Saturday, August 21, 2010


While I enjoyed writing these reviews, I have discovered that doing them well simply requires too much time, and I don't want to do them poorly, therefore, I quit.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010) (Review)

     I knew I shouldn't have gone, but somehow, I couldn't resist.  I knew it was going to suck, but I had to find out, for myself, just how badly.

     "Clash of the Titans" is loosely based on the Ray Harryhausen, stop motion effects film by the same name and even more loosely on Greek mythology.  The Olympian gods are beginning to grow weak as humanity grow beyond their need for gods and stops worshiping them.  Actually, one kingdom, Argos, is waging war on the gods by destroying their temples and statues, thereby weakening them by depriving them of human prayers.  How they know this works is a mystery, but it does.  Hades hatches a plan to scare humanity back into worshiping them by destroying the city of Argos, but he is really trying to destroy the other gods and rule for himself.  Meanwhile, Perseus, son of Zeus, half god, half man, grows up knowing nothing of his true nature, loses his family to Hades, and broods throughout half of the movie.  The other half he spends letting people die because he doesn't like his god half and refuses to use it until everyone else is dead and he absolutely has to.  (Spoiled ingrate.)  There are lots of amped up, CGI battle scenes, some for no reason whatsoever, Perseus has to be practically carried on most of the journey because he'd rather brood over his dead family and his origin than do anything about it, and Zeus gives Perseus all the help he could ever need despite the fact that Zeus doesn't know there is a plot against him and he, himself, ordered Argos to be destroyed, the very event Perseus (or the people dying around him) is trying to prevent.  (Huh?)

     There is absolutely no reason for this movie to exist except to show epic battle scenes between Perseus and various mythological creatures and the gods, and those scenes are all sadly less than epic due to Perseus' whining insistence to not unleash his inner god.  The plot is full of holes and rushes along as it tries to get just enough story in to justify the next CGI, action sequence.  Sam Worthington, as Perseus, is lifeless and bland.  His character displays no emotion and he couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag.  The love story between Perseus and the other demi-god Io (wasn't it supposed to be the princess Andromeda?) is equally emotionless and must be spelled out for anyone to know it exists.  They did eliminate the corny mechanical owl as comic relief, but replaced it with two awkward hunters who stumble over each other and, somehow, manage to not die.  (The owl would have been preferable.)  The music is reminiscent of every factory or conveyor belt scene from any Looney Tunes cartoon.1  There are a few attempts at morals for the story, like ruling with love is better than ruling with fear or it's better to be a man than a god, but these attempts to inject meaning or substance into the story are clumsy executed and quickly become tiresome. 

     I watched the 2-D version, so I can't intelligently comment on the 3-D elements, but no theaters in the intimidate area were showing the 3-D version, despite available screens, and I think I know why.  I have read that the movie was originally not shot or rendered in 3-D, so it had to be converted, which lead to blurry action and odd, floating body parts.2  Whatever the case, I wouldn't recommend this movie in 2-D, much less paying extra for 3-D.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon (Review)

     Slim picking at the theater this weekend.  I almost didn't go to see anything, but then I started to read things about DreamWorks' new offering.  Things like, it's darker than you'd think and you shouldn't take small children.  With nothing else playing locally and boredom setting in, that was enough to get me into a theater, and it was an enjoyable enough afternoon.  

     Based on children's books by Cressida Cowell, "How to Train Your Dragon" is about Hiccup, (yes, Hiccup, it is a kids story,) a young Viking who isn't exactly like his Viking brethren.  He's not strong, he's smart, and he lacks a lust for battle and death, though he does try to fit in.  He also lives on an island frequented by swarms of dragons.  Our young hero, through brains and determination, manages to down and cripple a dragon, but he does not have the heart to kill the beast.  Rather, he builds a prosthetic tail fin for the dragon, which allows the dragon to fly again, so long as Hiccup is riding and working the tail fin.  In the end, the village is saved, the dragons become welcome, and everyone learns a lesson about not killing stuff.  Oh, and there is some rather dark symmetry between Hiccup and his dragon. 

     Yes, this is, at heart, a kids movie, but it is not one that panders to children and throws in the occasional double entendre to keep parents awake.  The dragons aren't anthropomorphic and they don't talk.  They are animals.  Some are more intelligent than others, but they act like animals should.  The same goes for the people.  Adults act as adults should and so do the younger characters.  The story is, generally, predictable, but there are some surprising, and sometimes shocking, moments you won't see coming.  There are a few, intense battle sequences, but despite talk of people and dragons dying, you don't actual see any dead dragons or people, though some older Vikings do bear the marks of past battles, including missing limbs.  That is where the movie might not really be appropriate for younger children.  (That, and the ending!)  The 3-D isn't bad or distracting, but it is also useless.  It's noticeable in some of the flying scenes, but that's about it. 

     I don't normally go for this type of movie, children's films or anything about dragons, but "How to Train Your Dragon" has a real human side to it.  The story was predictable, but it wasn't boring and was just different enough to keep me interested through to the final, climactic, battle scene and it's dark, yet feel good epilogue.  There's no reason to rush out and see it in theaters, but, with what's in theaters now, you could do worse. 

The Ghost Writer (Review)

     Other than "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown," I knew nothing of Roman Polanski's work, and the truly odd collection of Polanski films that the Alamo Drafthouse was using as its pre-movie entertainment was beginning to make me nervous.  I had nothing to be nervous about though.  Polanski is obviously a master and "The Ghost Writer" is proof.

     "The Ghost Writer" is about, well, a ghost writer (they never say his name!) played by Ewan McGregor.  He is contracted to finish the memoir of fictional British Prime Minister, Adam Lang, played by Pierce Brosnan.  The memoir is unfinished because the previous ghost writer is now a ghost, and the circumstances of his death become increasingly intriguing the deeper McGregor's character gets into the life of Brosnan's Blair/Bush like Prime Minister.  There is an incredible amount of intrigue and mystery and just when you think you know where everything is going, the rug gets pulled out from under you. 

     Everything about this film is absolutely brilliant.  Polanski's writing and directing are amazing, Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, and Olivia Williams, as Lang's wife, are all thoroughly engaging and convincing, the story is all intrigue and mystery, the ending is surprising, shocking, and coldly morbid, yet all too real, and the entire movie mirrors real life almost too accurately.  I'm sorry if I'm being a bit general, but I don't want to ruin a moment of this suspense masterpiece. 

