john_rambo.jpgrating-4.0(Or John Rambo, depending on what your opening credits tell you. I prefer this title, as it seperates itself from the previous work and throws the focus on the character as a person and not just some iconic title.)

This is the Rambo for a modern time, written with the sort of insight lost amongst the painful jingoism of the 80's, a world where anything could be done, particularly by America. We find John Rambo a broken, old fatalist. Convinced to take a group of missionaries up river from Thaiand to Burma (currently the world's biggest war-torn cesspool of human misery), he unwillingly obliges them because of the idealistic pleas of "Dexter" star Julie Benz, as good here as ever. He doesn't believe in their cause: bringing hope and faith to a war they can do nothing to fight or win. He knows that their efforts are nothing in the face of constant war. Their idealism and desire to change the world meet bleak pragmatism. The dark and septic tone sets the pace for a film that shows us the modern world, a carnival of horrors, as the young and old, man and woman, are meat for the grinder.

Keeping them safe to their destination, Rambo delivers them to where they'll do their good, lambs to the slaughter, to be crushed under the bloody boot of the junta. And so he is saddled with a group of younger mercenaries whom he must deliver to save the missionaries, mirroring his own past militarism, ballsy swagger, and bravado. The young turks are in their own way a sign of the times: soullessly pragmatic and selling their guns to the pastor of the missionary church without even knowing why they're there. Stallone is all granite stares and cold looks. He needs no words and it is the most appropriate portrayal the character could receive. Even more pronounced next to the militaristic charicatures of the mercenaries, the darkness of the characterization is spot-on and just what the dead eighties franchise needed to bring it back to life and reality.

Inevitably the mercenaries must be nursed along and the mayhem begins and Rambo unleashes his demons on the Burmese junta to do something right. Yet again, Rambo uses guile to free prisoners of war and unleashing the most abject revenge possible upon the military.

Stallone again uses well the stylistic touches of Rocky Balboa, another film whose titular character faces up to the demons of the past and whose journey comes full circle, looking back into moments that made the character who they are and revealing about them some internal truth that they cannot escape and have to face in the film's course. And, again, Stallone writes with a terse, wizened beauty, somehow providing fitting closure to the saga, though this movie may not be the end for John Rambo.

The one flaw I can see is in the unnecessary portrayal of the junta commander as a boy-fucking pedophile, as if the many murderous cruelties weren't enough to damn his character. But it's all lost under the tide of blood and gore that is the stock and trade of this film and rightly so. This isn't some fairy tale in which Russians or Vietnamese soldiers are astonishingly brutal monsters just to provide a straw man villain to righteously kill. This is a film set against a violent backdrop ripped from truth. This is the Holocaust or the Rape Of Nanking or any other unimagineably brutal reality. But this is a fantasy set in the catharsis of an imagined revenge for all the wrongs inflicted throughout time.

It is a beautifully crafted work of brutal genius on Stallone's part, written smartly, and acted well to give the full impact that only understanding the horrors of the world can. If you have the stomach for it, it is action incarnate, from the dark score to the unbelievable viscera. I only wish it were longer.

imdb   amazon

Rocky Balboa

rocky_balboarating-3.5Okay, I have to say that i was a bit surprised by this film. It's been a while since I saw any of the first five Rocky movies, so I can't say I was really prepared to make major criticisms on the series, but this movie did a shockingly good job of delivering drama and pathos without being bullshit or a total waste of time.

In this day and age, we have the luxury of not having to know or remember why Sylvester Stallone actually mattered in the first place. We have our images in mind of Rocky in the American flag shorts and Rambo in the dirty red headband and they're ingrained to the degree that we'll never forget them. We don't remember why we know who the grizzled meathead is at this point, but he's a punchline and a laughable icon.

Rocky Balboa actually gives us a surprisingly good look at what made Stallone famous and why Rocky made him the icon he was in his time. We forget Stallone as the writer, often heavy-handed in the case of shit like Cobra, but often a very insightful dramatic screenwriter, giving us Rocky and First Blood, films that showed internal emotional struggles in an acute way that we've forgotten through the gloss of sequel cliches and outright mockery. Rocky Balboa shows the same promise of its early predecessors, a balancing act of emotion and character drama. Disgused within this is a movie about boxing, a point that is more or less irrelevant, as the film is about an aging man struggling to come to terms with his irrelevancy and trying to have one last moment in the sun.

