G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Stephen Somers
Starring: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Incredibly Hot Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols
Production Company: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: August 7, 2009

I remember when Stephen Somers burst onto the scene with The Mummy. Here was a franchise that hadn’t been touched in long time, and was a classic movie monster. At the time, I was blown away, digital effects were gaining ground, and the story was solid. Pretty good material for its time. G.I.Joe on the other hand is based on the popular American cartoon television series that more Gung, than Ho. It glorified guys with big guns and promoted American Values such as reading (“Knowing is half the battle”) and other forgettable things that I can’t seem to muster up right now.

Take those elements, and the child like wonder of Somers who is able to treat the source material in the same way many 10 year-olds did. The end product is something that is both insulting to the intelligence, and completely non-sense. What a complete waste of money. The only reason I wanted to see this was for Dennis Quaid, and he’s quickly stepping into the realm of B-movie actor in quad leaps after watching G.I.Joe.

I kinda wish I paid more attention to the “Travelling Pants” movies…

As a paying movie-goer, we have to suspend our belief every once in a while, and take what is given to us. I simply cannot accept what happened here, all the dialogue is cookie cutter thin, and the characters are stock representations of their plastic toy counterparts, with as much appeal behind a blister pack. The plot makes no sense the special effects were bargain basement. If Stephen Somers set out to make his movies as uninteresting, and un-entertaining as possible, by Joe, I think he’s hit the perfect note here.

I’m never sure what to expect with a Wayon Brother cast into an action role. You either get “White Chicks” or some variation of the Halloween mash’em ups. With that mind, they’re usually into gross out humor with B-List actors. Well, there’s no gross out humor here, but there’s plenty of B-lister’s on stage strutting their stuff in the hopes an A-list action director comes calling with a casting sheet. Even Dennis Quaid seems to be hamming it up with his serious, gruff, plastic-type mannerism that comes off as cartoonish, and to think he’s got the most serious role. C’mon Dennis, you’ve done so many good films, why choose this one to screw with your karma?

Style takes a backseat to substance here folks, and this is the end product so many of us were waiting for, and now will forever be stuck with. It’s a reminder, that in a time of technological wonders, we can have high expectations, yet have them dashed in a moment. For that, I firmly place the blame on George Lucas for forgetting to write scripts to his prequel movies. For shame people, for shame.

Bet you had to look twice, didn’t you?

The comedy should add to the exciting things on screen, but the comedy here comes completely from the visual effects department. There simply is no consistency when jumping from scene to scene; the backgrounds are straight out the cartoon, complete with brightly colored palettes and bad lightning techniques. Marlon simply shows up the green screen set with his attitude. And at least he’s sporting a character, the rest are either too busy brooding or trying to remember their simple dialogue they’re all played off as foolish and silly. At least Snake Eyes had the good grace to take an oath of silence and let his physicality take the main presence over the rest of the amped up cast.

2009 was a dismal summer of movies, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, one of the most anticipated sequels of the year fizzled, the Terminator prequel/sequel received more attention behind the scenes with Bale’s rant than in the box office, and it just doesn’t seem to add up. Perhaps money doesn’t make a good product (too many cases in point here). G.I.Joe just fails me at every level. At least Transformers believed in itself enough to try to sell me on the idea. The sales pitch falls flat in G.I.Joe, it was more DOA than COD, and that’s from a guy who had to watch a rental.

2.0 out of 10

The Ugly Truth

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Robert Luketic
Starring: Gerard Butler, Katherine Heigl, Cheryl Hines, other people who are usually comedy fodder.
Production Company: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Release Date: July 24, 2009

For a romantic comedy, The Ugly Truth is more comedy, than romance and squanders itself on focusing on a non-existent chemistry between the two main characters. Gerard Butler is a man’s man, so what’s this guy doing screwing around in another ROMCOM? Seriously? I thought he was just testing the waters with “P.S. I Love You”, but he just keeps getting sucked into this genre. At least he’s still doing some testosterone heavy movies like Gamer, even the mediocre reviewed Law Abiding Citizen doesn’t manage to emasculate him. The only person that’s fallen head first into the chick flick fodder cannon without a hope is Matthew McConaughey: and he’s so past the point of return that his balls are small enough to fit into a tic-tac container. Hey, you star with Kate Hudson in enough drippy girly flicks, you lose credibility, just face it.

Man, wasn’t 300 awesome?

Katherine Heigl is uptight, control freak Abby Richter. Abby can’t find a suitable date in L.A mainly because she’s the uptight, control freak type. Abby is the producer of a dying television talk show sorely in need of new blood, which comes in the form of a dirty minded, foul mouthed, yet truthful local cable personality, Mike Chadaway. Gerard Butler is Mike Chadaway, the anti control freak, the woman reader, the guy that knows what makes the sexes tick and uses them for his sexual ends (so we’re to assume). As you’d expect, sparks fly and the two are at ends with each other’s differing personalities. Abby as you know is the control freak, who just wants a man to love for who she is. Mike, knowing that men work by the tips of their southern heads, convinces Abby that he can help her bag the man of her dreams if she listens to his advice. If the deal doesn’t land Abby a man, he’ll resign from her show. This plot introduces us to Mike as more than a one dimensional character, his motivation being his nephew without a father-figure, and bombards us with more Katherine Heigl screen time.

