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Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return

Just Not Funny
Not a single titter. It was like watching wasted friends sniggering at their own jokes after a bender instead of college buddies riffing. Everyone is annoying, everything is overproduced, and the movies are obvious. More proof that a budget and no heart can't beat innovation and a shoestring.

We Summon the Darkness

Predictable Rip-Off of Better Movies
This is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on painkillers. The acting is so broad it's ridiculous, but not quite as broad as the in-your-face and pathetic attempts to make everything feel '80s'. The leads are so stock you might as well replace the opening section of the film with any other horror movie about tipsy kids trucking around (gasp) the rural USA. And then the 'twist' happens which was telegraphed so hilariously heavily that midway through this 'horror' film transforms into a really irritating lecture. You want to make a personal point? Fine. But if you claim your production is a horror/comedy you need to provide either scares or laughs, and this dull slog provides neither. You'll guess the cardboard villains within seconds of their introductions and then it's all over but wandering around in badly lit rooms interspersed by unconvincing kills.


Nice Production, Empty Story
I take that back of course: Vivarium is an ingenious commentary about ______ Either that or it's a completely innocuous science fiction/fantasy story without any meaning, and anyone demanding meaning is clearly just a snob. The nice thing about hollow movies like this is critics can have it both ways. This is some kind of brilliant and profound statement about some kind of prescient social issue...and if you complain about it being pretentious, you just don't know how to have fun!

As much as some ideas were interesting here, this movie is a dull slog filled with overacting, not convincing special effects, constant waffling on vague philosophy and mostly just bored, grouchy looking people in dimly lit rooms staring into space.

The only real attention paid was to making the film look pretty, and it does at times, but the over stylization takes away from any potential feeling of real peril.

If it was supposed to be profound, don't make it so silly. If it was supposed to be entertaining don't make it so plodding and self-impressed.

Guns Akimbo

Worse Than the Sum of Its Parts
Someone tried to blend the Gerard Butler flop 'Gamer' with Suicide Squad. Trapped in an irritatingly preachy movie about how bad The Internet is is a funny movie about an average joe with a unique problem. Without all the painfully wacky stylistic flourishes this might have been a creative R-Rated action film content to rest in it's own niche. Guns Akimbo is pretentious enough to believe it's telling the REAL truth about violence in society...when really it's about as realistic as DeadPool. Daniel is charming and the cast is fine but the dialogue is exceedingly cringe and it's trying to sneer at gamers and millennials while getting them to hand over their money. Oldsters who hate this generation won't understand half the references and younger people will just shrug. Hipsters might just ignore the dumb and enjoy the fun so add more stars if you don't mind rolling your eyes if there's a couple decent scenes to glean.

The Host

Pretty, Dumber Version of a Well Known Classic
Nobody has brought this up so I figured it should be mentioned at least once. This is the movie Psycho with more subplots and less subtlety.

The plot is almost entirely the same except the roles are gender swapped. A philanderer embezzles money and runs away to a mysterious hotel run by a kindly but unstable patron who lives with their unseen and overbearing parent. That person is murdered and then their sibling investigates their disappearance.

It's the exact same story.

The only real difference here is an emphasis on a bunch of generic gangster backstories for the middlemen, and a complete lack of restraint in terms of gore and sex. To cover up the blatant theft there's a ton of generic gangster subplots thrown in and everything is supercharged to the point it becomes silly. We've got torture, incest, prostitution. None of it makes up for what amounts to a glossy but barely hidden remake.


