Movie Reviews – August 2009

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12 Rounds
20th Century Fox
Street: 06.30
It’s no shocker that a film co-produced by WWE Films would entail mediocre acting and melodramatic situations more suitable for the ring rather than the big screen, and that’s exactly what’s presented in director Renny Harlin’s sensational thrill ride across the city of New Orleans. When officer Danny Fisher (John Cena) outwits international terrorist Miles Jackson’s (Aidan Gillen) heist escape attempt and inadvertently kills the criminal’s girlfriend, a hatred for the roided-out hero boils for over a year forcing a prison break and an intricate plan of revenge. In a game of cat and mouse, Jackson forces Fisher to solve twelve rounds of brainteasers, endure impossible gauntlets and play God with the lives of others. Harlin has basically combined the plots of the first and third Die Hard films, which is ironic since he directed the second installment. When you sit down to watch a John Cena film, no one expects a well-acted performance. Well, I hope no one does because they’ll be sorely disappointed, but that’s fine. While Arnold’s off playing Governator, someone needs to fulfill Hollywood’s position of a scowling, walking pair of pecks. What ruins this action/adventure is the intolerable acting from others, unbearable dialogue and the spastic seizure-inducing editing style.  –Jimmy Martin

24: Season Seven
20th Century Fox
Street: 05.19
Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) returns to yet another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day to not only face a condemning Senate subcommittee determined to tarnish the former CTU agent’s covert career, but also a radical techno-nerd threatening to bring America to her knobby knees by hacking the government’s firewall and overthrowing the central infrastructure. While the first batch of seasons tinkered with realistic terror plots that included political assassinations, nuclear bombs and biological warfare, this seventh installment is entering the realm of who-cares absurdity. I never thought I’d say it, but the redundant scenarios of Jack brutally interrogating suspects and whispering loudly into his cell phone are becoming monotonous. Granted, Sutherland continues to perfectly portray the renegade super agent, but the time has come to punch out on a high note. You know it’s going to be a loooong day when the outlandish plot changes directions every three hours. –Jimmy Martin

500 Days of Summer
Fox Searchlight Pictures
In Theaters: 07.17
With all the cheesy, clichéd, cookie cutter romantic films being forced out, it’s few and far between when an original one surfaces with a story of love, heartbreak and redemption so honest it’s contents make you smile as you slide back from the edge of your seat in order to exhale deeply. Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a hopeless romantic greeting card author yearning to find his one true love in the world. After laying eyes on the adorably pessimistic Summer (Zooey Deschanel), the search is over. Well, according to him it is. The film documents the couple’s on/off relationship in random chronological order which, in turn, develops a slew of ironic incidences and hilarious cutaways. As the narrator states, it’s “a boy meets girl tale, but it is not a love story.” Rather, it’s a perfect captivation of a male’s attempt to seduce, influence and control the confusing and nonsensical world of the opposite sex. Gordon-Levitt is brilliant as the down-and-out dreamer trying to make sense of an unjust world. Director Marc Webb has effectively and cleverly constructed a universal account of romance that everyone can relate to and feel genuinely connected to. ­–Jimmy Martin

Street: 06.02
Not since Steven Spielberg’s Munich has a film captured such a unique side of the struggles and oppressions of the Jewish community. Daniel Craig provides one of his most powerful performances as Tuvia Biellski, a common farmer pushed over the edge and forced to not only defend himself, but his family, his people and the human spirit during the Nazi regime of World War II. Director Edward Zwick’s documentation of the real-life Bielski brothers’ battles in the Poland forests should be distinctive with its subject matter, yet lacks an adequate amount of content to make it memorable. Along with Craig, Liev Schreiber’s depiction of the recluse renegade family member stands out amongst the cast. Unlike Spielberg’s well-executed action/thriller, Defiance‘s strongest elements come from the talent of the actors rather than the implementation of the overall product. –Jimmy Martin

