P Until later all!