As you would expect, Abby manages to get the man she’s always dreamed of, some comedic situations are thrown her way, and as Mike is giving directions he somehow falls in love with Abby. It’s predictable comedy fodder that we’ll forget in a few months time. That’s a good thing, because I felt like wincing through most of the film. The last 20 minutes for example takes the bickering couple up a romantic balloon ride while still broadcasting live, they pronounce their love for each other and the all’s well that ends well. This thing was written with more concentration on the material and getting girls to go gooey over Gerard Butler than actually focusing on the main relationship at hand.

The love/hate relationship between Mike and Abby was more convincing than the love/love relationship for one main reason: It was believable. I had more fun when they were at each other’s throats, rather than seeing Mike awkwardly gazing at Abby’s direction while she fawns over her new boyfriend on the phone.

I should have listened to my agent and stayed on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.

I’m not sure what the draw is behind Heigl, is she the cute girl-next-door-type, or the stable-funny-type that gets audiences to pay up? What demographic does she play to? As far as I can tell, it’s the hopeless romantics in the world, or those guys who get roped into seeing another one of her movies. I don’t see it, I’m missing the point entirely about what draws people to her, and this is the second Heigl movie I’ve reviewed that I really didn’t like. She’s apparently quit her full time gig on Gray’s Anatomy to do more movies. Can the world really take more of this girl, who has Moxie, or whatever you want to call it filling up more screen time?

Just my two cents.

2.0 out of 10

Punisher:War Zone

“Frick I forgot the BULLETS!”

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Lexi Alexander
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, a bunch of copper shell jackets
Production Company: Lions Gate Films
Release Date: Dec 5, 2008

Punisher: War Zone reads less like “revenge”, and more like “re-hash”. This is the Punisher’s third time at bat, with a new production company, new director, and new star Ray Stevenson. This version wasn’t anything horrible, yet between the plot holes and one dimensional characters, it all feels a little flat. Granted, no one in Punisher: War Zone is going to walk away with any statuettes, but the screen writer should at least examine what makes the comic book character tick.

Frank Castle is the NYPD cop whose family is massacred after witnessing a mob slaying. Frank, the lone survivor takes it upon himself to punish the unjust that the cops can’t touch by donning black garb and using a skull as his symbol. He’s been doing this a long time, as NYPD’s finest can attest to; the special Punisher unit has an entire basement full of evidence and an exceedingly high body count. Along with this, they have his true identity, but no leads to his whereabouts. Listing off all those facts, the cops stick up for him at every turn and actually let him go every chance they get since they believe he’s doing the city a favor; It’s nice knowing that mass murderers are held in such high authority by the people paid to protect us. Frank unknowingly kills an undercover FBI agent posing as a mob strong arm in an opening scene. In the process, he horribly mangles Billy Russoti (Dominic West) in a glass recycling machine, the set up there is that Billy becomes Jigsaw, the stitch faced killer out to do Punisher in.

“Now where did I put that girdle?”

There’s at least some motivation there. Billy wants to kill Punisher because he’s screwed with his face, and of course the big P is ruining his whole mob-drug-trafficking-trade as well. So there’s the set up; you got two bloodthirsty guys, each with their own sets of tools who will inevitably meet up for one final death match. Along the way we’re introduced to a whole bunch of throw away characters like Julie Benz, who I have to say looks waaaaay better raven haired than blonde, a stone eyed Colin Salmon and a completely wasted Wayne Knight as Microchip. I really wanted to like this movie, as I was disappointed with Jonathan Hensleigh/Thomas Jane’s Punisher, I figured a new addition, or a reimaging under Marvel Knights more explosive, bloody line would kick things up a notch as the Vertigo line for DC did a few years back. I didn’t get anything this time around, just another shoot em’ up action-fest that plodded along trading an actual storyline for bloody head count.

Guess he didn’t like the Fantastic Four movies either

For all the bashing, I do have to say the lightning, costumes and sets were beautifully done right. The atmosphere for each setting played nicely to each character, showcasing the darker traits that I didn’t see before. The lightning used particularly in Punisher’s Lair against the neon drudgery that was the Bradstreet hotel was refreshing. Not only did the ample shadows give good hiding spots, it also garnered a few points in my books.

The Punisher series of movies can’t take many more outings; probably one more film will be the final nail in this coffin. The franchise is either handled badly or just isn’t worth reviving, believe me when I was a kid watching the Dolph Lundgren version I was enthralled. Although these days my tastes have matured and I’ve moved onto more ‘Dark Knight’ reboot worthy films of late.

