Thursday, May 30, 2013

Doesn't anyone watch this show?

Survivor - Classic Blunders
I avoided Survivor with a vengeance when it first came out.  I clearly remember it because I quite enjoyed Mark Burnett's EcoChallenge series, but I completely didn't see the point of Survivor and as a rule, I detest reality game shows.  So while everyone was going on about Survivor and it swept the world as a cultural phenomenon, I steadfastly refused to watch it.  Then a funny thing happened in season 15:  They went to China.  Well, I just happened to have adopted my daughter from China two years prior, had an amazingly powerful and enriching experience, and thought I'd give the show a try just to see China again.  I came for China, but I stayed for the show.  I've subsequently watched every season as it aired and become completely hooked.  To the point that I recently went back and watched the first 14 seasons.  "Hi, my name's John and I have a problem..."

Having now slogged my way through all 26 Survivor seasons, I'd like to point out a few classic blunders of past Survivor players (the most famous of which is, of course, to never get involved in a land war in Asia) for any castaway wannabes out there.  Rather than do a writeup on each season (Or each individual episode!!  Writing material for the next 2 years!), this will save an awful lot of redundant commentary as I'm amazed how often history repeats itself on this show.

Learn how to make a fire.  How much planning does this one take?  Really?  It's been 30 years since I last used flint to make a fire, but you can be damned sure I'm going to practice once or twice before I hop on the plane.  You're going to be abandoned in the wilderness somewhere.  Perhaps you may want to do something crazy like drink water?  It continues to amaze how time and time again how most castaways can't make a fire.  With a flint.  Or hell, even with matches.  Sundra and Becky spent 90 minutes failing utterly to make a fire with flint.  So they give them both two books of matches and Sundra ran out of matches

And you know that big block of metal that the flint stick is attached to?  It's magnesium.  It burns really well when a spark hits it.  Scrape some off and save yourself a lot of time and effort.  That's what it's there for.  I'm also not sure I've seen anyone scrape the flint instead of just hacking at it with their machete.  I figured that out reasonably quickly.  When I was 9 years old.  For bonus points, figure out how to reliably make a fire without flint.  You know, the sort of thing humans figured out how to do 40,000+ years ago.

Spend five minutes researching your destination.  Yes, I know the castaways don't always know exactly where they're headed, but while you're waiting to board the plane, glance at the destination.  That'll narrow it down quite a bit.  Then do something crazy like Google "edible plants of Guatemala" and figure out what you can eat.  Instead of being silently laughed at by the production crew every time you walk by the goldmine of food growing nearby, you'll endear yourself to your tribemates forever if you can spot the tubers and sugar cane on day 2.

Get off your lazy ass.  It's remarkable how "duh" this one is, but oddly enough, your fellow castaways will not react well to working their asses off while you sit back and eat the food they make for you in the shelter you watched them build.  Sure, it's important to conserve your energy and not exert yourself too much, but that conservation won't mean much when you're booted on day 3 for being completely worthless around camp.

Hidden immunity idols make poor parting gifts.  If you have one and there's even the slightest remote chance that you think even a single person might vote for you, play it.  Lately they seem to recycle them immediately back in camp, so maybe you can be Russell and just constantly find them.  But for heaven's sake, don't be James and go home with two of them in your pocket.  Poor James.  I liked James.  He was nice.  He was cool.  My wife liked James for other reasons of course, but she more or less gave up on the season when James went out like that.

Keep.  Your.  Idol.  Secret.  Sure, there have been a handful of times when having an ally know you have an idol makes excellent strategic sense, but ultimately a single idol can't save the whole alliance.  One person is holding it and if someone else knows, they're going to want to benefit as well, or they're going to let someone know you have it and try to flush it out.  Which will either work and you get to hang around till next week when they vote your ass out again, or you go home with a lovely souvenir if you don't play it.  The idol doesn't make you invincible in the greater scope of the game and it doesn't get you automatically to the final 2 or 3.  It's a tool.  Keep it secret.  Keep it safe.  Use it.

Watch.  The.  Damn.  Show.  This might be the biggest "duh" of them all.  If you're getting on a show that's been running for thirteen years, you can probably pick up a couple of pointers by doing something crazy like watching an episode or three.  The social game is brutal and often really counter intuitive.  Well done Brenda for sacrificing time with your dad so everyone else can have time with their loved ones instead and finding Dawn's dentures so she isn't reduced to a quivering blob of jelly.  But guess what?  Now you're way too nice to people and a serious threat if you make it to the final.  Bye-bye.

Monday, May 20, 2013

I've come from nowhere, and I'm not shy to go back

As I was attempting to rank Statham's movies in terms of rewatchability, I was struck by the fact that I just plain don't care one way or the other about the majority of them.  They're just there.  With very few exceptions, Arnold's movies evoked a strong positive or negative emotional response.  Statham's movies on the other hand have already faded into memory, and I had to look up a few of them in IMDB just to remember what the hell War and Revolver were.  The average Statham movie just sits there staring blankly at you.  Almost encouraging you to change the channel and get on with life.  So before I lose the will to live, here is the rough breakout of the rewatchability of Statham's body of work:

Crank
The Italian Job
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
Safe
The Transporter

I did at least enjoy a few of them, and several of those were new to me. These movies are classics that I'll enjoy coming back to time and time again.  As with Arnold, each of these I would watch at anytime, anywhere.  I just wish there were more of them.

The Bank Job
The Expendables
The Expendables 2
Mean Machine
The Mechanic
Snatch

These were all very fun and while I don't think I could watch them multiple times per year or anything, I find them all very watchable and entertaining.  Between this and the top tier, seven of the 11 movies are ones I'd never seen before.  That barely makes up for sitting through the rest of them, so happy thoughts... happy thoughts.  Sigh.

Blitz
Cellular
Chaos
Death Race (2008)
Killer Elite
Transporter 2
War

It starts to get pretty grim at this level.  These are only barely rewatchable and I wouldn't rule out possibly seeing them again someday, but have no interest in actively seeking them out.  Honestly, anything below the top 2 tiers is more or less crap and doesn't really warrant categorization, but what the hell, let's keep going...

13
Crank: High Voltage
Ghosts of Mars
London
The One
Revolver
Transporter 3

These are all very poor movies and, with one notable exception which requires its own category, among the worst movies I've seen period.  Either poorly executed, completely blah, actively irritating, or just plain ugh.  Don't watch these.  Please.  Don't.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

Fuck you, Uwe Boll.  Fuck.  You.

Up next - Parker should be available on pay per view tomorrow so guess I'll try to fit that in if I can (how's that for enthusiasm?) and that will have me current on Statham.  I may try to crank through the Fast & the Furious movies before FF6 comes out on Friday.  Never have seen any of those, but interested in the first, fifth, and sixth ones at least. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

We're trying to make a movie that's interesting

26 films, 2,621 minutes and 20,000+ words later... What do I take away from this little journey through the Collected Works of Jason Statham?  He's no Arnold.  That's intended both as a compliment and a warning:  Statham is a genuinely strong actor and a perfect example of what happens when you don't choose (or aren't offered) solid scripts with good directors.  He started out with much better acting chops than Arnold, and he seems to have no shortage of personality, but he seriously lacks Arnold's excellent business acumen and intelligent handling of his persona.  Arnold was always larger than life before getting into acting and grew leaps and bounds in ability afterward due to the constant challenges he placed upon himself.  If Arnold had gone the Conan the Destroyer-Red Sonja-Raw Deal-Red Heat path and not taken huge chances with The Terminator, Commando, Predator, and Twins, he might very well have had a career that would look awfully similar to Statham's.

Statham has some movies I adore (including several new personal favorites), only a handful of complete turkeys, and a whole lot of forgettable crap inbetween.  So if you pick a Statham movie at random, you're probably not going to come back for a second one, and that in turn makes you very likely to stay away from anything else he does unless he gets massive critical acclaim.  Which he never does.  He does thankfully have his niche and a legion of loyal fans, which I'm happy and unembarrassed to say includes me.  I will always be willing to try out another Statham movie, but I'm not very likely to do so in the theater.  That's a pretty marked contrast to the majority of the other actors I really enjoy where I get all twitchy if I can't arrange to see their new movie opening night.