     "The Ghost Writer" is a thoroughly engaging and masterfully executed suspense thriller and well worth seeing again and again.

The Runaways (Review)

    A true story, an indie film, chicks that rock, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  I couldn't wait.  

     "The Runaways" is the true story of one of Rock's first all female bands, The Runaways.  Based on the memoir by former band member Cherie Currie, the film chronicles the rise and fall of The Runaways, focusing on two of its founding members, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie.  The story is one very familiar to Rock, a meteoric rise followed by a drug induced crash back to reality, but it's told in a way that's empowering without preaching and captures the intoxicating excitement of being a rock star. 

     I thoroughly enjoyed "The Runaways."  Kristen Stewart is amazing as Joan Jett and she shows that she can play something more than just twilight style teen angst.  (This was the 70's.  No teen angst.  You just got pissed and rebelled!)  Even more stunning is Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie.  Fanning is absolutely brilliant as she sheds her child star mantel and takes her rightful place in the adult acting world, despite the fact that both she, and her character, are under-aged.  Rounding out the cast is Michael Shannon, who plays the band's promoter and manager, the insanely manic Kim Fowley.  Shannon absolutely nails the self centered narcissism, and possible genius, of Fowley.  Plus there's plenty of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  (Did I mention that already?) 

     Missing from this adaptation are some of the darker aspects of Joan Jett's and Cherie Currie's early lives.  There is no real mention of rape or abuse.  The worst we see is the effects of  the Currie's parent's divorce and Currie's father's crippling alcoholism.  This movie is dark enough without them and would likely be in danger of becoming a made for Lifetime movie if it delved any deeper into Jett and Currie's troubled pasts.  

     "The Runaways" balances the extreme ecstasy of Rock stardom with the harsh realities of fame while telling the bitter, true story of a group of girls who made rock history.  Watch it for the sex and drugs and love it for the rock and roll!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Repo Men (Review)

     The previews and hype for "Repo Men" screamed stay away but the concept and Jude Law gave me some hope.  Maybe there's something more to this movie.  Maybe it's not just an over-hyped, action filled, excuse for bloody violence.  Maybe, just maybe, it's worth seeing.  Then again, maybe not.

     "Repo Men" stars Jude Law and Forest Whitaker as a pair of repo men who come to repossess very expensive artificial organs from people who have fallen behind on their loan payments.  It is somehow legal for them to incapacitate and slice people open, wherever they just happen to be, (after breaking into their homes, in public, whatever) remove organs by hand, and leave people lying in pools of blood, dead or dying.  It is also, somehow, permitted for these organs to be reclaimed, cleaned, and resold, which, amazingly, is more profitable for the company than selling organs on credit and having the entire loan repaid.  Jude Law's character ends up needing an artificial heart and, rather than opening up the door for some deep, soul-searching analysis of what he does for a living, it simply puts him on the other side of the equation, where he and his former partner can have several over extended and unrealistic fight scenes.  There's also a very convenient and under developed love story between Jude Law's character and, basically, Melina from Total Recall, played by Alice Braga.  Also, Jude Law's character is trying to get his wife and son back, but that gets in the way of the first love story, so that just kind of evaporates.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the incredible twist ending that is heavily foreshadowed and can be seen coming from a mile away. 

     What a muddled mess.  "Repo Men" tries desperately to be a science fiction morality tale, but has no moral and makes no statement about society.  It tries to have a love story, but can't seem to decide if Jude Law's character loves his wife and son or the club singer he found in a gutter, strung out on futuristic looking, red cocaine who suddenly becomes perfectly healthy and fights like a seasoned professional  after two days straight of being unconscious because she was strung out and coming down. (What??!)  It desperately tries to be an action movie, but the action is over stylized, unbelievable, over extended, full of MTV style quick cuts, and tries to be a substitute for a real plot or an actual ending.  In the end, (which couldn't have come soon enough,) "Repo Men" tries to blow your mind by being a psychological thriller with a twist ending, but the possibility of the twist is given away far too early and too often and hinted at more than once during the ending, so, unless you were texting during the movie and not paying attention, there is no surprise twist, just a feeling of being thoroughly let down as the inevitable happens. 

     The premise had some promise, but there is absolutely no analysis or explanation of the social situation.  We are not sure what 'The Union' is or what role it plays in society.  The absolute first thing you hear is a staticky news item about the U.S. government going bankrupt, but there is absolutely no further mention of the social or political situation.  The repossession and resale (Resale?  Really?!) of artificial organs is rationalized by some quick exposition at the beginning of the film and there is no other mention of why or how this can possibly be legal or socially acceptable.  I might be able to swallow such a illogical and flawed premise if there was some kind of pay off, but all it leads up to is action, violence, and insulting my intelligence.  (And shouldn't the people who work for the artificial organ company have better health insurance??!)

     Don't buy into the hype.  "Repo Men" isn't worth a matinee ticket price, much less waiting in lines and sitting in a crowded theater full of kids texting.  If you must see for yourself, do yourself a favor and wait for "Repo Men" to hit the dollar theaters or Netflix.  It'll be there faster than you think.

Green Zone (Review)

     I had low expectations for "Green Zone."  I thought that Paul Greengrass' direction of "The Bourne Supremacy" and  "The Bourne Ultimatum" got progressively worse one film to the next and this was being billed as the next Greengrass/Damon action movie.  Surprisingly, it is more than that.  Not too much more, but Greengrass seems to be getting better.

     "Green Zone" takes place not long after the US invasion of IraqMatt Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, assigned to investigate suspected hiding places of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.  (Big surprise, he isn't finding any!)  Miller soon begins to suspect that the intelligence they are using is unreliable (another shocker) but his superiors don't believe (or don't want to believe) that the intelligence is to blame.  Enter Brendan Gleeson as CIA operative Martin Brown.  Brown is at odds with his superiors about the post invasion strategy (because there wasn't one) and recruits Miller to help him find the source of the faulty intelligence.  After that there's more 'plot' than an action movie should have, a lot of fast action, explosions, chase scenes and a heavy handed attempt at a moral.   