Friday the 13th
Warner Bros.
Street: 06.16
It’s been eight laughable years since Jason Voorhees was cuttin’ bitches in outer space, so it’s good to see him return from orbit and settle back into his nest at Camp Crystal Lake. When Whitney Miller (Amanda Righetti) goes missing after visiting the infamous lagoon, her concerned brother, Clay (Jared Padalecki), returns to the region accompanied by Team Abercrombie & Douche only to be greeted by the legendary machete-wielding maniac. Now, I love absurd beheadings and gratuitous nudity as much as the next guy, but when it comes from the team that successfully revamped The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, it’s quite disappointing to see them take the low road and attach another predictable and clichéd addition to the Friday the 13th series. Rather than focusing on the dark origins or inner demons of the psychopath’s saga and creating something memorable, as was done with 2003’s Texas, director Marcus Nispel decided to neglect the narrative with a pair of 10-dollar tits and refrain from any type of engaging storytelling. With that said, the overall product is not total garbage. It’s the true epitome of a standard horror flick. There are thrills, chills and kills, but don’t expect anything cutting-edge from the jaded antagonist. –Jimmy Martin

Columbia Pictures
Street: 06.16
Along with the release of Ghostbusters: The Video Game and the announcement of a third feature film scheduled to release in 2012, the four original busters are back blasting their unlicensed nuclear accelerators in high-definition…but they didn’t come alone. Accompanied by a containment chamber stocked with an abundant supply of extra features, the disc includes a featurette documenting the resurrection of Ecto-1 and a pop-up trivia track that reveals behind-the-scenes production info and unknown film facts. Did you know the role of Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) was originally written for John Belushi? The leader of the Delta Tau Chi House hooked up with the Gate Keeper? Now, that would have been a sight to be seen! –Jimmy Martin

Wild Eye Releasing
Street: 05.26
Just to set the record straight here, Gothkill is an all out B-movie, midnight movie or whatever label you’d like to give it–so if you do intend to view the movie don’t expect anything grade A. I had high hopes that movie would mock the Goth scene culture and it actually does a decent job at doing so, mainly in the sheep mentality of much of the scene, an interesting plot point because the movie seems to be geared towards a Goth audience. The premise is simple. Nick Dread (Flambeaux) a priest during the inquisition finds the church corrupt and winds up condemning God. He is burned at the stake only to strike a deal with Satan to be reborn throughout the years. The catch is he is set with the task of slaughtering 100,000 corrupt souls to create his own kingdom in hell, the result of which finds the supernatural killer in a Goth club populated by the silliest of stereotypical Goth/vamps. Gothkill doesn’t achieve any deep thought or higher purpose other than to entertain and it does garner some laughs in its silliness of red food coloring and corn syrup simple-styled gore and terrifically bad-on-purpose acting. First time director JJ Connelly did a great job with what he had, no massive editing messes, a straightforward story and he found some great settings that served the movies purposes. Go into viewing low budget expectations and you’ll get some satisfaction in its camp factor. –Bryer Wharton

The Hunger: Season One
E1 Entertainment U.S.
Street: 06.02
The Hunger essentially is a show that desperately wants to be a respectable horror/suspense series like it’s older, cooler brothers The Twilight Zone and Tales From The Crypt but at the last minute decided to become a porn star instead. On average, about ten of the thirty minutes of the episode tend to be sex, while the other twenty tries to create a story. The problem isn’t the sex but the cliché-inspired stories. Fully expect to have it all figured out before the opening credits finish, which eliminates the horror/suspense premise and leaves you with the soft porn. Even with the Ridley Brothers directing and one-episode appearances from Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) and Lena Headly (Sarah Connor Chronicles), if you’re not a die-hard fan, consider this one for rental only if you have money to waste. –Kat Kellermeyer

The Hurt Locker
Summit Entertainment
In Theaters: 06.26
Rather than wasting time setting up a prolonged story arch with introductions and exposition, director Kathryn Bigelow hurls the audience directly into the intensified chaos that is Iraq with an intimate depiction of a U.S. Army bomb disposal unit. After the tragic death of their commander, Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) are reassigned under the authority of Staff Sergeant James (Jeremy Renner), a reckless bomb technician that somehow continues to escape death despite his disregard for governmental protocol. With only 38 days remaining on their tour of duty, the overwhelming tension fills the dusty air as the trio work their way across Baghdad providing security for their fellow soldiers. Bigelow has executed a flawless accomplishment with this viciously raw undertaking that provides a realistic, non-partisan view of the conflict in the Middle East. Along with Barry Ackroyd’s mesmerizingly voyeuristic cinematography, each actor provides a sensational performance worthy of praise from the introduction to the climactic finale. –Jimmy Martin

