Hit & Run Leaves Lots of Casualties

Every so often a movie comes along that almost defies explanation concerning how bad it is. Earlier this year, the horror genre had Cabin in the Woods, an overloaded, badly directed crap fest. Now the comedy genre has its own reigning king: Hit & Run.

Hit & Run is a mindless story about a guy in witness (witless?) protection program who leaves his U.S. Marshal’s protection to take his girlfriend to a job interview in L.A.  The couple is then pursued by the girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend, the guy’s marshal, and the crooks that he snitched on.

Dax Shepard writes and co-directed this story about a loser with no jobs and no friends, who manages to land Kristen Bell. Only a man-child like Shepard could conceive of a story where a loser is put as the hero while the successful beautiful girlfriend is made as a nag and career obsessed. How did the snitch and the P.H. D. in non-violent conflict resolution even meet? The plot is overly thicken by the couple being chased by at least three other parties including the inept Marshal and the three crooks. Adding the ex-boyfriend was overkill, and I certainly wanted the ex (played by Lollipop Chainsaw’s Michael Rosenbaum) to rescue her from Charlie Bronson and the resulting mess of gunfire and car chases.

The lack of intelligent humor kills the film. The viewers are supposed to be entertained by escaping mini vans, flying bowling balls, and naked elderly people. Even when the movie has opportunity for any depth, it comes up short. When asked why he chose the name Charles Bronson, instead of an ironic, funny answer, Charlie mumbles something about not being that person anymore. (The Charles Bronson reference here is the notorious UK prisoner who is known for his violence and for kidnapping a prison guard. For an interesting look at the guy’s life check out the well-acted movie Bronson staring a naked Tom Hardy). Any self revelation or humor is quickly gone.

Bradley Copper manages to insert some laughs. Cooper plays Alex Dmitri, the crook who Charlie put away. As always, Cooper tackles his role with aplomb and gives depth to the crook. It’s the characters love for dogs and the ensuing madness that is the bright spot of this movie. Plus, props must be given to the costumer, make-up artists, and hairstylist who managed to make Cooper unattractive.

Coopers role, like the rest of the cast, was written by Shepard to their acting strengths. But this doesn’t lead to quality acting. Bell is not at her comedic best and comes off as nagging instead of any of the strong humor we saw so much of in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Tom Arnold totally overacts, and I am left to wonder if they gave him vodka and Red Bull and then set him loose on the set. Shepard himself tries to channel Owen Wilson but can’t manage the charm or the cuteness. The only other light besides Cooper is Jason Bateman’s small part as a U.S. Marshall.

The film had two directors (David Palmer assists Shepard) but like so many movies with two directors, it did not help the quality of the film. Like Silent House, the two directors did nothing to keep out weird shots and angels and keeping the story cohesive. The worst parts are the car chases. Unlike the fun absurdity of The Fast & The Furious, these car chase like substance and luster. They are filmed oddly and have a peculiar line-up. One scene included a Corvette, a station wagon and a mini van chasing each other on and off road while amazingly they are all keeping up with each other.

The only irony in the movie wasn’t intended. Bell’s character nags Charlie about what type of person is attracted to his soupped up get away-car, implying he is not better than the red neck thief they encounter. This becomes the running theme of the movie: There has to be an audience who will happily watch a car rev and spin in endless circles before a car chase. There has to be an audience that thinks full frontal elderly nudity is funny. There has to be an audience that finds Dax Shepard funny. But what does that say about the person Shepard is? And what does that say about what he thinks about his friends?

The Walking Dead Drinking Game

The Walking Dead (season 2)

The Walking Dead (season 2) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In celebration of Season 2’s release I have designed a game based on this latest installment. The game can be played two ways:

  1. With a      caffeinated drink to stay away while a season marathon
  2. With      adult beverages for those having a Walking Dead party

Instructions:

Drink from your chosen beverage anytime the following actions happen:

Shane is right (Team Shane)

Shane gets red faced and yells (those non Team Shane)

Rick is conflicted over a decision

Dale gets into someone else’s business

Lori whines

Carl is alone without a guardian

Andrea suggests leaving

Daryl kills something

Hershel talks about God and the Christian way even though he wants to do the non- Christian thing (throw them off the farm

Carol says “Sophia”

T-Dog gets a line

Maggie’s Southern drawl comes out

Glenn is manipulated

Sitting Down with the Titans

Blu-ray, DVD

Like many action movies of late that don’t star a superhero, Wrath of the Titans came through the theaters without much fanfare. It’s a solid sequel that continues a logical story intertwining myth with creatures and designs from the 1980s original Clash of the Titans.

