Sunday, January 27, 2013

Movies of 2012, Action Awards

            For some reason modern action movies have decided to imitate 2 other movie franchises, the first is "The Bourne Identity" (Trailer) and the other is Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" (Trailer) franchise.  Those are good movies to borrow from, I have no issue with that, but an interesting side effect of this imitation is you end up with movies that could all conceivably be happening in the same universe.  All of the martial arts and gun violence have roughly the same effect, all of the technology is on the same level (with some stupid exceptions), and nearly all of the villains could work for the James Bond bad guys, Quantum from "Quantum of Solace".

The Award for best Vanity Project: "Jack Reacher" (Trailer)
            I actually really liked this movie, but if the title had been "Tom Cruise" I don't think it would have experienced an appreciable drop in ticket sales.  The dialogue is smart, the concept is very modern and cuts to the core a very troubling issue, mass shootings.  Each character is shown to be competent, and while they may make rash or stupid decisions it is not poorly handled, you can see why they would make the decisions that they do, they act like real people and that is a good thing.  It also has the best car chase in a crowded urban metropolis since "The Town" (Trailer) had bank robbers fleeing police in creepy nun costumes.
            The only real issue is that this movie ruins its own mystery right from the start.  To explain, the movie begins with a guy in latex gloves shooting 5 seemingly random people, you see the guy's face, so you know who the shooter is.  The person the police arrest moments later is not the shooter, and they use a fingerprint to lock him up.  So you know it was a frame up, which means you do not get to see the mystery unravel the same time the characters do... That is a weird choice for the narrative, and easily fixable with maybe 3 camera angles getting changed.  I have no idea why they did that because it causes a lot of the discovery and who/why done it element for the audience to be lost.
            There is another issue too that is a lot less substantive because it is just one poorly done scene.  There is a tonal shift that happens at the start of the second act (roughly) for all of two minutes and it hurts the movie, like a speck of something floating on the surface of a drink.   What happens is: Tom is looking over a scene and figuring out that a guy was murdered, he is then ambushed by two thugs, that sounds like a tense scene because Tom has no weapon, the guys have the drop on him, and they have baseball bats... what follows is retarded.  The fight happens in a really small room and like the freaking 3 Stooges these guys keep pulling back to hit Tom and knock each other in the head or miss because their swings are so wide that they catch on the walls of the tiny room.  Tom Cruise is borderline unconscious for the first 30 seconds of the fight in which the two goons beat up the room and each other in what can only be described as a scene from another movie.

The movie could almost be summed up with this image.

The Award for being the best Batman Movie released this Year: "Skyfall" (Trailer)
            I really cannot fault this movie for being anything other than what it is, James Bond being Batman.  For fuck's sake, the phrase "Skyfall" means "Dark Night Rising".  The whole third act takes place at Stately Bond (Wayne) Manor.  There is an Alfred.  There is a Batcave.  The main bad guy has a scene in which he is in a holding cell and practically utters the phrase, "Wanna know how I got these scars?"  The whole movie has these sorts of Batman echoes.  It is easy to see why, both are dark wish fulfillment characters, rich playboys who are impossibly good at everything, and covered in good fashion and pricey gadgets.  It isn't really something to be lamented, Bond and Batman are both potentially good characters, and this movie shows how good Bond is by actually exploring who he is and why he does what he does.
            There are some stupid things in it though, like the palm reader handgun in the trailer, think about that from a logical standpoint, what are the odds that a bad guy (who probably has their own weapon) using Bond's gun against him and being foiled by the device (yes it happens, but how it happens is so unlikely that using that as an example makes you sound dumber for the effort).  Then look at it another way, how long does it take the gun to read his palm and unlock?  Cause if it takes longer than 3/10's of a second, that is longer than it takes a person to draw and ready a weapon, which means the gun could potentially keep Bond from successfully drawing and firing his weapon at an optimum speed.  It is the most modern bit of sci-fi in the movie, and by far the most impractical.
            If I were to say this movie had a symbolic turn, it would have to be this: Bond is dead, and this is his personal hell.... stay with me on this.  Spoiler: at the beginning of the movie Bond is shot in the chest and declared KIA, he flees off to a tropical paradise to recover and then returns when a terrorist attack in London demands his attention.  For the rest of the movie Bond tours a lot of the old spy movie tropes.  He journeys to exotic locals, is nearly fed to some strange animal in a pit, fights of a team of goons, one of which looks a lot like Odd Job from "Goldfinger" (Trailer).  He goes to a deserted island fortress hideout.  There are repeated images of descent, in the subway, MI-6 in the underground bunker, falling through ice, the escape route out of Skyfall later in the movie; the only image of ascent, when he holds onto the bottom of an elevator to keep up with an assassin is treated as extremely difficult and he nearly falls to his death.  There are all of these elements from previous movies that get brought up, used, and destroyed, (the old car being the best example) it's like they are the sins of Bond's past getting burned away by hellfire.  The main bad guy is a fallen MI-6 agent, like a fallen angel who has come to rule his own underworld kingdom.  M is treated very much like a divine mother figure.  And the final confrontation takes place in a freaking church.  Bond died at the start of the movie, and came back from heaven to fight the devil, and his reward for success is that he gets to be reincarnated down the line by a new actor who will continue the fight.
            Hell, read this bit of dialogue from the trailer:
            Bond: "Everyone needs a hobby."
            Someone Else: "What's yours?"
            Bond: "Resurrection."