     Greengrass' style of shaky camera action actually works for most of the combat scenes, and the editing is not so fast that it makes the action sequences unintelligible; the chase scenes, however, are another matter.  There is an attempt to build suspense or turn "Green Zone" into some kind Bourne style mystery/thriller, but there really is no mystery.  (Unless, of course, you haven't paid any attention to the news for the past seven years.)  There are no weapons of mass destruction, the intelligence is faulty, and it is quite obvious who, in the movie, is to blame for that, and you spend half of the movie, literally, chasing that answer.  Top all that off with a less than satisfactory ending (we are STILL there, after all) and a very heavy handed 'moral,' and you've got something in between a passable action movie or a laughable suspense/thriller/spy/Bourne/whatever flick. 

     "Green Zone" is pure popcorn fodder.  If you can turn off your brain for a while, you might enjoy the explosions.  If not, then don't bother. 

P.S.  A few real people and companies who appear in "Green Zone" have had their names changed so this can be a work of fiction.  The basic premise, however, is not fiction.  We went into a sovereign nation on bad intelligence and had a poor plan for after the war.  If you can't bring yourself to admit that by now, just go back and watch Fox News.  They'll protect you from the scary truth (with their scary distortions.)  On the other hand, simply pointing out the reality of a seven year old situation is not enough reason to like a movie. 

An Education (Review)

     I wasn't in the mood to see Disney re-bastardize two classic pieces of literature and I had seen everything else playing locally that was worth seeing, so it was time to drive a little and catch up on some limited release films.

     "An Education" is based on the memoir of Lynn Barber, a British journalist who, when she was sixteen in the early 1960s, was seduced by an older man.  I want to tread lightly here because it is very easy to give away too much and ruin this movie, but there are a few things that an American audience should know before seeing "An Education."  'A-levels' are sort of like British college entrance exams, 'sixth form' is a school or institution where students, usually sixteen to eighteen years old, take their last two, optional, years of school in order to study for their A-levels 'sixth form' is a student, usually sixteen to eighteen years old, who is taking their last two, optional, years of school in order to study for their A-levels, and Peter Rachman, the man at the dog track, is infamous for buying slums and moving in immigrants from the West Indies, who could live no where else, and extorting excessive rent from them.  Forgive me if that was over simplified, but it should get someone who didn't know through the movie.  (It would have helped me!)

     Still trying to tread lightly, Carey Mulligan is brilliant and convincing, as Jenny, an intelligent, charming, and beautiful sixteen year old girl who's just a bit too mature for her age.  She is seduced by David, played almost too well, by Peter Sarsgaard, a seemingly, wealthy, worldly, and very charming, older man.  He is also more than he appears to be and, in the end, so much less.  Before meeting David, everyone in Jenny's life knows her intelligence and potential, so they drive her toward the best formal education she can get, but once a man comes into her life, someone who can give her everything she would ever want, her teachers try to keep Jenny on course and her father, played notably by Alfred Molina, tries to steer her away from expensive Oxford and toward a life more exciting and charmed than his working class existence, and Jenny, ultimately, gets a far greater education than she had ever wanted.

     "An Education" is a well acted, well directed, and is a truly charming coming of age story as well as a true story.  It was well worth the wait and deserves every one of the awards it won, and maybe some of the ones it didn't. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Black Dynamite (Review)

      Somehow, I missed "Black Dynamite" when it was in theaters.  Now, finally, thanks to Netflix, I get to see it.  (Can you dig it?)

     "Black Dynamite" is pure spoof.  It parodies the classic Blaxploitation films of the early 1970s, making fun of films like "Shaft," "Dolemite," and many others in the short lived, but prolific, genre, mocking their low budget production values, kung fu prostitutes, and the unending battle against The Man.  Black Dynamite, played by Michael Jai White, is a  former CIA operative and bad ass pimp, who is training his prostitutes in kung fu so they can fight The Man in the coming revolution.  When The Man kills his brother, Black Dynamite comes out of retirement to avenge his brother's death and uncover an evil plot by The Man to destroy the black community. 

     ...And that's about as much sense as the plot will ever make.  Most Blaxploitation films have continuity errors and plot holes so big you could drive a mac truck through them, and so does "Black Dynamite," but it's meant to.  Being a genre spoof, there isn't much to say about "Black Dynamite," except that it's an intelligently done spoof of Blaxploitation films that just gets better and funnier the more you know about the genre but is likely to confuse those with no knowledge of Blaxploitation.  Michael Jai White is dead on, and drop dead funny, as stone cold (I am smiling,) yet righteous, cultural warrior, Black Dynamite, fighting in the revolution against The Man.  Numerous other supporting roles, like Arsenio Hall as Tasty Freeze and Tommy Davidson as Cream Corn, are just as funny and accurate to the genre. 

     "Black Dynamite" is a must see for anyone who's ever seen a Blaxploitation filmCan you dig it?

P.S.  If you're looking into the genre for the first time, start with "Shaft" and work your way down.   "Dolemite" is kinda rough, as in, you might not ever try the genre again.  

Sunday, February 28, 2010

From Paris with Love (Review)

    The critics thought very little of "From Paris with Love" and I didn't think I wanted to watch John Travolta act like an idiot for an hour and a half, but I was bored and I didn't want to drive very far, so, it was "From Paris with Love," a couple of chick flicks, a couple of kiddie movies, or an idiotic comedy.  As it turns out, the least of all evils was actually not bad at all. 

     "From Paris with Love" is an action/spy flick starring John Travolta (and his royale with cheese) as bulletproof, super spy Charlie Wax and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as wanna be spy James Reece.  Wax is trying to take out terrorists and the drug ring supporting them and Reece is just along for the ride, desperately trying to get home to his hot, French girlfriend played by Kasia Smutniak.  Along the way, Reece, ever so slowly, learns to trust Wax, and just shut up and do what he says.  This is an action movie, so the plot isn't all that important, but it does take a few, nice twists here and there.  (Don't try to solve the mystery, there isn't one!  Travolta tells you that.)