Pretty Dexter Rip-Off Devoid of Purpose
Sean William Scott desperately struggles to avoid being pegged as 'the funny guy' by dressing up in a dark edgy coat, darkly and edgily murdering people, and not smiling. He's not acting either, but that doesn't seem to matter to many people nowadays so long as the expression of someone is inscrutable. This is a direct Dexter rip off to a ridiculous degree. He's a father and councilor instead of a forensic investigator but the method of killing is roughly the same (torture and murder of a tied up victim) and his victims are all sketched so broadly as deserving of death their slaughter is not emotionally investing at all. It would be one thing if, like Dexter, Evan here had to contend with avoiding being caught or maybe had some form of guilt about how his lifestyle would affect his loved ones. Luckily that drama is replaced by nice camerawork, bold colors, a thumbing synth score and some admittedly top notch gore effects. There is zero suspense here. Every problem is solved by violence. Nobody ever shows regret or the chance of change. It's not quite nihilistic though: luckily the writers/director are so self-righteous they can tell you flat out who deserves to die horribly. You're a racist? A junkie? Rude? You should die and nobody will ever care. How very 'contemporary' but also childish and not the least compelling. The twist is ludicrous, telegraphed, and predictable. Hitchcock already knew that when you make a 'story' about a bad guy that bad guy has to either be in trouble, danger, or conflicted. Doing none of these things leads to even the splatter becoming stale.


Gorgeous Mood Piece Derailed by Screed
No Spoilers, but Gwen is a beautifully and skillfully shot atmospheric physiological story similar to The Witch or even the Russian film The Mirror in terms of feeling more like a dream or a memory at its best...and this last just until the conclusion where it basically decides it was too smart for its assumed viewership and dumbs everything down.

Watch Gwen if you enjoy gorgeously bleak landscapes and haunting themes of mental strife. But if you're like me when the 'evil business' angle unfolds it all becomes incredibly predictable and rote. The final 'action' bit felt like a disservice to what could have been a solid character piece. This is not a spoiler because every version of the description of this film feels the need to bring up the evil mine 'story'. It feels tacked on, the mine company is hilariously overwrought, and it leaves the sensibility of a piece of skillful art hacked to pieces to make a conventional horror flick.

I'm tired of movies that sell for money and take money to make complaining about people who make money.


An Abnormal Brain
It's all the more a testament of how terrible this film is that even it's impressive, stylish animation can't save it, nor the suburb voice acting, or even the impressive score. The jokes are only sporadically funny and the tone is so oddly dark and suggestive I have to wonder about the demographic for this. Once more we get a curiously dark story with overtones (about a certain universally despised administration among other beloved punching bags), each cruel and edgy jab or exhibition made without care for the children likely watching it, only for the edification of the cynical writers, justified I imagine by the children's 'need to know'. For me this is so commonplace I almost overlooked it because of the continually amazing animation, but the more clichés and dud jokes that racked up I started getting mad at the film. A lot of the comments I've heard showed that this film actually had the same effect on others too, making them angry and depressed. Top notch film guys.

Max Payne

Pain to the Max
Dreadful. Not because it wasn't a smooth transition between game and film, but because it seemed like no one was trying. The visuals are so stylized they're boring at worst and at best look like a rip off of Sin City. Max is totally un-relatable and un-likable as the center piece and his sob story is told so tritely you can't manage to care. All the odd choices for transition (black Bravura, Alex is a bagman, Mona is Russian, Valkyr is blue...etc) don't do anything to enhance the story, instead quite the opposite they remove all the firmly established characters from the game completely, leaving behind hollow and uninteresting replacements. The movie is also really boring since the only action occurs at the end and then it's so silly and small scale it does nothing to make up for hours and hours of doing nothing. There's a scene where we see the storage factory Max stops by is called 'Gonitti's Storage'. I thought this meant we'd see Vinnie Gognitti from the game. Nope. It's just an in joke, hollow and unsatisfying and barely planned out. Like this entire film. Hit-man was better then this. At least you got the feeling some kind of effort was put into making that movie entertaining.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Think of it as a Spin off
This is not Hellboy 2. Much like Spiderman 3 is very difficult to accept as having originated from the same director and writer, Hellboy 2 plays out more like a made for TV movie adaptation of the Hellboy series with an incredible budget. The pacing is not the same, I don't recognize any of the characters even though they're played by the same actors, every interesting and subtle idea has been scrapped or dumbed down, the music is more annoyingly bombastic, the atmosphere is shot to hell and where once was moody shades of blue and deep shadows have been replaced with garish lights. This is to Hellboy 1 what Tim Burton's Batman was the Batman Forever. And oddly enough, it holds together more then it falls apart. This is some...no...this IS the most inventive, realistic, and gorgeous creature work I've ever seen in a film. I just wish it had been in another film where the 'heroes' weren't all arrogant, pugilistic, drunken jerks, the story had some semblance of progression, and the character moments and fantastic sequences were investigated for real emotion and power, not played for laughs or melodrama. Characters don't make stupid decisions in this film because they're stupid. They make them because they're greedy, lustful, lazy, or prideful; not the ingredients for heroes I can care enough about to watch them all the way through without hoping for the way more interesting and emotional villain to cut them into equal thirds so they'd stop whining. This film is spectacle against all reason or logic, a film that literally breaks the rules because it will say one thing, then contradict itself moments afterward. Sacrificing the world for love is alright? Well, not when you do it the WRONG way. Watch this movie once and you'll soon pick out the gorgeous, flabbergasting, magnificent scenes that are unique to this film and wonders to behold. You'll also find the scenes of contrived emotion, blatant unfunny humor, truly weird in jokes that take center stage, characters acting out of character, illogical occurrences, and the surprisingly mean spirited bits of this film which haven't gotten any better with repeated viewing. Once those are found you can fast foreword and rewind to taste to enjoy all the imagination and innovation this movie has to offer, and wish like me it had been pledged to a better story and a better film.

