The Movie Buffer

Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand


Warning! Achtung! Spoilers present!


I’d really like to say that this movie was good. I really wanted to like it. I wanted to say that this was a great way to end the trilogy – a nice strong ending. But I was left out in the cold when I saw the film. Non-stop action rarely allows for story development and this was a movie that needed to be explained because there were bigger issues in this one that in the previous movies.

The main story revolves around a mutant antibody that can return mutated DNA back to non-mutated human state. The President of the United States calls for all willing mutants to come and get the drugs and the choice would be optional. Some mutants are elated to finally see a way of having a normal life and the others are angry that the humans are trying to control their superpowers. So lines are drawn, actually, the two sides of this debate even fractures the X-men, Storm violently against the drugs and Beast for the choice of using them. The villains from the previous films see the cure as a threat, so they decide to destroy the drugs in fear that the humans would in fact force the mutant population to take them. The secondary story is the memorial for the fallen comrade, Jean Grey, from X-2. Each character takes the loss differently and this brings about the easy introduction of a new character called the Phoenix. The phoenix is the most powerful mutant on the face of the planet and the X-men hope that she can control her powers whereas Magneto wants to unleash all of her destructive power on all humans.

In this incarnation, the directing is not good at all. I had your back Ratner, I thought you could direct a 100 minute action movie, but you let me down, man! You had the world’s most marketable superhero in Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and you couldn’t get it done. You had a huge budget and you couldn’t get it done. There was so much scrutiny after your arrival, didn’t you think people would notice that the movie was lackluster. The cutting from scene to scene was patchy, scenes looked like they were just thrown together for time. There were some really long establishing shots and at times when something was needed to ground the action, nothing was provided.

The acting was on par with the previous movies except for Halle Berry, who played Storm like an old fashioned school headmistress. Every scene she was in she was butchering her lines into some rant about how the issues are black and white, cut and dry, apples and oranges kinds of issues that there should be no debate. If Beast wasn’t there to chime in with the occasional reality check for her, she would have continued. I have to wonder what the writers had before Halle told them she wanted more dialogue. Vinnie Jones (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Swordfish) is a good tough guy but as Juggernaut, he was lacking. The Juggernaut is an over the top, cartoon super villain, you need to play it up, Vinnie! Also, “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”? Bad Chapelle tribute or a blatant rip-off of Everyone else gave their parts what they needed: the teens were filled with angst, Professor Xavier was introspective and calm, Magneto was strong and passionate and Wolverine was a loner.

This was a special effects movie and I have to say it looked alright. There were some lighting issues, incongruities when it came to the superpowers and a few terrible jump/flying scenes throughout the film. There was a good Danger Room simulation, which was promised by Singer for X2 but he didn’t deliver it, with a Robotic Sentinel. The weather animations and battle scenes were average. I liked the Golden Gate bridge scenes particularly because they successfully mixed both live action and animated scenes with few obvious flaws.

X-men: The Last Stand deserves no more than 4/10 or one and a half out of five stars. The action was decent, but the dialogue was a complete failure. Even in an action movie you need to stop and talk. The effects were just average because it looked like they ran out of money during some scenes. This was the Godfather pt.III of the series and we can only hope for better in the spin-off movies.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Preview - Xmen: The Last Stand

Following in the shadow of the Da Vinci Code hysteria, X-men: The Last Stand has been building up some steam. There are now reviews of this film via critics and fans at the Cannes film festival where it opened on Monday. At Rotten Tomatoes ( they have certified it as “fresh” (which means the movies has been reviewed by 40 or more critics (including 5 critics from the Cream of the Crop) that score at least 75% or higher on the Tomatometer. A film remains Certified Fresh unless its Tomatometer falls below 60%. ) Ebert and Roeper gave the movie two thumbs up. They comment that this movie looks very much like a special effects extravaganza but it also shows some story telling elements like the arguments for and against genetic engineering. Devin at, who pulls no punches when it comes to a bad movie, has given it a so-so rating. This movie may just have some legs. If I had to put money down, I would say this movie brings in 60 million $ in the US market and about 210 million $ worldwide.

From clips found at the x-men site , I fear that this movie may incur the wrath of the fans of the comic books as well as fans of the first two films. The scope of this film, versus the comic book series, is so large some might find it a little ludicrous, the fact that Storm sounds like a preachy after school special rather than an intelligent person, the rushed introduction of both Beast and Angel and the clumsy way the Sentinels are presented will certain grind the gears of comic fans. Not to mention all the edits that the film makers have had to make to convert the comic book into a movie. The Jean Grey resurrection story arc is immensely important in the mythos of the X-men and the anti-mutant serum story line digs deeper than the movie could want to go and galvanizes the heroes and the villains. Inevitably much of the ground work for these story lines will be left out of the movie which may leave a non-reader out in the cold. Furthermore, adding more mutants to the story doesn’t exactly guarantee success. Since there are so many mutants in this movie, how could anyone care is a couple of them get “cured”? Two more would just spring up in their place.

