Tomorrowland

May 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie
Directed by: Brad Bird (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”)
Written by: Damon Lindelof (“World War Z”) and Brad Bird (“Ratatouille”)

Vagueness in a film’s marketing is something we’re all going to have to get used to as moviegoers from now on. From ambiguous trailers to the ridiculous amount of press a leaked photo gets to the cast and crew having to sign discourse agreements before actually shooting a single scene, cinematic secrecy is becoming all too familiar these days for studios who want very little revealed before a film’s release (it’s odd since spoilers basically start hitting the internet minutes later, but we regress). There is a problem, however, when a film’s mystery frustratingly seeps into its storytelling and never lets up. Such is the case with “Tomorrowland,” a sci-fi movie so concerned about giving away too much too soon, that before we know it, at least a third of the film is over and we still have no idea what the heck is happening – nor do we care anymore.

Far less creative than it thinks it is, “Tomorrowland” takes the central premise of “making the world a better place” and runs its mediocre narrative into the ground. Britt Robertson (“The Longest Ride”) stars as Casey Newton, an intelligent young girl witha positive outlook on life who is invited to experience the utopian world of Tomorrowland by way of a magical pin given to her by an android named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). Athena has been in search of individuals driven by hope for the future and Casey’s just the girls she’s been looking for (although calling her special in any way is an overstatement). Inventor Frank Walker (George Clooney as an adult, Thomas Robinson as a kid) once fit that description when he was younger, but now as an adult, he is far less certain that Tomorrowland is a reality. When Casey asks him to take her there, he scoffs at the idea before he realizes they are the only two people who can save the world from apocalyptic doom.

Keeping things obscure is one thing, but director and co-writer Brad Bird (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”) and co-writer Damon Lindelof (“World War Z”) do it in such an annoying fashion, you never feel like any of the ideas they present to you are important enough to embrace at more than face value. A myriad of questions are asked, none of which are answered. In fact, any question a character utters throughout most of the film is sidestepped sloppily and without regard to compelling dialogue between the characters. At one point Clooney’s character asks, “Do I have to explain everything? Can’t you just be amazed and move on?” It’s hard not to imagine Lindelof writing this little exchange in the script while snickering at his computer. To answer your question, Damon, no you don’t have to explain everything, but at least give us a reason to stay around and find out what big surprises you have in store for us (spoiler: there are no big surprises). Also, if you honestly think some “amazing” special effects (these are average, at best) are going to be enough to get us through the mess you’ve written, your characters in “Tomorrowland” aren’t the only ones living in another world.

Monsters vs. Aliens

March 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie
Directed by: Rob Letterman (“Shark Tale”) and Conrad Vernon (“Shrek 2”)
Written by: Maya Forbes (“The Rocker”), Wallace Wolodarsky (“The Rocker”), Rob Letterman (“Shark Tale”), Jonathan Aibel (“Kung Fu Panda”), Glenn Berger (“Kung Fu Panda”) 

As 3-D technology becomes more and more visually satisfying with each retina it deceives, screenwriters are still kicking up dust trying to keep up.

I’m not talking about gimmicky offerings like the “Hannah Montana” concert movie or “My Bloody Valentine in 3-D,” which were a waste of perfectly good pairs of custom shades. Instead, it’s the animated family film that has been getting majorly digitized over the last couple of years. The latest of the bunch, “Monsters vs. Aliens,” is reasonably elaborate but falls under the same rating system all 3-D films should be judged. Ask yourself this: If you take away the 3-D graphics, can the movie carry itself on its own?

While “MvA” doesn’t fail as terribly as other recent 3-D animations like “Chicken Little” or “Fly Me to the Moon,” there’s quite a bit lacking in original ideas and overall story to make it anywhere close to out of this world. Think of this as a less-interesting version of what Guillermo del Toro was probably dreaming of when he was in pre-K.