     Travolta is really the only reason to see this movie.  If your not a fan, don't bother.  Meyers plays his character well, but his character isn't exactly likable until near the end.  The action sequences are not too fast to follow or done in annoying, shaky cam, but they do paint Travolta's character as an invincible, super spy who can kill a room full of bad guys while sliding, upside down, down a fireman's pole.  Despite this, you don't have to suspend disbelief as much as one might think, because Meyers' character can't believe it either and he's in the film.  There's a decidedly dark turn toward the end, but the drama doesn't take over, and it all  makes for a satisfying and solid, action movie, ending. 

     If you're looking for an Oscar worthy story or an all out action blockbuster, "From Paris with Love" isn't it, but if you're looking for a solid action movie with a story that's better than most action movies, this is it, plus John Travolta

The Crazies (Review)

     Crazed, bio-warfare zombies in a small town quarantined by the government; so much promise and so little delivery. 

     "The Crazies," a remake of George Romero 1973 film by the same name, is about a small Iowa farming community where residents are going insane.  Very slowly and calmly they become homicidal, bloody, and then dead.  Sheriff Dutton, played by Timothy Olyphant, who, surprisingly, is not a former police officer from 'the big city' who's come to a small town to get away from city crime and police drama, (everything else about the film was completely cliche, why shouldn't that be?) begins to piece together why townsfolk are ever so slowly going nuts, and figures it out, all too conveniently, just in time for the government to show up, quarantine the area, and evacuate everyone who isn't a bio-zombie.  Sheriff Dutton must, of course, escape from the government quarantine, to find his pregnant wife who has been falsely identified as being one of the crazies.  They then proceed to hook up with a couple of other survivors and wander around Iowa, trying to find a car and escape government quarantine.  

     This film has so many failings.  Where to begin?  Let's start with the fact that there is no tension.  Every time they try to build tension, it's obvious what's going to happen next, so there is no tension, just a long, boring moment where you wait for the bio-zombie to pop out, the gunshot that will save someone at the last second, or nothing at all.  (Ha ha, fooled you.  Not really.)  It got tedious quickly.  Also tedious was all the walking.  Most of this movie is people walking, or taking very short lived trips in vehicles, that they walked miles and miles to get to.  Some of this walking is supposed to be character development, but the characters are extremely cliche, so you know where all that's going as well.  The plot, if you can call it that, wanders around as much as the four main characters.  They are trying to escape, they are trying to find people, they are trying to escape, they are trying to find the military, they are trying to avoid the military, they are heading for the military, they are hiding from the military, and then they are trying to escape yet again.  Once you get the basics, bio-zombies, government quarantine, and a small group of survivors, all the characters in this movie do is slowly walk from one place to another, hoping to find a vehicle, and then they lose it really quickly.  Most of their wandering is pointless as well.  Why get a car when black hawk helicopters are constantly patrolling and killing anything that moves?  Why walk along the highway when black hawk helicopters are constantly patrolling and killing anything that moves?  Why head for the largest known concentration of military forces in the area if all you are going to do is try to sneak past them?  Worse than the lack of direction is the 'plot convenience theater' happening throughout the movie.  More than once, people outside or in other rooms, who don't have a clear view of what is happening, take miracle gun shots that take out bio-zombies and save their comrades in the nick of time.  Need to set a bio-zombie on fire?  Good thing you just happened to grab a lighter about five minutes ago.  Bio-zombies want to attack you while you're in the car?  Good thing it suddenly develops engine trouble and won't start.  All the convenient coincidences only make the predictability of the film worse because, now, you know exactly what's going to happen and it's highly unlikely. 

     There isn't nearly enough action or bio-zombie attacks to make this film likable to action or horror movie fans and the complete lack of plot, character development, pacing, and just about everything else that goes into making a movie makes it unenjoyable to anyone else.  (Except maybe the kid two seats over texting non stop.)  Skip this hack of a remake and go rent (illegally download) the George Romero version.  I haven't seen it and have no idea how good it is, but it has to be better than watching four people wander aimlessly through empty fields in Iowa


     The only moment that actually took me by surprise is when the sheriff gets stabbed through the hand, but that was it and definitely not worth the ticket price.  Good thing Abby bought the tickets.  Hopefully he'll forget I owe him on this one. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shutter Island (Review)

     I couldn't wait for "Shutter Island."  Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and a creepy, psychological thriller; what could possibly go wrong?  Well, not much, but the end was a bit of a let down.

     "Shutter Island," as I said before, is a creepy, psychological thriller directed by film legend Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as federal marshal Teddy Daniels, who's investigating the apparent disappearance of a 'patient' from the asylum for the criminally insane on Shutter island, where nothing is as it seems and everyone's motives are in question.

     Just about everything in "Shutter Island" is dead on.  Martin Scorsese knows how to make a movie.  The actors give great performances, the cinematography is breathtaking, frightening, shocking, or whatever else Scorsese wants it to be, the story is suspenseful yet reveals its self at a good pace, and the pace keeps your attention through all two hours and eighteen minutes of film.  For me, though, the twist ending was a bit of a disappointment.  (This is where you stop reading if you don't want to know too much!) 

Undead (Review)

     After watching "Daybreakers," I was somewhat impressed with the Spierig Brothers.  I wondered if they had done anything else, and they had.  In 2003, they had made a zombie movie called "Undead."  What luck.  I love zombie movies and these two seem like promising new film makers.  "Undead" went right to the top of my Netflix queue.  Turns out that was a bad call.

     "Undead" is a (comedy?) zombie movie about a small Australian town that gets pelted by a meteor shower which quickly turns the residents of the town into zombies.  A small handful of survivors huddle together to fight off the zombie hordes, but that's only part of the story; there's also mysterious acid rain, alien abduction, and a huge spiked wall now surrounding the town and our heroes are slowly getting eaten, infected, abducted, or otherwise picked off. 

     I couldn't really tell if the Spierig Brothers had meant to make a zombie comedy, a spoof of horror movies, or just a B movie, but whatever their intent, they failed.  If "Undead" is meant to be funny, it's not.  Cliches, bad acting, stereotypical plots, and overkill gore are not funny on their own; they're just boring and tedious.  The story was original, but that only makes "Undead" seem more like a genuine attempt at a movie, and if that's the case, B movie would be a compliment.  I understand that this is a low budget film that was written, directed, produced, and edited by two people, but it still falls short by any standard.  (I suppose it could gain a cult following.)