Kung Fu Panda

Lots of Flash, but No Punch
I'm deliberately rating this below what my mind insists I rate it because FLAIR DOES NOT MAKE A GOOD MOVIE! This movie is dripping with style. The atmosphere is pitch perfect, hyper real, and beautiful as a cherry blossom. Fighting sequences are flawlessly choreographed, and characters are hilarious and make expressions so subtle they deserve academy awards. Only one thing mars all this. THE MOVIE ISN'T ABOUT ANYTHING. If you don't believe me, wait till the plot-twist at the end that states the moral aloud, and crazily enough is that the secret to success is NOTHING. If you believe in something enough it apparently comes true...in the magical fantasy world of Kung Fu Panda. This moral idea of a person being able to will themselves to greatness is not only dangerous applied to real life (I can fly!) but the movie contradicts the message itself, by making the villain evil because he is selfish and a killer. Apparently it's bad when the snow leopard 'believes in himself' enough to fight for what's his, but if the Panda does it it gives him mystical powers. Also, the Panda is implied to have KILLED the leopard at the end, using the very power taught to him by the leopard's surrogate father. Good lesson there, eh? Skadoosh. As very pretty screen-savers go, this film is at least better written then Clone Wars, but equally devoid of likable characters and substance. Much like I'd recommend Clone Wars to people who love awesome battles and technical wizardry but can afford to sit through something inherently empty, if you like to watch top notch CG, some great pratfalls, and kung fu fighting animals and you can stand no character development, moral, rhyme or reason, watch Kung Fu Panda once. Then you can go read a good book or watch The Dark Knight to fill the emptiness left behind.


Not a hit, but not entirely a miss either
This film is actually a great video game adaptation. It's a fine combination of fan service in the form of in-jokes, and actual investigation of the concepts and characters behind the game. There is so much attention to detail at times in this film that the scenes look exactly like live action versions of screen shots from the game. The acting is fine, the action is fun (and surprisingly realistic and visceral), but several things do sink the reputation of this film, perhaps unfairly. The writing is not incredible. At times it rings authentic to the location and the 'spy' feel of the film, but at others the jokes are corny, the one-liners out of place, and profanity is gratuitous to the point of being ridiculous. Timothy Oliphant is a bad choice to play 47. He's WAY too young to emulate the deep voiced, grizzled killer from the game, but the character he plays is not a non-entity. He plays the Hit-man in this film much like Lincoln from The Island; as a child who has had little experience in the world. This makes the film feel like a prequel to the game series, which perhaps was what was intended. This is why he acts more emotional then his later incarnation, which has been mischaracterized in reviews as a departure from the character. I have never seen a more faithful adaptation. The look and feel of certain sequences is straight from the game which is more then practically any adaptation film can say. Hit-man uses every tool and weapon from the game in this film, and some in ways unexpected. The camera angles, lighting, and direction is spot on, and even the music reminded me of the series. This was a fun, not too pretentious, lavish, unique, and overall entertaining film. Compared to a lot of movies that seem made to annoy, bore, or disgust people, Hit-man set out to entertain, and for me it succeed. This is a movie to enjoy, and that's so rare I appreciate the privilege!


