Green Lantern (2011)

(PG-13) 114 mins

Director: Martin Campbell

Writers: Greg Berlanti (screenplay & screen story), Michael Green (screenplay & screen story), Marc Guggenheim (screenplay & screen story), & Michael Goldenberg (screenplay)

Stars: Ryan ReynoldsBlake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, & Tim Robbins

Best Boy Grip: Gerald Autin

CraigMakk:(Don’t Bother) Goddamn you, Hollywood. Seriously? You get access to the entire Green Lantern Corps, you bring the excellent and intimidating Mark Strong on as Sinestro, and you even get Ryan Reynolds, a self-professed comic (he already played the equally awesome yet ultimately reviled portrayal of the Deadpool character) and Green Lantern fanboy, to play Hal Jordan…and you still are able to screw it up? What the hell is going on up there in Hollywoodland? Honestly, I want to know. Next time, just ask me to write the script for you. Or at the very least take a shit on the script before handing it to the poor actors. Either of which would have been infinitely better than the crap you dumped out on the world.

Okay, at the very least I can say that Ryan Reynolds is pretty charming as the normally cool under pressure Hal Jordan. While he sometimes has a hard time being less “Ryan-Reynoldsy”  in his movies, this character called for much of the one-liners he is famous for. His ability to showcase the strength of humanity in the face of overwhelming doubt from a galaxy full of aliens (Note: if you thought the Star Wars Cantina had too many aliens, wait until you see the first shot of the Green Lantern Corps homeworld, Oa) who believe us to be “too immature” is incredibly believable. Mark Strong, however, steals the show as the “greatest lantern of them all”, Sinestro. He is both aloof and terrifying, and his begrudging respect for Hal would have made his  (SPOILER ALERT…Not really) eventual turn to become his  greatest enemy in the sequel even more emotional.

Instead, however, they decided to make this movie. Which is pretty bad. I mean, other than a few special effects sequences, including an entirely CGI costume for Hal himself, this movie makes no sense. Hector Hammond is thrown in as a villain for approximately eight minutes. And apparently Hal and he have been friends since they were children, but the movie makes no attempt to demonstrate that fact other than with a quick, “Hey remember how  we’ve been friends since we were children?”-kind of statement. In addition, they clearly took notes from “Fantastic Four‘s” horrendous portrayal of Galactus  when designing Parallax, as he is designed as a corny-looking cloud with a face in it. Wow. At least Kilowog looked cool.

In the end, this movie suffers from “bad comic movie”-itis, which encompasses: a) not quite understanding the source material, b) changing the key characters (origins, powers, look, etc) purely for the sake of change, and c) failing to understand the traits and characteristics of the heroes themselves that make the stories fun and relatable. A guy with a power ring who can create anything his mind can imagine as long as he feels no fear is cool, but the true theme is that overcoming fear is more important than not feeling it at all. A movie shouldn’t reduce the theme to one line like a movie review does. But boy, does this one ever. If you are at all interested in Green Lantern, I recommend you simply read Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Sinestro Corps Wars instead. And pray to God that Ryan Reynolds doesn’t get screwed in the (potentially) upcoming Deadpool movie.

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Rampage (2009)

(R) 85 mins

Synopsis: A man with a thirst for revenge builds a full body armor from Kevlar and goes on a killing spree.

Director: Uwe Boll

Writers: Uwe Boll

Stars: Brendan Fletcher, Shaun Sipos, Matt Frewer, & Lynda Boyd

Best Boy Grip: Stephan Burianyk

CraigMakk: (Worth Watching)  If you came to this review looking for my typical witty comments or general sarcastic humor, I am sad to inform you that this one will include neither. To be fair, I am just as confused and surprised by this fact as you are. First off, Uwe Boll is not simply known for making bad movies, but more accurately for making horrendous movies, most often of the video game variety (see Postal, In the Name of the King, Alone in the Dark, and all other worst video game movies of all time). So you can imagine my dismay when a movie with a reasonably interesting premise began and I saw Mr. Boll’s name flash on the screen. “Well, there goes another wasted evening,” thought Mr. Makk.