I'm excited, but weary to see this film. Sequels are hard to do well and should be taken with a grain of salt. Ratner, the director, has experience with big budget action movies so it should at least look really flashy. I'm glad that the series is ending before it wears out its audience, with two sequels in the works, Wolverine and Magneto, they have to keep a few of us to pay the bills next time.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The DaVinci Code


lSmla eSplosri eInisd


You’ve heard almost every major film critic rip this movie a new one because of its poor pacing and the haphazard way it seems to have been put together but you would be wrong to miss this one if you are a fan of the murder-mystery genre. The critics are right in saying that the movie pace needs some extra editing but the fact remains that the characters need time to find clues, decipher the code and ultimately solve the riddle, which could not have been done if the pace had remained as quick as it was going in the beginning. Finally, when the Catholic Church gets portrayed in movie for you’d better believe there are going to be boycotts and controversy, it happened to Passion of Christ, Prince of Egypt and even Dogma. Priests, vicars and bishops have made the media blitz saying that the fictional book is indeed an utter fabrication and a blasphemous piece of garbage.

The DaVinci Code deals with a secret society, Opus Dei, and an even more secret society, The Priory of Sion, duking it out to cover up and destroy any evidence to or protect one of the most deeply held conspiracies known to the Catholic Church. Tom Hanks plays Robert Langdon, an American symbologist, who on a trip to France gets tangled in this web of intrigue when the elderly curator of the Louvre implicates him in a murder investigation. Audrey Tautou (Amelie) plays a plucky young police cryptographer, Sophie Neveu, who springs Hanks from custody and they embark on the quest to break the code. Jean Reno (The Pink Panther, Ronin) who plays the chief of police, and Paul Bettany (Firewall, A Beautiful Mind) who plays the abino monk, Silas, are the principle antagonists of the story: Reno received a tip that Hanks was involved with the murder and is attempting to hunt him down; Bettany is sent on a quest supposedly passed down by the Lord through the Opus Dei to assassinate anyone that has any information about the DaVinci Code. Along the way, Ian McKellen’s character Leigh Teabing, comes into prominence as Hanks’ friend and Christian history expert. After a few chases with the police, a fight with Silas and some verbose explanations of the Knights Templar and other such church secrets, the code is deciphered and Hanks must figure out what to do with this information.

Ron Howard was the director of this film and he could have used a little more time and a little more finesse when it came to the editing of this film. The blurry shots during the chase scenes took away from the chase. Throughout the film the cuts where very abrupt and made the movie feel rushed. The other elements of the film of this film were brilliant: The locations where beautiful, the shots were well composed and music fit perfectly together.

Hanks plays his character well but he was not the sort of guy I had imagined Robert Langdon. Reading the book, Langdon comes across as more of a book-worm type guy wearing a bad tweed suit. Langdon, in the movie and the book alike, solves every puzzle that is put before him. In the film the use computer generated visual representations of his mental process of deciphering the codes which was an excellent touch. Hanks rarely does a bad job in any of his movies an he doesn’t disappoint in this one.

Audrey Tautou’s performance as Sophie is filled with confidence and flair but lacks in credibility. She’s supposed to be a genius code breaker, but she seems perpetually lost in the mathematical clues. When McKellan is explaining the history of the Last Supper, she keeps chiming in with lines like “I don’t understand”, “You lost me” and “slow down”, which slows down the exposition even more. Some of her dialogue seems forced or just something the character would never say. Despite these flaws, she performed well.

These two are played up to have some connection but in the end this storyline ends flat. When the story is constructed in this fashion, you can assure viewer disappointment.

For Reno this part must feel familiar, a police officer with his own agenda hunting down a fugitive. We’ve seen him play this part many times before and he knows exactly what to do and say to make his character a likeable every-man.

Bettany seems like the perfect man to play the albino monk but his performance is lacking in most respects. For a serious drama, his character is too “cartoony” to be frightening. He should have played this character in one of two ways: the first way is to play him with an unflinching belief in what he is doing is right, the violence and lies all lead to a better world. The other way would be to have him wrestle with the fact that the deeds that he is doing are against the teachings of the Bible and he needs to come to terms that he cannot be saved but he is sacrificing himself for the greater good. Bettany’s character has the most character flaws. The viewer is lead to believe that he wear a cilice, a barbed metal band worn around the thigh for a few hours to suffer like Christ suffered, all the time and after every sin he switches which leg he wears it on. In the first scene, it is shown that this apparatus attached to his leg severely restricts his movement, he limps and is only able to walk at a slow pace. As the movie progresses, Silas forgets which leg the cilice is on, he doesn’t limp at all and he runs, jumps and kicks people.

