17 May 2010

The Crazies, Last Song, Repo Men, Robin Hood

The Crazies
Starring Timothy Olyphan, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson
Written by Ray Wright, Scott Kosar
Based on "The Crazies" by George Romero
Directed by Brek Eisner
Release: 26 February 2010
Overture Films, 101 mins., Rated R

Plot: A sheriff, his wife, and a deputy face off against everyone else in town who have been infected by some strange virus in the water and have become quite crazy.

Luckily, I didn't endure the same experience others had while watching The Crazies, this remake (and here it actually does apply as a remake) of a old George Romero production (which I never saw), so my review is pretty straight-forward. All in all, a pretty strong and quite effective movie, which was quite nice considering I was expecting nothing less than a below average rehash of Grudge 2-esque crap.

The movie is pretty intense, I won't lie. Although it's not necessarily scary, it did make me literally cling to every shot, wondering where the new bad guy is gonna be and what new obstacle is gonna get in their way now. It's awesome. There's some truly cool moments, like the super-duper-best-ever-death involving Olyphant, a hand, and a knife. That was tight. There's also the awesome car wash sequence which I'm sure plenty have written about already - that was pure terror and intensity, same thing near the end with the deputy and his wife at the gas station/market area where they're confronted by two crazies.

The biggest and best surprise of The Crazies - and a large reason why I'm giving it additional props - is the 70 second scene with Glen Morshower, who you may recognize as being a military Head Honcho in both Transformers movies, and in TV Land, you recognize him as Agent Piece in 24. In Crazies, he has a short, sweet, and thankless role as a government agent who tells Olyphant & Co. what's going on before getting shot in the head.

Another element that I like - and yeah, I know it's not necessarily original - is that these are not zombies, and that the U.S. military comes in to clean up their mess mercilessly. That's just cool, and I like how it's handled here. It's truly a fight for survival, and it's dirty. But none of the drama or the heightened tension would mean a single thing if it wasn't for the great cast involved - Olyphant, Mitchell, Anderson. All three feel like they've known each other for years, and to their fight for survival where not everyone makes it is grueling yet cool. So The Crazies is recommended, 'cuz it's actually pretty damn cool.

The Last Song
Starring Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Greg Kinnear, Kelly Preston, Bobby Coleman
Written by Jeff Van Wie, Nicholas Sparks
Based on the book "The Last Song" by Nicholas Sparks
Directed by Julie-Anne Robinson
Release: 31 March 2010
Offspring Entertainment, 107 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Ronnie (Cyrus) is forced to live with her dad on a really pretty beach after getting into some major legal trouble back home, and as luck would have it, she finds romance in a well-built, doofus looking hunka-bunka.

This Miley Cyrus romance vehicle surprisingly didn't suck. Sure, there were some rather funny moments of really bad acting thanks to Cyrus' real-life hubby and onscreen romantic elemento Hemsworth, but overall, not too bad. Based off a Nicholas Sparks novel - which incidentally, Sparks wrote the book with Cyrus' starpower in mind - it's expected that A) romance will blossom, and B) something bad will happen. Both do indeed transpire through the course of the movie. What's interesting is that I actually gave a damn, and I think that means that Cyrus and company actually did a pretty OK job.

Cyrus' Ronnie doesn't much like her father Steve all that much, probably blaming him for breaking up the family, so they spend the majority of the movie in a verbal jest - she yells, he calmly rebuttals and tells her to go to bed. Greg Kinnear is a awesome actor, and it's great to see him actually engage in a conversation with a angry daughter instead of the stereotypical back-to-back yellfest. On the opposite spectrum of good acting, we have Chris Hemsworth, who is just as bad as Hayden Christensen in Episode II [give the guy a break with Episode III - with the exception of the Courscant balcony scene, then make fun as much as you want].

The fact that I enjoyed the movie doesn't forgive the fact that it's your run-of-the-mill, predictable romantic entanglement. There will somehow, someway be some sort of fault with Ronnie's new leading man, and although he's hunky and 'deep', he has some emotional baggage and regret about something that will just make her fall in love more, etc. And as for the title, it takes only a couple seconds to guess the few scenarios that it suggests. Even through the script isn't entirely strong (e.g., the entire subplot involving this rebel girl Blaze was entirely unnecessary, and I wouldn't have been saddened if a legion of zombies wanted to massacre her in any way), it nonetheless boasts some pretty decent performances, and in all honesty folks, there's far, far worse romantic dramas/comedies floating around the world right now. This one just happens to be rather tolerable. How about that for an endorsement?