2.0 out of 10


Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, a great deal of pale looking vampires
Production Company: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: Nov 21, 2008

If I were a hopeless romantic, or a teenage girl with visions of men sweeping me off my feet, or someone who desperately wants to fall in love…. If I were any of those things I would have probably enjoyed Twilight. The fact of the matter is I’m nothing of those things mentioned. I’m the exact opposite of the target audience that Twilight aims for. I’m trying to place myself in a position to enjoy this film, because obviously, the box office indicates this thing is kicking ass. Try as I might I wasn’t particularly engaged nor was I impressed by Twilight.

Bella (Kirsten Stewart) moves from sunny Arizona to dreary over-cast Forks, Washington to stay with her completely lifeless father (Billy Burke). The filmmakers attempt to have her connect with the audience by making her an outcast fails miserably, as she somehow makes friends within the first few minutes. She meets the mysteriously alluring Edward (James Pattinson) who seems to act all huffy and weird around her, and she figures….in ignoring her he MUST like her. This wanton desire is reciprocated in the form of Bella really, really wanting to get it on with Edward, but it’s a forbidden fantasy as he’s a vampire.

So, you want to do some sucking after this?

I’ll stop there and spare the rest of the male audience the details. My biggest beef with Twilight was the vampire mythology. The whole point of one becoming a vampire is the utter consequences. Things like ‘the sunlight will destroy me’, or ‘garlic kills me’, or ‘I have this terrible fear of crosses or running water’. Nothing. In the world of Twilight there is no consequence of becoming a vampire because the damn movie glorifies it. Granted, I never read the series or any of the books by Stephanie Meyer, but her basis for the immortally damned seems a little too perfect, in that there’s really no flaws in any character (at least in the movies). And without flaws you have uninteresting characters, uninteresting conflicts and there’s really no set up for any kind of emotional impact because we don’t care. At the very end Bella wants to become a vampire like Edward, yet he denies her because she ‘doesn’t understand what she has to give up’. Seriously. What would she have to give up? Regular food in exchange for blood? Her skin is already pretty pale, she would just need some darker clothing and crappy special effects to make her run fast (more about that later). I wasn’t taken in by this version of vampire because it never properly develops the theme that immortality is a bitch, that being a vampire means you’re alive, but not human. I couldn’t get into the heads of these damn blood suckers; they’ve been living for hundreds of years yet prefer to all stay in high school. Being immortal would put a different spin on time, would you really want to repeat going to high school for the hundredth time just to stick to your cover?

The Pale, brooding, gothic Avengers, plus that kid from Panic Room

Speaking of teens and high school, if it weren’t for teen angst this movie would fail miserably. For each scene of teenage awkwardness and yearning I’m sure there’s a thousand fifteen year old girls getting their crushes on and blogging it later, then, hating themselves for it. Teens have their emotions running high, what with the hormones and ideals of love and now some author decides to toss fucking vampires into the mix and calls it love? Talk about pure fantasy. Having an older guy, (and not just ANY older guy: the ULTIMATE older guy) fall totally head over heels for you because your scent is intoxicating, and protects you because he can’t stand to be away from you? Actually that sounds a lot like a stalker. In fact, that’s exactly what a stalker sounds like. But as long as he’s hot and has to restrain himself and keep it in his pants, it’s all cool. Right?

How surprised was I to see ‘Industrial Light and Magic’ listed as one of the effects companies? Pretty damn surprised. It must have been the pre-teen division. All those scenes of Edward being impossibly fast looked like they were right out of the seventies, and that shitty blur effect of the other vampires looked like it could have been achieved with much more moxie if the team in charge of ‘Smallville’ did the same thing on a smaller budget. The only visual effect that looked somewhat believable was Pattinson’s gravity defying, perfectly sculpted hair.

“Listen, this thing between me and Cho Chang was completely platonic…”

This film simply did not connect with me; emotionally or visually. I thought the pale overcast and tungsten gradient of the shots were boring and depressing. The special effects were bad, the close ups of the young pretty actors were uncomfortable, and the dialog was terrible. Other websites point out the forced relationship and lack of chemistry between Edward and Bella. Personally, I want to point out how ridiculous vampire baseball is.

As much as I enjoy bashing this teen-love-vampire-movie, all indications show it’s a massive hit. This will easily hit the $200 million high water mark and sequels are already planned and being filmed as we speak. This genre wasn’t for me, but if you’re that hopeless romantic, desperately yearning for someone to love you based on outward appearances, or, perhaps scent, than let’s say, something meaningful such as your personality, then go right ahead and enjoy Twilight.

If you want to the proper portrayal of torment and consequences of being a vampire, watch ‘Interview with the Vampire’.

2.0 out of 10