Movie 43 (2013)

Movie 43 (2013)

Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid), an insane and desperate screenwriter, manages to sneak his way into an interview with producer Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear) for a movie pitch. What follows, as Griffin listens mostly at gunpoint, is a series of loosely-connected short films that Wessler thinks will be his cash cow. There is a story of a man with testicles on his neck who goes on a blind date, one about two men kidnapping a leprechaun and the consequences of doing so, one of a woman who proposes the ultimate gift (which may make you more uncomfortable than you think), and one in which Robin (Batman’s sidekick) is on the Gotham City speed-dating circuit. These are not the only skits, but in the end, they all culminate into a film that is reminiscent of others in its genre such as Kentucky Fried Movie.

There were a ton of stars in this film. Aside from Greg Kinnear and Dennis Quaid, there was also Common (the rapper, from Hell On Wheels), Hugh Jackman, Will Sasso, Richard Gere and others.

That having been said – this film should have been AMAZING. As it stands, it felt like I essentially watched an entire episode of Saturday Night Live…and not their best skits, either. Some of them admittedly made me laugh out loud but most were just potty humor. Poop and piss jokes, literally, comprised most of the skits in the film. The one that had me laughing the most was the leprechaun skit but only because of the novelty of seeing Gerard Butler as a leprechaun spouting obscenities at Johnny Knoxville and Sean William Scott that’d make a sailor blush.

It may be worth watching, if only once, on Netflix or somewhere else you can find it on the cheap. I suspect that mostly teens may find this funny, but for the rest of us it’s so-so (and not as good as Kentucky Fried Movie, either….not by a long shot).

JOE Rating: ★★

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The Wolverine (2013)

The Wolverine (2013)

A mentally-wounded Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) takes to the hermit life in a rugged, backwoods mountain town after the events in X-Men: The Last Stand. When he is approached by associates of an old friend from Japan to come to Tokyo, he reluctantly agrees to fulfill a dying man’s wish. Once there, he finds himself embroiled in a fight between ninja and Yakuza on which the fate of a young woman, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), rests.

I have to admit that I had a lot of apprehension going in to see this film. X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine had both really, REALLY let me down. In a big way. So, I didn’t really have much in the way of expectations.

With that said, the movie turned out to be actually good, and I was pleasantly surprised, especially since a lot of it was true to the Miller/Claremont miniseries from the 1980’s.

We get to see the badass Wolverine/Logan that we want to see, slicing up Yakuza and ninjas in all his adamantium glory. BUT – even though we get to see him slice up SOME ninjas, I really wanted to see more of a fight instead of having to see Logan turned into a parody of a porcupine. C’mon, man, where was your rage?

There were many nods to the comics, as I said before, , which was a nice touch and something that Fox has been lacking lately. This time, they did a lot of things correctly and they also made it accessible enough for casual viewers who just want to see a good action flick or want to see shirtless Hugh Jackman flex his muscles.

The characters were all really nice, and the movie being set in Japan gave the aesthetics a distinct quality that was very appealing to the eye.

All in all, this movie is decent. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely not X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Go see it if you liked the earlier X-Men films and wondered what happened to the once-mighty franchise. This installment definitely makes some amends.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Butter (2011)

Butter (2011)

Butter is a way of life in Iowa, and the king of butter carving, Bob (Ty Burrell), is retiring. Angry that Bob isn’t trying to use his butter-carving talents to get into politics, his too-ambitious Sarah-Palin-clone of a wife Laura (Jennifer Garner) steps up despite never butter-carving before to try and fill his shoes. However, there is a little girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) who discovers her own butter-carving talents who just may undo everything Laura has tried to achieve.

I had no idea what to expect with this film. I had never seen it advertised and the premise seemed hokey, but interesting, so I gave it a shot. It was okay, but it wasn’t the best film ever.

The thing that intrigued me was the butter carving aspect. The whole “Midwest” thing has been done to death with these kinds of movies, but the butter aspect played itself out really early on in the movie. Some of the sculptures were neat, but the whole thing went way over my head because some of the sculptures were unbelievable just in terms of character achievement.

The acting was pretty good, overall. Most of the big-name talent was wasted, though. (There was even a bit part played by Hugh Jackman).

The story was pretty weak. I felt like it wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be an allegory, a comedy/farce or a drama. There wasn’t enough heart for it to be an allegory or a drama, and there weren’t enough funny parts for it to be a great comedy. By themselves, the main characters were boring. Bob is a cuckolded husband character while Laura is, as I wrote above, an over-achieving Sarah-Palin clone. Destiny is an okay character, but her development arc gets confused with that of Laura’s. The stripper character, Brooke (Olivia Wilde), was funny but she was tossed into the mix as well in an unbelievable way (the same old boring stripper clone who is uneducated and poor and would shit on someone’s lawn). The way everyone was introduced and interacted was just chaotic.

Overall, this movie wasn’t groundbreaking in any way. There are a couple of scenes that made me chuckle. Olivia Wilde is nice to look at. Seeing Hugh Jackman as a car salesman is kind of funny. So, you may be entertained for one viewing.

