The Time Traveller’s Wife

Time Travel has fascinated countless writers of science fiction, this might be the first time a romance writer takes a stab at it, and the end result is surprisingly good. This is much more romance and matters of the heart than it is the actual science behind transversing time and space. All the physics geeks (and yes, I was part of that group as well) might have trouble the bending of the laws in order to make the story work.

Hey, there is actually something out there called the Clock Gene, but I doubt it has any bearing in transporting a entirely naked Eric Bana across space and displacing all his molecules perfectly together in another time. Hey, if you can believe that he can interact with his younger self, thereby violating the basic principle of time travel, well, you can just suspend your belief.

The movie isn’t about going around from place to place in any sort of awesome way, it’s about Claire’s (Rachael McAdam’s) very creepy love affair with the sometimes old, sometimes young Henry (Eric Bana). Who first appears to Claire at the tender age of 6, gym fit and buck naked he continues to visit her until she catches up with him while still in College and he’s a research librarian (too bad he can’t go back and get some real dirt on the Spanish inquisition). She falls in love with him even with his ‘Chrono-impairment’ which causes him to miss birthdays, holidays, and even a portion of their wedding. But don’t worry, an older Henry takes his own place.

The wardrobe costs for this guy must be killer.

You’re telling me you’re in the Sherlock Holmes sequel?

There’s a lot of naysayers out there, mainly the Internet community which I happen to be a part of that didn’t feel any emotion and figured Claire was a damsel in distress, constantly having to love someone that wasn’t there. Hey, it’s romance guys, this is what chicks dig. And for me, it was somehow soothing. Forlorn love, difficult decisions, and kids. Kids just make me well up these days. Damn those cute kids and father figures they’ll end up missing as they grow up.

7.5 out of 10

Funny People

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Eric Bana, Leslie Mann, Aziz Ansari
Production Company: Universal Pictures
Release Date: July 31, 2009

Judd Apatow always brings in the laughs, Funny People is no different.

George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is the mega rich, mega funny and mega shallow movie star that climbed the rings of comedy to become king. George is distanced from everyone and everything due to his enormous wealthy, and when he’s diagnosed with an interminable disease finds he’s at a loss for human contact. Reaching out, he finds Ira (Seth Rogen) an up and coming comedian who works days in a deli and struggles to find his niche in stand up. The two find each other, and both seemed destined to give each other what they sorely need: George needs someone to confide in, and Ira needs his big break.

“Let’s eat turkey in a big brown shoe!”

Apatow stands out in the comedy category for one reason: he weighs down his comedy with some real meat. There’s too many romantic comedies that skip over real issue and contain so much filler and uninteresting characters we bypass them and they end up in the bargain DVD bin. Funny People, stands out as one that’s willing to give us more meaning, and be more about the people, than it is the funny.

Adam Sandler has been bringing his A game the last few movies. I was getting a little bored with his Happy Madison days, and the sophomoric, elegant side he’s been showing with Rein Over Me and Punch Drunk Love (old reference, I know) is starting to show some shine.

“I gotta tellya Eric, ‘Troy’ was terrible”

An interesting balance is always struck with Seth Rogen; he’s naturally funny and the lines he spouts out with his commanding voice are well timed and on-spot. His comedy fodder seems to get bigger with each picture. I have mixed expectations of his up and coming Green Hornet movie myself. For now, I’ll revel in his funny nature.

Funny People manages to hit some high notes and keeps us entertained all the way through. Apatow gets better with each film, this one by far is his most mature to date.

8.0 out of 10

Year One

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Hank Azaria, David Cross, Possibily Jesus
Production Company: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Release Date: June 19, 2009

Year One is a reminder never to take our religion too seriously. It also reminds us that Jack Black plays the same damn character in every movie. Thanks to Michael Cera’s awkward teenager role lifted directly from his Arrested Development days, the two manage to squeeze out some laughs, but the movie never really gains any momentum.

Hey! Did you catch Bill Hader?