     I look forward to the Spierig Brothers' future projects, but I am now weary of their other past works.   (All one of them.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Wolfman (Review)

     I had a weary feeling going into "The Wolfman."  The same sort of feeling I had going into the recent "Sherlock Holmes."  Both films tread on the hallowed ground of classic material.  You must tread lightly there and show proper respect.  "The Wolfman" fails to do either.

     "The Wolfman" is based on the original 1941 film "The Wolf Man."  In the modern adaptation, Lawrence Talbot, played lifelessly by Benicio Del Toro, is mauled by an enormous, man like wolf creature (...a werewolf) and, at the next full moon, the curse of the werewolf causes him to also become a werewolf, and the only one who can free him from this curse (kill him) is one who loves him.  

     There isn't a lot to the plot that you haven't see before, but if the story is done well and the characters are people we can empathize with, that shouldn't matter.  In "The Wolfman," it matters.  Let's start with the action sequences.  They are far too graphic, fast, and unbelievable.  It seems like the plot and story are just a contrivance to get us to the action sequences where body parts fly, shredded corpses litter the ground, and werewolves move like actors in a kung-fu movie, defying the laws of physics to put on a show which happens far too quickly and that is far beyond any suspension of disbelief.  The basics of a great story are there.  Lawrence Talbot and Gwen Conliffe, played here by Emily Blunt, fall in love and Gwen must kill Lawrence to set him free and end the curse.  We even get an a new twist on the story with Sir Anthony Hopkins, who plays Lawrence Talbot's father, also being a werewolf.  Now the son must kill his beloved father to free him from the curse.  None of this potential is realized, however, because all three actors give us wooden, emotionless, and absolutely dead performances.  Lawrence Talbot has no love for his father, and the love story between Lawrence Gwen is never developed.  Rather, it's quickly and awkwardly established in ten second of exposition.  You are never allowed to develop any empathy or feeling for any of these characters.  They just stare at the camera and deliver lines flatly so we an all get on to the next, unbelievably gruesome scene of werewolf carnage.  While we can blame writers Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self for the lack of story, ultimately, blame rests with director Joe Johnston.  Anyone who can't get a decent performance out of Sir Anthony Hopkins doesn't need to be directing. 

     "The Wolfman" doesn't have enough action for fans of action films, the gore happens to quickly for fans of splatter flicks, and is awful even for a monster movie.  I wouldn't recommend wasting your time on it, or its inevitable sequel.  (Yes, sadly, the ending set up a sequel.)

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (Review)

     I suppose I have Ray to thank for reminding me about the Patton Oswalt bit where Patton talks about how much harder screenwriting is now that they have actually released, on DVD, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (People.  And apples and chicken and flowers, ect...) 

     Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (People or whatever) is about an evil bed borne from demon blood that eats whoever or whatever get near it.  There's also an artist who is trapped in one of his paintings who narrates most of the story (if you can call it that) and talks to the bed...  (What am I writing??!)  We slowly get the history of bed kills played out in flashback as the current crop of victims is slowly devoured by the bed.  It all ends (spoiler alert!) in the bed's demon curse being broken and the bed going up in flames.  It stars people who you have never heard of and who would do gratuitous nude scenes in a indie film shot on 35mm film in the 70's.  There is no acting in this movie, just people calmly reading off lines.  There is, however, more inner dialogue than "Dune."  (I made that statistic up.)  There's also scenes of a man with skeletal, lots of 'blood,' and toes that bleed for no reason, the bed eats an apple and spits out the core, ect...  You get the idea.  

      Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (People or Pepto-Bismol or whatever) is awful, even for an indie, 1970's self written, directed, and produced project, but it is just tolerable enough, just bad enough, to be funny.  Well, you might need some friends to watch it with and some mind altering substances (kids, just say no) to actually make it funny, otherwise, just go find (legally obtain a copy of) the Patton Oswalt bit where he talks about the movie and watch that.  It's funnier and about seventy minutes shorter.

     Thanks Ray.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crazy Heart (Review)

     Growing up in small (extremely small) town Texas, I have a healthy dislike for Country music.  So does "Crazy Heart."  It might seem like a meaningless distinction, but "Crazy Heart" is more about the very old school Country/Western/West Texas kind of not quite Country, not quite Rock, not quite Folk music that has a real authenticity to it without being pretentious or superior about exactly how authentic it is the way modern Country music tends to be.  The kind musical background that gives us artists ranging from Willie Nelson to Janis Joplin.  This may make this review a bit biased, but the characters and situations in this film are real (to me, anyway.)  I've known them and people like them all my life.  "Crazy Heart" is a real, down to earth drama that doesn't claim that down to earth is somehow superior like so much commercialized, so called, Country music does today.

     "Crazy Heart" is about aging Country and Western star Bad Blake, played Jeff Bridges. Bad Blake is fifty-seven, broke, alcoholic, and is now consigned to playing gigs in small bars in the middle of nowhere and bowling alleys.  On one of these gigs he meets small town reporter and hopeful writer Jean Craddock, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.  She has a bit of an infatuation for this aging music icon and the has been Country and Western star is drawn to the occasional glimpses of family life he gets from Jean and her 4 year old son.  Add to this Tommy Sweet, played by Colin Farrell, a former member of Bad Blake's band in Blake's glory days and a current Country/Pop star who has reverence for his former mentor for teaching him everything he knows about music and resentment about his fallen idol's alcohol soaked condition.  Eventually, Bad Blake finds redemption in these two and the strength to crawl out of the bottle and write new music, even if he's not the star who's playing it anymore.

     "Crazy Heart" is an almost shockingly realistic drama and story of redemption that really lets you get to know the best and worst of its characters without getting preachy or saccharine.  Bridges' Bad Blake has a realistic, hard edge to him that isn't endearing but is very human and allows you to connect with his character and his character's situation in a very real and meaningful way.  As I said before, I may be biased because of this, but I have known people like Bad Blake all my life, and Bridges Blake was hauntingly familiar to me as were some of the other supporting characters.  Gyllenhaal is similarly authentic as the single mother who, rightfully, fears Bad Blake's alcoholic exterior but loves his warm and caring inner self.  She makes it easy to both empathize with her need to feel some kind of love and painful to watch her making the same mistakes over and over again.  The story may not be overly surprising, but it is realistic and it seems, even the characters themselves can see most of what's coming, but, just like real life, they allow themselves to be pulled into all to familiar and destructive paths until something or someone comes along to pull them out or remind them about the things in life that are worth living for.