And then the movie began.

Let’s not get crazy here, this isn’t a great movie by any stretch. But that fact that it is good in any conceivable way (did I yet mention Uwe Boll directed it?) is astounding. The premise of a young man, bitter and angry with what he perceives to be a failing society, driven to commit unspeakable crimes against innocent bystanders, is one that will mesmerize you almost immediately. Brendan Fletcher is terrifying as the murderous Bill Williamson, who seems to be playing a grown up version of his teen bully character from  “Heart of America” (also directed by Uwe Boll…anyone see a trend here?). Most of the dialogue is improvised, and Brendan is generally top-notch at this, but his parents (most notably his mom) are horrendous, leading to some unintentionally hilarious scenes (another trademark of Mr. Boll’s films).

I am an action movie buff, and scenes of gratuitous violence are right in my wheelhouse. However, this movie actually made me feel quite uncomfortable in many places. Watching a serial killer take out passersby on the street in “Grand Theft Auto“-style is uncomfortable at best, and downright cringe-worthy at worst. Even more telling, we see the movie from Bill’s point of view, making the viewer take a closer look at their own views on society at large.

While this movie stumbles in many ways, including every chance to give a deeper meaning behind Bill’s rampage rather than a simple breakdown (see Michael Douglas’ “Falling Down“), Uwe Boll finally did something I never expected: make a movie that I don’t hate. Making me uncomfortable while watching it is just par for the course for him. I just never thought it would be due to the subject matter, and not simply because it was just an awful, awful movie. Way to go, Uwe Boll! Do I hear an Oscar around the corner? (SPOILER ALERT: No. No I don’t.)

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Grown Ups (2010)

PG-13 (102 mins)

Synopsis: After their high school basketball coach passes away, five good friends and former teammates reunite for a Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Director: Dennis Dugan

Writers: Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf

Stars: Adam Sandler, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Kevin James

Best Boy Grip: David C. Romano

CraigMakk: (Cruel & Unusual Punishment) All you need to do is look at the first and fifth actors listed above….go ahead, I’ll wait.

You’re back? Okay, now check the title…I’ve got nothing else to do, so don’t worry about me.

Good. Did you see the title “Billy Madison”? Or “Happy Gillmore“? I’ll even accept “WaterBoy”. No? Okay, so now you probably know why this movie sucks. This shouldn’t even exist, let alone be watched by living people. Probably not even the dead, because that would be cruel if there’s an afterlife. We turned this off about ten minutes in, shaking violently from douche-chills. Trust me…burn every copy of this movie you see.

Red (2010)

PG-13 (111 mins)

Synopsis: When his peaceful life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, former black-ops agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive and uncover his assailants.
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writers: Jon Hoeber (screenplay),  Erich Hoeber (screenplay), Warren Ellis  (graphic novel),  and Cully Hamner  (screenplay)
Stars:  Bruce Willis,  Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman
Best Boy Grip: Martin Torner
Studio: Summit Entertainment
CraigMakk: (Worth Watching)  With more comic book movies coming out seemingly every month, we inevitably become more discriminatory about what we waste our time with and what we pass over. Short version is: you can pass this one over, and wait to catch it on TV. Long version is: this doesn’t really even totally seem like a comic book movie. Yes, there are the obligatory slow-motion gunfight scenes (which are awesome, but you probably saw the best one, the car spinning departure, during the commercial anyway, so you’re good there), the “one-man survives easily against an army in comic-book fashion” scenes, and even the “soldiers so good they must be comic book heroes”. But if you never heard of this comic book before someone told you it was (SPOILER ALERT: you didn’t), you would probably never even know. In one sense, this movie is a better version of the Expendables, because these guys are legitimately old, yet somehow they still manage to kick some serious ass, and in a way that actually makes sense (not stupid old Sly fighting guys a third his age and not having a massive, Growth Hormone- and steroid-fueled heart attack on set). The problem is, the story stops caring about why everyone wants to kill them pretty quickly, and so will you. And Bruce Willis’ character, while endearingly pathetic in the beginning, becomes just Bruce Willis by the end, which can be a bit annoying (side note: when did he stop being John McClane, and start being a whiny cuckold for even worse Ashton??). In the end, I can definitely recommend this movie as a weekend watch on TV, but there are too many overall story failings to push for you to waste your money. Unless you are like me and made it your life’s goal to see every comic-book movie ever made, then it’s a solid Four Beer Mugs. But that’s just me. I’m a sad, pathetic man. What has my life become? I’m so alone. Why, God?? Why have you forsaken me??? Oh, still here? Ummmm…{sniffle}…Three Beer Mugs it is!