Now perhaps I'm making the film seem more highbrow than it is, but it is a well-directed, well-acted study of a mook who just wants to be proud and live his life. And, for its part, it's excellent work. Stallone doesn't put on airs of being the greatest actor or director ever and perhaps moreso than most writers and directors, this story mirrors the arc of his own life. He was a man flying high and larger than life twenty years ago, now trying at a point in his life when most people laugh at him trying to be taken seriously as a beefy sixty-something action star. Does he want a comeback or does he just want our respect?

Either way, Stallone has earned his credit with this stripped-bare, boxing-light version of Rocky's tale, focusing on family, desire, pain, longing, and the aging process in a way that is perhaps shocking when it shouldn't be. He's made a good film, maybe not a favorite or a movie I'll watch over again, but a solid, impressive directorial, writing, and acting showcase. I don't know why people think he can't or shouldn't and maybe we should think again about what the man can offer us.

imdb   amazon

In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

dungeon_siege.jpgrating-3.5I'll probably keep calling this film Dungeon Siege, because I played the game, anticipated the movie, and really don't like the name they finally pinned on it. It's too long and tells you nothing. But, truthfully, that's one of the only major problems with the film.

Perhaps it's my lessening expectations regarding Uwe Boll's films, but I'm beginning to enjoy what he makes. What you have here is a fairly stock-standard fantasy film, but we haven't had many of those since the early 80's, definitely none above the made-for-Sci-Fi Channel level. (Yes, you can talk about Lord Of The Rings all you want. Fuck those boring movies.) And Dungeon Siege is actually of a decent budget and quality, comparitively-speaking.

The acting, given Boll's direction, is shockingly good. He managed to get a good cast and most of the actors are well above par. They all turn in normal performances that you would see in any other movie, a fact that I shouldn't have to mention were it not an Uwe Boll film. None of the traces of Bloodrayne are on this, moving away from the sheer dullness and plotlessness to actually provide action and attempts to move a story forward, simple and straightforward though it may be. The game Dungeon Siege was a more or less linear, plotless adventure about aquisition and levelling and, while that character grind isn't represented in the film, it does co-opt its simplistic story and its visual elements, a fact that is actually pleasing when filled with rivers and lush forest.

The major flaw of the film, aside from the lightness of the script (which could be considered a non-issue to many fantasy fans), is in the acting of the villains. Ray Liotta, while excellent in gritty modern fare featuring cops and mobsters, isn't cut out for fantasy villainy. He seems a pathetic lightweight and his line delivery varies from shrieking to whining. He sounds totally out of his element and makes you wish they had found some middle aged British stage actor to take the role of head scenery-chewer. For his part, Matthew Lillard tries to make up for it by chewing enough scenery for four Christopher Walkens. Unfortunately, Matthew Lillard is as annoying as he's ever been, making any scene that he's in cringeworthy with his whining and bad overacting. But at least the boy tries.

Boll's direction is, overall, not that bad. The editing is often a bit spotty, but for a totally inept fuck-up, Boll may have created his magnum opus. While the story starts out on a few inexplicable and confusing notes, it manages to get itself back in shape fairly quickly and has limited interruptions of viewer annoyance or confusion. A few questionable decisions, bad edits, and bad performances aside, it's a simplistic and enjoyable fantasy epic the likes of which hasn't really been made since the early 80's, back when they were a dime a dozen and all very low-budget. We forget that, at the time, movies like Beastmaster and Conan The Barbarian were fun, but not particularly honored or appreciated by anyone. Perhaps given time Dungeon Siege will earn some manner of recognition and not just as another awful Uwe Boll film. Though in this age of constant disposable entertainment, that day is hard to imagine even if it might actually be deserved.

Is this move a "good" film? It's all up to your own expectation and interpretation, but that can be said for any film. In my opinion, it's good enough to be enjoyed. It has its faults, but almost all films do, whather we love them or not, and this film only receives the attention and ire it does because Uwe Boll is attached. Because of him or in spite of him, the film got made and is what it is. Love it or hate it, watch it with an open mind.

imdb   amazon

Meet The Spartans

spartans.jpgrating-1.0Who the fuck keeps letting these pieces of shit get made? I mean, I want to start this off being fair and impartial, but that's about as close as I can get when a movie manages to be so stupid and groteque in its vulgarity. Given that it's written and directed by the douchetards that made the unacceptably awful Spy Hard, Date Movie, and Epic Movie. It is an abomination.