Zed (Black), and Oh (Cera) are Hunters and Gatherers (respectively) for their small village. Zed is a failure at his job, and Oh simply wants to obey his carnal lusts for Eema (Juno Temple), yet fawns for her at a distance. Zed one day, has the bright idea to eat from the tree forbidden tree of knowledge. With his mind awakened, he and Oh are promptly exiled from the village. Zed in his slow, somber retreat accidental torches the village, burning it to the ground, causing his ex-tribe members to be imprisoned by the guards of Sodom. Zed and Oh travel the lands with Zed’s new-found knowledge in search of Zed’s destiny. You need to think less Life of Brian, and more Superbad; the script certainly has an impromptu feel, yet doesn’t distract too much from the main themes.

Jack Black has worked a long time in Hollywood, and for some reason he keeps getting plum roles where he gets to show up, shout some obscenities and never develop a real character. Michael Cera keeps getting jobs on his teen character, speaking to his chest more often than putting his forward emotions on screen. It certainly works in his favor, as Oh is more at home given intricate moments of inflection such as “I saved a life with my love making”. At least these guys looked like they were having fun filming, with a subject like religion he tongue-in-cheek humor bodes well with both personalities.

Golden Shower just took on a whole new meaning.

Year One at times felt more B-Movie quality, which was supposed to be played off as campy. Most of the humor comes from physical comedy, even observations (lady armpit hair, women’s eyeliner) or the circumcision loving Abraham (played by Hank Azaria). It also seemed a little foolish to have yet another aimless comedic duo start out wandering from forest to desert, only to find their true calling. Call me crazy, but is Hollywood really pandering that much to the generation that’s still spinning it’s tires?

The genre can withstand shtick, should it be awesomely funny as “Life of Brian”, or more ho-hum as “Year One” puts it. On the scale, “Year One” land between mediocrity and an eyebrow raise.

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

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, a bunch of polygons
Production Company: DreamWorks Entertainment
Release Date: June 24, 2009

“Transformers Revenge of the Fallen” appeals to the MTV generation in more one way. For the rest of us with longer attention spans, we’re bound to notice the lack of character development, the fundamental story telling flaws, and the visual and auditory assault on the senses that Michael Bay loves to stuff down our throats. Transformers as you might know is the love child of Japanese big robots with the Gung-Ho of Americanism chock full of child loving goodness, broadcast Saturday mornings to children all across North America. The problem with this premise used to be “how can we make giant robots LOOK cool?” Thankfully the geniuses at ILM made the mega monstrosities come to life in 5 storey fashion, but the story falls flatter than Shia LaBeouf’s personality. We have Michael Bay to thank for all this noise, and when I say Noise, I mean it. Sitting in a darkened theatre whilst giant mecha’s duel it out certainly can be grating – 2 and a 1/2 hours worth was plenty for me.

You can’t blame Steven Spielberg for this one, he has the executive producer rights, but his name, his image is nowhere seen close to or on this product at all. Like every other Michael Bay movie, the action is frenetic, choppy, and bright without any sort of shyness when it comes to being full bore on insane. And just like any other Bay-hem film, the action is tough to track; the enemies and good guys mix it up so frequently you can’t keep track of who is kicking whose butt. Other nuances, such as the average lifespan of a shot must be less a second, watching Sam (Shia LaBeouf’s) and Mikhela (Smoking Hot Megan Fox) say their respective good-byes to each other had so many tracking shots I nearly got motion sickness.

Bumblebee: missing a pair of converse high tops and a sweet kentucky waterfall

It’s simply mindless, it spends more time trying to build on non-existent back stories and continually going back to characters that don’t add to the overall plot, or contribute anything further than being racist stereotypes that Bay finds amusing. I’m of course talking about Skids and MudFlap, the Autobot twins annoying their way in each scene, showing up only to be more bothersome and irksome than actually adding to the storyline. Personally, the movie could have done without them. A,s I mentioned before, new characters are hastily introduced and just as quickly killed off without even any proper introductions. I wish I could have said the same about Sam’s parents, as their little escapade at Sam’s University was blown out of proportion and borderlines on fantasy of ‘what drugs can do to you’.

