Archive for the ‘Film Reviews’ Category

Red Riding Hood, freedom of speech, and curious interpretations thereof
March 20, 2011

I have way too much work right now for an efficient, productive person, much less the lazy, unfocused bastard I am. Given that I’m juggling three different deadlines right now — and yes, “juggling” is my term for “being two weeks behind on” — I actually was fairly proud of the three uninterrupted hours of editing work I put in tonight. On a weekend, no less. While recovering from the flu.

(Yes, I deserve the Purple Heart. Or whatever equates to the Purple Heart for someone whose closest brush with the military was an questionable fraternization matter in the back of an Old Navy.)

That all went to hell about an hour ago. I got two private messages from IMDB users, which would be the first two I’ve received since somewhere in the general vicinity of ever.

Life in Hell cartoon about film critics

I was stuck for an image, and this is cute. You can click it to make it bigger. But you knew that, right?

I kinda figured what prompted these messages even before I read them. A couple of weeks ago my film critic buddy Christian Toto invited me along to a screening of Red Riding Hood. I miss the days of free screenings and getting paid for film reviews from my days at the St. Petersburg Times newspaper, so I tag along when I can.

You can see my review of Hood in the previous post on this site (or, if you’re as lazy as I am, just click here). I also posted it under the User Reviews on IMDB. Thanks largely to Christian giving me a jump start on the other reviewers, plus a pretty good “people found [this] review useful” ratio (88 of 114 at present), my writeup is the first one you see for the film.

The first message I received was flattering. It was from the owner of a Blu-Ray review site who checked out some of my work and asked me to contribute. Sure, why not!

(If you’re thinking “Why not? Because you’re already behind on three deadlines, dumbass,” then I have one thing to say to you: Um, shut up.)

The other message was slightly less cordial. It’s probably more fun if I don’t preface it further. Just read and enjoy:

(more…)

Advertisements

Grandmother, what big suck you have
March 8, 2011

Picture of Amanda Seyfried in Red Riding Hood.

She sure is pretty. And she's also... um... well... she sure is pretty.

(Okay, maybe I should have given that title a little more thought. But anyway…)

You’d be hard pressed to find a better example of a film ruined by trying to be too many things to too many people than Red Riding Hood, which opens Friday and, by all rights, should close Saturday.

The most obvious audience Hood hopes to attract is fans of the Twilight film series, snagging the director of the first film, Catherine Hardwicke, and refashioning the Little Red Riding Hood folk tale into, in a remarkably half-assed way, a love triangle between three extraordinarily uninteresting characters. (If all three had been eaten by the wolf in the first act, we might have been onto something.)

What’s weird about Hood, which inexplicably counts Leonardo DiCaprio as one of its producers (stick to swimming in icy water, Leo), is that this romantic angle is not its main thrust. It doesn’t have a main thrust.

In fact, for a supposedly sexier take on a classic folk tale, it’s in desperate need of thrust in general.

(more…)

To hell with The Expendables
August 17, 2010

Expendables poster

So how many of these guys would you actually expect to be members of the Expendables crew in the film? All nine? Eight? Seven? How about... five. Yes, five. (Okay, 5 1/2 if you include Dolph, who's on the team for about 10 seconds. I'm not counting Dolph.)

(I know I promised this post a few days ago, but a few emergency jobs came up. So anyway…)

That’s right, to hell with The Expendables.

Furthermore, I feel like Barack Obama.

(You saw that coming, right?)

I mean, except for the whole thing where I’m not the President of the United States. Or black. Or tall. Or the secret leader of an exclusive club dedicated to the eradication of meerkats.

Other than that, I feel just like the Prez. He stood his ground on his convictions, said he supports the right to build a mosque at ground zero. He decided to say what he felt is right, and everyone stood up and told him to go to hell.

(Mind you, I’ve heard good opinions on both sides of the debate. I’m not saying the Prez is right. I’m saying he’s standing up for what he believes is right, which is far more honorable. But anyway…)

And because my opinion of a cheesy summer action movie is every bit as important as my buddy Barack’s ballsy stand, I say to you again:

To hell with The Expendables. It’s a seriously lousy movie. Just because it has a few fun moments doesn’t mean it’s not a seriously lousy movie.

It’s fair to say not everyone agrees with my stand. Though the film technically has a “rotten” rating of 42% at Rotten Tomatoes, that still means more than 4 out of 10 reviewers essentially gave his crapfest a thumbs-up.

(more…)

A few not-so-brief thoughts on Inception (SPOILERS)
August 9, 2010

Inception Teaser Poster

Leo must have REALLY had to go.