I Love You, Beth Cooper
20th Century Fox
In Theaters: 07.10
I am absolutely baffled that the director of such mega-blockbuster classics like the first two Home Alones and the first two Harry Potter films has delivered such a soulless production that it doesn’t even qualify as a “so bad it’s good” film. Chris Columbus didn’t just drop the ball–he wasn’t even in the league with this tactless, unfunny teen comedy. Can you still call it a comedy if you don’t even remotely chuckle once? When valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) decides to express his repressed love for the head cheerleader, Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), and declare his analytical attacks on other classmates during their graduation ceremony, the aftermath results in a night everyone should forget as quickly as possible. Along for the monotonous ride are Cooper’s airheaded sidekicks and Cooverman’s dubiously gay film-buff buddy who can’t help but recite lines to countless cinema classics that didn’t steal 102 minutes from my life. Many could argue the transfer from Larry Doyle’s novel wasn’t performed properly, but when Doyle himself carried out the service, there’s no one left to blame. Newcomer Rust requires much, much more practice before he should ever be placed in front of a camera again, and it’s abundantly clear Panettiere doesn’t have the aptitude to headline a project quite yet. It looks like the 30th Annual Razzie Awards already has a buddy for Transformers 2 in the Worst Picture in 2009 category. –Jimmy Martin

Insane Clown Posse Presents: A Family Underground
Psychopathic Records
Street: 5.12
Juggalos used to frighten me in the passive way I was afraid of Suge Knight of Death Row Records. As in, “I’m afraid, but when the hell am I going to run into Suge Knight?” However, after watching A Family Underground, my lazy nervousness at the mention of the Juggalo community has evolved into a full-blown fear. Because I have learned that they’re everywhere—even in England. A Family Underground is a documentary about the annual Gathering of the Juggalos in Cave-In-Rock, Ill. While it purports to be family reunion of sorts with “crazy cousins you haven’t met yet,” this appellation only seems to be accurate if your own personal family spends its time breaking fluorescent light bulbs over each other’s heads and chanting “woop woop” as it cooks up another batch of meth. The music of Psychopathic Record’s make-up smeared milieu has never ever been something I’ve wanted to listen to, and despite it’s best efforts, A Family Underground does nothing to deter that sentiment. Poorly recorded concert footage is interspersed with clips of boner-repelling women’s wrestling, toothless grin after toothless grin, and a Juggalo nuptial ceremony, complete with vow ala carte “do you promise to suck on her titty-nipples?” Which brings up the worst part–somehow, amid all the profanity, scatological flows, and off-key warblings about skull-fucking, the boys at Psychopathic decided to keep it tasteful by blurring out all exposition of said “titty nipples”. I for one have never been more grateful to see closing credits and have never desired a rebate for my wasted time more fervently. –JR Boyce

Iron Maiden – Flight 666
Phantom Music Management/EMI
Street: 06.09
Most tour documentaries imply a massive sense of self-importance for the band in question. While there is that sense with Flight 666, the always strong integrity of Iron Maiden shines through and you get an entertaining documentary following them on their 2008 “Somewhere Back in Time,” tour which entails the bands singer Bruce Dickinson piloting a 757 airliner to five continents, playing 23 concerts in 45 days, all of which according to the film is a feat never before accomplished. You also get the normal backstage stuff and band interviews highlighting each Maiden member, which feels fun, candid and honest. The power in this film lies in its awe factor showing the band playing countries that have cultures and government that all vary. Every clip of each show has the crowd singing just as loud, if not louder than the band. Most importantly there is an underlying message that Maiden’s worldwide reach gives people from all walks of life a common interest and love. The music and concert experience also gives people something they can always count on and a much needed break from the harder parts of life. –Bryer Wharton