Statham movies don't seem to quite scratch the same escapism itch that Arnold always did for me.  Outside of perhaps Crank, there really wasn't a single one of his movies that felt like he transported me to some other living, breathing world.  He is often over-the-top badass, but equally often under very generic and bland circumstances.  I have a lot of trouble reconciling the badassery with the largely forgettable movies.  I find Statham a wonderfully compelling and interesting actor, he just really hasn't done anything with it.  That string of groaners in the early 2010s very nearly did me in and made me give up. 

I like to imagine a world where Statham followed up The Transporter and The Italian Job with Crank, The Bank Job, and Safe and then went on to stratospheric heights from there.  Perhaps ultimately Statham best serves as a cautionary tale to the would-be actors out there:  Acting and stardom are a huge crapshoot.  You can have all the talent in the world, pour your heart and soul into your craft, get all the good breaks, but it won't guarantee your next film will be a success.  Statham has at least established himself well enough that he won't be hurting for work anytime soon.  I leave this saga somewhat disheartened at the promise of what could have been, but ever hopeful for The Big One for him that seems perpetually just around the corner.

What the hell's wrong with cereal?

The Expendables 2 (2012)
Wow, I somehow survived all of Statham's movies.  Just have to wait for Parker to come out on video next Tuesday and I'll be current.  Somehow I think that one is going to be a rent rather than a buy given the presence of J Lo.  I have nothing against J Lo, just have never cared for her in a movie and I've seen most of hers.

Anyway, back to Expendables 2.  Again.  Hasn't been all that long since I watched it, but it was still pretty fun.  Kept more of an eye on Statham this time around and he's really been reduced to a minor role here.  Have to give everyone screentime I guess, but at least we do get two kick-ass action sequences out of him and some decent buddy-buddy action with Stalone.  Still not too thrilled with Older Stalone's acting chops and that's somewhat of a scary thought given the low esteem I held for Younger Stalone's acting.  Thankfully there's plenty of other fun to be had here, so you can groan your way through Stalone's lines and get back to the Blowing Up of The Shit.

Statham is just fine, but it's oddly not as memorable a performance for me as the first one was.  Guess we got to spend a little more time with him then and here he doesn't get much to do.  Heck, Gale has more memorable dialogue than Statham, and he's only in the first 1/3rd of the movie.  That's at least made up for by the excellent knife fights and face-punchy/kicky.  Statham's putting in good effort on this one and he and Stalone have a pretty easy rapport, we just didn't get nearly enough of it.

None of that detracts from this still being a damn fun movie.  Sure, I'd like much less CG blood splatter and it would have been great if they could have at least bothered to try to match the CG palette to the live shots, but still enjoyable.  Very fun having Chuck and Arnold and Bruce back again and they at least gave them several satisfying scenes this time around.  I do hope the 3rd one doesn't try to cram too many people in, I like getting to spend time with the characters rather than just toss more and more at me.

Badassery Quotient - 9
I would go a full 10 given the body count, fun weaponry, excellent fight choreography, and fun one-liners, but I have to take off a point for adding in blood spatter after the fact.  Would have been a better movie without it.  So, lesson learned: It's okay to trip R down to PG, but you can't move PG up to R without quite a bit of reshooting.

Rewatchability - Sure
Twice in a few months is enough for me, but I'll certainly be coming back to this again.  It works better on the whole than the first, but does lose a little something in the process.  It's at least not pretending to be anything it's not and it is much more rewatchable than the majority of Statham's movies.

Up next - Er...  Um...  Pass?  I can't let Statham's poor choice of scripts do me in, so I do still want to try taking on another actor.  Just not sure who that should be.  Bruce Willis might prove an interesting choice since he's got some excellent work along with some real stinkers and I've never really bothered to look closely at his skill as an actor.  He was pretty awesome in Loopers, so it could be fun to see if that's a recent development and figure out what the hell happened between Die Hard and Loopers as he had some remarkably uneven performances in there.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I didn't know a trachea could break

Safe (2012)
The random action movie gods must be smiling on me, because this here movie was damn fun!  Coming off the blah of the last two and seeing nothing promising about this one, I wasn't in the least bit excited, but from start to finish this is a well-paced, exciting movie with some excellent cinematography.  There is some dark, dark, nasty shit going on in this one, but it's pulled together into a cohesive narrative and just about every moment of this film works really well.

I was almost immediately hooked by Statham losing his wife and Ill-Mannered Chinese Girl's story.  Particularly good work by the latter and by far one of the best jobs I've seen of a random child actor being asked to play along with some pretty freaky stuff.  This one couldn't be any different than Killer Elite in terms of who you should be rooting for.  There's Statham and Ill-Mannered Chinese Girl against, well, everyone.  I love that Statham was about to finally give up and jump in front of a train when he sees this little girl hiding and that gives him purpose.  That was pretty atypical for this sort of movie and means that he really has very little to lose other than the girl from that point forward.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out the several wonderful surprise moments here.  There were at least four or five times where something made me laugh out loud or say "no way!" because they usually don't play out that way.  Statham's wife is killed off camera and it's no trick, she's just gone.  He has Igor Jijikine (love that guy) held at gunpoint unarmed on the ground very early on in the movie and he just shoots him dead.  Yes!  That's what you're supposed to do, not have some sudden attack of conscience for the guys who just tried (and will try again) to kill you.  It's that moment when you mentally say "he should just shoot him and be done with it" and he actually does!  That sort of thing happened again and again and was so refreshing.  After the first couple of times, the film has pretty well established that it's not going to play true to form and you really don't know what's going to happen next. 

There are some really great bits of cinematography and editing as well.  Overall look and feel were fantastic and something that wouldn't have been out of place in an early Die Hard movie.  Great scene where the girl is being told the plan by her Chinese handlers in a perfectly normal seeming car ride when they're suddenly  and unexpectedly plowed into from the side.  Also loved the scene where Statham and Ill-Mannered Chinese Girl are trying to escape the police (and probably one of the other groups of bad guys... hard to keep track) and he backs up quickly and you see a guy in his rear view mirror as he runs him down and then the guy is next seen crashing onto the hood of the car to the pavement.  He then proceeds to immediately speed forward and runs the dude over again and we see him tumbling off the back through the rear view mirror again.  All in what sure looked like one take.

Badassery Quotient - 11
Really over-the-top violence, action, car chases, gunplay... you name it.  All really well executed with a great primal oomph to every scene.  Statham is early on established as badass by what he says and does, not some blah blah exposition.  This ranks right up there with The Transporter as one of my favorite roles of his.

Rewatchability - Yes please!
Soooooo refreshing to run into another personal favorite movie this late into the run.  No idea why I didn't hear more about this when it was released last year as it must have had pretty decent word of mouth.  It's not Oscar-caliber anything, but it's an excellent example of a classic Statham role and for a change, the director, story, cinematography, and supporting actors are all up to snuff.  One of the more well-rounded and enjoyable Statham movies and I would actively drag people to watch this, whether they know who Statham is or not. 

Up next - Expendables 2!  The end is nigh!  Yes, I just watched this a couple of months ago as an Arnold movie, but it'll be fun to watch again and I'll try to keep more of an eye on Statham and why he disappears for a good chunk of the middle of the film.  This will be the last film I have to watch until Parker comes out on home video next Tuesday.  I've officially survived the worst of it!

When will this be over?

Killer Elite (2011)
With Clive Owen and Robert De Niro on board in a period piece allegedly based on a true story, this should have been pretty fun and one of the higher quality Statham movies.  Alas, that is very much not the case.  I do very much enjoy a few of the fight sequences and the rare times that Clive and Statham are on screen together are pretty cool, but this a very meandering movie that could easily have been shortened by a third or more.  Given how much I like romances and the guy winning the girl and living happily ever after, I really could have done without every scene with Statham and Semi-Hot Random Australian Chick.  If I had to guess, those scenes are likely there to give us a hook into Statham's character and a reason to root for him, but there really isn't anyone to root for at all.

Unfortunately Statham's goal is to bump off a whole squad of SAS men, which he inevitably does, but that makes it mighty hard to give a big fist pump every time he does one of them in.  I actually quite enjoy ambiguity and movies where there aren't any clear-cut good or bad guys can be really interesting, but once again this really isn't the sort of movie that works well for him.  Statham's character is laid out well enough and his motivations are pretty clear, it's just really hard to get behind him and care.  He needs to be doing the Harrison Ford thing and hunting down everyone who ever wronged him or looked at him funny, not assassinating a bunch of people he's never met just because some geezer is holding his inept friend hostage. 