Skyline (2010)

(PG-13) 94 mins

Synopsis: Jarrod and his pregnant girlfriend Elaine travel to Los Angeles to celebrate his old friend and successful entrepreneur, Terry’s birthday. At dawn of the next morning, the group is awakened by mysterious beams of blue light descending on the city of Los Angeles. Suddenly people are drawn outside like moths to a flame, where an extraterrestrial force threatens to swallow the entire human population off the face of the Earth. The group of friends try to escape from the alien invaders.

Directors: Colin StrauseGreg Straus

Writers: Joshua CordesLiam O’Donnell

Stars: Eric BalfourDonald FaisonScottie Thompson, & David Zayas

Best Boy Grip: Pat Wallner

CraigMakk:  (Cruel & Unusual Punishment)  Have you ever seen a movie that started off okay, then got interesting about twenty minutes in, then ended in the absolute WORST ENDING IN CINEMA HISTORY?  Oh, you saw Skyline also?  Wow, welcome to the club…we hold recovery meetings every other Wednesday in the church at 8pm.  What I’m saying is, this movie is horrendous.  The special effects alone would give this movie two beer mugs, but they obviously spent their entire budget on that one area.  Nothing on cast, script, story, and especially ending.  At one point I got a little hooked, thinking they were going for a Cloverfield vibe: what is going on, why are the aliens here, how will the cast survive, how will humanity even exist after this horrific attack, etc.  Then I came to realize that not only was the movie not going to answer any of these questions, it was going to wait until I least expected it and vomit on my face while I watched.  Seriously, the end is like the writer got drunk and fell asleep in the middle of writing the most childish excuse for an action sequence ever, then woke up hung over and realized the script was due IMMEDIATELY.  So rather than actually finish it, he just stumbled into work smelling like Vodka and piss and handed it in.  Then, rather than actually proof-read said embarrassing script, the director went ahead and said, “ACTION!”  So, take that for what you will, but you will not be happy if you watch this.  You may be confused, most likely be angry, and possibly enraged at the terrible lines the cast pretends to “act” out, but you will definitely not be happy.  Watch this at your own peril…and don’t blame me if you want to stare into a nuclear explosion through a telescope in rage after you do.  Oh yeah, that’s in the movie also, and it’s as sad as the idea of an actor staring into a telescope directly at a nuclear explosion and surviving without a scratch sounds like it should be in your head.

Hereafter (2010)

(PG-13) 129 mins

Plot Summary: A drama centered on three people–a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy–who are touched by death in different ways.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Writer: Peter Morgan

