G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

August 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans
Directed by: Stephen Sommers (“The Mummy”)
Written by: Stuart Beattie (“Australia”), David Elliot (“Four Brothers”), and Paul Lovett (“Four Brothers”)

While video-game adaptations for movies are still finding their way to the big screen, Hollywood has deemed it necessary to also turn more toy lines into feature films. As if “Transformers” wasn’t enough of an unnecessary ploy, welcome “G.I. Joe” to the fray.

Call it pure, mindless summer fun for the escapist in all of us, but where the movie lacks severely is in a fleshed-out narrative and memorable special effects. Still, at least “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” stays true to its original toy soldiers by making every one of its characters is as synthetic as the Hasbro toy they spawned from.

In the film, a top-secret Special Forces brigade known as G.I. Joe (short for Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity) is sent on a mission to find a massively destructive weapon that has fallen into the hands of the mysterious Cobra organization.

Channing Tatum (“Fighting”) stars as Duke, who along with his friend Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) become the newest members of the elite military group. Duke jumps on board since he is familiar with the femme fatale known as the Baroness (Sienna Miller) who is part of the evil plot to destroy the world.

For fans who collected the action figures or watched the 80s cartoon, there are plenty more characters carrying high-tech weapons that will probably transport you back to a time when melting things with a magnifying glass was considered the highlight of the weekend. But unless you know the entire mythology of the series, there’s really no reason to start learning about it now.

This isn’t rocket science we’re dealing with here. Basically, all anyone needs to know about “G.I. Joe” is that there are good guys and bad guys and a whole lot of fighting that needs to happen before the credits roll. This includes a tedious scene where about 100 vehicles are destroyed for what seems to be an eternity. There are also a couple of head-to-head ninja sequences between Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) that aren’t half bad.

Overall, “G.I. Joe” is one big cartoon of a movie. Depending on how invested you are in the franchise will make or break this visceral action-pack adventure for you.

Australia

November 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge!”)
Written by: Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge!”), Stuart Beattie (“30 Days of Night”), Ronald Harwood (“The Pianist”), Richard Flanagan (“The Sound of One Hand Clapping”)

To say “Australia” is structurally fragile is an understatement. The film is like the Sydney Opera House made of Styrofoam. Stand back far enough and you’ll swear it’s flawless. But cross the harbor for a closer look and the darned thing might topple over.

While director Baz Luhrmann has capture original beauty and character well before in 1996’s “Romeo and Juliet“ and 2001’s “Moulin Rouge!,” there’s nothing holding up his newest feature other than it’s extravagant production value and big-name leads.

Even then, ruggedly-handsome actor Hugh Jackman (“X-Men”) and Oscar-winning starlet Nicole Kidman (“The Hours”) seemed camouflaged in the Outback. There’s not much for them to do as two strangers, Lady Sarah Ashley, a British socialite, and Drover, a brute cattle driver, are thrust into the country’s Northern Territory pre-WWII to herd some 2,000 head of cattle from a ranch left to Lady Ashley after her husband’s murder. With King Carney (Bryan Brown), a ruthless businessman who wants to monopolize the beef industry, on their backs, Sarah and Drover must lead the livestock across sweeping landscapes all while protecting the life of an aboriginal child named Nullah (Brandon Walters).

Since Nullah’s mother has died and trackers are capturing aboriginal children and turn them over to the church so they can re-educate them and control the population (if you really want to see a great movie about this subject rent “Rabbit-Proof Fence”), Sarah and Dover take him along for the dusty cross-country adventure. From the very start, Luhrmann seems to profess a larger-than-life promise to the audience. It’s broken when his attempt at making a classic romance turns out to be more inelegant than it should be.

“Australia” does scream epic for its almost three-hour runtime, but mostly whimpers in inconsistently between fits of fusty emotion and gorgeous cinematography. Built on ambition alone, Luhrmann’s ode to Down Under isn’t guided to the level of films like “Gone with the Wind,” “Giant,” or in sentimentality’s case “The Wizard of Oz,” although it tries wholeheartedly. With some disorganized scripting by four talented screenwriters, “Australia” might well be the most disappointing film of the year.

30 Days of Night

June 6, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston
Directed by: David Slade (“Hard Candy”)
Written by: Steven Niles (debut), Stuart Beattie (“Collateral”) and Brian Nelson (“Hard Candy”)

In 2006, one of the most overlooked films of the year was also one of the most intense, distressing, and surprising thrillers imaginable. That film was called “Hard Candy,” and followed the twisted mind of a 14-year-old girl who is looking for revenge against a pedophile. The film was more so gratifying through its unsympathetic storytelling because it was made by David Slade, a first-time director. For those of us who go a chance to see the film, a new director seemed to be on the rise.

So, when Slade was announced to be at the helm of the graphic novel and vampire story “30 Days of Night,” one could only imagine how it would be time for the American-made horror film to get a much-needed boost by an exciting new filmmaker. Boy, were we dead wrong.

We won’t say Slade won’t come back to redeem himself (he just might surprise us again) but with “30 Days,” the legend of the vampire is not revamped in any way and simply plays out like any other monster movie made in the last five years. Just because it’s set on a beautiful Alaskan backdrop doesn’t necessarily mean it has improved the idea of the iconic characters.

The story begins in a remote town in Alaska where the sun has just set and will not return for an entire month. With no sunlight in the area, a group of raging vampires find their way to the snow-covered wasteland where they will have more than enough time to feast on humans before any sunrise. Josh Hartnett (“Resurrecting the Champ”) plays Eben Oslen, the town law enforcement, who watches as the vampires pick off citizens of the town one by one. Melissa George (“Turistas”) is Eben’s ex-girlfriend, who has missed the last flight out of the area and must now join forces with the small group of humans that remain to fend off the bloodthirsty gang of vamps.

In probably one of the most unconvincing roles in his career Danny Huston (“The Aviator”) takes on the role of Marlow, the leader of the neck-sucking demons who dress in black and scream like banshees when they’re ready to feed. The sounds that come out of their mouths are not as scary as they are annoying.

Dull, unoriginal and mindlessly written, “30 Days of Night” at first seems like its going for something as classic as John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece “The Thing” because of it’s setting and tone, but ends up more like John Carpenter’s dismal 1998 flick “Vampires.” Who really needs more of that?