Though, I suppose if you wanted someone to play Satan in a James Bond movie, Javier Bardem is a good pick

Most Unnecessary Voice Over Award: "Premium Rush" (Trailer)
            Okay, this movie is very style heavy, they chop up the timeline, they have a lot of graphics displaying the New York geography, they have a weird effect to show how the main character can quickly plot out the options for where to go and how to avoid being crushed to death in stressful fast moving traffic, if I cared about any of the characters or thought the dialogue or narrative was any good I might appreciate these things... I do not.
            This movie is insultingly dumb and has the audacity to start off with voice over explaining what a bike messenger is... I know what a fucking bike messenger is.  Voice over is used to explain complex premises to stories, premises that just require too much back story otherwise and the movie would be too long.  For instance, the movie "Looper" (Trailer) also stars Joseph Gordon Levitt and begins with him explaining what a Looper is, it is an assassin that works to kill time travelers, it is a hard thing to swallow unless it is explained... Guys delivering shit via bike is not complicated, and explaining it is insulting to the audience.
            The action is actually boring, goes on far too long, and since they are on bikes it is actually kind of slow paced even with the style and shifting obstacle course that is New York City traffic.  Also, there is a massive plot problem: the villain is looking for a lotto ticket with a distinct symbol on it, the villain has not seen the ticket, Levitt has, so why doesn't Levitt just buy a lotto ticket from a quick stop, draw the symbol on it and hand it over to the bad guy, then deliver the correct ticket to where it needs to go?  That is a huge out for the protagonist.  It is a plot hole.
            Also, the acting in this, with the exception of Joseph Gordon Levitt and Michael Shannon, is just awful.  Everyone has bad lines to read, poor motivation, bad scenes in general, it is a waste to watch.  And what is funny, the criminal organization in this, which is basically a Chinese Mafia, would still fit into the James Bond shared universe I described earlier.

            A word about "Alex Cross" (Trailer) and "Taken 2" (Trailer) who could also be in this category, and probably could also take place in the same universe.  I didn't see these movies.  "Alex Cross" stars Tyler Perry and is considered by many to be one of the worst movies of the year, it looks like a mess and I have no desire to see it, if I hear good things about its sequel (as I imagine there will be one) then I might go back and watch this one, but for now...
            "Taken" (Trailer) was a well structured action movie with a tight script that had only a few plot holes and structure issues, it is a good movie about a guy doing violent and asshole things to save his child.  However, "Taken" is a jingoistic and stupid movie, it is somewhat disgusting in its own way.  So I will not watch "Taken 2" which exists it seems to give old guys who are scared of foreign countries a sense of, "I could totally do that", rather than do anything interesting with the narrative or comment on anything going on in the world.  It seems like an offensive movie to my somewhat cosmopolitan look on the world, and I don't want to watch it.

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