Stars: Matt DamonCécile De France, and Bryce Dallas Howard

Best Boy Grip (London): Dean Morris

Best Boy Grip (San Francisco): Doug Wall

CraigMakk:  (Worth Watching)  This movie is worth watching if you are at all interested in religion, heaven, the afterlife, or any related keyword, regardless of your belief systems. Matt Damon does an excellent job portraying the conflicted psychic who has trouble seeing the gift of helping others through the curse of having to bear the burden that comes with it. The young child, Marcus, and the French woman, Marie, are interesting counterpoints as those suffering with losses of very different kinds. However, the biggest failing in Hereafter is the inexplicably slow and lumbering pace at which it approaches the finish line. It seems as though the writer was more interested in setting up all the characters and their trials and tribulations than he was with writing any form of resolution for the characters as people. Thus, you are left feeling as though you watched a prequel without actually seeing the movie itself. And don’t get me started on the actual ending….trust me, if you haven’t decided on your feelings toward this movie before then, be prepared to hurl the Blu-Ray out the window to see if God himself can save the disc from being damaged (Spoiler Alert: he won’t.). Either way, this is truly a movie that falls into the description of  “for fans of the subject matter”…or Matt Damon fans, of course. Damn, can that guy act!

Serious Jest:  (Don’t Bother)  I think CraigMakk is so blinded by his love for Damon that he overrated this movie.  I will usually watch any film in which Damon stars, but this was the first time I was disappointed.  While I don’t agree with CraigMakk’s rating, I second almost everything else he wrote.  The acting is top-notch, but the movie is all slow, plodding setup and very little delivery.  The ending left me with theater blue balls.

“Fans of the subject matter” may like this film, but to me, it felt like I was watching an infomercial for a psychic hotline…an infomercial that “proves” its point solely with 3 testimonials.  Don’t get me wrong…I believe in life after death, and I’m not a total disbeliever of the possibility of psychic abilities…but the problem with this movie was that it waffled between trying to sell these points and using them as a backdrop for the real plot.  As a result, both were half-assed.  Too bad, because there were some moments of brilliance.  I especially liked the flood scene, and the scenes related to the cooking class.

Pandorum (2009)

(R) 108 mins

Synopsis: Two crew members are stranded on a spacecraft and quickly – and horrifically – realize they are not alone. Two astronauts awaken in a hyper-sleep chamber aboard a seemingly abandoned spacecraft. It’s pitch black, they are disoriented, and the only sound is a low rumble and creak from the belly of the ship. They can’t remember anything: Who are they? What is their mission?

Director: Christian Alvart 
Writers: Travis Milloy (screenplay), Travis Milloy (story), & Christian Alvart (story)
Stars: Dennis QuaidBen Foster and Cam Gigandet 
Best Boy Grip: Malte Kneib
CraigMakk (Free-View) I’m not sure what this movie was really trying to do. When it first started up, it literally looked like a SyFy-developed project. My first thought was, “Oh no, Ben Foster, what’re you doing with your career.” But as the movie played on, it got a little more interesting. Not enough to fully recommend the movie, mind you, but definitely enough to say that you won’t be totally angry if it’s on TV and you end up getting hooked in. The creatures are relatively creepy, but like all good monster movies, it’s about the horrors of humanity. And trust me, that’s not a spoiler. The very end is worth the price of admission (which  admittedly, is free) alone, and Ben Foster does what he does best while Dennis Quaid leaves you wishing for more Inner Space. Check it out, but don’t expect too much…there are much better space horror movies out there for you, like Spaceballs or Star Trek: The Voyage Home.

Sucker Punch (2011)

(PG-13) 110 mins

Plot Summary: A young girl is institutionalized by her abusive stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the mental facility.

Directors: Zack Snyder

Writers: Zack Snyder (screenplay & story) and Steve Shibuya (screenplay)