     Despite my extreme aversion to Country music, I thoroughly enjoyed "Crazy Heart," and I hope its Western flavor doesn't stop others from enjoying this well acted, well written, drama about some very flawed, but very real characters.

     Seeing it at the Alamo Drafthouse and having their "Crazy Heart" themed Biscuit-Battered Bourbon Steak Fingers, made with Bad Blake's three favorite foods, buttermilk biscuits, steak, and bourbon, didn't hurt the experience either.  If you are ever in Austin, go to the Drafthouse.  You won't regret it.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Edge of Darkness (Review)

     Going into the theater, I was optimistic about "Edge of Darkness."  It seemed to have a lot going for it; Mel Gibson in an angry, emotional role, Ray Winstone in a shadowy, mysterious role, a dark story, and director Martin Campbell, who also directed the BBC mini series that the movie is based on.  Happily, it all comes together well.  Well, it comes together well if you like dark and violent.  (I do!)

     "Edge of Darkness" is a dramatic tale of mystery and vengeance starring Mel Gibson as Thomas Craven, a Boston police detective who's daughter is shot and killed just as she is trying to reveal to him the real reason for her sudden visit.  Craven begins to investigate his daughter's murder and becomes increasingly motivated by revenge as he descends into a complex web of corporate conspiracy and government cover-ups.  He is aided (or is he?) by a shadowy NSA agent named Jedburgh, played Ray Winstone.  Both characters are searching for a kind of redemption and, in the end, both receive some measure of it.

     "Edge of Darkness" has a gripping, dramatic, story that keeps you engaged and resolves all the mysterious elements, but only in due course.  The drama and mystery are punctuated by scenes of sudden and intense violence, all of which are done very realistically and are not over stylized or completely unbelievable or unintelligible like a lot of action movies seem to be today.  The violence is also not inappropriately bloody or gory, but, again, is realistic and believable, though some scenes are appropriately bloody and intense.  Gibson is quite convincing, almost frighteningly so, as a bereaved father who will stop at nothing to avenge his daughter's death because he has nothing else left to lose, and Winstone, in some ways, outshines Gibson in his stone cold portrayal of a NSA fixer who may, or may not, be tired of cleaning up other people's messes.  The thick, Boston accents didn't distract form the film and seem, to me anyway, to be authentic, but, then again, I can't really tell (y'all.)

     I always enjoy realistic action dramas or thrillers.  "Michael Clayton" comes to mind.  "Edge of Darkness" is a bit more intense than "Michael Clayton," and a lot more violent, but all the same basic elements are there, good actors, good characters, good writing, good drama, and a realistic execution.  All of it makes for a well done drama that one can enjoy without having to suspend disbelief.

Extraordinary Measures (Review)

     I almost didn't see "Extraordinary Measures."  I almost allowed a lot of poor critical reviews stop me from going to see a well done story of courage, hope, human drama, and just the right amount of some very heartwarming humor.  I'm glad I don't always listen to the critics.

     "Extraordinary Measures," based on a book and actual events, is the story of a father, John Crowley, played by Brendan Fraser, who is desperate to find a cure for two of his children who are dying of Pompe disease.  He finds Dr. Robert Stonehill, played by Harrison Ford, an eccentric researcher whose work is radically different and advanced.  Crowley begins to raise money for Stonehill's research and eventually gets the good doctor in a position where he can make real progress on an actual treatment before Crowley's children die.

     I've heard that the book "Extraordinary Measures" is based on, as well as the movie its self, doesn't quite stick to the facts and gives too much credit to John Crowley and not enough to Dr. William Canfield, the real life researcher that Ford's character is based on.  I don't know how true this is or exactly how accurate or skewed the facts are, but that doesn't really matter.  "Extraordinary Measures" is a story based on true events, not a historical bio pic.  Even though the character of John Crowley is supposed to be the hero, and he is in some very important ways, when he is not being a loving, dedicated father who will do anything to save his children, he's still a corporate executive, a stuffed suit, and not all that likable, and despite the fact that the character of Dr. Stonehill seems to have to be pushed to overcome himself in order to do the right thing, his character seems far more human than Crowley and, ultimately, is the real hero.  It likely doesn't help each of these characters much that Brendan Fraser, who is a fine actor,  pales next to the incredible acting talent of seasoned veteran Harrison Ford.  I do sympathize with a father trying to save the lives of his children, but that doesn't make him, or his character a likable person.  Perhaps these actors do a better job in their respective roles than they are given credit for.  In any case, the story is supposed to be about how a father's determination saved his children, but what comes through is that large pharmaceutical companies are heartless and driven solely by profit, a father will be as much of a jerk as he has to be in order to save his children, and  a brilliant and kind-hearted, yet odd, doctor did everything he could to save one man's children, and many others, from death at the hands of a terrible disease.  (That and Meredith Droeger is absolutely adorable as a sick little girl who won't give up.) 

     "Extraordinary Measures" may not exactly be the truth, but is makes for a good story and a bittersweet, good time.  Besides, I'm sure The History Channel will come out with a more accurate account, and we can all watch that and be informed.  Until then, just feel good that there's one less disease killing children.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Legion (Review)

     I didn't really know what to think about "Legion" going into it.  The previews had a lot of fast action and and one, mean grandma.  I was hoping that the action was all in the trailer and there was a lot more of grandma or her ilk.  I wasn't too disappointed. 

     "Legion" is an action/thriller about a coming apocalypse and a renegade angel who it trying to save humanity from it.  Paul Bettany plays the fallen Archangel Michael, who has come to protect Adrianne Palicki's character, Charlie, and her soon to be born (on Christmas!) baby from the Archangel Gabriel, played by Kevin Durand, who is now leading heaven's armies aganist humanity, Michael, Charlie, and her soon to be born, savior child.  Dennis Quaid, Charles S. Dutton, and a few others round out the cast as well written, pretty well acted supporting characters and cannon fodder. 

