Thursday, February 17, 2005

Constantine: Reviewed By A Guy Who Never Even Bothered To See The Flick

After a sneak preview of the movie Constantine, I find myself personally depressed, spiritually cynical and glad I didn’t have to pay for it. This flick stars Keanu Reeves as a California-style supernatural private eye who helps a police detective (Rachel Weisz) after the strange suicide of her twin sister. Besides dual screen credits, you might not be too sure what this has to do with anything. But, when you come to realize that Constantine was reputedly born with the ability to recognize the half-breed angels and demons that walk among Mankind, and committed suicide because of it…you’ll STILL be confused. And twenty minutes into this dark, depressing tale of the blurred lines between good and evil, you might find yourself wishing “Constantine” had just opted for a “Do Not Resuscitate” bracelet.

The film can be summed up as a series of twists and turns in the dark that don’t mislead anyone old enough to legally be in this gangrenous, R-rated, head wound of a movie. Director Francis Lawrence appears to have accidentally wandered onto the set dazed and confused, thinking it was an Aerosmith video. Reportedly based on an obscure comic about an English magician/con man, one can’t help but wonder if changing the character from an English bloke to a California dude was the reason this movie’s plot got lost in translation.

If you’re paying good money to see this movie because you’re expecting a “Matrix” like film with extraordinary special effects, there’s good news and bad news. Good news: you get the same Neo style dialog and a plotline about as muddled as the final Matrix installment. And the bad news: you get special effects resembling the unholy love child of “The Exorcist” and “Tron”. This results in creatures a lot worst than monkeys flying out of Reeves’ butt. The movie itself will probably disappoint lovers of the comic as well as any unsuspecting dupe that wanders in off the street. Makes you wonder, if this movie is THIS bad, just how bad can hell possibly be?

Reviewed By
A Guy Who
Never Even Bothered to See The Flick

If the title alone doesn’t conjure up bad memories of KC and the Sunshine band a year after they ran out of any more ways to use that same chord progression, you deserve to get cheated out of $10. This move was so bad they didn’t even let the movie reviewers see it. I had to go to a movie-pirating site in Amsterdam. Trying to download it, even the site threw me a load error-message: “Like, why waste the bandwidth, Dude?”
I finally located an accessible copy of it on a backwater site in the Honduras. This horrific direct-to-video-wannabe is directed by Stephen T. Kay and actually has Lucy Lawless in a role that’ll make you nostalgic for the good ole days of Xena. Are you sure you really want to know about it?

The official story is, “A man traumatized by the memories of terrible events he experienced in his childhood bedroom is forced to return home several years later to face his fears.” Exactly how that happens apparently wasn’t a big plot point, sufficiently glossed over to make time for the special effects that all take place…in the dark. Even Riddick, that ‘I-can-see-in-total-darkness’ anti-hero from “Pitch Black” (and another movie which shall remain unnamed) wouldn’t be able to make out what was happening in this film. If you’ve seen the trailers, you notice right off that you don’t see squat in the kinetic, quick edit clips of shadows, things jumping out of shadows, scared looking people running into shadows and general shadow mayhem. And then there’s that awful soundtrack of demented children from Hell singing nursery rhymes. Got it? Well, imagine 76 minutes of just that and you can save your time for something more enjoyable like plucking your own eyes from your skull.

Seriously, this movie makes you wish that Jason, Michael Myers and Freddy were real so they could just walk into the theater and put you all out of your misery. This film reminded me of “The Omen”. No, not that it was genuinely creepy and a good value for the money, but in that every time something Evil was going to happen to any of the characters, the chanting started. Most people hate Gregorian chants to this day because of that movie. But, in THIS case, if you’re even thinking about shelling out good money to see a film that even the studios are ashamed to let people preview…you should hear that chanting about now.

The most horrific thing about this movie is it left itself open for a sequel. And if that’s not the most terrifying thought you’ve ever had, after you sit through this monstrosity, it will be.