JOE Rating: ★★★

The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige (2006) Original Theatrical Release: October 20, 2006
Director: Christopher Nolan

Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and his wife Julia McCullough (Piper Perabo) along with Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are all assistants to a master magician, all trying to learn his secrets. When something goes awry during a performance and Julia dies, Robert blames Alfred for her death and the two become bitter enemies and eventually master magicians themselves. They are in a magical arms-race, where one tries to outdo the other for supremacy on the stage. When Alfred comes up with a trick the likes of which nobody has seen, Robert becomes obsessed with trying to discover his secret – leading him to dark experiments that no man was ever meant to tamper with.

This is one of those films that sort of flew under the radar. Christopher Nolan hit it big with Batman Begins, but not many people even remember this film or talk about it despite its star power and cool premise. It also came out at the same time as another magician-centric movie called The Illusionist, which some folks consider to be the better film between the two magic movies.

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla was a huge bonus in this movie for me, as well as the always-lovely Scarlett Johansson’s role as Olivia Wenscombe (ironically also a secret agent in this movie, just like she was as Black Widow in Iron Man and The Avengers respectively)….but those are just on a personal level. Bale and Jackman are great at going head-to-head with each other and this is one of Jackman’s best serious dramatic roles to date. It has a heavy sci-fi theme that once you get into is actually really great, and it ends up unfolding like a sort of parable.

Go see it for the actors. Go see it for the great direction by Nolan. Go see it for David Bowie and Michael Caine. It’s good stuff. The only downside, for me, was that it was maybe a little too long in letting the story unfold but on the other hand,  it constantly keeps you guessing and keeps you on your toes.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Prestige

Swordfish (2001)

Swordfish (2001)

Original Theatrical Release: June 8, 2001
Director: Dominic Sena

Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) just wants a normal life with his daughter, but being a convicted computer hacker is putting a damper on those desires and he can’t afford the legal fees to battle for her custody. In comes Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), a cold-as-ice leader of a counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell, who wants to hire Jobson for his hacking skills in order to break into the government mainframes to get a $9.5 billion payoff with old DEA money that’s been in an encrypted account for years. Jobson has to choose to stay clean or break the rules one more time for a final payoff that might just get his daughter back.

First off, we need to get one thing straight: Watching people type on screen is not extremely entertaining to watch, even if there is some dramatic music playing in the background. Unfortunately, typing/hacking sequences are what the movie is mostly comprised of. If the director and writers had included many more scenes with typing only, the film would be much worse off.

There are a lot of logic problems in the film, too,  and I almost hate watching computer-hacker movies because inevitably, they are written by people who seem to know nothing about the internet or computers, at all. Not that I’m an expert, either – but if even I can tell that what they’re doing is ridiculous, then that’s a huge disconnect.

The biggest draw to this film is pretty much the star power, besides the sleaze-factor. We have Don Cheadle, Halle Berry, Vinnie Jones, Hugh Jackman and John Travolta who make an otherwise run-of-the-mill film sparkle a bit more than it would have, otherwise.  Most of the characters are pretty intriguing, too – so kudos to the writers and actors for that.

The pacing of this film is actually pretty good (despite my reservations about the typing scenes) and there are lots of cool explosions and some legit-tense moments. Overall, it’s your pretty standard action-thriller without a ton of actual action.

Let me know what you think.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Swordfish

Van Helsing (2004)

Van Helsing (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: May 7, 2004
Director: Stephen Sommers

Van Helsing stars Hugh Jackman as the movie’s title character. Gabriel Van Helsing is sort of a superhero/vigilante who travels the world hunting monsters that prey on the innocent. Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) hears about his monster-hunting prowess and she summons him to Transylvania to help battle Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who her family has been fighting for centuries.

This is one of those movies that COULD have been really cool. I liked the idea of Van Helsing as a Blade/Punisher mashup set in the past with all sorts of steampunk-style sci-fi weapons. Unfortunately, writer/director Stephen Sommers kind of wasted his chance to really shine.

For one thing, there were WAY too many monsters. We open with Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde as well as Frankenstein and his monster. Then we move on to Dracula and other vampires, werewolves and other creatures. How does anyone even survive in this world, let alone not know that Van Helsing is there to save them and is NOT murdering folks (as he’s been framed for doing). Focus on one, or maybe two….but as a viewer I was overwhelmed.

Some of the action is cool, but most of it is too cartoonish to have any real weight. The battles are sometimes too laden with chaos to follow very closely and a disconnect happens. I never really believed Van Helsing was in danger during the battles due to its campy nature.

If the story had been amped up to make it more believable as to why all these creatures came together or exist (yes, I know, monsters aren’t believable anyway but they need to be believable in the context of the film) and maybe if there had been a darker tone instead of trying to make Helsing seem like Errol Flynn playing Robin Hood (lots of rope swinging in this film, by the way), it could have easily been a great movie.

As it is, it’s still entertaining to watch if you just want a mindless action flick. Kate Beckinsale is drop-dead gorgeous (I’m sure many people think the same thing about Hugh Jackman, too) so it’s fun to watch these attractive people fight ugly monsters. Overall, I think the film relied entirely too much on CGI/special effects.

Richard Roxburgh had no bite as Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster was just weird. The werewolves were so-so. The most interesting villain in the movie, to me, was Jekyll/Hyde…but then again, it’s hard to mess him up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Van Helsing