     "Legion" does a good job at building suspense, developing its characters, and moving the story along while still giving you plenty of action, explosions, and angel fights.  Much of the movie has a nice, trapped in a house/zombie movie feel to it as the main characters barricade themselves in a diner and fend off waves of angel possessed humans.  Bettany and Durandis both do well as frighteningly dedicated angels, both hellbent on carrying out their respective missions, but it really is Quaid, Dutton, and some of the other supporting characters who make this film as good and enjoyable as it is.  This shows in the ending, which is satisfying enough and appropiate for a movie like this, but is also a little dry with the majority of the supporting characters gone and is a bit too action oriented. 

     "Legion" isn't going to be a classic or win any Oscars, but it is an enjoyable time in the theater and is worth, at least, a matinee ticket price. 

     P.S.  "The Prophecy" is still the reigning champ for creepy angel movies.  You just can't beat Christopher Walken and Viggo Mortensen

Sunday, January 24, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different (Review)

     This is sort of a movie so I guess this is sort of a review.  "And Now for Something Completely Different" isn't really a movie as much as it is a collection of skits from the first two seasons of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" redone for the movie screen.  It was shown in theaters around the US in the early 70's, so technically, I suppose, it qualifies as a movie.  It was originally intended to introduce American audiences to Monty Python (no YouTube or Hulu back then) and is the first of the Python's films.

     Just in case you don't know what "Monty Python's Flying Circus" was, they were a comedy troupe out of Great Brittan in the early 1970's.  Their comedy was so unique that dictionaries had to invent the word Pythonesque just to describe it.  Their skits are often ridiculous in premise, go in completely unexpected directions, and have no ending or punchline, but rather, they just bleed into the next skit or end suddenly or they get interrupted by another skit or a bit of some of the oddest animation anyone had seen at the time, and that's exactly what you can expect from "And Now for Something Completely Different;" oddities like a pet shop owner who can't be convinced that a parrot he sold is actually dead, a mountaineer with double vision who wants to go up the twin peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, (there's only one!) and, my personal favorite, an instructional video on how not to be seen.  (Don't stand up!)

     Of all the Python's movie's, "And Now for Something Completely Different" is the least movie like and, really, exactly like watching an hour and a half of their TV show.  If you like Monty Python, then you'll like this, if you don't, you won't, and if you've never seen them, well, this will give you a really good idea of what you're missing.  You'll also learn how to defend yourself when your attacker is armed with fresh fruit.  (Eat the banana, thus disarming your attacker.) 

The Book of Eli (Review)

     Denzel Washington and a gritty, realistic, post apocalyptic Hellscape; how can you go wrong?  Well,sadly, it's quite easy; lousy story.

     "The Book of Eli" features Denzel Washington as Eli, former K-Mart employee who is now 30 years into a post apocalyptic journey to get a book of great importance somewhere in the West.  We pick up his journey near its end as he comes across a small group of people living in the rubble of a former town and being led by a tyrannical dictator named Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman.  Oldman's character wants the book as well.  Mila Kunis plays Solara, who is either fleeing the tyranny of the town or working against our hero to steal his all important book.

     "The Book of Eli" manages to do almost everything right, the casting is very good, Denzel Washington does a good job as a hardened man on a mission, the landscape and special effects are superb, the directing and pace of the film are just right for an action/thriller, and the action scenes are almost over the top, but not too bad and they aren't too numerous or drawn out.  (Except for the opening, arrow shot sequence.)  So, what kills this movie, really?  (I'm completely giving the ending away here.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Daybreakers (Review)

     When you push to far to one extreme, there is always a backlash; disco brought on punk, Bush brought on Obama, and now, thankfully, romanticized, teen angst laden vampires bring on "Daybreakers."  The previews made it look like a typical, fast action, slick, special effects laden bowl of Hollywood tripe.  Little did I know that nothing could have been farther from the truth. 

     "Daybreakers" is not your typical vampire movie.  Here, a virus, spread by a bat, began infecting people and turning them into vampires.  It seems that most of the classic vampire lore applies; sunlight kills, as does a stake through the heart and decapitation, and you become a vampire when one feeds on you.  With people becoming vampires at a rapid pace, ordinary human beings soon become a minority and the world is now run by vampires.  These vampires need human blood or they devolve into a nasty, more bat like, mindless, vampire creature, so, human beings are now captured and farmed for blood, however, ten years into Vampireland, there are not enough humans left to sustain the vampire population and blood supplies are beginning to run short.  Enter our hero, Edward Dalton, played by Ethan Hawke, who is a vampire doing research on a blood substitute.  He meets up with former vampire Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac, played Willem Dafoe, and a small group of human resisters.  They have a cure, of sorts, that DaFoe's character accidentally discovered, and they need Hawke's character to develop it.

     "Daybreakers" is a bit of an action movie and a bit of a gruesome monster movie with some well thought out social analysis as a backdrop.  The action sequences are well done and appropriate, lacking the current Hollywood penchant for slow motion CGI closeups.  They are fast, shocking, and often gruesome, but not overly so, and appropriate for an adult oriented monster movie.  The visual effects are quite good and are used when necessary rather than the overkill we are used to.  There is even quite a bit of development of what a vampire lead society would be like, complete with social divisions, an underclass, (quite literally under the city) a human hunting vampire army, and coffee.  (Now with 20% blood!)  There could be more development of the culture, but not without sacrificing the action/monster movie core.  The rest is good execution of story and character.  "Daybreakers" isn't a character based drama by any stretch of the imagination, but it does pay enough attention to both character and story to keep both interesting and believable while advancing the plot of a action/monster movie, making it a far better than your typical, shallow, action or monster movie.  The ending is satisfying enough, though we are left in sequel or franchise territory, which I think wouldn't be such a bad idea as long as newcomer writer/directors Michael and Peter Spierig can remain in Australia and away from the influence of major motion picture studios. 

     I was pleasantly surprised at "Daybreakers," and if you are sick and tired of wimpy, teen aged vampires bemoaning their feelings, I think you will be too.

Up in the Air (Review)

     I hate watching modern romance films.  They are all the same.  People who shouldn't be together and will make each other miserable if they try to spend the rest of their lives together spend the entire movie realizing that fact, until, in the end, there is a romantic moment, which somehow makes up for everything else that has transpired, and the couple that shouldn't be has a long, romantic kiss, and the movie ends.  The really sad fact is that some of these movies are actually pretty good, up until the third act, where it all falls apart because the doomed couple has to get together in the end.  "Up in the Air" looked like it might be different, and it was, but not enough.