Reviewed by: “A Guy Who Didn't Even Watch The Flick On A Long Flight"

“The Aviator” stars Leonardo DiCaprio and is directed by Martin Scorsese, which pretty much portends that somebody’s going to die in this film. Badly. Continuing their “Gangs of New York” relationship, the DiCaprio/Scorsese team returns to depress an entirely new audience with the real life story of eccentric millionaire, Howard Hughes. And if you haven’t figured it out yet,’ eccentric’ means’ crazy’ if you’re not a billionaire.
After dozens of biographies on Howard Hughes’ life, it ‘s going to be pretty hard to tell most people something they didn’t already know. Plus, at $10 a pop, it takes more than an Oscar nomination to get people in the theater. Especially when they can catch “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” at the dollar show. So, to save everybody time and money, how about a film review outlining how the film PROBABLY went?

Residing in the Slums of Five Point, New York, Amsterdam Vallon (Hughes) barely scrapped by after emigrating to the U.S. from Ireland. The film explores Hughes’ early days as a petty pickpocket who ran astray notorious street gang leader Bill The Butcher and was forced to flee the slum he called his home. Securing passage on the Titanic dressed as one of the ship’s crew, he adopts the name Howard Hughes and romances the rich, lonely women on-board, while passing himself off as a wealthy businessman from New York. All was going well until the ‘ship hit the fan’ and Hughes was forced to call upon the intellectual reserves he was known for. Disguising himself as a woman in order to secure passage aboard a lifeboat, Howard gets away with a tidy sum from the jewelry he snatched during the ensuing chaos.

Keeping the name Howard Hughes, he spends several years running more intricate cons. He learns to fly by dressing like an aviator and hanging out in aviator bars, learning the tricks of the trade. Before long, he is piloting and even building planes in an effort to launder his increasing stash of cash, legitimizing himself as a billionaire industrialist and eventually moving into the motion picture industry. Being a billionaire industrialist and Hollywood film mogul, of course he dated the most beautiful women in the world. In fact, his obsession with boobies inspires him to patent the world’s first, “lift and separate” bra, earning him billions more in royalties. But, then things start to go bad.

A tenacious G-Man (played by Tom Hanks) has been on Hughes’ tail for many years now, and is closing in, causing Hughes to become more and more reclusive. His increasing eccentricity and sudden obsession with the bones of the Elephant Man takes its toll; in an effort to hold off his encroaching insanity, Hughes develops an unhealthy attachment to his fingernails before dying in 1976 of a septic infection. Despite persistent rumors of Hughes being afflicted by a severe case of vampirism, these allegations are never fully explored or substantiated in the movie, leaving the story behind the legend of Howard Hughes incomplete in this reviewer’s opinion.

Finding Neverland

Reviewed by a Guy Who Couldn't Find A Theater Showing The Flick

Despite first impressions, this movie has nothing to do with Michael Jackson’s ranch or search warrants. Directed by Marc Foster of “Monster Ball” fame, this film promises none of the angst nor an open-ended monolog by Oscar winner Halle Berry. Set in London in the early 1900’s, the film features Johnny Depp as J.M. Barrie in search of Peter Pan. And with no guest appearances by Robin Williams, you’re just going to have to revisit the Peter Pan mythos straight up. The good news is even though Depp’s character spends a lot of time around…uh…children… and doesn’t want to grow up, it’s all proper. But, it’s still going to take some time to get that Jackson stench off of Peter Pan.

Barrie is a man who never wanted to grow up, but after a disastrous play review, he finds himself blaming a childhood trauma for his failure as a playwright. The sheer madness of this circular reasoning makes Norman Bates look like a slightly eccentric handyman. A man ahead of his time in his deft ability to shield himself from criticism by making himself a victim, we get a rare glimpse into the psyche of a mad genius and the inner storms that compel a grown man to concoct a tale about children who never grow old.