The one saving grace was and should always be the Transformers themselves, the stars of the show, who comfortably have more speaking lines than the last, and compared to the mindless banter of the humans is by far more welcome. Some approximated render times are far more fictitious in the age of Quad Core Computing, yet the finished product is something to awe. Especially worth watching in high definition television.

The Gundam happily crunched the racism-bots where they stood.

There’s been a lot of Michael Bay bashing over this movie, some I can understand, while others I’m little more lenient to dissuade. Mainly the naysayers that are advocating that he should stop making films altogether. Now, I’m a fair guy, and I like explosions, and The Rock was actually pretty good, even after a few viewings. People want him to stop because he’s inflicting more pain on the movie going-public than he should be. I for one think all that is absolute crap. Because, complain all you want, you have to admit the guy is a mega cash cow with regards to any movie he’s directing. Some small faction might not like his in your face, shoot-for-the-edit style of film making, but he’s pulling in the revenue to generate more mindless action vehicles.

And to prove a tired point, wouldn’t your 8 year old self want to reveal in watching gigantic mechanized Godzilla’s slugging it out on the big screen?

4.5 out of 10.0

Star Trek

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris PineZachary Quinto, Bruce Greenwood,
Production Company: Universal Pictures
Release Date: May 8, 2009

“Star Trek”, the titular science fiction/space opera known by all, watched by many, and appreciated by the few has been re-imagined in J.J. Abrams super summer blockbuster. This certainly isn’t your father’s Star Trek, filled with action, bright lights, lens flares and space; the final frontier.

2009’s Star Trek heads back to it’s roots introducing young versions of Kirk, Spock and company. A titanic task? Not quite, considering major back stories have been traded in for a time travel plot that lends to much needed explosions (Hey, I love my eye candy too). The plot plays it safe, not getting into any new ground and treats science with a ‘suspend your belief’ attitude. It’s seeing the characters assemble onscreen, and Abram’s deft use of scenery and characterization that really shine.

Folded Arms are the new thing in the future

Follow me now: Nero, a Romulan from 129 years in the future has come back to ‘the beginning’ (of the Trek universe) because future Spock couldn’t save Romulus from collapsing. The black hole formed from the collapse sucks in Nero and Future Spock, plunging Nero into ‘the beginning’, he destroys the U.S.S Kelvin where commanding officer Kirk Sr., has assumed control, his son is about to be born and he must pilot the ship on a collision course after evacuating the entire crew with busted warp drives. Nero sits around for about 25 years waiting for future Spock to arrive so he can get revenge by destroying Vulcan with the very technology the Vulcan Science Academy created (known as red matter). So it’s up to our very handsome/great looking crew of the U.S.S Enterprise to go in, destroy the ship, save the day and create a Star Trek for the masses. The Roddenberry-verse physics aside, as long as you know that black holes equal time travel, and class M planets exist with scary looking monsters, and total and complete coincidences happen, you should be absolutely fine. Just suspend your damn belief already.

“Did you seriously sign on for the sequel?”

Chris Pine does an admirable job as James T. Kirk, successive captain of the Starship Enterprise. His energy and natural leadership slightly showing, although his douche bag like character is still lovable and enduring. Zachary Quinto was definitely born to play Spock, his cold demeanor picked up from his time as Sylar on TV’s Hero’s, he dons the Vulcan ears and detached voice with ease, simmering emotion under the surface as the half Vulcan/Human hybrid and Kirk’s best friend. The rest of the ensemble cast play their parts magnificently, no one seems to miss a beat and the slight nods to the original series are deft in execution. Even Leonard Nimoy shows up in Spock attire, his first outing in nearly a decade, proudly handing the touch from one generation to the next; although it seem like he was in this version a little longer than necessary. I’m sure all the fan boys were wetting themselves in excitement when the pointy eared one entered from stage right.