Speaking of his inept friend, really really didn't care for De Niro here.  This is smack dab in the middle of De Niro's dark ages where he's taking on really questionable movies.  Trying to play against type?  Keep an aging career going?  Drug debt to repay?  The reasons really don't matter, it's just sad when you see a great actor phoning it in like he does here.  Probably could have had more entertainment from a cardboard cut-out of De Niro than we get from his screen time.

Clive would have probably been more fun to watch if he weren't actively working against Statham and serving the Geezer's Circle Jerk Club, the closest we ever get to actual bad guys.  It was very much like watching a detective show where you're supposed to root against the detective figuring out the case.  Thankfully whenever Statham and Clive are on screen together (or chasing each other), there's excellent energy and some pretty fun action sequences, but it's really too little and much too late.  By that point, I've already mentally moved on to wondering which movie I get to watch next and hoping it will be better than this one.

Badassery Quotient - 7
There's some pretty fun spy shit and plenty of random gunfire, face-punchy, and car-chasey to be had and that's all the better.  Given how sedate the pace of the rest of the movie is, it feels more like the movie has the action version of Tourette's than any sort of well thought out screenplay.

Rewatchability - No Thanks
Yet another throw-away Statham movie.  Surprise, surprise.  It's not horrible, it's not great, it just sort of lies there and silently pleads for you to put it out of it's misery.  No real reason to recommend this to anyone or ever watch it again.  Hmmm...  That seems oddly familiar.  Perhaps in the future, I should just copy & paste in the "Rewatchability" paragraph from one of my other reviews to save time.

Up next - Safe.  Hey!  It's another Statham movie that came out in the theaters that I couldn't muster up enough interest to go see.  Wheee!  No interesting hook that I can see.  It's sad when the best hope you can muster is that the movie will be better than one you hope to never watch again.  Woot.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Do I look like I carry a pencil?

Blitz (2011)
UK crime dramas continue to fascinate me.  They're basically the same as the US ones, but with constant nuances that remind you you're watching Something Else.  Sometimes it's almost as if you're watching something in another language, depending on how much slang is being tossed around, but my Monty Python and classic Dr Who upbringing seem to help me cope with the accents well enough.  I do find it fun how serious it is when a bad guy has a gun and sorely wish it were that much of an unusual occurrence in the US. 

Unfortunately this particular UK crime drama is effectively an overlong episode of Law & Order with slightly better cinematography.  The plot certainly isn't out of place in your average TV crime drama and the movie strives for a level of seriousness that it just doesn't quite merit.  Full marks for effort though and if I look at it as a made-for-TV movie, it's perfectly fine.    Could have done without some of the miss-steps into melodrama land and they could have kept it much tighter time-wise.  I'm sure the police chief and girl cop were intended to give extra emotional punch when they're killed/threatened, but not really any reason to get that involved in them, so it's just wasted screentime.

Statham is quite fun as the highly-prone-to-violence cop and he plays pretty well off his partner for the most part.  Another excellent opening sequence to establish his badassery by letting him beat the crap out of 3 would-be car jackers.  Very nice fight sequences throughout and some great chase sequences as well.  Lots of fun gunplay and some decent one liners to round things out.  Unfortunately this type of role is just way to ordinary for Statham.  They do a damn fine job setting him up as a badass, it's just a fairly dull and lifeless movie to be a badass in.  Quite the contrast coming fresh off The Mechanic.

The supporting cast is pretty meh for the most part aside from the temp chief/partner.  Quite liked him and he and Statham have some good moments together, but they really blew it on the casting of the maniac.  Need someone vastly more menacing than Scrawny Masturbator Guy if you're going to have someone systematically kill a whole slew of cops.  Sure, he gets to kill plenty of people and it is admittedly nasty when he stomps on the one kids face and breaks his neck on the curb, but he seems almost bored while doing so.  Not sure if he was going for the tightly-controlled emotions thing or what, but during the film's climax when he's tailing Statham's car and checks his blind spot and signals for a dramatic lane change (I kid you not), it's sort of hard to feel terribly threatened by the guy. 

Badassery Quotient - Er...
Not really sure how to call this one.  He kicks plenty of people in the face, there's adequate gunplay, chase scenes aplenty, and oodles of menacing glares...  It's just in the midst of such a dreary and blah movie that it really diminishes the effect.

Rewatchability - Rarely
I could see watching this again for the buddy cop angle and there is some great action to be had, but it's pretty hard to keep your attention focused for the duration.  I wouldn't suggest people actively avoid it, but don't see any point in really recommending it to anyone.  Hmmm...  That seems to be my reaction to most of his films. 

Up next - Killer Elite.  Another excellent 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon connection via Robert DeNiro.  Also has Clive Owen who I usually quite like, but doesn't otherwise look at all promising.  Did this even come out in theaters?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You need companionship

The Mechanic (2011)
I recall this being a reasonably big release and had fully intended to see this one in the theater, but like so many other Statham movies, I managed to get distracted by something shiny and miss it.  Doesn't help matters much that his movies tend to only last 3-4 weeks in wide release, which is a pretty small window if you're not pumped up to see one opening weekend.  All in all a pretty serviceable action thriller albeit a little short on actual plot and writing and some of those other nuances that most films try to include.  Just enough touch of emotion to not be totally flat, but without tipping over into melodrama. 

Very nice to see Statham back in a role where he's uber-competent and it was a blast to kick back and just watch him do this thing.  They set him up very well from the opening and although there's very little depth to this character, I'm starting to prefer that in my favorite Statham roles.  The opening gambit is very reminiscent of The Transporter and great to establish the character without a bunch of exposition or people talking about how great he is.  Particularly liked the teaching angle for Statham and would love to see more of that in a future role.  He plays the part quite well and it gives some good comedy relief and badassery to have him show a noob how it's done.

Nice touch having Sutherland in the movie and bonus points for bumping him off pretty early.  They actually caught me off guard with that and was a good scene and handled very well.  While Sutherland's Angst-Ridden Black Sheep Son wasn't really the most compelling character, there was at least some good underlying tension throughout the movie while you're wondering when he's going to figure out who killed his dad.  The postscript comes a little out of left field, but I have to say I really liked it and sat there with a big silly grin on my face.  Always nice when a movie leaves you on a positive note, so well played on that count anyway.

Badassery Quotient - 10
Pretty much everything you'd ask for other than perhaps missing some good driving sequences.  Great physicality, lots and lots of menacing looks, and that over-arching sense of Statham doing exactly what he does best.  Plenty of awesome gun and knife play and all around fun.  Definitely his best role outside of Frank Martin or Handsome Rob and I really like him in this sort of role better than the tongue-in-cheek Expendables-type roles.

Rewatchability - Sure
I don't need to see it on heavy rotation or anything, but that was a very enjoyable film and one I'd feel very comfortable sharing with any Statham fan.  Granted, I'm probably the only self-declared Statham fan who hadn't already seen this, but still...  Better late than never.  Good stuff.

Up next - Blitz.  Not sure what to make of this.  Appears to be a UK-only release, but hey it's free on Netflix instant play, so I'll at least get my money's worth. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bring it, happy feet

The Expendables (2010)
Hasn't been long at all since I watched this last, but it continues to hold up well and is above all else fun.  This isn't a particularly well-crafted bit of filmmaking and I think Stallone was wise to take a backseat and not direct the second one.  He really doesn't get a great performance out of most of the cast, particularly himself.  Thankfully that's not really that big of a deal as everyone is obviously having fun and it's intended to be entirely tongue-in-cheek (I hope), so on the whole this movie works exactly as it should. 

It was helpful to watch this and focus mostly on Statham's performance as he's certainly one of the best things about this.  Sardonic Badass is a role he has down pat and is turning out to be the role I most enjoy from him.  He comes across really well here and brings some much-needed stability to the rest of the cast.  He steals the show with his down-in-the-dumps scenes about his girlfriend and his confrontation with her other boyfriend is fantastic.  Certainly my favorite role of his in the seven years since Handsome Rob. 

I know I'm prone to hating on him, and much of that is due to Iron Man 2, but I do have to call out Mickey Rourke again.  Goodness gracious but he's miscast here.  His scene recounting the horrors he's seen is actually quite well done and is about the only genuine bit of emoting by anyone in the entire movie, but it comes out of nowhere.  Really doesn't fit the rest of the tone and the movie doesn't earn the right to have a solemn moment like that.  Those sorts of scenes play far better in the sequel.  Every time I see this, Rourke continues to pull me right out of the movie.  I used to like him quite a bit, but man 2010 was not a good year for him:  Iron Man 2, 13, and expendables.  Must have been between agents.