Barrie’s wife detaches from their loveless marriage as Barrie feigns affection for the four children of a recent widow (Kate Winslet borrowing heavily on the good genes she got from her mother) in order to get close to her. As Depp/Barrie drifts deeper and deeper into his madness, his obsession with pirates grows. Fearing the social mores of the time might not accept a ‘pirate’ as a hero, Barrie temporarily shelves his latest work, “Pirates of the Caribbean” for being unworkable, but connives to subtly expose the audience to the pirate concept in a more sinister way: using children.

Working feverishly long into the night, Barrie creates the character of Peter Pan, a maniacal man-child with designs on conquering the world using the black arts. Gathering together a vampire army of Lost Boys, only the wise and noble Captain Hook stands in the way of his total world domination. However, the children (John, Paul, George and Ringo) whom he uses to obscure his true carnal intentions with Sylvia, shatter his mind-numbing obsession with pirates as protagonists by pointing out that no one in their right mind would buy that load of crap. In an epiphany of rational thought, he realizes they are right and enlists their aid in constructing a children’s tale that might become a classic for all time.

The children create a masterpiece, which Barrie absconds with, while giving absolutely no writing credits to the children. His play opens amid rave reviews; however, late one night, he finds his success threatened when a stranger shows up on his doorstep, accusing him of plagiarizing HIS play and demanding satisfaction. Lapsing into a funk of biblical proportions, Barrie fights off visions of demons with scissors for hands and headless horsemen, weighing the costs of giving the boys their proper credit versus keeping the credit all to himself, but living a life of madness. The climatic three-way showdown between the threatening stranger, Barrie and the children is a cinematic work of art that would have Sam Peckinpah salivating. When you leave this film you’ll never look at Peter Pan the same way.

Million Dollar Baby

Reviewed by a Guy Who Never Even Saw The Flick

Boxing movies just don’t seem to be as big a staple in Hollywood as teen horror flicks, so leave it to director Clint Eastwood to tackle this underrepresented sector of film-making. Going up against such “heavyweights” as “The Great White Hope”, “Raging Bull” and “Rocky”, this movie certainly has it’s work cut out for it. Especially with that image of Burgess Meredith as “Mick” in the Rocky films screaming, “You’re gonna to eat lightning and you’re gonna to crap thunder”. Just how’re you going to top “thunder-crapping”? “Every Which Way But Loose” came close because you just can’t beat primates when it comes to crap. But, if you throw in Hilary Swank to go for the body, Morgan Freeman to go for the head and Clint Eastwood to count them out, now you’ve got a triple threat of cinema terror. And what you get is a tightly constructed boxing film that fails to imitate any of its predecessors. Feature an ex-fighter who runs a gym in Los Angeles along with a fellow former boxer being approached by a young woman determined to beat the hell out of the next person calling her a hillbilly and THAT’S pay-for-view worth watching.

The movie begins with trainer (Frankie/Eastwood) lamenting the loss of his star fighter to big time boxing promoter Don King. Adhering to his life long credo that “Big Boys Don’t Cry”, his life is further complicated when he refuses to train another young boxer (Maggie/Hilary) once he realizes she is just pretending to be guy. Conditioned to consider the phrase “you hit like a girl” an insult, Frankie finds his entire value system turned on its ear as “one-eyed” Eddie/Morgan consents to train Maggie and discovers her potent right-hook and devastating ear-biting skills. After observing Maggie in action, Frankie sees the same “Eye-of-the Tiger” in her as he once saw in Eddie, and agrees to train her, too.

Out of his remaining “good” eye, Eddie can see her dogged determination and is mutually motivated to help her overcome her stereotypical image as just one more piece of societal rubbish. But failing to be able to see anything out of his other eye leads to him (as well as the entire audience) into being blindsided by the hard left hook this movie delivers in the end, pummeling everyone as every unpredictable twist possible manifests itself. In fact the only thing that DOESN’T happen are monkeys flying out of Eastwood’s butt, but that’s only because they probably couldn’t get out his hiked up waistband.

