Monday, April 26, 2010

A Reel Review: THE LOSERS

If THE LOSERS commits one single sin in its 90-minute hyperactive romp, it is that it tries to take itself too seriously. It is a comic book adaptation with all the laughs and ridiculousness necessary for a popcorn film, but tries a little too hard to be a serious contender while acting as a milkshake of every action franchise ever made.

A U.S. Special Forces team (we think) called “The Losers” is on a mission in Bolivia, when a case of good ethics gets in the way of the bloody mission. Led by Clay (Jeffery Dean Morgan), the team heads into exile as they are presumed dead in America, courtesy of supervillian Max (Jason Patric). Clay meets Aisha (a sexed up Zoe Saldana), who promises to help him and his team take revenge on Max. He and team, including Jensen (Chris Evans), Pooch (Columbus Short), and Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) then embark on a series of A-Team-esque missions and schemes to bring down Max before he can start a world war.

THE LOSERS suffers where the heart is, and that is the motivations of Clay and Aisha. Even though Aisha’s motivations are made clear towards the twisty and turny finale, it is a ho-hum moment that can be seen from a mile away. Both characters get most of the screen time, and they are meant to be the driving force that the rest of the team needs to rally around. With little time given to the development of characters, the heart and soul is AWOL. What also nearly kills the film is the bordering-upon-stupid supervillian, who serves as comic relief more than a despicable foe. With no hatred towards the villain, audiences couldn’t care less what would happen to him in the finale.

Where the characterizations fall short, the visuals and action sequences excel, even when they border upon silly. The action sequences, preceded by decent buildups and humor, come out of the screen in a hurry, and they are photographed and edited well so nothing is lost or confused. The scenes become a laugher after a while, and the film doesn’t seem to acknowledge the goofiness or camp of it all.

Morgan and Saldana get most of the screen time, and subsequent dialogue. Both actors do well with what they are given. The real gem is Chris Evans, who lights up the screen with laughs on every turn. Tragically, the rest of the team is underwritten and underdeveloped, and one too-many scenes are wedged in to try and force some depth. The real dud of the entire film is Jason Patric’s silly-assed villain, who is a paraody of Dr. Evil that no one will care about.

Director Sylvain White doesn’t seem to know if he wants to make a comedy or a serious film, and sort of indecision hurts THE LOSERS. Long-time moviegoers will immediately note the rip-offs from past franchises (THE A-TEAM, JAMES BOND, THE RIGHT STUFF), and just might roll their eyes now and then. Still, THE LOSERS never manages to bore or slow down too much. It’s fun and mostly satisfying. Just don’t commit a sin and take it too seriously.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reel News: Pixar/Disney plans

Disney/Pixar has finalized their release plans for the next two years, with three sequels and one original project on the horizon.

Looking ahead, 2012 will mark the first time Pixar will release two films theatrically in the same calender year. BRAVE is slated for release in June, and MONSTERS INC. 2 is set for November.

BRAVE follows the story of a princess (voiced by Reese Witherspoon), who seeks to shed her royal life and become the very first female archer.

Prior to those two films, up next for the animation juggernaut is TOY STORY 3 in June of this year, and CARS 2 in June 2011.

With the lack of originality in Hollywood these days, it's a bit sad that not even the creative deep well of Pixar can come up with more than one original story in three years.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reel News: The wonderful wizard of RDJ

The L.A. Times is reporting Robert Downey Jr. is in talks to star in a prequel to THE WIZARD OF OZ, rumored to be entitled THE GREAT POWERFUL.

Downey would star as The Wizard himself, and is to focus on his life prior to being whisked away to Oz in his balloon. The script is based on parts of L. Frank Baum's Oz books, and Sam Mendez is reportedly in talks to direct.

It's easy to cry blasphemy over Hollywood looking to expand (or cash in) on the popularity of Oz, especially when a lot of moviegoers groan over the word "prequel" these days. The bigger question is whether or not we're headed towards Downey overkill. Sure the guy is a hot item right now, but does he need to be cast in EVERYTHING? Based on his work in TROPIC THUNDER, he's probably just one step away from donning the dark skin again to play Obama in the eventual biopic. If anyone can pull off the required eccentric behavior of the Wiz, it is him. With no release date set yet, let's hope the world isn't tired of him come opening night.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reel News: STAR WARS coming to Glorious Blu-ray

The STAR WARS Saga is finally coming to the coveted Blu-ray format, according to Lucasfilms Director of Fan Relations, Steve Sansweet.

Sansweet let the Womp-rat out of the bag at the Chicago comic book convention over the weekend. The set is to be "a very full set of all six movies...with lots of extra material". He also promised lots of material that has "never been seen before". The release "won't be in the too distant future".

Long-time fans are probably hoping that George will finally clean out his closet and let out the much sought-after deleted scenes from A NEW HOPE in a proper format. On the same page, there is (ahem) hope that this set will include the Special Editions along with the Original Theatrical cuts.

The other group of cranky STAR WARS fans may just see this as just another way to line George's pockets with more moolah, as this will be the 3rd or 4th time the Saga has been released for home viewing. Providing the extra material is worthwhile, and the transfer is eye-popping, long-lines can be expected (whenever the release date will be) at stores (I'm assuming December). After all, STAR WARS is one of those films why they invented the glorious Blu-ray format in the first place.