Badassery Quotient - 10
I wouldn't have minded seeing a little more martial arts out of Statham, but that's more than made up for by the excellent gun and knife play throughout.  Great lines, great charisma, and about as much random violence as you reasonably can hope for in a movie.

Rewatchability - Sure
I think 3 times in 6 months is enough watching this for the moment, but it remains an enjoyable romp as long as you don't watch with too critical an eye.  Hopefully for #3 they can keep the gritty realism of this one with the acting and attempt at a story of the 2nd. 

Up next - The Mechanic!  This is probably the most promising of the Statham movies I've not yet seen.  I've enjoyed most of Simon West's other films, so hopefully this will at least be somewhat of a return to form for Statham.  At least he's not starring opposite J-Lo or anything crazy like that.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

He cannot continue

13 (2010)
Pretty much zero (or lower due to Mickey Rourke) expectations coming into this one and while it wasn't completely horrible, it didn't really have much going for it beyond the gimmick.  I've seen the Russian roulette gambling thing a couple of times in TV crime dramas and this was more or less on that level.  Quite a few name name brand actors in this one which at least lent a little bit of drama wondering if they were really going to kill off all the contestants.

I give them props for trying to give a drama angle by letting you get to know several of the characters and other gamblers, but they're so thinly written that you don't really have a chance to get involved in them.  Sure, Pasty Kid is sympathetic as the protagonist in over his head and, while I don't wish harm on him, I'm not particularly invested in whether he lives or not.  Couple that with some fairly lame supporting cast performances (looking at you, Rourke), and they really failed to capitalize on the inherent drama of the game itself. 

This movie at least did let me confirm that Michael Shannon really does suck as an actor.  I've not liked him in anything he's ever been in, but he was appallingly distracting in Premium Rush.  Had I have seen this first, I would have been better prepared for that.  Very disappointed to see he's cast as General Zod in Man of Steel.  Sure hope I'm wrong about him and they haven't squandered a pretty cool role on a complete tool of an actor.

As for Statham, this is yet another one where he at least showed up and was filmed.  That's really about all there is to note about his performance.  He's perfectly serviceable in his role, but brings nothing to it and is pretty much interchangeable with anyone else.  On top of that, his presence was actually a detractor from what I'm sure was intended as a surprise ending.  His brother (or someone, I couldn't really be bothered to keep track) gets killed in the final duel of the game and he's all distraught and runs out of there.  Unfortunately, we still have 20+ minutes to go and, knowing that he has a $3mil debt to a loan shark and thanks to the Celebrity Screentime Axiom, he has to show back up again to try to get Pasty Kid's money.

The Celebrity Screentime Axiom is one of the many things that ruins most 60 minute TV crime dramas:  The bigger the celebrity, the more screentime they're going to have.  So when the poor raped/murdered/tortured/teased girl's dad is Someone and they're seemingly only in the first few minutes of the show, then you know they'll either be or kill the rapist/killer/torturer/bully by the end of the show.  It's not a guarantee that they're the bad guy, but it's a dead lock that they'll be back for more screentime.  So it goes with Statham in this one.  His role seems done, but with him not dead and 30 minutes still to go, we're certain to see him again.  When he shows up to get the money back from Pasty Kid, it's completely expected and anticlimactic.  A big yawn and smack upside the head to the filmmakers.

Badassery Quotient - 2
Not a bit of standard Statham stuff here, but I'll give a couple of points for all the people getting shot in the head during the game and Statham at least handling a gun a couple of times during the film.

Rewatchability - No thanks
Another of those middle-of-the-road movies that I'm not sorry I watched, but see little point in watching again or recommending anyone else try.  It's not horrible, it's not great, it's just sort of there.  Which is the issue with a lot of Statham's movies.  Perhaps that's a big part of why I gave almost all of these a miss when they hit the theaters.  Just not quite enough reason to get butts in the seats.

Up next - The Expendables!  I've watched it pretty recently, but won't mind doing so again with an eye towards Statham himself if I can avoid being distracted by Stallone's neck. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Should I duck?

Crank: High Voltage (2009)

Later Statham movies have managed to do to me what even Arnold's worst movies never managed to do:  Kill my interest in watching more.  Therein may lie the issue with his box office performance in anything where he is more or less the sole draw.  He has some fantastic movies, but for every decent one, there are 2 throw away ones out there.  The Transporter and The Italian Job made things look very promising.  The 10 years since then?  Not so much.

Please note that I'd not actually given up, just completely lost interest for a while after the back to back whammies of Transporter 3 and this turkey.  I actually watched this about a month ago, just couldn't bring myself to write it up.  So I went and watched seasons 1-14 of Survivor real quick instead of the next Statham movie.  Ahem.  But... due to a massive groundswell of fan support (ie, my friend Karl), I'll knuckle down and write this sucker up and get through the recent movies, none of which I've seen other than the two Expendables movies.  They can't all suck, right?  Right?  Sigh...

Speaking of suck, let's discuss how badly sequels can go wrong.  I loved Crank.  It's crass and over-the-top, but it's unapologetically in your face, self-consistent, and damned funny.  I also need to note that I have no issues with the plot device in either film.  If the filmmakers say it's so, I'm good with that.  What I do have issue with in High Voltage is the complete failure in execution.  This smacks very much of one of those scripts that comes about during a late night booze or drug-fueled brainstorm by the director and his friends.  The pacing is all over the place, the set pieces are goofy or pointless, and almost all of it goes that extra little bit too far.  I'm very surprised that Mike Meyers or another Saturday Night Live alum didn't have something to do with this as it all feels like those skits that don't really have a punchline and drag on about 3 times as long as they should.  Just because an idea strikes you as amusing, it doesn't mean you should make a feature length film out of it.

It's hard to list all the things that don't work well, so I'll just focus on two:  Language and racism.  I really don't mind a movie dropping the f* bomb a bunch as long as it's used for effect or fits a given character.  Here it's almost like they were trying to hit a quota.  It's constant, it's even sometimes non-sensical, and it doesn't enhance things in any shape or form.  If you overuse it, it loses all impact and just becomes white noise.  Secondly, I may perhaps be a little sensitive to Asian stereotyping as the father of two adopted Asian kids, but the handling of Asians in this is just stupid and pointlessly offensive.  If you're going to do that, do it well, make something of it, and make it funny.  But the one Chinese skank who chases Statham around and the whole attempt at a Chinese Triad connection serves no point other than to make fun of the stereotype pronunciation.  Blazing Saddles used racial stereotypes to excellent satiric and comedic effect by turning the lens back on those who were saying those things.  This is just mean and completely unfunny.

As for Statham himself.  Well, he's in the movie.  That's really about all I can say for it.  Gone is the wry irony he played so well in the first.  Gone is the excellent angst, attitude, and menace he showed.  All that we're left with is a caricature of a caricature.

Badassery Quotient - 7
That should probably be a 10 just because of the amount of crazy going on in this film, but I have to subtract a few points for being distractingly stupid in the execution of said crazy.

Rewatchability - Fuck you
I'm quite surprised by just how much I disliked this.  I knew what I was getting in for, I knew the gimmick, and I knew that it wasn't nearly as liked as the first.  But damn.  I'm not sure exactly where I'd rank this out of the Statham and Arnold movies I've watched this far, but the only things I think I'm less likely to watch anytime soon would be Batman & Robin or The Villain. 

Up next - More Statham movies!  Now that I've managed to catch up on the first 14 seasons of Survivor that I missed back when I was actively avoiding that show (more to come on that later), I'm back and ready for more abuse.  "13" is next on tap.  It doesn't look remotely promising, has Mickey Rourke in it, and has a pretty low IMDB rating.  On the plus side, it's only 91 minutes long.  Silver lining, etc, etc.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

You're so tense

Transporter 3 (2008)
As much as I really loved the first Transporter and as cool a character as I think Frank is, after the abuse that was Transporter 2, I can't say I'm looking forward to this one very much.  Turns out that I was correct that this is a completely forgettable movie, but I was mistaken that I'd watched this before as proven by the unopened DVD.  At least I've seen it now is about the best that I can say about this one.  This is one of those times where the take an established character and formula and try to mix it up a bit.  Political intrigue is very much not a storyline we need to have.  Even that would have been okay if we stuck to the formula like the first one where the overall plot is really irrelevant to the entertainment value of the movie.  No such luck here.  By trying to go all political thriller on us, all they managed to do was confuse the plot and take valuable time away from what Frank does best:  Kick people in the face while trying to run them off the road. 