Despite the emotional maze this film leads the audience through, Eastwood blows away the competition like Dirty Harry on crack, taking his rightful place as one the most influential directors of our time. And even though he’ll remain forever unforgiven for that “Firefox” fiasco, this film represents the good, the bad and the ugly surrounding the sport of boxing.

Looking For Something Old to Rent? Don't Get “URBAN LEGEND”

Reviewed By A Guy Who Actually Saw This Flick

What if a serial killer decided to use common urban legends as their mode of killing, and selected a small, quiet college campus as their homicidal playground? This tale takes place at a fictitious New England college where, according to legend, 25 years before (almost to the day) a professor killed an entire dorm (save one) with a hunting knife. As if that wasn’t enough to cut into your study time, a modern day student returning to campus has just been killed by an axe-welding maniac in the backseat of her vehicle. Sound vaguely familiar?

This movie runs erratically through a lot of very familiar territory. Whereas any normal, sane college-aged kid would have transferred to another school five minutes into this trite attempt at suspense, the students at this third-tier school force us to follow them through this 98 minute exercise in untimely death and misdirection. Not only has this been done before, endless times, but it borrows heavily from other movies. This is not always a bad thing…. yes, in THIS case it is….but paying homage to other movie scenarios has been done quite successfully in movies like Scream. But, this isn’t Scream. And it’s not entertaining, humorous, amusing or even scary in any way. What we have with Urban Legend is an attempt to put a fresh spin on the same tired and overdone horror special effects left over from the sequels of Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street a decade ago.

The movie revolves around a group of stereotypical college kids who look a little too old to be sophomores, live in spacious dorms, visit empty campus libraries (the concept of an empty campus library is an urban legend in itself) and die on cue in some fashion that emulates a specific well-known urban legend. The cast of characters includes Paul, a pushy, cynical school newspaper reporter (Jared Leto doing his Rob Lowe at community college imitation), a self-centered party animal named Parker (played by Michael Rosenbaum who does a pretty good job of making the audience wish he were already dead), a campus cop named Reese (played by Loretta Devine doing the best she can with the ubiquitous, yet insubstantial role) and of course, our strange attractor for all this murderous mayhem, Natalie (played by Alicia Witt in a performance that alternates between Dana Scully’s deadpan performance in the X-Files, and a freaked out pinball running from dark location to dark location). The similarity? Inanimate objects.

Honorable mention goes to Robert Englund as Professor Wexler, obviously cast to try and bring some sort of cinematic credibility to this jumbled mess of a script and to Joshua Jackson from Dawson’s Creek who had the good professional sense to get himself killed early, after managing to create more than a 2D character. But even good screen presence by these two actors was futile when faced with the enormous task of actually trying raise this flick above the mundane.

Dialog is weak, pacing is slow, and frankly, we don’t give a damn about any of the characters. In fact, a couple of characters were so thinly fleshed out, they were dead almost as soon as they were introduced. Unlike most successful movies of this genre, the audience never had enough time to observe the character flaws that always mark you for death in these types of films. There was one notable exception.

As far as amusing scenes go, pickings are pretty slim with emphasis being on the grotesque. Parker, the party animal, managed one of the best ‘set-ups’ in the film, trying to guess the killer’s next urban legend. With a few exceptions other than the very first scene, the movie pretty much plays out like the 2000th rerun of any number of other ‘slasher’ flicks: killer kills all girl’s friends, girl suspects everyone, girl runs to and fro in the dark. In an effort to try and generate any semblance of suspense, the story throws misleading clues and false leads like rice at a wedding.

Even the deaths are more grisly than scary. By the time this movie grinds to an halt (mercifully), the audience has lost all sense of concern about the main character’s safety, waiting around only to see ‘who did it’. And of course, by the time that revelation occurs, the audience has already figured out that there is no way in hell that they could have ever guessed the totally contrived motive and twisted ending. Actually, faster than you can say, ‘Enny, Meany, Minny, Moe’, you’ll have the false resolution figured out; but just give up there while you’re ahead. Because just when you think it’s all over…aw, you know!