Tag Archives: 2stars

Cosmic Sin

[2 stars]

There’s 80% of a movie here. Sadly, that missing 20% is sort of essential to pull it all together. Director and co-writer Edward Drake (Breach) either was unable to deliver the missing footage or simply over-edited the movie in a way that excised important aspects of the plot. Honestly, I don’t know which, but more than once I had to ask WTF about situations and comments where the base information was never revealed or setup events don’t seem to have occurred.

Now here’s the thing. Bruce Willis (Breach) and Frank Grillo (Skyline) are the names that helped sell the production, I’m sure. And they deliver exactly what you’d expect them to deliver…dry wit, hard action, dark comedy. But about the only character with any set of levels is Adelaide Kane, and her role is relatively small, if integral.

The initial concept, that of first contact gone (maybe) wrong, is classic and full of possibility. But the level of male toxicity (and I even hate typing that statement) makes the rest of the story inevitable and just plain sad. There is no nuance, no humanity to the decisions and actions, despite some lip service to moral implications.

You can comfortably skip this and miss nothing. But if you insist, just strap in for the action and let the plot just wash over you like bullet points.

Cosmic Sin Poster

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness

[2 stars]

Resident Evil, the franchise that never fails to disappoint…or at least hasn’t since near the end of the second movie. There are actually two series of this adapted game, one live action and the other anime. Though they heavily overlap, they are from different sources and have different continuing storylines that run roughly in parallel.

Infinite Darkness continues the Leon thread of the anime sequence. And it continues to use the photorealistic style to mimic the game interstitials. And, aside from really bad plotting, that is its biggest weakness. While the landscapes and objects look amazing, and even the characters (when at rest), the second a character begins to move or talk, you sink rapidly into the uncanny valley. The lips don’t even mildly sync well to the voiceovers.

And why is it that all women look the same in these entries? The men are diverse in shape, size and visage. The women are all built on the same thin, lithe template only differing in hair color and slight facial distinctions. Honestly, I kept confusing the two main women in the short series and finally just had to memorize their hair color. What’s worse is that one of the character is a recurring character there to balance out Leon and I still couldn’t keep her straight.

Suffice to say that this series is for the die-hards only. Though, you may be happy to hear that I have heard rumors that the live action reboot that is on the way is somewhat credible and could revive that aspect of the franchise. So perhaps there is yet hope for the story that would not die about the virus and monsters that would not die.

RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness Poster

Intersect

[2 stars]

When a story is taking place at Miskatonic University, it sets up some expectations. Some of those are met in this odd little indie, mostly it is left wholly unsatisfying.

Admittedly, I came because Gus Holwerda added in a time paradox. The two concepts together were too intriguing to avoid. And there is some interesting story telling going on. As is typical we start at the end and work our way backwards-ish. Slowly revealing the truths and issues of the past.

It doesn’t help that some of the script is just bad science and some is just woodenly delivered; ultimately that isn’t it’s greatest flaw. Jason Spisak (Pacific Rim: The Black) and Leeann Dearing (despite her costuming) do relatively fine with their parts. And James Morrison adds some solidity for the time he is present. Abe Ruthless, however, isn’t the least credible. But it also isn’t the acting that’s the issue. Where it all fails is the final moments.

Time paradoxes need a resolution or a definitive lack of one to end comfortably. They also need a clear and obvious paradox. The ending to this tale is an unresolved chord with a sense of what might happen but with nothing clear. In fact, in some ways it makes no sense at all, in terms of resolving the unidentified paradox or threat and the outcomes from it.

I did love that Holwerda allowed this to be a slow burn. It isn’t at all rushed and there are layers to experience. But because of the end, I can’t really recommend it. If you are intrigued enough to seek it out on your own, remember I did warn you.

Intersect Poster

Hard to Be a God (Trudno byt bogom)

[2.5 stars]

There’s nothing quite like a 90 minute tale told in 180 minutes. And while that’s probably a bit too quippy, it is certainly the effect this Russian sci-fi had on me by the end. That and a lingering sense of nausea from the wealth of filth and bodily fluids being bandied about.

But Aleksey German’s final film has an ethereal and hypnotic quality to it. The camera work is glorious and simply floats along. It is in black & white, but filmed with ability and care. And the camera has its own presence in the story as well, though it never really seems to be for a reason.

The tale, set up at the top, is that a group of scientists have landed on a planet similar to Earth but about 800 years behind in development and where the Renaissance never took place. It’s a grim and awful world indeed. One of the scientists has set himself up as the son of a local god. And that’s about all the story you get.  The rest is mayhem and casual violence and abuse. It is a long tale that has multiple interpretations, I’m sure, but the one that is loud and clear is that god doesn’t exist and the awfulness that we have in the world is of our own making…and even if god existed they couldn’t prevent man from screwing it up. (Don’t try to parse the paradox that, in theory, god made man as he is.) Oh, yes, and Jazz is an acquired taste (which is as close to humor that the movie gets). It didn’t need 3 hours to make all that clear.