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Skynet Edition)
Street: 05.19
Before McG placed his grubby director hands on the Terminator franchise and maliciously molested it with tacky references and laughable dialogue, the series was held in fairly high regard. Ok, Terminator 3 raped it first, but he didn’t improve the situation. James Cameron’s 1991 sequel redefined the modern-day action film with its relentless action sequences, revolutionary special effects and captivating story structure. This re-released special edition contains over two hours of behind-the-scenes picture-in-picture footage, a storyboard-script film comparison, quizzes and interactive games. In addition, the title includes two audio commentaries, one with Cameron and co-writer William Wisher and the other includes tidbits from 26 cast and crew members. Relive Arnold’s greatest action epic before he lamed out and became The Governator. –Jimmy Martin

Torchwood: Seasons One & Two
BBC America
Street: 07.28
As the innovative spin-off of Doctor Who, Torchwood sets a perfect example on how to reveal an ample amount of information to keep viewers interested, yet adequately leaves them in the dark to keep them guessing. Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and his team covertly lead the fight against extraterrestrials and paranormal activity with the latest in technology from this world and beyond. Whether it’s crimson gas from a meteorite that survives purely on sexual activity or beastly “Weasels” wreaking havoc across the city, each episode creatively presents a new threat to our Earth’s existence. It’s an ideal blend of sci-fi, drama and comedy. Think Men in Black crossed with Ghostbusters and a dash of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Barrowman’s charm, directness and comedic talent stands out amongst the ensemble, and the show’s desire to spotlight various lifestyles makes it one of the BBC’s most original shows to date. –Jimmy Martin

Watchmen: Director’s Cut (Blu-Ray)
Warner Bros.
Street: 07.21.09
Imagine an alternate world where costumed avengers are real and President Nixon just began his third term in office. Pretty scary, right? When a fellow crime fighter is viciously murdered, old partners must reunite to reveal the truth about his death, but what they uncover becomes much more destructive. There’s a lot to be said for the man who stood toe to toe with “the unfilmable film” and undeniably executed one of the greatest cinematic adaptations in film history. Director Zack Snyder has flawlessly brought the 1986 graphic novel to life and inevitably made every spectator feel as giddy as a schoolgirl. Every frame breaths with perfected intensity from all spectrums of the art form. From the dilapidated alternate New York City set designs to the ideal casting selection, this crowning feat effectively balances an ideal blend of action and drama that will be commended for years to come. While Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Patrick Wilson provide solid performances, Jackie Earle Haley clearly outshines the talented ensemble cast as the psychopathic yet moral hero, Rorschach. In fact, I want to see his birth certificate, because I’m fairly certain it’ll read “Jackie Earle ‘Rorschach’ Haley.” It is the role he was born to play. While some super-fans may attack Snyder’s decision to alter various aspects of the origin, in reality, he made a wise choice in updating the aging material without neglecting its message. This is the second achievement for adult oriented comic-book films along with The Dark Knight. With that said, the dark undertone future is looking quite bright for these mature transformations. The Blu-ray Director’s Cut comes stocked with making-of featurettes and special features including “Maximum Movie Mode” which allows Snyder to give a personal tour of all the groundbreaking technical aspects of the film. -Jimmy Martin


Watching this movie is your future if birth control fails ...
Transformers: Season One
Shout! Factory
Street: 06.16
With one of the greatest/worst theme songs in the history of children’s cartoons, Transformers laser blasted its way through television sets in 1984 following the growing popularity of Takara and Hasbro’s profitable toy line. Fun fact: Before its robotic inception, the F.C.C. regulated toy companies against producing programming commercializing their own products, but the directive was eventually abolished and Transformers was green lit faster than it took you to read this sentence. The first season introduces the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons as they make their way from Cybertron to Earth in search of a new energy source. Through a child’s eyes, the show was the definition of creativity and sci-fi fun, however, through the eyes of an adult, each new character that rolled into the frame was another action figure their screaming child would soon desire. Either way, no one can deny its everlasting attractiveness even as Michael Bay continues to horrifically molest away its childhood innocence.­  –Jimmy Martin