Yes, I finally got around to seeing Inception last night. I dug deep and spent the full $17 for the IMAX version. It’s a little late in the game to do a full review, so I’ll just hit some quick (well, relatively quick ) thoughts. And if by chance you haven’t seen the film, rest assured that

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

…follow. So don’t say you weren’t warned.

(Actually, go ahead and say it. But no one will believe you, John Edwards/Jeremy London/Wall-E.)

(Yeah, that’s right, Wall-E. You know what I’m talking about, you little can-opener bastard. But we can hash that out later.)

Thank God someone still makes movies like this

This is an action-packed, effects-filled (but not effects-driven) summer movie that thinks it’s still cool to challenge viewers, to have well-rounded characters and complicated twists and best of all, a perfectly ambiguous was-it-all-a-dream ending. (Yeah, it has flaws too, but we’ll get to that.) Much like Christopher Nolan’s previous film, The Dark Knight, it’s both a summer movie and a “film.” These things do not have to be mutually exclusive, Hollywood. How much more proof do you need?

Inception still is a far cry from perfect

(Told ya.) As much as I enjoyed it–a point that I’ll get to further in a moment–it has issues. Nolan doesn’t do that great a job of conveying all the rules of the dream universe in a very organic fashion (next time shell out a little dough and let J.J. Abrams or Joss Whedon do a polish on the script), and ramping up the Hans Zimmer score over every scene of pretty people talking about what you can do and can’t do inside a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-pastry doesn’t always make it interesting.

Also, for a film so determined to explain every single dream world rule to death, isn’t it odd that the actual technology involved gets no explanation whatsoever? How is Ellen Page (that’s right, I’m too lazy to look up the characters’ names right now) able to “create” these worlds? I get the idea that it doesn’t matter if it’s all dream, but if it’s all a dream, would we get endless explanations about all the other stuff? Finally, why do you cast Michael Caine for all of two tiny scenes?

(more…)

Dinner for Schmucks review
July 30, 2010

Dinner for Schmucks posterIt’s remarkable how quickly the new comedy Dinner for Schmucks disappears from your brain. I can recall laughing my way through the vast majority of the film–mostly soft laughs, but there were more than a few big, hearty laughs from deep down in the diaphragm. (One might more economically call such a laugh a “guffaw,” but guffaw is such a silly word I refuse to acknowledge I might ever participate in one.)

Despite the inarguable fact that I was entertained throughout the entirety of Dinner for Schmucks — a film that never actually uses the word “schmuck,” but we’ll get to that — I can’t deny feeling rather empty while considering it a little more than a day later. I think this must be why many reviewers are giving the flick fairly lukewarm marks, though they had to be laughing their respective asses off on occasion just as I was.

There are lots of reasons not to respect the movie. There’s the fact that it’s reportedly a fairly pale “reimagination” of a French film, Francis Veber’s Le dîner de cons (The Dinner Game). (I haven’t seen the original, so I can’t compare.) The screenplay is inarguably mediocre. Some of the characters, especially those at the eventual dinner, are lazily imagined. And it’s disappointing to see Paul Rudd, who’s capable of much more interesting, brilliantly caustic characters (in Wet Hot American Summer and Anchorman, for starters) relegated to playing yet another purely-reactive straight man.

And yet… Dinner for Schmucks is funny. Very funny. Occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. It’s like a frozen Snickers bite-size bar when you’re having a chocolate craving: Incredibly satisfying for about five minutes… after which, you’ll forget all about it.

Yet I can’t help wanting to recommend Schmucks, and dammit, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Because for the ninety minutes you’re in the theater, it is a lot of fun. It’s a much better date night film than, say, the relentlessly mediocre Date Night.

(more…)

Knight and Day Film Review
June 23, 2010

Knight and Day Poster

Knight and Day (2010) film review

Rick’s grade: 4 out of 10

By RICK GERSHMAN

Bear with me for a minute while I talk about dinner. Trust me, it’s relevant.

Tuesday was a busy day. I was racing around to get everything done before meeting up with my buddy Christian Toto for the Knight and Day screening in downtown Denver. (You can find Christian’s review here.)

The YMCA where I exercise is just a few blocks from the theater. I got my workout in, but I only had a few minutes to eat before the movie. So I popped into the Taco Bell down the street, got two Beefy 5-layer burritos and ate them as I  walked to the theater.

Now, Taco Bell’s Beefy 5-layer burrito is a glorious thing. It’s 89 cents, which is awesome. It’s incredibly filling, which is awesome. And here’s the thing: It actually tastes pretty damn good. So even though I figured they’d be rotting in my colon until the day I die, at the time I was pretty damn happy with those two 5-layer burritos.