And while German and his wife adapted the classic novel by Arkadiy Strugatskiy and Boris Strugatskiy, my understanding is that it is a rather loose interpretation on the order that Jodorowski or Fellini might do. Whether you want to dive into this or not is really up to you. There is something in it that kept me going for the full run, but I can’t rightly say I enjoyed it or that it left me surprised or shocked or enlightened. I simply went for the ride and came out the other side wondering how I might have better spent my time as a shorter version of the story was not on offer.

Hard to Be a God Poster

Monster Hunter

[2.5 stars]

Wow, this is as bad as you probably think it is. There are plenty of fights and lots ‘o monsters, but plot? Not so much, just a lot of pretty pictures and indications of character, but no depth. Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) isn’t exactly the top genre writer out there, or director for that matter. But he keeps trying to recreate his Resident Evil success with ever diminishing returns, even as Milla Jovovich (Paradise Hills) has improved over the years.

In this case she gets to partner up, after much shedding of extraneous characters, with Tony Jaa (xXx: Return of Xander Cage). Jaa turns in a fairly solid performance with what he’s got, though his fight scenes aren’t quite to his typical standards. Throw in a bit of Ron Perlman (Moonwalkers) for spice and you’ve got all you need for mindless fun. Which is good, because it is.

If you enjoy Jovovich enough to just watch her kick some butt (and get her own butt kicked plenty), this gives you plenty of that. If you are hoping for or looking for a complete story, move along, this isn’t the movie you’re looking for. And try as he might, and even with the help of Toho Studios, this just doesn’t have the making of a new franchise for Anderson. He’ll have to find another game property to mine for Capcom and try again.

Monster Hunter Poster

The Astrologer

[2.5 stars]

So why write about a 1975 film that has no one recognizable and a director/writer, James Glickenhaus, not really known for his quality material? Because, despite the illogical leaps, racist overtones, and odd story telling, there is something intriguing about this thinly veiled metaphor for the CIA and its ilk. And something uncomfortably appropriate to today’s situations around the world as well.

Set 8 days before the “second coming” the story posits a world where astrology has been turned into a precise art. Well, that’s the opening voice-over, but as it turns out it is more about potential than precision, but let’s not mince details (the movie certainly doesn’t). The idea is both amusing and intriguing. But the real focus of the story is the arrival of the baby messiah and whether it will be a force for good or evil. It isn’t like this is a new concept, but this movie has more philosophical overtones than horror.

However, it should be noted that it is also prone to making assertions…which it promptly violates or otherwise invalidates. And while there are a few credible performances, most are in that painfully 70’s, almost porn stilted delivery. I will grant Glickenhaus one thing: the cast is actually quite diverse, even for its time.

Now, I’m not recommending this without severe reservations, but it somehow came to my attention (how, I can no longer say) and got onto a long list for days when I had 90 minutes or less to burn uselessly. This certainly qualified. I actually found myself intrigued and curious, though ultimately disappointed, by the plot. But when it’s that short and the historical lookback alone is fascinating, I didn’t chock it up to a complete loss or even unentertaining. Though, I suspect, it would work better when slightly mentally altered, if you go for that sort of thing.

The Astrologer Poster

Breach

[2 stars]

Breach is perfect example of what happens when bad movies happen to (relatively) good actors. This creature-feature or horror-in-space is the worst sort of tripe masquerading as science fiction. Somehow I made it through to the predictable and absurdly obvious ending, but it wasn’t for lack of groaning and yelling at the screen.

But, because some of the talent really is worth something outside of this absurdity, I feel like they should be mentioned…if nothing else as a cautionary tale. Let’s start with Bruce Willis (Motherless Brooklyn) in one of the main leads spouting riffs from all his old parts. Clearly the part was an ego massage and paycheck, but it certainly didn’t use many of his abilities, other than not laughing at his own dialogue. He’s essentially part of a collection of misfits that include Callan Mulvey (Mystery Road), Timothy V Murphy (Snowpiercer) sporting one of the worst Texas drawls you’ll ever hear, Thomas Jane (Predator) in a throw-away and silly piece of bravado, and Rachel Nichols (Man in the High Castle) all of whom, to their credit, also manage to not choke on awful lines and stupid choices.

But the real lead of this piece is the unassuming and unlikely Cody Kearsley (Power Rangers). He isn’t awful, he just isn’t the least believable. Sadly, his intended and babymama-to-be, Kassandra Clementi (Home and Away), has the better backstory and opportunities, but she ends up on ice for most of the movie.