     "Up in the Air" stars George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a man who works for a company that sends him around the country to fire people during large lay offs or whatever and help counsel them with their severance packages, finding a new job, ect...  He has spent his life doing this, he is very good at it, he spends more than three hundred days a year on the road, has little connection to friend or family, and is quite happy and successful.  In his off time, he does speaking engagements, most of the time to promote his book on how movement is life and relationships only weigh you down.  Clooney's character meets Alex Goran, played by Vera Farmiga, a business woman who also spends a lot of time on the road and they begin a physical relationship which they consummate whenever their busy itineraries happen to bring them near one another.  Then we get the younger woman, Natalie Keener, played by Anna Kendrick.  Kendrick's character is a recent college graduate who is there to innovate the way Clooney's character does his job.  She proposes ending the traveling and wants to start firing people via video phone.  Before this plan is implemented, she spends some time traveling with Clooney's character to see what it is he actually does.

     The first two acts of "Up in the Air" are very good.  You've got some really good writing and some great actors.  It was very enjoyable and gave me hope that this movie might not be your typical romance film, and it wasn't.  It was far worse.  (Sorry, but I'm going to give away the end here.)

Sherlock Holmes (Review)

     Holiday blockbusters are always so dicey.  They seem to want to include something for everyone (so everyone will pay to see them) but satisfy almost no one.  "Sherlock Holmes" does this and still manages to pull off something that's enjoyable, even if it's not on par with the classic source material.

     In this latest tale of these iconic characters, Jude Law plays Dr Watson, who is finally giving up mysteries and murders so he can get married.  Holmes, played rather realistically and convincingly by Robert Downey Jr, isn't ready to call it quits, and isn't above trying to ruin Watson's marriage to satisfy his own need for intellectual stimulation.  Holmes and Watson are soon pulled into a mystery that threatens the very foundations of British government and are compelled to solve it.  (So, what else is new?)

     Robert Downey Jr. does a great job as a troubled and driven Holmes.  The story is fairly intricate, as it should be, yet remains believable.  (Some parts more than others.)  It should be difficult to go wrong with good actors and legendary characters, you don't even need that great of a story, and this story isn't half bad, however, this movie tries to pack in way too much for the sake of drawing a large, holiday movie audience, and it suffers for it.  The pace is broken up by too many action points and unnecessary special effects sequences.  At two hours and eight minutes, you can afford to lose some of the slow motion explosions and fight scenes.  The poor pace also makes it difficult to connect to the characters, which is a real shame with these actors and characters. 

     "Sherlock Holmes" wastes a lot of potential in order to draw a large, holiday audience, but it does manage to make an enjoyable movie, even if it could have been much, much better.

Avatar (Review)

     I had been seeing the previews for months, as I'm sure a lot of you have, and I was worried.  James Cameron knows how to make a movie, and I'm willing to give (almost) anything he makes a chance, but "Avatar" seemed unnecessarily over the top.  The more I heard about the truly amazing, new techniques and technologies being used, the more I worried about more basic story elements being overlooked.  The more hyped the movie was, the more I worried that anything less than an absolute masterpiece was going to be a complete letdown.  In many ways, my fears were realized.

      "Avatar" is about a planet of primitive, alien natives who just happen to be living directly on top of their planet's largest concentration of valuable ore. (Upsidasium)  A corporate mining operation wants the natives to relocate and the space marines protecting the mining operation are all too happy to blow the indigenous population up if they resist.  At the same time you've got xeno-anthropologists, led by Sigourney Weaver, studying the aliens, trying to teach them English, (and the American way) and, supposedly, trying to convince them to leave their scared tree and move so the Marines won't blow them up.  Enter our hero, played by Sam Worthington, a former Marine who is now confined to a wheelchair. (Yes, we have intergalactic space ships but are still using wheelchairs!)  His job is to use a genetically engineered alien body, that he controls with his mind, to help the xeno-anthropologists study the natives and secretly gather intelligence for the military so they can either convince the natives to leave or have an easier time blowing them up.  Of course, after spending three months living as an alien, he forms attachments, loyalties are called into question, and inner conflict arises.

     The story is an old one, even if it is significantly modernized.  Do you remain loyal when loyalty means injustice, or do you betray everything you know to defend the helpless?  (Or, at least, the seriously outgunned?)  With that kind of a story, you pretty much know exactly what's going to happen, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as you develop the story and characters well, move the plot along, and keep the audience emotionally invested; in short, you tell a good story.  Cameron does this, somewhat, but but he also sacrifices these basic story elements to showcase his new special effects techniques.  To be fair, the special effects are, for the most part, amazing.  The 3-D, however, was, at best, unnecessary and at worst, distracting.  During the CGI sequences, the 3-D is, of course, faked by computers, so it isn't all that amazing, during the parts that are shot on set, the 3-D is real, but useless as the sets are not that large, and anytime they mixed CGI with actual sets, the 3-D actually makes the computer graphics stand out and look less real.  The plot plods along at a terrible pace and is broken up by far too many extended CGI action sequences that do little or nothing to advance the story or develop the characters.  At two hours and forty-two minutes, you can afford to cut out a lot of the action sequences and add some character development.  The love story between Worthington's character and the alien 'princess' seems to simply pop into being rather than being developed over the course of the movie in a believable fashion.  Similarly, so does his character's detachment from reality and his native culture.  Both are spilled out quickly in awkward exposition.  We are never really given the opportunity to empathize or develop any real feelings for any of the characters.  Additionally, the CGI character's lack of facial expressions makes them seem emotionless and almost cartoon like.  Despite Cameron's new CGI techniques, which were meant to capture actor's facial expressions and transfer them to their computer generated characters, the CGI aliens still seem rather flat in most of their expressions.  We spend quite a bit of time with these aliens and not having the subtlety of realistic facial expressions makes it quite difficult to get a sense of their feelings or to form any real emotional bond with them.  

     "Avatar" isn't a bad movie, but it is far too long for an action movie and it doesn't have nearly enough character or story development for a sci/fi morality tale.  It feels more like an extended ride at a studio theme park; lots of eye candy but not a lot of substance.  I think Cameron shot way too high on this one and missed.