Takes itself too seriously
There are so many moments in this film when the music was telling me to be scared, excited, or in awe, but during those moments I was laughing hysterically. Notably, the sequence where Seline Kyle (sorry 'Patience') is brought back to life. The music was blaring to signify a wondrous turning point, but the CG was so obvious and the cat breathing cat-breath on her was so silly I didn't buy it, and hardly bought anything afterward either. Also Hallie I think is just not that good an actor. She's a looker, and tries very very hard, but just can't play anything more convincingly then a tough girl. There were some nice character moments, but a lot of them were very weird. Catwoman's powers make little sense, and her compulsions played up as heroic are NOT admirable. When did assault, vandalism, rudeness and sexual promiscuity become things to be encouraged? Originally Patience's character is pathetically nerdy to the point of being a parody, but her transformation into an over-sexed, animal always struck me as a bad thing, almost like she was being possessed by an evil entity. Her eventual transformation from thief to crime- fighter seems like an afterthought, and this is largely what makes the film feel empty. We never get to know Patience, and Catwoman keeps changing what she is. So overall the ideas are here for an interesting story, the characters are pretty interesting (except for the main character) and the art direction and cinematography are all interesting throughout, but the writing can dip into pure silliness (how dramatically can someone say 'Catnip'?) and the story dissolves into nonsense approaching the end and some things simply don't mesh, and the moral is confused and ridiculous ('Freedom is power???') Not terrible through lack of caring, but it is rendered impotent by taking itself too seriously.


Who is Beowulf?
I'm so tired of filmmakers not trusting themselves. Beowulf at times is shooting for an honest swords and sorcery epic about a troubled hero, but at other times seems to apologize for the audacity of making a fantasy film. For every moment of awesome battle and refreshing character moment, there's a shoehorned in moment to destroy the characters we've just started to like for no other reason then because it's hip nowadays to believe all mankind is scum. Ridiculous squalor and gratuitous sexuality creeps in to ruin the fun also, as well as a incredibly confusing rant about Christianity. I'm not sure it's fair to call the utter empowerment of Grendel's mother a feminism message, but it seems like that's what they're going for at time, and that too bewildered me. Oh, and they ruined the original story too. It felt like I couldn't enjoy this film without abandoning all faith in humanity and enjoying one self destruction after another. I was left wondering, who was Beowulf, the movie and the character. It seemed to be snatching at something for it to be about, and ultimately failed. There are other inconsistencies. Why do the vikings sometimes speak Danish, sometimes English? Why does Grendel's mother have high heels? Why does everybody doubt Beowulf's story about sea monsters, when they're being attacked by a real demon, and their king slew a dragon? Why can Beowulf see things in his dreams? Why is Grendel different from the dragon? Watch it on mute, and enjoy the only thing it offers...incredible visuals. Sadly, all it comes down is just a blustering tale with nothing inside it.

Æon Flux

Would have been better received if it hadn't been Flux
There's not too much inherently wrong with this film. It's visually imaginative, remains engaging throughout, isn't needlessly difficult to understand, has an intriguing premise (what if the righteous rebellion was just as misinformed as the ruling power?) and delivers some inventive and visceral action. The main complaints I had with it were the choppy editing, needless embellishment, and cheesy writing, but I usually have that problem with every movie nowadays. Like Constantine, I would argue that this movie would have been a better film and better received if it hadn't been tagged with the Aeon license. Fans were disappointed Aeon wasn't her bastardly, enigmatic self, and non-fans were turned off by the mistaken belief they had to know the show to understand the film. Really, without the names of the characters, this isn't Aeon Flux and it doesn't have to be. It's yet another poor victim of Hollywood's fear of original ideas.

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