postal.jpgrating-2.5Perhaps I'm getting too used to the stylings of Mr. Boll. Maybe he's growing on me. Maybe I'm tired and don't know what I'm saying. But, after Bloodrayne II actually had a bit of style to it and Dungeon Siege was enjoyable in a simple fantasy way, I think Boll is setting a trend of making watchable, if not good, movies. Postal is another example of this.

Perhaps it's going to be easier in general for Uwe (I think we're close enough now that I can call him by his first name) to make comedies. Some people think his drama and horror is laughable as it is. Though I know that comedy is hard, harder than drama any day. But, having started his career with comedy, perhaps it's more of an area of ease for Uwe Boll. Not that it's a brilliant comedy, by any standard. No, it's a tolerable, somewhat amusing film, but it's not going to become a cult classic anytime soon.

For a movie that billed itself so heavily on its tastelessness, it's not a terribly offensive movie and the story has a wink of wit to it. The comedy also has a few gems in there, but, as you could likely guess, much of it isn't all that funny. Though, for the most part, I can say that it's easily watchable without ever feeling boring, tedious, or like a waste of time, something I think a viewer of Uwe's previous films might appreciate.

Zack Ward heads up the film and does a decent enough job with what's he's given. One has to appreciate the subtlety of his put-upon performance in a movie that, otherwise, is fairly over-the-top with everything else. He does build nicely onto his frustration, as he's caught in schemes with cultists and Muslim jihadists, all plotitng to destroy the world.

Realistically, it was a smart way to mine the content of the game, as there's no plot there, just violence and mayhem, which this movie accomplishes with cartoonish abandon without turning the lead into an unstable psychopath.

The other actors also help to carry the weight. Dave Foley provides a strong comedic background for the film, as well as full frontal nudity. Chris Coppola upholds the family name (even though he's not related) with wild overacting as Foley's right-hand man, but is fun. Jackie Tohn is somewhat buried in the film as the ostensible female lead, but I liked her right out of the gate. Aside from being super-cute, she has a good style about her and I just wish the movie hadn't wasted her as much as it did, as you like her. Or at least I do, but perhaps that's just a side-effect of my daydream-like wishes of being young (again) and hot (for the first time) and scooping up some smart and sassy lady like this.

There are appearances by Ralf Moeller, Verne Troyer, J.K. Simmons, and a variety of others that'll make you say "Oh... What are they doing in this movie?" All of them do a good job of adding some laughs, particularly Troyer, but the real show-stealer is Boll himself, appearing as... well, himself. He's the owner of a German-themed amusement park that plays on just about every German stereotype, extending all the way into Nazism. Boll admits that his films are financed with Nazi gold and that he's turned on by children. Bascially everything that people have been accusing him of all these years. But, despite however much of a dick Uwe is, it shows he's a good sport and can take his punches too, even if it requires him to beat on his critics to do it.

The film looks and feels low-budget and the quality isn't quite that of most of his other films, but it gives it a certain genuine nature that makes the whole thing feel a little more natural. If this mess of crazy surreal shit looked like a $40 million movie, then it'd probably be a low day for the movie industry. But the fact that the whole thing looks and feels like a big goof makes it all more palitable. At least for this one, we're in on the joke.

imdb   amazon

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

hellboy_2.jpgrating-4.5Hellboy was one of the better comic-related films that has been made. It was a fun, exciting, and good-looking film and was generally well-liked and well-received. There are probably those that didn't like it. I won't be talking to you in this review; we probably have nothing to talk about in general.

Many will argue about whether Hellboy was one of the best or the best comic adaptation to be put to film. I enjoyed it but didn't quite deify it. It's hard not to enjoy the movie, though, with its snarky, three-dimensional characters and fun action. Even the villains are likable in their way. It was a good movie, though one could perhaps argue that it could have been paced somewhat better.

