Sunday, February 17, 2013


They may have a point: This film was universally reviled as one of the worst movies on 2012. Bad writing, cheesy acting, plot holiness, painfully contrived attempt to connect to the board game-- it's all there and every bad thing said is pretty much true.

Nevertheless: The big budget effects are there on the screen, and some of them are pretty awesome. Admit it-- you saw the trailers and before you heard the movie stunk, you wanted to go see it based just on giant ships and armory aliens and destruction and mayhem, and the movie delivers all of those things in spades. There is plenty of visual spectacle here.

The characters may be cardboard (plucky woman, plucky black character, plucky large breasts, immature jerk-ish guy who must grow up and be a Real Man-- check, check, check, and check). And there's Liam Neesom, phoning it in from his car while he drives his check to the bank. But hey-- Neesom knows cheesy movies (seen Darkman lately) and still has more gravitas in his little finger than most actors have in their whole bodies on a good day.

The plot is weak, but not actually stupid. It sets rules and plays by them. And it is charmingly unironic in its love of soldiers and sailors and their general grunt-like heroics. So you get spectacle, dashing good-guys, unobjectionable lessons (try hard, be honorable, don't be a dick), and some decent adventure. If you saw it on Sci-Fi on a Saturday night, you'd think it was the best thing to ever appear in that time slot. Yeah-- if I'd paid top dollar to see it in a theater in 3D, I might be cheesed. But it will work just fine as a netflix rental.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Josie and the Pussycats

They may have had a point:

Actually, I'm not sure they did. Okay-- the usually delightful Parker Posey seems a little unhinged (and not in a method acting kind of way), and at the end of the day, the story would have made a fine half-hour cartoon episode. But still-- there is remarkably little to complain about.

And yet:

The movie's biggest problem is marketing-- it is a mashup of its cartoon source material and a reasonably clever piece of satire. It mocks the world of commercial musicianship awesomely, from the manufactured boy band DuJour (some great cameos here) with music as pointedly satirical of its genre as Spinal Tap's songbook was of metal, all the way to relentlessly hilarious product placement. This film never takes its meta-tongue out of its cheek, even when we arrive at a climactic moment that underlines how certain cameo players couldn't be brought back for this scene.

I'm not kidding. This movie is, at times, sharp and funny and lacks only the courage to completely jettison its kid-cartoon roots and simply swing for the fences. It's subversive and sly; it knows its plot is predictable, but is determined to make some fun on the way.

Also, the music is actually not a bad representative sample of what it pretends to be.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tower Heist

Why they might have had a point:

There's a lot to exposit, and the movie is in no hurry. It also can't decide whether it is a smart, tight caper film or a wacky zany madcap comedy. As such, it violates the rules of smart caper films by, well, violating rules of physics. Then there's the cobbled-on working class theme. But really, they may just have been worried that Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller were actually in the movie.

And yet:

This is a lot of fun. Initially it appears to simply be an overblown television show, but it builds and grows and adds increasing levels of hilarity.

The solution to the central puzzle is not exactly fair or clever, but in the end, the strength of the film is character and shtick. Murphy continues to be hilariously reliable as a supporting actor, and Matthew Broderick is like the stealth bomber of large laughs. Every single person in this movie is great, and the movie gives every single one of them a moment to shine. Yes, it's sloppy at times, but the slop includes digressions as hilarious as a good episode of Cheers.

So don't expect precision execution a la Ocean's 11, but this is a fun time.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The A-Team

Why they may have had a point:
This film is way over its limit of single-film physics violations. Characters fall large distances and then walk away. Many things blow up for no reason-- I mean, no reason at all, not just a bad reason thoroughly debunked by mythbusters and/or common sense. And the whole story kicks off with a coincidence that it acknowledges but then does not attempt to address. You would have to inflate these characters with a case of Twinkies just to get them up to one dimension.

And yet:
Nobody phones it in like Liam Neeson. Even when he's clearly not lifting an acting pinky, he still seems like a ten-year-old who's being paid to go to summer camp and eat ice cream.

Like Mamma Mia!, this film does not flinch from its deeply cheesy nature. Many scenes play like big budget comedy sketch lampoons of themselves, and I ultimately loved the movie a little bit for that. It doesn't have a mean bone in its body, and it's not ugly or nasty. I did not feel like I needed a shower or an excuse because I watched it. Even though it is gently paranoid, it never turns gloomy and dark.

It doesn't waste time gazing into its own navel. It moves relentless forward and unspools its plot in a straightforward manner. You will not be shocked and surprised, but neither will you be dazed and confused.

The set pieces are so gloriously over the top. Yes, they're impossible and inexplicable. It's the A-Team. Remember how The Last Action Hero lampooned action-movie carnage and destruction? Well, this movie makes that movie look restrained and serious. This movie hits the sweet spot where action sequences are both ridiculous and glorious.

You know you have something special when:
Okay, Jessica Biels is playing a serious-ish character, a sort of female Tommy Lee Jones from the Fugitive, so her performance is fine. But when you are making the A-Team and the most groundedly realistic character, the least over-the-top cartoon is BA Barracus, you know something special is happening.