It's not a complete loss of a movie and there were a few amusing moments and some decent action, but it says something about the staying power of the movie that I can't remember a specific one of those moments and it's only been a couple of hours since I finished watching the movie.  About all that stands out are the completely stupid moments like the inept high speed chase by Group of Bad Guys #83 where we later learn they were working for Generic Russian Chick's dad and apparently were trying to "rescue" her.  By "rescue", I of course mean taking extreme risks to her well being in an attempt to stop Statham from doing whatever the hell it is he was supposed to be doing with her.  Apparently that boils down to swerving all over a road while going 140+ kph, which was at least somewhat plausible in hindsight and pumping 1000+ rounds of ammo into the car she's riding in, which is a somewhat less effective method of ensuring her safety.  Can't find good help these days, I guess.

Statham was apparently only slightly more interested in what was going on than I was.  Sure, he's got a couple of generic fight sequences and, as always, he looks good behind the wheel, but I haven't seen him with this little intensity in a role since Ghosts of Mars.  Perhaps he was just confused by what his character's motivation was supposed to be.  I sure as hell was.  He does at least get to run around with his shirt off a decent bit, so my sister will hopefully be amused, but that time would really be better spent watching pretty much any other Statham movie where he takes his shirt off.  Quite a few to choose from. 

As to the supporting cast, the best I can really say about any of them is that they didn't openly flub their lines.  Good job everyone.

Badassery Quotient - 7
There's no denying that there is plenty of explosions and gunplay to be had, but I have to knock a few points off for the uninspired fight and chase sequences.  Take away any sense of menace or control by Statham and it's not really what that character should be capable of. 

Rewatchability - No thanks
I imagine this is going to continue to be a theme with Jason's recent movies, but there's really no point in rewatching this when you can effectively watch the same movie in any number of other better acted and directed ones.  Perhaps it would be fun to rewatch to see if I could actually keep track of which bad guys are who and which of the two nearly identical black cars in the chase scene were which.  Can't say I recommend this to anyone, not even someone who is a big Transporter fan.  I guess if you managed to enjoy Transporter 2 at all, then you might as well give this one a try since it's at least a little less insulting to your intelligence. 

Up next - Crank: High Voltage.  More than a little leery of this and it strikes me as one of those movies that really shouldn't have been made.  The first Crank really captured lightning in a bottle with an outrageous plot device cleverly pulled off and wonderful performances by Statham and the supporting casts.  Surely pressing their luck to go there again, but we'll see how it turns out.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Somebody's mad right now

Death Race (2008)
Remakes/reboots/reimaginings...  All just other words for "we can't be bothered to think up an original idea" and a large part of the reason I gave this a miss the first time around.  It's like The Wizard of Oz, Horton Hears a Who, or any other beloved children's classic that just doesn't need to be remade.  It's been done, and done correctly, now leave it alone.  Oddly enough, other than the title, a few character names, and weaponized cars, this has exactly squat to do with the original.  All things considered, that's actually a plus for me and if the original trailers had done a better job conveying that, I might have forked over some cash to see it in the theater. 

An unfortunate victim of this reimagining is all sense of whimsy and imagination the original had.  Dark humor to be sure, but the original was a pretty entertaining and biting satire on society in a similar vein to The Running Man.  Here we have a fairly standard Fugitive framejob, a yawner of a prison story, and one of the more implausibly motivated villains I've seen this side of Uma's Poison Ivy.  While the plot is a bet of a letdown and the sci-fi angle is confined to the opening title sequence, the execution was surprisingly adequate.  Nothing to write home about, but Statham and McShane are quite good here and Token Objectified Female navigator was at least easy on the eyes. 

Statham was in top form again and they did a really nice job setting up his character's motivations and playing up the family man side of things.  Unfortunately that's completely out of place and unwanted in a movie of this type, but props for the effort.  Man, I'd thought Statham was in good physical shape before this, but goodness gracious.  My sister would definitely appreciate the bod and how much time he spends shirtless.  He really leaned himself down something fierce and is just completely ripped.  That actually works pretty well within the bounds of the narrative and it's not flagrant, just adds to the fun.

I was going to skip tearing on the plausibility of this because obviously it's not supposed to be plausible, but they had to go to the trouble of trying to explain too much that I have to call them on it.  Firstly, the warden's motivation to improve ratings for the show that brings her parent corporation all the money is all well and fine, but goodness gracious she was completely inept in trying to accomplish that.  Stepped right over the character motivation line into being an obvious writing issue and more's the pity because without that, we lose any chance at an underlying tension or drama behind the action.  Secondly, where exactly do they fit a couple million rounds of ammunition in each of these cars?  I'd have been okay if anyone ever ran out of ammo, but Machine Gun Joe pretty much drives all 3 stages of the race with the trigger depressed.  Sure that's his name, but let's at least pretend there are some limitations at work here.  IMDB's trivia mentions four tons of blank ammunition were expended during filming and I can't help but wonder if that estimate is low by a factor of ten.

Special nod of appreciation to David Carradine.  He was completely awesome in the original and it was a very nice touch to have him do Frank's voice at the beginning.  Had to look him up to be sure, but yep, that's him.  Also interesting that he's been continuing to release a decent number of movie roles after dying.  Usually that puts a kink in someone's career, but he's apparently still going strong.  Thanks very much for the memories, David.  I'm glad we'll always have your mostly excellent body of work to enjoy.  Plus whatever new movies you put out in the future.

Badassery Quotient - 9
Pretty nice amount of shooting, brawling, and of course shooting while driving going on here.  Couple that with Statham being just crazy-ripped and this is one of his more badass roles to be sure.  Nice touch that they didn't have him use martial arts of any sort in his brawl.  It's good to not overuse that in every movie.

Rewatchability - Rarely
It was reasonably entertaining for what it was and it does have me wanting to go back and watch the original again soon.  I wouldn't avoid seeing this again and could see enjoying it with a like minded friend, but it's not quite solid enough to merit regular viewing.  I'd be hesitant to recommend it to anyone who was a fan of the original.

Up next - Transporter 3!  It's a testament to how strong a movie this is that I've seen it and thought I enjoyed it, but can't for the life of me remember a single thing about it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mummy! Daddy's on the radio!

The Bank Job (2008)
A Statham period piece!  Oh noes!  Can he hack it?  Will he seem out of place?  Good news is that he fits really well into the 70s in the comfortable pattern of a hustler and was part of a pretty decent ensemble cast.  I started off pretty lukewarm for the first half of the movie and, while I enjoyed the heist setup, I wasn't really connecting with it much.  I decided to stop and start over at the beginning again and that helped a little more, but have to say that the first half is still pretty flat for me and I enjoyed the ending police/government thriller stuff much more.  All in all a very well-crafted movie and there was obviously a lot of work put in to recreate the environment as much as possible.  I didn't for a moment question the period recreation or the plausibility and knowing it was at least loosely based on a true life story definitely helped quite a bit.  They managed to very convincingly portray a group of guys getting in way over their head and the mayhem when things go off the rails later on made for some great tension and drama.

Statham was back on form as a cool and collected underworld type here, with plenty of "are you fucking kidding me" type moments that always bring a smile to my face.  The family man angle was a nice touch and helped to give a little more depth to his character.  Overall, this is role has more in common with his early Ritchie movie characters than his badass ones.  While I do really like him in his over-the-top roles, he was really good here, had great charisma, and really fit the part well. 

Otherwise I must say that I'm beginning to notice a bit of a pattern with Mr Statham: He's not really growing as an actor much, if at all.  That in no way detracts from my enjoyment of watching him, but it's a really interesting contrast to Arnold.  I still maintain that Arnold came out of the gate as a reasonably strong actor (certainly much better than most critics would give credit for) as demonstrated with his work in Stay Hungry and Conan, but he had several major expansions of his acting range and screen presence throughout his career.  He established his own genre with Commando and Predator, turned that on its side with Twins and Kindergarten Cop, and even went full Bond in True Lies.  There are many moments in there were he seemed like a fundamentally different actor and it was very fun to watch his growth through his career.  Statham on the other hand hit the scene at a high level of ability in the first two Ritchie movies and turned the amp to 11 with The Transporter, but otherwise I can't say that I see much progression or growth from him.  Sure, he had a nice spittle-flying emotional outburst in London, but on the whole he's the same guy he was in Lock, Stock.  While Arnold may have started out as a 5 or 6 out of 10 and progressed to a 7 or 8 in his best roles, Statham started out as a 6 or 7 and is pretty much still there. 