In all this movie deserves a 6/10 or three out of five stars because the puzzles were interesting and the acting was decent. The movie losses marks for the strange pacing, the long run time at 2 and ½ hours and the directing. Having read the book and not having been utterly entranced by it, I was not too anxious to see this movie. I was hoping that the visual medium was going to jazz it up a bit and it did but there were just as many flaws as there were benefits. It’s an entertaining movie but it won’t have you talking about it after you leave the theatre.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mission Impossible 3


May contain spoilers


Think what you will of Tom Cruise’s off screen antics, personally I think he’s two Cocktails away from a Legend if you catch my drift, but this movie has plenty of other features that make it appealing. Not only is it by tv-director extraordinaire, J.J. Abrams, it has Philip Seymour Hoffman as the principle villain and a few very interesting secondary characters played by Ving Rhames, Lawrence Fishburne and Simon Pegg. Yes, the story is old, tired and exactly the same as the last two movies but you need to expect this from the MI franchise just like you would expect it from the James Bond series, the Rocky series or the Terminator series. It’s not good or right but it happens. The story revolves around two main plot points: a witch hunt for an agent gone bad in the IMF, Impossible Mission Force, and an elusive weapons dealer.

J.J. Abrams is an accomplished television director with such hits as Alias and Lost under his belt. A lesser known fact, he also acted in Six Degrees of Separation with Will Smith and Donald Sutherland. His style of directing fits well with the hour format but shows some faults when this timeline is stretched to the feature film length. The pacing of the film was great for the first hour but then things start to ramp up to a faster pace and the story telling became secondary, the details were blurred and the main plot lines start to come apart (just like the other two films). The story was filmed in the style of starting with the ending and working the viewer back to this point throughout the film which works out nicely for getting the story back on track after much of the action. This being his first feature length film and knowing his pedigree on television, Abrams gets a pass on this movie, there’s nothing outstanding about it and there aren’t enough flaws to bog the whole thing down.

Cue Captain Amazing, Tom Cruise, as irrepressible Ethan Hunt. Cruise provides the same cut and dried performance we’ve come to expect from the other MI movies and several of his other performances. It’s pun time - You could say he’s on cruise control! (Thank you, writers of The Critic). His performance leaves a lot to be desired; he lacks in intensity and most of all credibility. Cruise strides through all his lines giving them little to no emotional presence whatsoever. He delivers lines about his fiancée at his wedding party as cold and mechanically as he would direct his covert ops personnel. If there’s one thing that Cruise needed in this flick, it was great performance so when people talk about him around the water cooler they can add “…but he was great in MI:3” after “So Tom Cruise is plain crazy…”. I’ve seen interviews with “industry insiders”, critics and actors themselves saying that off-screen antics do not affect on-screen performances but I would starkly disagree. In a world that is based solely on perception, what an actor does off-screen affects how the audience sees them. Look at the box office tallies for movies with actors and actresses that have had bad publicity off-screen. Actions do speak louder than words in the world of motion pictures.

Playing opposite to Cruise is Philip Seymour Hoffman who, riding high on his Oscar winning performance in Capote, brings a good performance to his part as the intelligent villain, weapons dealer, Owen Davian. His character has foiled every attempt of capture that the IMF has thrown his way and thus has become the most dangerous man on the planet. Some of his files are captured in a botched mission and a trap is set as he prepares to sell the mysterious weapon code named “the Rabbit’s Foot” (which is never really revealed but is encased in a thermos covered in Hazardous Biological Material stickers, so think avian flu or something). Hoffman plays a villain very well and I giggled seeing Hoffman beating up Cruise. In the end, Cruise needs to win the fight and dispatches Hoffman in the least interesting way, he gets rolled in front of an on-coming bus.

Some of the better parts of the movie are the secondary characters: Ving Rhames returns as the clever tech specialist, Luther. Some of the best dialogue is in between Rhames and Cruise. The subtle jabs and witty banter as only Rhames can deliver. Laurence Fishburne plays the “by the book” superior officer in the picture and he plays it to perfection bringing authority and order to an otherwise rogue department. Finally, Simon Pegg, famous for his hilarious portrayal of slacker, Shaun, from Shaun of the Dead, is Benji, the nervous lab tech at the IMF. Pegg was instantly recognized by the crowd and effortlessly got laughs.

The technical features of this movie were exactly what you would expect from an action movie directed by the guy who did Alias as many of the camera shots and much of the scene construction was done in the same way. There was the requisite shaky camera shots, the car chase with explosion and the cg masks. This wasn’t as stylish as the Woo contribution or as tightly constructed as the De Palma original but it has a simple flair that lets the story flow with out ruining the suspension of disbelief.

Overall, this movie deserves a 5/10 or a 2 star rating because there was nothing new or exciting about it. That being said there was nothing particularly bad with it either. The acting on the part of everyone except Tom was great. The story was tired and predictable and the pacing was wrong so the good acting was wasted at times. It was an average action flick that will disappoint though looking for more and appease those looking for 100 million in stunts and explosives.