Stars:  Emily BrowningVanessa Hudgens and Abbie Cornish

Best Boy Grip: Rob Brady

CraigMakk:  (Worth Watching)  This movie confused me on so many levels. First off, the commercials convinced me it was a geek’s dream movie. Hot chicks in school girl uniforms, wielding everything from machine guns to katanas to mechs and more, fighting demons and dragons and zombie Nazis and more, all in a multi-level “Inception-esque” dream world to find five trophies very similar to your average video game “Boss Battle” trope. Still with me? Exactly….of course you aren’t. This movie tried to do so much that it ultimately failed at everything. Well, almost everything. I literally lost track of the main characters halfway through the movie, and I’m pretty sure I may have dozed off during some key “character development”  dialogue. But if you are willing to take the plot, the acting, the character interactions, and the  ending out of play, godDAMN this movie has some amazing set pieces! The Visual Effects team makes up more than every other team in the credit combined…including cast. But who cares, because the effects were pretty amazing, the fight sequences were insane, and the chicks…did I mention they were hot? So basically, as far as a movie, this piece of trash is barely a “Don’t Bother”…but as showpiece for your sweet HDTV and sound system, this thing is a definite rental. So to be fair, I decided Sucker Punch levels out comfortably at “Worth Watching”…so hurry up and go watch it, before your brain remembers what a good movie is supposed to look like.

Serious Jest:  (Must See)  Oh boy…did I screw up here…looks like I’m going to have to pull back the curtain a bit on our podcast to explain myself.  If you listened to the 2011 ManCave Awards during Episode 6: Pop Bottles, we selected this film as our Most Disappointing Movie of 2011.  However, I think we admitted on the show at some point that, for some movies, only one of us had seen them.  This was the case for Sucker Punch.  CraigMakk had seen it, and told me how disappointed he was, versus his expectations.  I agreed that I was excited about seeing this film, based on its previews, and if it was as bad a movie as CraigMakk described it, it had to be the Most Disappointing Movie of 2011.    Since I was supposed to announce the winner of this category, I really sold our choice.  I said that the film “ended up sucking” and “fell flat on its face”…then I recently watched it (I added my review to this post in April 2012).  I have to admit that, on some level, I wanted to hate this movie, in order to justify our choice…so I wouldn’t have to eat crow like I’m doing now.  Instead, I ended up a Sucker Punch fan, happily scarfing down my crow pie.

It’s important that you understand from the outset that this film is not about dragons, machine guns, katanas, mechs, demons, or zombie Nazis.  Instead, it is first and foremost about a young woman’s quest to return home from a terrible, cruel place, and overcoming terrible situations through will, introspection, and the power of the mind.  This could have been a much darker movie, focusing on the insane asylum, and a bunch of crazy, disheveled, medicated chicks trying to escape…but Snyder and Shibuya found a much more imaginative and entertaining way to tell their story.  As I said above, the movie isn’t about dragons, machine guns, katanas, mechs, demons, or zombie Nazis…but if you can work those things into it, why wouldn’t you?  Why not infuse the flick with martial arts, bombs, a high-class-whorehouse theme, awesome special effects and camera work, and a cool soundtrack?  Why not transform the girls into sexy, confident, dressed up ass-kickers?

I can see how the brilliance of this film can be lost on some viewers.  If you go in expecting a blockbuster action flick, you may focus more on the great audio/visual aesthetics, and not pay attention to the little nuances and references in the script that are so critical to really appreciating the movie’s intelligence.

Not only was I wrong about the movie sucking, but it didn’t exactly fall flat on its face, either.  It took about $82 million to make this movie, and as of December 2011, it had grossed about $90 million worldwide.

I will concede, however, that the PG-13 rating, a few cliche lines, and the casting choices for the patients gave this movie an intended-for-teenage-girls feel at times.  Also, character development is thin, except for Browning’s character.  According to IMDBAmanda SeyfriedEmma Stone, and Angelina Jolie were attached to this film at some point.  Too bad they didn’t end up in this movie, because I feel that those three would have added credibility, veteran experience, and individual character beyond their roles.

Still, I was pretty impressed with Browning, who capably harnessed passion and non-verbal cues to convey the internal struggle that is so central to this film.  I was completely captivated by her, but I didn’t even realize until later that she didn’t speak a line until about 20 minutes into the movie, despite clearly being the centerpiece of all of those important, telling opening scenes.  Additionally, she sang three of the featured songs on the film’s very strong soundtrack, including the cover of The Eurythmics‘ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”  This gorgeous young Aussie is very talented.