Repo Men
Starring Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schriber
Written by Eric Garcia, Garrett Lerner
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Release: 12 March 2010
Universal Pics., 111 mins., Rated R

Plot: Jude Law slices people up to take their organs if their payments overdue, and when he gets one tossed in his body, he decides to run 'cuz he can't get the dough.

Yes, I've seen Repo! The Genetic Opera, and no, I'm not going to compare the two. Repo Men is all about Jude Law pulling a Minority Report, and kicking some Tom Cruise-esque ass. And Jude is rather good at doing just that.

2010 has been a powerhouse of awesome action scenes, and Repo Men is no different. The final 20 minutes gives us one hell of a awesome hallway fight sequence, where Jude uses his hands and any weapons he can get a hold of to beat up about 15 bad guys. It's sorta like Oldboy, but without the 'woah' factor of being filmed in one shot. With the raging music and Jude pulverizing everyone in that hallway, that was just sweet.

A real ruiner of the movie comes in the form of the ending. On one hand, it's a nice cop out, and completely unexpected, and I can't help but respect the decision. On the other hand, WTF? It's not remotely a understatement to say that I seriously, really like-a-lot hated that ending. I'll rent the DVD to (hopefully) watch 2 or 3 alternate endings, because they MUST have filmed at least a few more and just wrongly chose that one.

Overall, Repo Men was a pretty good run-for-your-life action film with plenty of awesome sequences and awesome actors - Forest Whitaker is 'da man! (don't believe me, watch season 5 of The Shield. Period.) - and is one of the better action films of the year thus far. Just perhaps leave right after the hallway sequence mentioned above, and you won't have to suffer the uber-dumb twist of an ending.

Robin Hood
Starring Russel Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac
Written by Brian Hegeland
Directed by Ridley Scott
Release: 12 May 2010
Imagine Entertainment, 140 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Robin Hood's, like, really good at shooting arrows and stuff.

Well, no, it wasn't Gladiator 2.0, though I'm not sure if that's necessarily a good thing, Gladiator was visually stunning, dramatic, character driven, action-awesomey, and just simply a great movie. Robin Hood is a underwhelming "it was good." Keep in mind though, folks, this film is a prequel/origin tale of the legendary Robin Hood - it's not actually about his crusades against King John and taxation. The last 10 minutes are dedicated to that mythology. As a origin story, though, I'd say Robin Hood doesn't quite succeed. Speaking of which, looking back at the movie, I would have much preferred if they kept the title Nottingham as the script was originally called.

Although he looks awesome in the Robin Hood outfit, Russel Crowe mumbles his way through the performance and doesn't seem all that interested in the role. He just looks tired. Cate Blanchett is overall OK in her performance as Lady Marion, but her character is severely undeveloped and in the end, her character makes no real impact that calls for her presence in the film. Oscar Isaac as King John is perhaps the most revealing performance, as it's obvious the actor is having immense fun being this pompous imbecile. I would have loved to see more of his character, although if there is a sequel commissioned, I can't wait to see what he will do with such juicy material.

The script is...alright. The first act suffers the most, being rather dodgy and all over the place, and there's a lack of flow that hinders the film rather largely. By the time Robin arrives in Nottingham to give the Locksley family a sword he vowed to return, things start picking up, but yet the scripts still feels a little choppy. The main problem facing Robin Hood is, simply, there needs to be more. And I say that knowing full well its lengthy running time. But there's plenty of material that can be condensed or omitted (William Hurt's material, for example, which doesn't necessarily need to be there) to make way for more character beats. The entire picture just seems to cobbled together, with all these random elements thrown in to make some big 'epic' production, and they lost sight on the characters.

From a directorial standpoint, Robin Hood was rather tame. When I think of Ridley Scott productions, that man has crafted visually beautiful films - this movie doesn't fall in that category. A particular problem that takes away the joy of the fight scenes is that the framing is too tight that we can't enjoy the full spectacle of the battle. The fight scene in Nottingham is guilty of this, as is the big climatic finale. Perhaps I'm too picky about framing, spoiled by Nolan, Spielberg and Favreau (yes, Favreau), but this was a little disappointing. However, one really super cool aspect of the film was the freakin' awesome score, which will definitely be a must-buy purchase.

All in all, Robin Hood falls into the 'eh, it's OK' category, which is quite unfortunate. It's a beautiful tale, and a origin story held boundless possibilities. On the plus side, it's not nearly as offending as last year's "origin" story. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

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