Badassery Quotient - 3
Given that Statham's crew are supposed to be newbs who get in over their head, can't really expect a lot of that and there's no gunplay, fisticuffs, or chase sequences to be had.  Still, Statham's got that charisma thing going again and he's fun being back in the role as the only level-headed guy in the midst of a bunch of reactionary types as friends.

Rewatchability - Sure
Probably one of the more well rounded Statham movies that I've seen thus far and certainly the most mainstream after The Italian Job.  I'd be happy to sit down and watch it with someone else, but don't think this will be high in the rotation of personal favorites.  Very fun on first watch, but would lose something knowing how it plays out.  I'd happily recommend it to any fans of Statham, 70s London, or caper movies.  Good stuff.

Up next - Death Race.  Ooooooh....  Aaaahhhhh....  I intentionally avoided this when it hit the theaters out of respect for the original, which is a personal favorite.  Very much one of those movies that I don't see the point in remaking, but I'm glad to have an excuse to give it a try.  It can't very well be worse than the damn Dungeon Siege movie, now can it?  (Fingers nervously crossed)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Will somebody get me a salad!?

War (2007)
Another one I'm not quite sure what to make of.  Statham plays another cop/agent/authority figure and it was a pretty by-the-numbers Yakuza/Triad/cops/assassins story until The Twist hit.  I ragged on The Twist quite a bit in Chaos because it was complete crap, but for whatever reason I really liked it here.  It's nothing more complex than you would find in your average Law & Blue Hawaii CSI Order-FiveO episode, but I thought it was competently executed with even a smidge of emotional punch behind it.  So while I was snoozing through the first half, the last half salvaged the experience and overall I was at least entertained.

Statham was again serviceable if uninspired.  Some really great action sequences and his work during the Yakuza/Who Cares/Triad shootout was excellent and a blast to watch.  So he's great to watch, but without an over-the-top or larger-than-life character to play, he just doesn't seem as into it as you'd like to see.  I think I'm starting to hit the Generic Statham Movie Zone here and it's going to get increasingly hard to say something clever or point out some new subtlety in his performance as he basically plays the same character over and over again.  Hopefully there will be some more gems to be found, but certainly have hit a fair number of throw-away roles thus far.

It's interesting that Jet Li again fell really flat for me here.  I like him quite a lot, but this is two Statham movies where he's pretty much phoning it in with very little charisma.  Normally he oozes charisma with the best of them, but until The Twist, he's a bit too reserved and standoff-ish to be much fun.  I did at least get that awesome fight sequence between Jet and Statham that I'd hoped for.  Their showdown is immensely more satisfying that it was in The One and it's fantastic watching two accomplished action stars spar off against each other.  Excellent choreography and really well executed.

Badassery Quotient - 8
Statham doesn't really have the commanding screen presence that I normally enjoy out of him here, but at least we offset that with some complete silliness and mayhem during the major shootout sequence in the middle of the film.

Rewatchability - Rarely
Knowing what The Twist is will likely diminish much of the enjoyment of a rewatch, but there's ample violence and craziness to be had here.  While I wouldn't go out of my way to watch it again, I wouldn't refuse it if someone else were interested in giving it a try.  I wouldn't strongly recommend it to anyone because it's quite likely The Twist wouldn't work out for them and without that, there isn't much memorable here.

Up next - The Bank Job.  A Statham period piece!  Who wouldda thunk it?

Monday, March 4, 2013

My boyfriend kills people

Crank (2006)
Now that was a hell of a lot of fun.  Yet another Statham movie I have no idea why I hadn't seen yet, but very glad I did.  Full of energy, completely silly, way over-the-top, and a totally fun ride.  I've seen some pretty goofy premises in movies, and this one is pretty out there, but they don't take it too seriously and surprisingly enough, it actually works really well.  The director's style threw me off a little bit at first, but by the time Statham knows what's going on, it wasn't bothering me anymore and suited the material just fine.  They really nail the proper sense of humor:  Not Jackass-style insulting to your intelligence, not Jim Carey-style wait-for-the-laugh, just and endless series of increasingly silly predicaments Statham gets himself into.  The pace only really lags when the plot gets in the way of the mayhem near the end, but I'll happily let that slide.  Certainly more than washed the foul stench of the Dungeon Siege movie off me.

Statham himself is the best I've seen him outside of his early Ritchie movies or The Transporter.  He really sells the plotline through his expressions and reactions and this is an excellent example of a role that's perfectly suited to the actor.  It's Statham's Harry Tasker or Indiana Jones.  With anyone else, this ludicrous a premise would have been a real groaner, but Statham is completely believable in an unbelievable role.  I'm not sure what that says about him, but it's an awful lot of fun to watch. 

Special nod of appreciation to Amy Smart and Dwight Yokum.  Amy is perfectly cast as the bewildered girlfriend and her scenes when she's in her apartment and her throwdown in Chinatown with Statham are really memorable.  I didn't even recognize Dwight at first and he brings just the right touch of calm and wacky to play off of Statham's increasingly frenzied performance.  Still laughing thinking about Statham sprinting down the street in his hospital gown while Dwight goes over the symptoms of an epi overdose. 

Badassery Quotient - 10
Pretty much has it all from some great driving sequences to fisticuffs to menacing glares.  Add to that Statham chopping off a heavy's gun hand to start off the fight and a great sequence stealing and riding a cop's motorcycle in his hospital gown and you have pretty much everything you could hope for.

Rewatchability - Yes please
Found another personal favorite.  This one keeps tumbling around in my head more than most and in writing this, I'm tempted to sit down and watch it again right now.  A little leery of which audience I'd recommend this to, but anyone who enjoys a good Statham or action movie and isn't put off by a pretty high level of violence and general naughtiness would likely get a kick out of this.  Good, good stuff.

Up next - War.  It's remarkable how many of Statham's movies I wasn't even aware existed until I looked through his whole filmography.  This one has Jet Li in it again and I'll just have to hope it's more satisfying than The One.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Anybody have a plan?

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2006)
I've never watched an Uwe Boll film before this.  I've not actively avoided him or anything, he's just never made anything I've had any interest in watching.  I've even played the games he's made films about, and it's therein that his most important contribution to cinema lies:  He has decisively and comprehensively proven that, as a rule, video games don't translate to movies at all well.  I'm not talking about excellent video game homage movies like Wreck-it Ralph, but crap like like Dungeon Siege, House of the Dead, Far Cry, or BloodRayne.  So rather than dump on him, we should be thankful that he's repeatedly gone to such great lengths to make that point.  Well played, Mr Boll.

Director reputation aside, I knew I was in for a rough one when I saw this was rated nearly as low on IMDB as Batman & Robin.  That feeling did not improve when freaking Ray Liotta makes an early appearance, shortly followed by a very confused-looking Burt Reynolds.  Shit.  Shitshitshit.  Made it 7 minutes in before I quit for the day.  Made it a further hour in the next day, paused to get a snack at what I presumed was the ending climatic battle sequence, only to discover there was another entire hour left!  You have got to be joking.  So, in a moment of despair, I quit for the day and again seriously questioned whether I really need to watch all of these movies or not.  Can't I just skip ahead to Crank, which I'm fairly sure I'll enjoy?  No, no, let's press on.  I can still do this.  I at least get to stare into Claire Forlani's eyes a fair bit.

It's hard to fully encompass all the things that don't work well in this.  Let's just highlight a few "memorable" moments:  The wire work was some of the worst I've seen in any movie.  So bad that the Amazon chicks swinging through the forest made the damn monkey scene in Crystal Skull seem well-made and plausible by comparison.  At worst bad movie scores, are generally forgettable or occasionally distracting.  If only that were the case here.  No, this score leaps out and musically yells "Boo!" or "Fuck you!" at you again and again.  It's very much as if the musical score is intended to distract you from the crap quality of the movie by being noticeably worse.  We finish things off with a very Freudian moment in the final showdown where the hero is attacked by that which Uwe Boll undoubtedly fears most:  Books.