Sam Worthington returns as Perseus who would rather stay home with his son than protect the world. But when his father Zeus is kidnapped and his power stripped away, Perseus must do something before Kronos escapes from Tartarus and destroys the gods and the world.  Joined by Andromeda, Perseus must collect the three sacred weapons (Zeus’s Lightening Bolt, Hades’ Pitchfork, and Poseidon’s Trident) in order to send Kronos back to his lair.

Worthington, like everything he does, really makes his characters come alive and in this installment he has on more clothes than the original. The interaction between him and Liam Neeson as father and son is explored in more depth and the two work marvelously together. The best part of the sequel is the new cast additions. Rosamund Pike as Andromeda ads a pleasant feminism to a male dominated world. Toby’s Kebbell as Agenov adds humor, and Bill Nighy’s appearance as the weapon maker is fabulous.

The CG is done quite well with most of the monsters blending in well with the humans and the atmosphere. It is some of the costuming that seems a bit much including Zeus’ terrible beard and wig. And why is it that Zeus ages but the only discernable sign of Perseus’ aging is that he has longer hair?  The final battle is choreographed well and enjoyable for the viewers though Hades and Zeus get a little too heart warming.

A better sequel than many other films get, Wrath of the Titans is an enjoyable action thriller that clearly deals with mythology without getting too obtuse or boring. Make sure to pick this one up at the Redbox.

Will Ferrell Maps out a Hilarious Campaign

Will Ferrell movies are either brilliantly funny or low brow stupid. For every Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory, or A Night at the Roxbury (my guilty pleasure), there is Step Brothers, Semi-Pro, and Anchorman. Jay Roach’s (Dinner for Schmuks) direction helps put The Campaign in the first category.

Ferrell plays Cam Brady, an unopposed career Congressman in the vein of Bill Clinton. His world is upended when the Motch brother (Dan Akroyd and John Lithgow) bring in an eccentric local named Marty Huggins (played beautifully by Zach Galifianakis).  The begin throwing out the word “communist” and bashing the opponent’s family values. Marty Huggins looses himself to the prepping and changes made by his campaign manager (gorgeous Dylan McDermott), and Cam Brady tries to find himself.

The movie takes actual campaign strategies and pulls them to the extreme. In fact, you have to laugh at the truthfulness or you might cry. And this is the secret to this film, the reality in it. In fact, the viewer has no idea who they should root for. Which of the two is the lesser devil? The ending was a surprise as the writers add depth to the characters and hope for the future of politics. It’s this critical thinking that gives this comedy its true depth. There is some stupid, silly humor, but I must admit every time Marty Huggins couldn’t open I door, I laughed till I almost cried.

Ferrell and Galifianakis working together are beautiful. They both become their characters changing speech patterns and walks, and really give depth to flat political stereotypes. The movie is at its highest point when the two start trash talking together, with Marty Huggins sounding like a second grader. I’m not sure how these two made it through a scene together with out bursting into laughter every time. Even McDermott’s straight man is hilarious as he yells at his protégé or deadpans that they are out of Honeynut Cheerios. It was also great to see more range in Jason Sudeikis as Cam Brady’s campaign manager.

The Campaign wins you over with its comedy and heart. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon this election season.

Airtight Games Puts Players in a Frustrating Conundrum

 

Quantum Conundrum available on PC, PSN & XBLA

 

I absolutely love the Portal Series. I love using my brain to figure out the puzzles and enjoyed the wit of the villains. Quantum Conundrum tries to mimic this in its set up. QC has the same first person views, rooms modeled like test chambers, and a disembodied voice guiding you through the process. But most similarities end there. Swapping sci-fi for a fun cartoon look, QC delivers a good atmosphere that is destroyed by the game play.

QC is about a young boy who has been dropped off at his uncle’s mansion. His uncle is an eccentric scientist who narrates you through his immense estate granting you use of some of his experiments. Your goal is to restore power to the house and find your uncle with the aid of a dimension altering glove. You can make things fluffy and light or heavy, slow down time or invert gravity. But certain areas only allow you to use certain dimensions. Your task is to use the various dimensions, figure out puzzles, and platform your way to the house’s generators.

Giving the game the moniker of a puzzle game is actually misleading. While there are some elements of puzzle gaming, QC is more a platform game than a puzzle one. Players use the four dimensions to finds ways to throw, jump, and dodge obstacles to complete their task. The plat forming is grueling taking a precise timing and angles. The game play mechanics are too clunky to achieve these requirements and even veteran platforms spend their time doing the same obstacle over and over and over again.

