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Hey Man, I’m Joining a Religious Cult

August 28, 2009

The premiere of Inglourious Basterds marks the end of the summer movie season. Now we’ll have to contend with the flotsam Hollywood trots out in September and October that couldn’t make the summer cut.  Here are my thoughts on some of the June through August’s best and worst movies:

STAR TREK
Although I’m sure it pissed off many Star Trek faithful by messing with canon, this was a solid reboot.  J.J. Abrams  couldn’t have nailed the spirit of Kirk any better if he was a green she-alien. Bones was underused, but making Spock a little bit of a dick was a nice touch. Also, kudos for the funniest part of the movie:  Kirk helping Scotty’s Ewok-lizard companion down from a shelf he was sitting on.
GRADE: A –

WOLVERINE
The positives? Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber were both good. Their scenes together were legimately interesting and compelling. The bad? Where to start….the story sucked.  It had too many characters thrown in who had nothing to do with Wolverine in the first place. If Superman had shown up halfway through I wouldn’t have been surprised. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool was totally wasted. Finally,  Will.I.Am was in it. How about no more shitty rappers as mid-level superheroes, Hollywood? What’s next, Gucci Mane as the Green Arrow?
GRADE: D-

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
You’ve heard the reviews.  All I will add here is this: A) The character of Hans Landa is Tarantino’s finest achievement, even though the way he ate that pastry was creepy; B) Brad Pitt kind of reminded me of a Southern version of Popeye; and C) Only complaint: they should have  snuck in a scene of FDR getting out of his wheelchair and ripping his shirt off like Hulk Hogan.
GRADE: A+

TERMINATOR: SALVATION
Unless it is something off a fast food menu, nothing brought to you by McG is likely to be any good.
GRADE: F

PUBLIC ENEMIES
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that if Michael Mann decided to film a driver’s ed class, I would buy a ticket for it. That said, this one was kind of a whiff. Sure, 30’s gangsters robbing banks and getting in gunfights with flat foots is going to be better than most movies that come out, but beyond that it’s just a paint by numbers biopic. On the flip side of that coin, I thought Bale was solid, which shows you how important a director can be with regards to coaxing good performances out of their actors. In the hands of Mann and Nolan, he’s a genius. In the hands of McG, he gets outperformed by Common.
GRADE: C

FUNNY PEOPLE
I gotta admit another bias: Sandler was one of the reasons I got into comedy. When I first heard “What the Hell Happened to Me?” I was floored. Madison and Gilmore are still two of my favorite comedies ever. I stayed loyal to the guy year after year (“C’mon….Zohan wasn’t that bad.”) So to see him take on a role in which he plays a somewhat likeable dick while also lampooning his own career path was pretty refreshing. Rogen as the movie’s real hero factored in with one of the best final movie scenes ever made this work for me. It had good characters and it was really funny. Fuck movies with cohesive plots. The only part I didn’t like was how many references they forced in about legends of comedy. Either they had a Cosby poster on the wall, or a picture of Pryor on their desk, or Jonah Hill was wearing a Redd Foxx t-shirt. They did everything to hammer home the point of “We Love Great Comedy!” short of having Jason Segel show up with Bob Newhart’s face tattooed on his ass.
GRADE: B

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN/DISTRICT 9
I decided to include these two together in order to highlight the stark contrast. One represents all that is wrong with show business, and one shows that you can still produce a compelling film of quality within the Hollywood structure.  District 9 has two main protaganists: a South African contractor who is basically a clueless shill, and an alien named Christopher Johnson. I’m not going to go into the plot, all I’ll say is this: Christopher Johnson spoke no English. He communicated throughout the movie with a series of clicks and buzzes. He was basically a big grasshopper. And that character was more sympathetic and possessed more redeeming qualities than all of the human characters in Transformers combined. It wasn’t even close. If the Autobots decided halfway through the movie that screw it, we’re just going to join up with the Decepticons and obliterate the humans, I would have actually been pumped to see that. In fact, I hope that’s what Transformers III is about.
GRADE(S): F minus-minus-minus/A plus-plus-plus

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