Aside from that, it has quite a few good, funny actors, giving decent performances in something that never should have been made in the first place. It also will occassionally throw in a nice touch of Zucker Brothers-style absurdist humor, but most of it is buried amidst the shitpile of vomitting, ball jokes, and pop culture references entirely unsuited to the rest of the parody material. Also, credit really should be given for the art direction to manage such a dead-on recreation of the look of 300, which was a beautiful movie and spent much of its budget accomplishing that look. To match the look of 300 so perfectly on such a small scale is worth a mention. But that's about all that was done well.

Everything else is just rambling one-liners that reference current TV shows, "appearances" by all sorts of celebrity cunts like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, more spraying bodily fluids, and so many gay jokes that it hurts my soul. Oh my god! Those guys from 300 were such a bunch of faggots! LOL! Buttfucking! Homos! LMAO! Yeah... I get it. I won't get into any of the historical and cultural differences between their society and ours, which would be totally lost on anyone that would actually watch this movie. It was mildly homoerotic and there were a bunch of muscled and half-naked buddies hanging out, so therefore we must have 90 minutes of fag jokes. Oh so hilarious, douchebags. Glad you didn't use up all your talent on Scary Movie's severely unfunny script (which was then rewritten by the Wayans Brothers to be only marginally unwatchable).

I can't quite imagine why some of these actors would read the script and then do this film. Or why so many "MadTV" cast members would debase themselves like this. Oh, yes I do. It's the money and having their name on a theatrically-released movie. Poor Kevin Sorbo and Diedrich Bader. They can do better.

I can only hope the diminishing financial returns on these films prevent any more from being made. Because these one-note, unfunny bouts of assclownery only prove that the taste and intellect levels of movie viewers is dividing into ever more seperate camps of people who enjoy sharp and funny (though often vulgar) comedies and those who like half-witted and cheap jokes about bodily fluids and faggots.

If you're smart, you won't watch this movie. For all of us.

imdb   amazon

The Onion Movie

onion.jpgrating-2.0Initially, the trailer for The Onion Movie showed some promise. It seemed like an entirely derivative lift of Kentucky Fried Movie, but, Jesus Shit, we really need to bring that back. Kentucky Fried Movie was a brilliant mix of topical comedy and smart, bawdy sketches. Less so, there was Amazon Women On The Moon, which brought the same topical comedy to the late 80's, but with a more dodgy balance of humor and significantly less brilliance. On the upside, though, it had a good budget, a wealth of eager directors, and a slew of big-name actors willing to ham it up. If Amazon Women was a retread of Kentucky Fried, then The Onion Movie is an even more diminished retread of Amazon Women.

"The Onion", as a satirical website, newspaper, and a series of books is nothing less than a touchstone of comedy. That this movie shows none of the wit, cutting humor, or intelligence of The Onion is a fucking shame, as The Onion's name and concept is plastered all over it like a NASCAR sponsor.

Helmed by the writer/directors of "Tokyo Breakfast", comedio-racist web phenomenon of the early 2000's, and a couple of nobody writers that worked for The Onion, the results are desperately patchy despite far too many good cameos by comedic character actors and celebrities. The comedy is, at best, amateurish and desperately unfunny, not even managing a smug chuckle. The scenes often go on far too long for far, far too little and the jokes aren't very funny by even the lowest standards. The overall tone, quality, and many of the topical elements seem more appropriate for some mildly-funny late-90's independent parody movie. (The parodies of Britney Spears' early career definitely feel somewhat less than "fresh".)

There may be an explanation in the fact that the movie has apparently been in the works for 5 years, losing directors and writers along the way, and recobbling old footage together along with new material before being shelved and dumped onto DVD. Perhaps it would have been in the best interest of all to just throw the whole damned thing out and start over, as what came out was surely not up to the par of even the last direct-to-DVD National Lampoon releases, the biggest name in satirical writing in the 1970's and the spiritual father to The Onion. It's seen better days and has narrowly escaped complete death many times and, if The Onion isn't careful, they'll soon be joining the National Lampoon.

Kentucky Fried Movie never would have so sloppily and ham-fistedly connected idiotic and boring sketches with long-winded and pathetic "satirical" segments. Even as long as the middle martial arts parody segment of KFM was, it never stopped delivering funny jokes. The Onion Movie never even starts delivering jokes. It's a sad day when Steven Seagal punching people in the dick is the highlight of your film...

And it's also a sad day when kids with video cameras and YouTube accounts can demolish a humor institution like The Onion at sketch writing without even a fight.

Ignore this film's existence and just buy the DVD's of The Whitest Kids U Know instead. Or stick to The Onion on the web. You'll actually get some real comedy out of it.

imdb   amazon