If there were any flaws, or if you perhaps claimed that Hellboy was perfect, you'll be interested to know that Hellboy II is better, stronger, faster and corrects any flaws of the previous movie. It is, all around, a more streamlined movie and highlights all the strengths and erases all the weaknesses of the first film.

A more focused plotline, the deceptively simplistic tale features Hellboy and friends attempting to save the world yet again, this time by stopping an embittered elf prince from breaking a truce between his people and humanity, unleashing unstopable automatons to kill all humans. Along the way, there is the requisite humor, bravado, character development, drama, and action, as well as large things with tentacles. It wouldn't be Hellboy without an injection of Lovecraft.

As usual, the acting is good and even Seth McFarlane can't fuck up the movie. Doug Jones' voice being used for Abe Sapien isn't quite the delight of David Hyde Pierce, but it's something one grows used to quickly. He may lack the excellent inflections of Pierce, but he's still a good actor. All the old favorites are still there and Selma Blair seems more comfortable with her role this go-round. Perlman was born to play the role and he performs like it.

Guillermo Del Toro's writing and direction excel more with every film and the visual style and fantasticism of Pan's Labyrinth are added to the Hellboy tone to create an even better pallette to work from. He doesn't aim for flash, even if much of the movie is grand CGI work, but keeps things to beautiful and full-bodied look without being overindulgent.

All in all, Hellboy II remains one of the most reliable films to catch this summer, with the expected level of enjoyment and none of the flaws.

imdb   amazon


hancock.jpg rating-3.0It's taken me most of a week to bring myself to write about Hancock, which should probably give an indication as to its quality. But, truthfully, it's substantially less shitty than I imagined it'd be.

When I first heard the description for Hancock (then called Tonight He Comes), it sounded like a dark noir superhero movie. This is far from that. It's a mix of comedy and drama in a film that is, ostensibly, about a superhero, but not really.

In the end, most of the superhero-like aspects of Hancock are an irrelevancy and it's nothing more than an action-drama featuring some supernatural elements.

Will Smith, who I grow to like less and less as time goes by, with his blandly handsome looks and carefully-crafted charismatic charm seems to be a maufactured star and that is shown off to great effect here. He is in good company with a cast of strong actors and an enjoyable director in Peter Berg, but the movie can't help but feel hollow. One is left throughout the film waiting for something greater to happen, but, in the end, is left somewhat unsatisfied. It's as if M. Night Shyamalan wrote a superhero movie.... Oh, yeah, I guess he already did. But this movie does carry that certain dull buildup toward nothing, minus the pretension.

There are certain aspects that make the film watchable and, at a swift 90 minutes, the film goes quickly enough; there is humor throughout and the sharp wit of Jason Bateman to help raise the film from complete boredom, as well as a good visual style. But, sadly, it mainly treads water and leaves you waiting for The Dark Knight or another film to come out.

imdb   amazon


wanted.jpgrating-5.0Low expectations are good; failing that, it helps to be awesome.

Wanted is that mythical film, even though this is a fairly hyped vehicle with big names, a movie with no buzz that pretty much shows up and kicks the shit out of the competition. Trailers or TV spots may have made you wary or made you think that this film is going to be somewhat fun but mediocre. Even the critics will have you believe that this film is fun, but they give backhanded complements while warning you away with claims that the movie is too dumb, too vulgar, too violent, too brutal to really  be any good. The condescension rolls off the media in waves and the audiences may or may not keep showing up in droves to see it. But this movie is fun. Fuckloads of fun.

The critics will often remind you that it's a stupid story because it's based on a comic book. Some critics will even go so far as to say that it's stupid because it's not enough like the comic. Having followed up the movie by reading the comic, I can tell you for a fact that the film and the comic have about as much in common as Green Eggs & Ham and Citizen Kane. I mean, I know that both of them are in English and feature characters, but that's about it. All that's left of the semi-retarded tale of supervillains at war with each other is a few lines of dialogue and a framing element of backstory for our lead, who is instead enlisted into a league of assassins tasked with doing the murderous work of Fate.