Okay, so the movie sucks.  Quite badly at that.  Moving on...  How was Statham?  His combat sequences are excellent.  His sword work is so fast and powerful, I'd be amazed if there weren't nearly as many injured stuntmen on this as on Conan.  Unfortunately, there isn't enough going on story-wise to make you actually care about any of the combat sequences, so aside from a brief moment of "cool!", they're completely forgettable.  Other than that, Statham seems largely bored and going through the motions.  He's still got excellent screen presence, but his director obviously couldn't keep him involved enough for it to matter.

Baddassery Quotient - 6
Statham's actually quite menacing through most of this and the combat sequences are generally well-executed, but not a lot of variety to be had.  Also not much in the way of clever dialogue and the unassuming farmer bit really doesn't play to his strengths.  Had to knock a few points off for silly use of a boomerang as a viable combat weapon.  It's all well and fine when he uses it to scare crows away, but when he bounces it off 4 different baddies, it's just distracting.

Rewatchability - No thanks
It's sort of tossup which is less rewatchable between this and Batman & Robin.  Batman & Robin's certainly over-the-top offensive, but this one fails to execute on pretty much every level.  So let's just call that a tie.  If you've not seen this, there is absolutely no point in watching it.  I don't care what reasons you tried to concoct, just don't.

Next up - Crank!  Hopefully a breath of fresh air to clear out the foul stench of this sucker.  I remember hearing about it and another one I have no idea why I didn't see.  Seems like it will be one that's back to playing to Statham's strengths by going over-the-top and keeping tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Piss anyone off lately?

Chaos (2005)
A reasonably decent movie and one I was really into until the wackiness in the third act.  Up to that point, it had been a reasonably well put together crime drama but then they had to take a turn into thriller/mystery land and lost their way.  Granted, it had the same depth than your average Law & Order or Numbers episode, but I was actually grooving to the partnership and unravelling the details of what the bank robbers were actually up against.  I was even going to give big props for killing off Statham, that could have broken the standard mold and been used to great dramatic effect.

Then we had to have The Twist.  I'm a big fan of The Twist, and this one was certainly more conventional than the crap Ritchie tried to pull in Revolver, but this one completely undermined the drama and tension that had been established to this point.  I'd love to have had a version of this where Snipes was just a bad guy, Statham gets taken out, and the kid has to track him down and bring him to justice.  Okay, not the most original of plotlines, but that would have been a perfectly satisfying movie.  But no, we have to have The Twist and as if that wasn't bad enough, we're treated to that most irritating of cinematic conventions: The Unexpected Second Twist.  OMG!  Oh noes!  It's actually been Snipes and Statham in cahoots the whole time!  It's a double-deep-deception!  Blow me.

Statham was serviceable if somewhat uninspired here.  I quite liked him as the bitter mentor cop to the kid and they did a nice job establishing his competence in his handling of the bank job.  I get the impression he wasn't totally into this movie.  But hey, that's okay.  If I knew how it was going to end, I'd not have been that into it either.

Quite liked Ryan Phillippe as The Kid here.  Think I'd only seen him in Gosford Park and the odd TV drama previously, but he held his own and turned in a great performance.  He had the unfortunate burden of having to appear to be unravelling the convoluted mess of a plot in the third act, so more power to him for staying in there and not phoning it in.

Badassery Quotient - 5
Decent amount of gunplay, albeit with an incredible amount of missing, and a cool ending move to a car chase.  Not much fisticuffs, but Statham had some pretty decent presence and the occasional glare.

Rewatchability - No thanks
Could have actually been a solid B movie, but the ending is so grating and insulting that it'd be hard to go back to this one again.  It's very much like they had a change in script writers or ran out of money half way through, said 'fuck it' and tried to cut things short.  Way too many gaping plot holes at the end to recommend this to anyone.

Up next - That damn Dungeon Siege movie.  Fucking Uwe Boll.  Two important life lessons for the kiddos:  Don't do drugs and never make a movie based on a video game.  And never get involved in a land war in Asia.  Okay, three important life lessons:  Drugs are bad, video game movies are bad, and land wars in Asia are bad.  And don't put nipples on the Batsuits.  Okay... Amongst life's important lessons are such diverse elements as...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A formula to win the ultimate win

Revolver (2005)
Okay, back on the horse again after the ugh of London and right into the ugh of Revolver.  I'd heard this wasn't as acclaimed as Ritchie's earlier films and man, is that an understatement.  You know those movies where you can tell the writer or director had recently studied something that intrigued them and then decided to make a movie on it without really thinking it through?  Yep, this is one of those.  I'm actually good with movies that are a puzzle to figure out, or just a mess of twisted plot lines, but you have to actually do something with that.  This seemed to a rambling mess just for the sake of being a rambling mess.  Yes, I get that it's all inside his head, etc, etc.  That's great.  It'd make a great Philip K Dick short story.  Just don't make me sit through nearly 2 hours of it.

Revolver is a pretty classic example of the George Lucas Pompous Ass Effect.  I define that as anytime someone becomes such a powerful force in cinema that no one stops to question their decisions.  George Lucas hit the ground running and could do no wrong.  Right up to the point where and believed his own press and stopped bouncing ideas off people.  That's how things like casting Jake Lloyd or Hayden Christensen and Howard the Duck happen.  Guy came out of nowhere and stunned folks with Lock, Stock and Snatch and rightly so.  They were inspired and clever bits of film making.  So I'm sure that guy was able to bring this disjointed mess forward without a great deal of explanation or collaboration because he had the clout to do what he wanted.  Learn from the past people.  Don't be George.

Statham again has hair and the moment you see that, you know you're in trouble.  He's again good from a pure acting standpoint and I do like to hear him narrate a show, but he's there's very little Statham to be had here.  Because of the convoluted crap Ritchie is trying to cram down our throats, the version of Statham we get to see isn't the badass that his character really is, we get to see the bit of him that's trying to push back against being a badass.  Blargh.  He's very cool in the few scenes where he's in control and explaining The Rules or playing chess, but everything else in between is pretty flat.

Speaking of pretty flat... What the hell has happened to Ray Liotta?  Dude really needs to just stop and go find something else to do.  I loved him to death in Field of Dreams and Goodfellas, but he's done jack and squat in the last 20+ years since then.  He's pretty much a caricature of himself in this one.  It's entirely possible that's by design given the crap-tastical "twist" to the movie, but it sure as hell isn't fun to watch.  Oh, Ray.  Why?  Why Ray, why?

Mark Strong on the other hand...  Damn.  Very fun character in this and he's pretty much the only source of badassery to be had since Statham is so thoroughly neutered.  Not sure there's anything I haven't completely loved him in.  And yes, that even includes John Carter. 

Badassery Quotient - 3
I could plausibly give this a zero, but I'll add on a few points for the narration and the fun chess scenes.  But I seriously need to see him kicking a few people in the face while simultaneously running them over and shooting them in the knees.  Like now.

Rewatchability - No way
I don't really need to see this one again to see how all the pieces of the bullshit "twist" played out and all the hints that were given.  Guess what?  It still sucks.  Never, never, never would recommend this to anyone.

Up next - Chaos.  Know zip about this one, but from the DVD cover, there's a much better chance that Statham shoots someone.  I can only hope.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Life's too short to be a pussy

London (2005)
Meh.  There's really no way around it.  Slice of life movies are pretty much all or nothing for me and this one really didn't click.  Probably doesn't help that there are few likable characters in it or that the majority of it is people doing blow, which has thankfully never been my thing.  This is again more of a Chris Evans vehicle than a proper Statham movie and like Fantastic Four, Chris is again cast as an ass.  He plays it well enough, he's just really not likable when he's not getting to play the reluctant hero in some fashion or another.  He pulls off the arrogant asshole just fine, it's just not fun to watch.  He does at least give us a good object lesson in Remedial Relationship 101:  If you love someone so much that your world will fall apart without them, particularly if it's Jessical Biel, try to say the words at least once.  Jackass.

Statham has a decidely odd role in this.  First off, he has hair.  Which is distracting in pretty much every scene he's in.  Secondly, with the exception of one impressive scene near the end, he's mostly exists as someone for Chris to describe his busted-ass relationship.  The scene were Statham tells what it's literally live the life of impotent rage is impressive, if almost completely out of place.  He did go pretty deep into rage though and was mesmerizing while doing it.  Otherwise...  Meh.

Badassery Quotient - 1
I'll not give it a zero since Statham says 'fuck' every 5th word and does have the nice rage bit, but aside from going psycho on random party guests at the end, there's not really any action to be had in this one.  And he really can't very well be menacing with that hair, now can he?