In “MvA,” human existence as we know it is threatened by a ruthless alien named Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), who plans to take over the globe with countless clones. To defeat Gallaxhar, the U.S. government recruits a band of monsters they have imprisoned over the years and sends them out as Earth’s last hope. The group is led by Susan AKA Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon), the newest of the monster clan who is transformed from a mild-mannered bride-to-be to a woman the size of a skyscraper.

Coming along for the epic battle: Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), the Missing Link (Will Arnett), and last but definitely not least B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a one-eyed shapeless mass of blue goop who, along with the voice work of Stephen Colbert as the U.S. President, keep the laughs from dying out altogether.

Taking classic films like “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” “The Blob,” “Frankenstein,” and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” and churning them out for kids who thought Pixar’s “Monster’s Inc.” was scary, “MvA” is harmless fantasy sci-fi with a few attention-grabbing graphics wasted on some joyless (excluding B.O.B.) characters.

Street Kings

April 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie
Directed by: David Ayer (“Harsh Times”)
Written by: James Ellroy (“L.A. Confidential”), Kurt Wimmer (“Ultraviolet”), Jaime Moss (debut)

If the name David Ayer is anywhere in a film’s credits, it would probably be safe to say the theme of the movie is going to revolve around corrupt cops. In his new film “Street Kings,” the director hands over the writing responsibilities (even after he did such a great job with 2005’s “Harsh Times”) to a trio of screenwriters who fail to understand the meaning of multilayered characters.

In the last seven years as a writer, Ayer has given us “Training Day,” “Dark Blue,” “S.W.A.T.” and “Harsh Times,” the last of which he was credited as both a screenwriter and first-time director. Now, in his sophomore film, Ayer’s lands some solid punches with the boys in blue, but doesn’t give us enough depth from the main and supporting characters. In “Training Day,” he transformed Denzel Washington into a crooked LAPD detective, a role which landed him his second Academy Award of his career. He also gave us an incredibly unique character study with Christian Bale as an ex-Ranger turned police officer in “Harsh Times,” one of the most overlooked performances of that year.

In “Street Kings,” the story follows LAPD vice detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves, who has come along way in the acting department since hamming it up most of his career), a trigger-happy cop whose on the right side of the law, but likes to do his job more like a renegade instead of a police officer. Think Russell Crowe’s Bud White in “L.A. Confidential,” which was also written by James Ellroy. Basically, he’s the jury, judge, and executioner.

When Tom uses his brute techniques to wipe out a couple of Korean kidnappers, he is thrust into the L.A. limelight as a heroic cop moving up in the ranks. Although his commanding officer Capt. Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker) likes the way he does his job, others, like Tom’s former partner Terrance Washington (Terry Crews), let internal affairs know there’s a guy on the force that isn’t exactly on the up and up. Now internal affairs officer Capt. James Biggs (Hugh Laurie) is watching Tom’s every move, which, of course, makes Tom want to confront his ex-partner for ratting him out.

During the confrontation, which takes place in a local convenient store, Tom and Terrance find themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time as they are ambushed by two masked gunmen who fill Officer Washington’s body with machine-gun ammo before Tom even knows what’s happening. But with the history between the two officers, Tom isn’t in the most ideal place, especially with Capt. Biggs asking questions.

Capt. Wander and the rest of the department, however, quickly step in to clean up the mess. “We can’t afford to lose you,” Wander tells Tom. “You’re the tip of the spear. Who’s going to hold back the animals?” Thus, corruption begets corruption and so on as Tom attempts to steer clear of Capt. Biggs and search for Terrance’s killers.

Unintentionally funny at times, “Street Kings” is a complex story with unrefined characters. With an entire cast basically playing bad or dishonest cops, there’s no real sense of conflict even between the cops and the thugs in the ghetto. And what fun can be had when everyone is on the same team? Even with semiautomatics, the story sputters in the film’s final anticlimactic act and quickly turns from complex to comical.