Monday, June 21, 2010

6/21/10: To Infinite and Beyond Jonah Hex

TOY STORY 3 (2010) ****1/2
D: Lee Unkrich. S: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, Timothy Dalton.

Years before the new regime took the reigns at Disney, Toy Story 3 was in active develop and I believe in early production.  It was to be a direct-to-video release.  One of the first things done was to cease production on the sequel, scrap everything and turn the film over to Pixar.   I shudder to think how that one would have turned out because the film that Pixar has given us is a true Hollywood rarity.   A sequel, let alone a part three, that is not only excellent but is better than the original and the sequel that followed. 

Andy is now grown up and is about to leave for college.  He must decide what to do with his collection of toys, store them in the attic or throw them away.   A series of accidents results in the entire gang being donated to a local daycare center and an all new, funny, smart, touching, thought-provoking and overwhelmingly satisfying adventure begins.

Other than a few story elements, this is a great film.   There are a number of memorable set pieces and one in particular that may very well have you on the edge of despair.   The characters are still just as endearing and engaging as the first day we laid eyes upon them.   Hopefully their adventures will continue.  This isn't being pushed as the last chapter in a trilogy but if it were it would be a fine conclusion.  

This is the film to beat for Best Animated Feature in 2010.

JONAH HEX (2010) *1/2
D: Jimmy Hayward. S: Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich, Aidan Quinn.

The only good thing that will come of this is that you'll probably want to read the comic instead.  I know there's a Jonah Hex film out there but this is not it.   Marginally better than  Ghost Rider and thankfully very short, 81 minutes.

Johan Hex is a supernatural bounty hunter in the Old West.  He has the ability to talk to the dead.  He seeks vengeance against the man who killed his family and scarred him for life.    Sounds like your typically oater with a supernatural twist.

Unfortunately, everyone is wasted in probably would have been better if everyone was "wasted."  Brolin is sleepwalking, Fox if forgettable and Malkovich is yawn inducing.

For 80 minutes, I was bored.   The film makes no attempt to explain how Hex got his powers, let alone clearly explain if the guy actually died or not and came back from the dead.

Oh, well.  Nuff said.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

06-11-10 - Totally '80s Weekend!!! Karate Kid to the A-Team!!!!

THE KARATE KID (2010) ***1/2
D: Harald Zwart. S: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson.

When it was announced that a remake of one the seminal films of the '80s was in the works and would star Jaden Smith, I was more bothered by the fact that the film was skewing too young to the point it would be hard to relate to then that it was being remade in the first place.

For the most part, my misgivings were unfounded as "The Karate Kid" is one of the better remakes Hollywood has churned out in the past decade.   This is mostly due to the performances of Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan.    Jaden holds his own and is as charming and charismatic as his father.   You root for him but unlike the original you don't connect with him.  Jackie Chan, while no Pat Morita and in know way is trying to be Miyagi, is excellent as Mr. Han.  Where the original really delved into Daniel's life and his relationship with Miyagi, here they really make an attempt to help get across the philosophies and teachings of the chinese culture. 

The story is fairly similar to the original.  Young boy is supplanted to a new home and is immediately a fish out of water.  He runs into some trouble with the local bullies and is eventually befriended and mentored by the apartment complex's maintenance man.  Finally, he takes on the bullies in a championship tournament. 

There are elements you will recognize from the original and the subtle twists that were made don't feel forced or showy.   However, because it is a remake and if you are familiar with the storyline you know how things will unfold.  As a result, there isn't any suspense as to how things would unfold. 

I will say that the fights in this one are much more brutal and impactful then any of the ones in the original films, even more than "The Karate Kid-Part II."    It can get a bit awkward seeing a 12 year old getting the crap kicked out of him.  Also, Mr. Li, John Kreese in the original, is far more menacing and unfortunately not enough is done with that other then dropping him into classic scenes such as the order to sweep the leg.    

When it ends I didn't leave with that feel-good swelling of emotion I remember having as a 13 year old but I was still entertained by it.   This is a Karate Kid for a new generation.   One that will probably have the same impact as the original had on the one before it.

THE A-TEAM (2010) ***
D: Joe Carnahan. S: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton Jackson, Sharlto Copley.

In the classic '80s hit TV series, a band of mercenaries come to the aid of people who need help taken out some bad guys.   Every week, Hannibal, Face, Murdoch and BA would entertain families as they deliver family-friendly action.

Fast forward to 2010, The A-Team is back, badder, crazier and more violent than ever.  

The film almost serves as a prequel to the series.   Pre-title sequence reveals how the team first came together and how BA's fear of flying came to be.   We see the crime they did not commit and their escape from maximum security prisons.  The film concludes with a modern take on the famous intro.

The leads are well cast and the fact that it's a movie allows them to really chew things up.  Copley's "Murdock" is far crazier than he was in the TV show.   People actually get killed, one of the reasons that I stopped watching the show because as a teen I thought it was getting rediculous that no one was ever killed no matter how epic the crash or explosion.

The film is chock full of action with only occasional inspired sequences but it's stuff we've seen before in countless other films.  Unfortunately it is fairly predictable, the misfortune of having seen too many movies.  

It was great to finally see "The A-Team" on the big screen.    I just wish it was better.

PS - Stay through to the end of the credits.  There's some deleted scenes that fans will greatly appreciate.  They probably wouldn't fit into the tone of the film so it was probably better that they left them out.