Monday, April 12, 2010


In what is probably the very first full-length documentary film on The Doors, WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE utilizes never before seen footage backed by narration by Johnny Depp, and falls just short of providing fans and non-fans with enlightenment.

STRANGE plays out unlike most documentary films, skipping over any historical insight from people who might have been there during the band’s rocketship ride to fame. It instead relies on Depp’s narration to tell The Doors’ story from beginning to end. It is a very linear approach, and the lack of material from surviving members makes the entire film offering not much more information that what is readily available online or in the nearest bookstore. The lack of the human element takes away the heart of the film, and makes Jim Morrison’s tragic end arrive with a ho-hum. The narrative just tells the story from the outside, and the intrapersonal relationships within are only tragically hinted at.

The film focuses mostly on Morrison, and the lives and backgrounds of the other members gets left by the wayside. Despite the heavy attention to Morrison and his addictions/behavior, the reasons behind his madness (and genius) are only hinted at and never explored deeper. His estranged relationship with his parents, the devotion he recieved (maybe undeservingly) from his girlfriend, his addictions and powerful (albiet altered) mind are only mentioned in the script as facts.

Where the storytelling falls a bit short, it is the footage that really keeps things interesting and far from boring. The film puts the viewer smack in the middle of the bands’ world, from their recording sessions to their business discussions to their backstage interactions. It’s fascinating to see for both fans and newcomers. The intimacy of the footage actually draws attention to the weak script, which does not support the visuals. Footage that we’ve seen hundreds of times is restored to pristine shape here. And the new footage, which includes live performances from The Ed Sullivan Show, a TV performance in Copenhagen, and the historic Florida abortion of a concert that saw Morrison arrested, looks as fresh and new as it did 40 years ago. Perhaps the most fascinating stuff comes from Morrison’s attempt at an indie film, which is played out in a different context, as Morrison wanders the countryside after his death is announced over the airwaves.

Director Tom DiCillo does a fine job with the new and old footage, and things are edited just right. Non-fans will probably be a tad bored with the many musical montages, as things start to feel like an extended tribute over an engaging story. Good attention however is given to the musical talent of all the members.

WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE is worth a look for Doors’ fans, as this may be the film they have been waiting years for. The lack of intrapersonal stories and emotion may frustrate those just looking for a solid story on celluloid. The film does manage to never get boring, and what is there is much better than what is missing.


WHEN YOU'RE STRANGE is currently playing at select theatres, including the Puff Movie House in Philadelphia

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Reel Release, or a Reel Ripoff?

THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy finally hits shelves in glorious Blu-ray today (4.6). The catch? These are the theatrical versions, not the vastly-superiour Extended Editions.

With all the legal-wrangling between New Line and Warner Bros., which has left Peter Jackson out of the DVD decision-making processes, it's clear that these editions were just a ploy to get people to buy the movies twice. With no clear release date on the horizon for the REAL versions of the films, here's hoping this release falls flat on its face and teaches some group of bastards a lesson.

On a sidenote, Ralph Bakshi's animated (and somewhat bizarre) LORD OF THE RINGS is also released today in Blu.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Years from now, this version of CLASH OF THE TITANS may serve as the perfect example of a big-budget soup sandwich. Horrible scripting that is inconsistent and devoid of any heart is the downfall here, despite a somewhat valiant effort to impress with visuals. Flat, boring, and devoid of any dread or danger, this is a dud that sinks faster than the Kraken after an encounter with Medusa.

Having witnessed his adopted parents drown in the aftershocks of Hades’(Ralph Fiennes) attack on mortals, young Perseus (Sam Worthington), who also happens to be the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), sets out on a quest of revenge against the Greek gods. Aided by a gaggle of soldiers (who come off as lumbering dumbasses), Perseus seeks to thwart the gods’ plans to wipe out the city of Argos with their superbeast Kraken.

TITANS fails mostly because of the weak portrayal of Perseus. While Worthington does an okay job with the role, it’s the writing that kills the hero of the story. This Perseus is driven by revenge, and it’s difficult to feel empathy with a vengeance-bent character. The lack of interaction between Perseus and the princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) strips the film of any heart. Andromeda is offered up as a sacrifice to the Kraken to save the city (although it’s never clear if that will work or not), and this Perseus seems to not care about her as much as getting payback. With the hero not caring, the audience is not going to care either. What makes things laughable is the character is supposed to be a humble fisherman, and yet he manages to rattle off these BRAVEHEART-like, rally-the-troops monologues that are so far out of character it’s awful.

The portrayal of the gods is also a disappointment. Liam Neesons’ Zeus is a wasted opportunity, as he seems to be more of a grump than a being that seeming should be full of wisdom. Ralph Fiennes is perfectly cast as Hades only because he and Neeson actually look like brothers, but nothing else is very compelling about him. He is not diabolical or despicable, and that makes him a boring villain. He also speaks in the exact same voice he uses for the POTTER films, and is sure to roll some eyeballs in the audience. The usually wonderful and strong Danny Huston is nicely cast as Poseidon, but is tragically reduced to one, ONE line in the entire film. Wasteful.

CGI work is hit and miss. Pegasus probably looks the best and most convincing, while everything else is just obvious and not very convincing. Probably suffering the most is Medusa, who wouldn’t scare a two-year old in this cartoonish rendition.

Lifeless and clumsy, this TITANS barely manages to hold interest let alone entertain. It may also serve as the perfect example of what happens when the writing stage of filmmaking is taken too lightly.