A few hours later, however, I was regretting those burritos. Yummy as they were at the time, they left me feeling rather sick and bloated. My cholesterol probably hiked up about 50 points, matched only by my blood pressure. All of the good work I did at the Y, destroyed in one beefy, cheesy swoop.

Which brings us to Knight and Day, the Taco Bell 5-layer burrito of the 2010 summer movie season.

Actually, the metaphor doesn’t quite hold true — the 5-layer burrito is less than a buck, whereas you’ll be paying around 10 bucks for this action comedy starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It would be a lot more palatable at 98 cents.

(more…)

Film Review: The A-Team
June 8, 2010

A-Team 2010 movie posterThe A-Team (2010) film review

Rick’s grade: 7 out of 10

By RICK GERSHMAN

If any film demands to be graded on a curve, it’s The A-Team.

Simply consider the notion of making a big-budget summer movie from of one of the cheesiest television shows of an already-cheesy TV era (the early 1980s).

It’s a crafty plan to lower your expectations. As long the movie isn’t two hours of punching grandmothers and kicking puppies, you’re likely to leave the theater saying, “that was better than I expected.”

Guess what? It works like a charm. I can already hear the producers saying, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

The A-Team, against all odds, is one extremely entertaining film. It puts pedal to metal about 90 seconds in and never lets up. That’s also savvy because it’s also kind of a mess that would collapse under its own weight if it slowed down for more than two minutes.

Director Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, Narc) isn’t taking that chance. Action scenes come flying at you hard and heavy from start to finish. The results are mixed: Some sequences are choppy and confusing, others thrilling. But like a comedy that never stops pitching jokes, content if only half of them stick, The A-Team pitches action, action, action, with a side of action and a little action to wash it down.

The plot follows the general concept of the TV series with a few tweaks. A lengthy opening credits sequence set in Mexico shows us how the team of former Army Rangers comes together: Leader John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson), his right-hand man Templeton “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper), powerful Bosco “B.A.” Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) and loony pilot James “Howling Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley).

(more…)

Film review: Splice (2010), a gorgeous train wreck of sci-fi horror
June 2, 2010

Photo from the film Splice

Sarah Polley gets up close and personal with... um... something.

Grade: 5 out of 10

The new sci-fi thriller Splice, a modern-day take on Frankenstein that opens Friday (June 4) in theaters, is a gorgeous film that impresses on many levels.

The visuals are breathtaking, a perfect balance between practical and computer-generated effects. The cinematography and art direction often are stunning.

The stars are two top-notch actors, Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, in what is essentially a three-character piece for the majority of its running time. And through its first two acts, the film surrounds viewers with a constant feeling of tension and discomfort peaking with one of the darkest scenes I’ve seen in a mainstream film in awhile.

And then the third act arrives, and Splice takes a abrupt nosedive right into the crapper.

(more…)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) review by Rick Gershman
May 22, 2010

Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street remake

You can't tell from the poster, but he's 5-foot-5. Ooooh, scary.

Picture the 1984 horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. Now picture that film if it was produced by bombastic Michael Bay, director of Pearl Harbor and the Transformers films.

Now picture all of the worst possible outcomes of that marriage. You don’t have to.

You could just plunk down your hard-earned cash — better yet, don’t — for this craptacular remake.

Not that I can stop you from seeing it. No number of bad reviews (and this is one of many) would have kept me away. Curiosity alone demanded I see the new Elm Street, so when a critic buddy asked if I’d like to tag along to a screening, I did.

I mean, it couldn’t be awful, right? It’s a darker take on a character that had fallen into parody. Its screenplay was co-written by Wesley Strick, who has worked with Martin Scorsese (1991’s Cape Fear). And supernatural killer Freddy Krueger is played by Jackie Earle Haley, an Oscar-nominated actor who was so creepy as Rorschach in Watchmen. How bad could it be?

Really bad, it turns out. Astonishingly, amazingly, how-could-you-possibly-screw-this-up-any-worse bad. (more…)

Son of the Mask review 
May 2, 2010

Son of the Mask DVD cover

That dog's just praying Animal Control comes around soon.

(Originally published February 17, 2005)

Finally, after a month of tepid horror flicks (White Noise, Hide and Seek, Boogeyman) we finally have a true terror classic. Son of the Mask is sure to horrify adults and kids alike.

Take, for instance, the scene when bleary-eyed new daddy Tim Avery (Jamie Kennedy) comes within inches of feeding his baby son a broken light bulb. Brilliantly shocking!

Then there’s that bit when Avery mistakes his wife for the film’s villain and attacks her, slamming her to the floor and beginning to throttle her. Move over, Raging Bull! Truly chilling stuff! (more…)