As to the script and story, well the logic and dialogue are just painful at times. John Suits (The Scribbler) did what he could, sort of, with the “script” from  Edward Drake and Corey Large, but his choices weren’t all that brilliant either.

As far as I’m concerned, this bit of space has a quarantine beacon around it that should be warning you off. Should you choose to violate that boundary, you’re on your own. I’ve done all I can to help you.

Breach Poster

Archenemy

[2.5 stars]

I certainly give Adam Egypt Mortimer (Daniel Isn’t Real) credit for coming up with an interesting idea and conceiving of a way to present it. The execution isn’t completely successful, but I did enjoy the idea and the attempt. I can’t say I enjoyed the movie.

Joe Manganiello (Rampage) is the top line name for this flick, and he does a solid job. But, generally, the movie just doesn’t hold together. Manganiello is never really the unreliable narrator he is painted to be, which would have been the interesting story choice this script could have made. We are fairly sure from the beginning what’s true and what isn’t. The story is driven by a brother/sister duo who intersect with Manganiello’s path. Skylan Brooks (The Darkest Minds), unfortunately, fails as the primary catalyst for me. Mostly due to how he was directed…though he certainly puts his all into it. And though Zolee Griggs really carries her weight, she’s left at a deficit by the rest of those around her.

Some of that is the acting, like Glenn Howerton’s (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) over the top drug middleman. In fact, a lot of the characters are allowed to run amok in that circle. Even Amy Seimetz (Wild Nights with Emily) with her staid and careful delivery felt forced. Mortimer leaned into stereotypes and cheap tricks with his directing choices rather than letting the characters feel real. And while there is a comic book sensibility to the whole thing, for it to pay off it has to feel like reality that gets heightened, not a comic book that happens to be true. Adding to the challenge is that the animation moments feel cheap and wrong given their import.

By the time the inevitable ending comes along, I have to admit I was simply disappointed. In part because it was obvious, but also because we don’t get to see it play out. Though, admittedly, there is an argument that we are told how it will go; I just choose not to believe that to be the likely course. And while this could be a setup for a franchise, I don’t see an interesting path ahead. I think there are better ways for you to spend your time, but YMMV.

Archenemy Poster

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

[2.5 stars]

If I were judging this on chutzpah, I’d be raving about Sasha Baron Cohen’s (Trial of the Chicago 7) return to the painfully satirical Kazakhstan reporter. And his supporting star, Maria Bakalova is every bit his equal, and certainly being recognized for her utterly unselfconscious performance. Their story and trials together transform into an entirely expected, but still touching, resolution.

But as a movie…let’s just say I knew I wasn’t their audience 3 minutes in, but I stuck with it primarily to see Bakalova. Once she had appeared, I hung on out of curiosity and just pure amazement at how much they got away with. But I still almost turned it off several times. I appreciated Cohen’s points and the final, crafted shape of it all, but I can’t say I enjoyed more than a small portion of the movie outright. The rest was through gritted teeth and being thankful that he was a brutal editor and kept most of the segments under the SNL pain limit.

I fully understand that many people will find this movie hysterical, diverting, and even rewatchable. And power to them. And power to Cohen and his crew for pulling off a high-wire act that is the epitome of dangerous art. But I can’t recommend it to those who align more with my sense of humor. I know I’m disappointing many friends by saying so, but there you go.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm Poster

 

LX 2048

[2.5 stars]

Up front, this isn’t a good movie. It has interesting ideas, but while it starts in one place, it ends somewhere else entirely. Which isn’t to say that the breadcrumbs for the final moments aren’t there from the start, but the path getting there is less than well marked and the trip feels more like chaos than a focused point. Guy Moshe (Bunraku – a movie I do recommend) spends a good deal of the time explaining the world through flashbacks and conversations that trend metaphysical. But it feels more like these were fixes for either a boring script when done chronologically or a fix to a script that was lacking after-the-fact.

And the acting…well, isn’t very good. Even James D’Arcy (Life Like) failed to make reasonable hay with the stilted script. Then again, he was just as often acting against no one or against some really rather poor performances by his wife, Anna Brewster (Versailles), and his simulated girlfriend, Gabrielle Cassi. Even Delroy Lindo (A Life Less Ordinary) couldn’t do much with an odd and alternately over and underwritten part.

Basically, this is a movie that never feels quite in control or advanced beyond the rehearsal phase. It goes interesting places, but more as a discussion than as an emotional journey. Moshe is a better filmmaker than this. Don’t waste your time here, but do keep an eye out for his next. Perhaps he’ll find his mojo again for that one.

LX 2048 Poster