Wednesday, September 26, 2012
To begin, I have never read the book series that inspired this feature, or have I ever had the desire as I am not a hormonally challenged teenager or lonely housewife. So with that in mind, I review this film strictly on the merits of what I witnessed on the slightly tarnished silver screen. After sitting through nearly two and a half hours, my analysis is mixed at best. Deeply disturbing, slightly depressing, somewhat interesting at parts and then an absolute cure for insomnia in others with an ending as predictable as Lindsey Lohan's arrest record after a night of bing drinking. Any film that portrays kids killing kids for entertainment bothers me and this one just barely flies below the gore radar to achieve its PG-13 rating. The acting is mediocre at best, reaching for Twilight teen angst but achieving mere Nickelodeon level drama, if there is such a thing. Director, Gary Ross, sacrificed back story, to overplay the pomp and circumstance of the Hunger pre games. When he finally brings the action sequences, his desperate attempt to maintain the film's teen rating, reduces it to a lackluster version of The Running Man for kiddies. However, the idea that these youngsters are getting massacred for sport is thick and undeniable. The storyline could have been engaging had it been more indepth and less focused on just downright silliness. If you are looking for a true goverment conspiracy, youth protest, sci fi like survival movie reach for Logan's Run or Lord of the Flies. 1 out of 5 Kernels: this movie was starved of talent, solid writing, and all entertainment value.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
It's almost inconceivable to believe that any director could take a high action film concept mix it with Greek mythology, madness, and monsters generated by state of the art special effects and make it a positive sleep fest. Well for Battle:LA director, Jonathan Liebesman, it was a hearty and definitive mission accomplished. Include the absolute inane acting of leading man Sam Worthington and you have a cinematic disaster of Titan proportions. The first film was mediocre at best, replacing all of the original's drippy, 80's goodness with a darker reboot that attempted to replace substance with an absurd CGI overkill. In this outing, the story makes remarkably little sense, the acting even more so, and, in order to propel the plot, takes humongous liberties with the legends of Zeus, Hades, Perseus, and their like. Put simply, it is a mess of a movie with few redeeming qualities with the exception of its National Debt size FX budget. The most distrurbing aspect is the level of talent existing in this fail; Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Bill Nighy (Davey Jones of Pirates fame). Their presence is an embarrassment to their otherwise stellar careers. I was a Herculean fan, and one of the very few if only, of Battle:LA, however, this flick may lend credibility to those who criticized Liebesman's directorial talents. 1 out of 5 Kernels: Sometimes, when it comes to judging the worthiness of sequels, studios should tote the Nancy Reagan line and just say no.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Edger Rice Burrough's The Martian-Barsoom-John Carter Series, which began in 1917, was the absolute precursor to the modern science fiction saga which spawned such historical legacies as Star Wars, Star Trek, and many others. Literary speaking, Burrough's books are epic in scope, groundbreaking, and fantastic, so presenting them in celluloid is quite a daunting task. The biggest obstacle is that those afore mentioned legacies have already been presented, so comparisons to their sweep and design are unavoidable. The mistake would be to call this film a copy of those as Burrough's concepts were conceived long before. If the comparison is made, John Carter appears to be more cartoonish and archiac, an unfortunate characterization. In order to accurately critique the film, the focus needs to be on Disney's interpretation of the media, and it's product. In viewing it from that perspective one discovers that these magnificent novels were not given the cinematic respect they truly deserve. The first error was placing this ambitious effort in the hands of a director, Andrew Stanton, who has exclusively created animation tales such as Wall-E, A Bug's Life, and Finding Nemo. These are cute, heartfelt, family triumphs, but, by no means, the resume of a director chosen to attempt to master a Sci-Fi blockbuster. Second, choice of a leading actor for the part of Carter was crucial. His role not only supports the story but propels it. Taylor Kitsch is by no means the player to pull that off. Third and finally, the demonstration of a lack of confidence in a picture is when the studio tries to do too much in too little time, evident in this manifestation. There are several books revealing Burrough's vision, which should have, resulted in the formulation of several movies. Instead, too much is poured into this first installment which lengthed it to a degree that it is stretched too thin. This dilutes key elements of the story in the rush to fit everything in, which is a shame. With all that said, this is a visually stunning production magestic in imagery. When the action occurs, it is exciting and engaging, and the battle sequences rival many of its ilk. However, just as the positives begin to rise to the surface, more negatives are also unveiled. The acting is mediocre and predictable, and the plot moves along too slowly for the tempo required for this type of an adventure. I think Burrough's might have been mostly pleased by the outcome, but he also might have found it lacking in the substance he poured into his craft. 2 out of 5 Kernels: it falls definitively short as a cinematic retelling of a literary classic.
Monday, September 10, 2012
This was originally designed to be the third installment in the "Escape from..." series that launched Kurt Russel's adult career. However, it becomes swiftly evident that the writers, directors, and producers lost faith in their product based on the speed of the film, lack luster performances, and downright goofiness of the action sequences taking a potentially gritty and thrilling concept and turning into a PG-13 rated silly spectacle in space. The Grand Theft Auto 2027 CGI scene at the beginning should have been my first clue this was going to be an aboslute futuristic fail. If the likes of Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, or Arnold Schwarzenegger had not forged the quintessential action figure role coining memorable but corny one liners, the ability to have their bullets meet every target no matter where they were aiming, surviving bare foot glass walking and multiple mortal wounds, and escaping the utterly impossible, Guy Pearce might have scored big in this cartoonish action yarn. Instead, he quickly becomes a caricature of his predecessors with an over reaching performance that borders on the nonsensical. Grace's character is just as absurd, the remaining cast plays it so over the top, that the story rapidly moves from suspense to accidental comedy, and the "so called" hard core inmates are not frightening except in their lack of acting prowess. A true waste of celluloid. Finally, the attempt to mimic Die Hard in orbit is so obvious that it shifts from flattery to downright insult. Truly, the studio should be charged with theft in the way they lazily steal from the 80's classic. 0 out of 5 Kernels: I felt like I was held hostage watching this Sci-Fi styled space junk and they had the unmitigated audacity to compare this mess to Blade Runner which may be the biggest insult of all.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Adrian Grunberg (Traffic, Apocalypto, Man on Fire, and Edge of Darkness) brings us Payback goes south of the border. This ultra gritty, ultra violent flick tries to do too much, and it is painfully evident. Mel Gibson essentially regurgitates his Porter role minus the finesse, humor, and charisma. The story line is somewhat engaging, but the grimy feel of the so called prison setting and the manifestly corrupt and mostly unredeemable characters overwhelm it. There is a definitive sense of natural interaction between players which is a plus, but the plot limps along so badly in the beginning that any interest as it progresses wains quickly, and when it finally reaches a sense of action and urgency you find yourself almost entirely bored and hoping for it the credits to roll. The ending is too clean especially with the obvious attempt to maintain a dark edge throughout the movie. 2 out of 5 Kernels: this is not Gibson's best, even though it does shine far above his recent string of personal fails.