A prime example of how a puzzle quickly descending into a plat forming nightmare: furniture stacking. In one area, players must figure out how to reach a platform to get to one of the game’s collectables. The solution is actually simple but stacking the furniture and jumping up them is clunky and due to the controls aren’t very precise and you’re left rearranging and jumping for a frustrating amount of time.

The games offer some replay values with challenges and collectables, but the game play deters from retrying levels. There are plans for two more sets of downloadable content, and unless the game play is some how made more user friendly, the frustration wouldn’t be worth the money spent.

The Case for John Carter

It’s no surprise that Hollywood is about profit. It’s also nothing new for publications to lambast any movie that doesn’t financially perform well. Often movies I love don’t do well. I loved Hollywood Homicide and continue encourage people to watch it to this day because it is so funny even though it didn’t bring in much mass appeal and money. In recent time, Taylor Kitsch has been criticized for the monetary failure of two of his latest films John Carter and Battleship.

It’s odd the way the press sees these failures. I happen to know that Entertainment Weekly gave Battleship a good review but constantly makes fun of the movie for its failure to a draw in a crowd. And the jokes on John Carter? Don’t get me started.

I was unable to see the movie in theaters, and, to be fair, I didn’t understand the plot. The marketing for the movie was not done well. If I didn’t understand the plot how could others? While supposedly marketed as a family film, I had no idea it was based on short stories by the beloved Edgar Rice Burrows, and I didn’t understand the complex emotions the main character goes through. Disney missed the mark drawing the audience in that it needed. And with the press devouring it whole, its good qualities were lost in confusion and criticism.

I really enjoyed the film and thought it was well done. It reminded me of The NeverEnding Story; fantastic places, a kingdom almost lost, unique creatures to thrill the imagination. As a child, I would have watched this movie over and over on loop. As an adult, I plan to purchase it on Blu-ray.

John Carter is a cowboy who is an amazing solider but after his wife and children die, he becomes apathetic about anything other than a cave full of gold. After escaping jail, Carter is accidently transported to Mars. Carter must learn to navigate this new planet and its inhabitants. Carter strives to get home to his gold, but the princess of Helium complicates the process. Carter must learn what love really is and how apathy is a curse on the world.

Like most things Disney does, the special affects and CGI were well done. The aliens looked realistic and the voice acting was terrific with Willem Dafoe and Thomas Haden Church.  I never watched Friday Night Lights, but Kitsch has been on my radar since Wolverine (now, because of Magic Mike, is the second sexiest movie in recent years). The majority of major roles are unknowns allowing the character to have unique faces and really seem like they are from another planet. James Purefoy was the only other one I recognized.

Not a perfect movie, but the tight writing, humor, less focus on violence, beautiful visuals and moral exploration makes John Carter a quality to movie that I wished to have more tales from. But with the measly amount it made, I will probably never see them.

Watch This Not That

Recent Horror Movie

Watch this….

 

Woman in Black

This Daniel Radcliffe vehicle is a superb gothic horror tale with tight writing and great visual effects. Radcliffe is a solicitor trying to clean out a haunted house but is delayed by seeing the famed Woman in Black. The movie does not go for the easy scares, building tension that keeps you on the end of your seat, and Radcliffe proves his abilities as an actor. This is a great throwback to the time before horror movies were slasher films.

…Not That

Silent House

A gimmick movie edited to look like it was filmed in one fluid shot leaves the viewer wanting more. A girl goes back to a child hood house to clean it up to sale when a stranger breaks into the house and causes her and her family terror. While the gimmick could have been really cool, the two directors saw fit to give you odd angles, not show the actual violence, or even anything that was going on. The constant dark and concentration on static objects gave the directors obvious places to do cuts but nothing ever really frightens you. Top the film off with an ending that has been done better in many other movies, this remake gives you no scares.

Peter Jackson Film

Watch this…

The Frighteners

Michael J. Fox plays a con man riding people’s house of ghosts—ones he’s sent there himself. But soon the ghost and the terror are all too real, and Fox’s character is the only one that can stop them. This suspenseful horror movie is a fresh take on ghosts and is visually stunning. Fox gives a great performance, and the plot is gripping. Packed with humor and horror, The Frighteners is one of Jackson’s best.

…Not that

 

Lord of the Rings

Because everyone in this world (other than me) has seen these movies a bazillion times, can quote every line, knows every difference between the books and the movies, and (like me) knows in their heart of hearts that The Hobbit should not be made into three films. Go ahead and check some of Jackson’s other works.