Now, the film could go really badly and be even more stupid than the comic whose name it borrowed. Especially given its direction by Timur Bekmambetov, responsible for the adaptation and direction of the stylish but not very sensible Night Watch and Day Watch, who I'm still angry with for Day Watch. But the film is savvy, vulgar, and straight up fucking awesome. It cracks open your skull and shits Awesome onto your brain for a full two hours. If you don't like that, I don't think there's hope for you. The only people who won't like this are A.) people offended by vulgarity, B.) people squeamish with violence, and C.) fucking pussy-ass haters who just want to complain about good things while jerking off over mindless bullshit like the latest Indiana Jones movie. If you fall into Category C, please spend the next ten minutes slamming your dick in a car door. I'll wait.

If you can handle your carnage and dark humor with a happy grin, then this movie is the new high-water mark for film-making. As far as summer films go in this year of big names and even bigger hype, it blows away even the likes of Iron Man, who's left sitting miles behind it, wondering what the fuck just happened. It's not Shakespeare, but never claims to be more than amusing and stunningly good-looking headshot of adrenaline and bloodshed. Avoid seeing it only at your own peril. You don't want to miss it in the theater.

imdb   amazon

Street Kings

street_kings.jpgrating-4.0If you're going to try a David Ayer movie, this is the one to try. Lesser known for his more conventional work like U-571, The Fast And The Furious, and S.W.A.T., Ayer came to fame when he penned Training Day, not the most revolutionary film, but one whose acting heralded acclaim and allowed him to start directing his own films. His second directoral effort, Street Kings wasn't even written by Ayer, instead being penned by the forces of his buddy, former co-writer, and crime novelist James Ellroy, along with the writer/director of Equilibrium, Kurt Wimmer, and unknown Jamie Moss.

Street Kings is pure Ellroy, set in the modern day: a crime drama full of police corruption, death, and human suffering. But aren't all the good tales? A decently-coarse and dark mystery, it smacks of the plot of the L.A. Confidential film: a not-quite-bright cop decides that he can't live with the corruption after losing a former partner, looks where he shouldn't, and finds a plot that he wasn't smart enough to put together on his own. Good people die at the hands of those who should serve the public trust. Those bad people suffer the necessary revenge. Really, it does follow the flow of L.A. Confidential's beats, without the acting power of Crowe, Spacey, and Pearce and dropping the gleam of period trappings. But it has a certain dark and modern visceral nature that the more staid Confidential lacked.

The cast is, all around, good and even the Wooden Boy That Could, Keanu Reeves, manages to emote something. Hugh Laurie shows up in a minor role and manages more character than most of the other actors in the movie, which should really come to be expected at this point. Forest Whitaker does a bit of his overacting; a few of his roles tend towards the subtle, like Ghost Dog, but this falls in with fare like Battlefield Earth in its level of scenery-chewing. The other Ayers staples appear in the film, including a variety of his favorite bit players who appeared in Training Day and Harsh Times, his first directorial effort. The biggest surprise that probably shouldn't be was Chris Evans, who, as usual, hands in one of the best performances in the film and is completely solid. You always feel for him, no matter what role he's in and this is yet another example of why he is one of the best and brightest of a new generation of young actors. And he's outpacing Reeves quickly, not that it takes much.

Street Kings is also a good opportunity for Ayers to show off his directoral talent, a more visually-stimulating and atmospheric film than the simpler Harsh Times. The dark tones, flashier camera angles, and action are all handled well and show a good eye for stylistic and dark noir action. Even if the film isn't the sharpest plot, it has you wanting to come back and watch it again to see the visuals combined with the dark character portrayals.

It's fortunate that people like Ayer and Narc and Smokin' Aces director Joe Carnahan are bringing back hard-boiled noir through modern crime epics like these. Hopefully it'll continue to keep the landscape of cinema interesting over the coming years.

imdb   amazon