Another actor who displayed great non-verbal affect was Gerard Plunkett, who embodied greed, callousness, abuse of power, and dishonesty, with very few words, as the evil stepfather.  Also, Scott Glenn was awesome in his David Carradine-like role of the Wise Man.

The clear standout in this film, though, was Oscar Isaac.  From low-budget, fast-talking hustler to ruthless, angry pimp, this guy was everything you could have wanted out of Blue Jones.  I’m mad I didn’t think to nominate him for our list of Top 5 Villains We’d Rather See a Movie About Than the Hero, on Episode 10 of the podcast.

Moon (2009)

(R) 97 mins

Synopsis: Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet’s power problems.

Director: Duncan Jones

Writers: Duncan Jones (story), Nathan Parker

Stars: Sam RockwellKevin Spacey and Dominique McElligott

Best Boy Grip: Paul Starkey

CraigMakk: (Rental) This movie is crazy. Aside from the fact that it won numerous awards in Britain, and was released in limited theaters in the U.S., Moon is a movie that seems like it shouldn’t even exist. The premise is kind of crazy, and is essentially Sam Rockwell’s “Castaway” story. He pulls it off in every way, playing a compelling dual role that actually sells you that it could be two different people. I am a fan of crazy roles where actors get the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, and that helps to carry the relatively traditional sci-fi clone premise through to the end. And don’t forget that Kevin Spacey plays an uncomfortably caring GERTY (otherwise known as this millennium’s HAL). All in all, this movie is crazy enough to watch on Netflix, and it will definitely make you join the Rockwell Crazy  Train.

Confessions of a Superhero (2007)

(R) 92 mins

SynopsisChronicles the lives of four mortal men and women who work as characters on the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard.

Director:  Matthew Ogens

Starring:  Jennifer WengerChristopher Dennis, Maxwell Allen, and Joe McQueen

Best Boy Grip: Tadd Kroneck

CraigMakk:  (Theater)  This movie is an intriguing look at the lifestyle of those who make a living dressing as superheroes outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  While that may not sound interesting, trust me on this…it is. The movie gives you some insight into the chances people take to become famous in Hollywood, whether they fail or succeed. While you may be a bit uncomfortable with the commitment Superman brings to his role, or a bit sad over the effort Hulk has to put in, or a bit scared from the insanity oozing from the real-world Batman, the stand-out fan favorite is clearly Wonder Woman: with her adorable looks and her down-South sensibilities, she will have you cheering for her to succeed from beginning to end. At the end, you will believe a man can fly…or at the very least that a woman can be hot and a geek all at the same time.

Serious Jest:  (Rental)  I am so glad CraigMakk pushed me to watch this movie so hard.  I had my first real-life encounter with the Hollywood Boulevard performers a few years ago when I first visited L.A.  I have to admit, my first impression was to question why someone would go out there and do what they do, when they’re not even paid by the Theater or other surrounding businesses to do so.  I also questioned why anybody would pay money to take a picture with an obviously fake version of a famous character.  I was with my good friend and Fraternity Brother, Pedro Hernandez, who by then was already a regularly performing stand-up comedian (having gone on tour with Drew Carey in Afghanistan for the troops) and a former cast member of BET’s Hell Date.  Pedro quickly explained this strange world to me, and ended by saying, “As crazy as any of this may seem, I won’t ever disrespect any of these people.  They’re out here hustling, instead of sitting on their ass complaining about how hard it is to make it in Hollywood.”  That resonated with me then…this film drove that point home.

Despite the fact that all four of the main subjects share the same crazy job, they are very different people, with very different philosophies and approaches.  Ogens chose a perfect combination of actors to contrast; it’s awesome how, often, two of the actors are the most similar in one respect, but also the most different in another.

Documentaries will seldom get 5 mugs from me.  While I may consider a documentary a must-see, and worth 4 stars, it is unlikely that I will consider a documentary a must-see-right-away, or a must-own.  This one came close to getting 5 from me, though.  Maybe if I lived in L.A….