Rewatchability - No thanks
It's borderline regrettable that I spent the time watching this, but it at least had a couple of redeeming moments.  And Jessica Biel.  But there are better movies to watch her in. 

Up next - Revolver.  I hear it's a bit of a missfire compared to previous Ritchie movies, but hopefully it'll be entertaining enough.  Very unlikely to be a worse use of my time than watching London at any rate.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Son of a bitch can drive

Transporter 2 (2005)
Considering how much I enjoyed the first Transporter, it's completely bizarre that I never saw this in the theater.  Could have something to do with the then recent addition of my daughter to the family, or perhaps it just didn't look that thrilling from the previews.  I've heard mixed to negative things, but hopefully should at least be entertaining.

The movie started off very strongly, I liked how Frank interacted with Random Cute Kid, he didn't annoy me as much as most kid actors do (he was certainly a better actor than either of the villains in the first Transporter), and it seemed that we might actually do a little character development.  That promise held for the first half of the movie or so, but then we unfortunately went into Over the Top Land.

Over the Top Land bears a little explanation.  That's the all too common failing of sequels, especially action ones, where they feel the need to out-do the previous ones.  Bigger isn't always better, sometimes it's just bigger.  Here we turn Statham into a near superhuman, have him do completely crazy stuff like intentionally ramp his car off a corkscrew jump so he can knock the bomb on the underside of his car loose by scraping it off on a construction crane hook.  Yeah.  I know plausibility isn't the main thrust of the average action movie, but ironically that's what made the first Transporter play so well.  While it didn't have a plot and the bad guys were reluctant to actually kill Statham, it actually followed a logical sequence and the majority of action sequences were perfectly plausible.  Okay, maybe you can't catch up to a speeding truck in a parachute, but on the whole it wasn't at all distracting.  Statham was methodical and controlled.  Here he does shit like jump up in the air to avoid two oncoming cars by letting them head-on into each other, then lightly jumps down on the resulting heap.  I'm not even going to get into the issues around the whole deadly-plague-released-into-the-public crap.

In the process, we lost track of what made the first one work so well:  The character.  Frank Martin is a pretty interesting guy, Statham is wonderfully compelling to watch on screen, and has consistently shown he can carry a lead role just by showing up.  He does stay in character throughout this, but I'd have much rather just watched him in a different situation doing what he does best, than turn him into something beyond even Rambo.  I think they lost track of what Statham does best.  Be himself.  The action is great, but only if there's a character study to back it up, otherwise it's just shit blowing up for the sake of shit blowing up.

I was likewise disappointed Fran├žois wasn't used to good effect at all.  Still love the actor and was very excited to see his name in the credits, but he's woefully underutilized here and better than anyone shows the issues with the tone in this movie.  He's tossed in for comic relief here and we lose all of the quiet, sly awesomeness of the first.  He's entertaining enough, but he might as well have not been in the movie which is a serious missed opportunity.

Badassery Quotient - 11
Unfortunately hard to call it any other way.  Take the Transporter and crank it up beyond the point of believability.  Plenty of guns, cars, improbable combat sequences, and all around craziness.  A good example where higher BQ does not equal higher quality.

Rewatchability - Rarely
I could see popping this in again and perhaps it wouldn't be quite as jarring the next time around.  It's a perfectly fine movie to shut off your brain and watch shit blow up, it's just not all that memorable.  I'd be comfortable recommending it to someone with that caveat in mind.

Up next - London.  I know nothing about this one, but completely bizarre that it has Statham, Chris Evans, and Jessica Biel together again. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Now who's going to give me that goddamn charger?

Cellular (2004)
Not sure I had even heard of this one hitting the theaters and started off very much not liking this.  I may have been pre-disposed to not like it coming off Transporter and The Italian Job.  At the beginning, the direction style completely irritated me, pacing was horrible, acting wasn't all that, but thankfully things improved by the midpoint of the show and actually wound up enjoying myself.  The plot is pretty much summed up in the trailer so no surprises, but it was a fun enough ride and ended satisfyingly.

I knew this had Kim Bassinger and William H Macy, but didn't recognize the young kid on the box cover, so I did an actual double-take "Hey, Chris Evans!" upon his first closeup in the film.  I thought he was completely fantastic as Captain America, but given how much I disliked him in Fantastic Four, him popping up early in his career did not improve my hopes for the movie.  Chris starts off the goof and is pretty grating, but once he gets on board with Kim actually being kidnapped, he turns into the reluctant hero that he plays so well.  From around the cell phone store scene onward, he's great and surprisingly compelling.  Great physical acting and nice that they were able to do so many of the car scenes with him actually driving.

Statham gets to play a bad guy here, but unfortunately he might as well not be in this.  Much like Arnold in Raw Deal, his badassery is woefully underutilized and it could be anyone in the role.  He's also using his damn American accent again.  Really hope that doesn't happen too often in his later movies.  On the plus side, he does get a fair amount of gunplay and has a fantastic move disarming Chris in the boathouse.  Statham is so crazy-fast, I had to rewind and watch that one again to see if they had sped up the film or something.  Pity they didn't do any more of that, but a lengthy fight sequence with a young kid would have been a bit silly.

Badassery Quotient - 5
He does get to threaten Kim alot, but I'm going to start deducting a point when he uses his crappy American accent.  Really pulls me out of the movie.  He does at least get to shoot up the boathouse, but unfortunately spends about 45 rounds and only hits someone once in the leg.  No shirtless stuff either, sorry Sis.  If not for the awesome disarm of Chris, there would be very little to like about this role. 

Rewatchability - Perhaps
5 minutes in, I thought I was in for a groaner.  Mid-point onward, I was having fun and it's been growing on me ever since.  I'd watch this more as a Chris fan than a Statham fan, but all in all it was a decent enough film.  With a proper director and a tad more polish on the script, this could have been really good.  I'd cautiously recommend this to someone who was a Chris fan, but probably not otherwise.

Up next - Transporter 2!  I've heard it's not all that compared to the original, but no idea why I skipped this given how much I enjoyed the first one. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

We can't have a shootup without guns

The Italian Job (2003)
Back to back high-octane, well-crafted action movies!  This trend unfortunately won't continue, but after this and The Transporter, Statham really could have made the move into superstardom if he'd had the right movie to follow these.  That unfortunately didn't pan out, but good that he had a chance to be involved in a high-profile, big star movie like this.  Would love to see him opposite Marky Mark again some day, they really play well off each other and felt like they had known each other forever.

This is probably the best non-Ritchie plot of any movie Statham is in.  A fair bit of it is predictable and it has the obligatory happy Hollywood ending, but there are a couple of very decent twists and some very solid writing.  I enjoyed all the time spent planning the raid on Ed's house only to have to pull the plug on it with nary an action scene to be had.  Also love Ed predictably getting his in the end, but they handle it very well and it makes for a wonderfully satisfying end to the movie. 

Some excellent ensemble work here and while Marky Mark is naturally the lead, they balance out screentime with the rest of the cast nicely.  Charlize was particularly good and her nervousness at confronting Ed was well played and gave an unexpected level of drama to those scenes.  As usual, Seth steals nearly every scene he's in and I love his narration of Statham chatting up Becky from the cable company.  "Yeah, you're not to bright, are you?" "No" "Perfect" The outtakes on that are hilarious as well.

Special nod of appreciate for making the Cooper Mini a complete badass in its own right in this.  They look simply stunning, maneuver like everything else is in slow motion, and were an inspired choice of getaway/transport vehicle.  Especially fun given how many shots have the actors actually doing their own driving.  Statham of course has a history there, but Charlize was crazy-fun to watch and she seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself.

Badassery Quotient - 8
No hand-to-hand combat, but Statham's oozing style and charisma.  While he doesn't fire a weapon, he does at least get to pose menacingly with an automatic for a bit.  Some great dialogue and excellent driving sequences push the meter pretty high on this one.

Rewatchability - Yes please
Another one I want to immediately rewatch.  Very nicely paced with not one or two, but three full capers to watch planned or executed.  Worth watching again for the Cooper Mini sequences alone.  Absolutely recommended to any fan of heist or action movies.  Good stuff.

Up next - Cellular and we enter the uncharted area between The Italian Job and Transporter 3 where I apparently up and stopped watching Statham's movies.  No idea what happened there, but will be interesting to see what he was up to while I was distracted by something shiny for a few years.