There’s only a few moments of disbelief, and it’s all in the science of show; consider that against the numerous times Scotty has outright bent the laws of physics in the original television show and movies. It’s all in good nature however, once you realize you’ve been beamed aboard another reality, one with much better looking people and alien races with humanoid bodies and slightly larger/smaller eyes or different skin color. Bridging the continuities was an immense task, keeping with the newer, sexier generation just got a whole lot easier.

No caption, just a green skinned Orion Girl in her bra and panties

If you haven’t witnessed the rebirth of Star Trek yet, I highly suggest you do so. Reading up on the pre-reviews of supposed mega-blockbusters as Transformers and Terminator: Salvation, I can already see a pattern emerging: All these franchises are getting slammed for lack of care, they’re not lovingly crafted as they should be, and are getting shoehorned with last minute rewrites and CGI over actual plot or any good character emotion. These movies aren’t meant to be overly cerebral, but it’s pretty clear the movie going public wants more substance than the flash and bang approach. Star Trek thankfully is light hearted enough to take all this in stride and put together a fun, exhilarating thrill ride that won’t disappoint.

9.5 out of 10

Role Models

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: David Wain
Starring: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Production Company: Universal Pictures
Release Date: Nov 7, 2008

Gross out humor, front man Paul Rudd, caustically straight and funny Jane Lynch, a plot that is absolutely over the top and chock full of four-letter obscenities spewed from a ten year old. You had me at Paul Rudd. Not to say that Role Models is only these things, it has great chemistry between the two leading men; William Scott and Rudd are absolutely a blast to watch bicker and fight, and they give each scene an improv-like quality that never distracts from the final product. The message at the end is also one that we can all appreciate, considering there’s so much pressure today to conform to the masses. You can rest easy knowing the crude jokes are funny and hip; and everyone can agree on that.

The AA group keeps getting younger

Rudd and Seann William Scott are Danny and Wheeler, Minotaur energy drink salesmen doing their pitch to high schools across the city. Danny’s in a rut, his negativity finally catching up to him when he crashes the Minotaur-mobile due to his girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks) breaking up over his last minute wedding proposal. Rather than do jail time, the two are given the option to complete 150 hours of community service at a Big Brother link organization called ‘Sturdy Wings’. The organization is run by ex-junkie Gayle (Jane Lynch), who’s full on seen-it-all and done-it-all-attitude gets half the laughs it vies for. The teens put in the care of Danny and Wheeler two extremes: Augie (Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the awkward older teenager who would rather practice LARP (Live Action Role Playing) than deal with the real world, and Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson) the pint sized thug with a mouth that Andrew Dice Clay would be proud of.

The movie smoothly runs along as expected; the guys learn about responsibility and the boys get the attention and acceptance they’ve been long looking for. The laughs along the way are well deserved, the situations and support characters are hiliarious (check out Ken Jeong as the ‘King’).

“Who is that horny bastard behind me?”

Role models is sweet in a macho way, it never once stops to wipe it’s tears and a kick to the groin over sentimentality. The characters all connect and the message is something we all need: you don’t have to change to earn someone’s else’s approval. The good natured spirit and fun of the film was unexpected to me, and it was enjoyable from start to finish. If you want a feel good flick that has solid laughs and lots of cussing from a kid, check out Role Models.

8.0 out of 10


Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Billy Crudup, Malin Akerman, Jackie Earle Haley,
Production Company: Waner Bros.
Release Date: March 6, 2009

There’s a large group comic geeks and assorted nerds the world over. Many of those geeks have been enjoying Hollywood’s recent turn to comics for quick cash profit. And of those many geeks, they’ve been given such ham-fisted attempts such as Batman and Robin, and an even lower extend, the Fantastic Four Franchise. I am one of the many comic book geeks out there, watching, and pondering, waiting for that one glimmering moment where the entire world believes it’s cool to be a geek all over again. Well, imagine my surprise when I heard about Watchmen, Alan Moore’s to the point, spawning graphic novel that covered politics, greed, and immortality to name a few topics. It’s a richly detailed, mystifying ride that will teach you something new each time you read it, and it’s a wholesome adventure with an inconclusive ending that leaves you with the ending devices. And that’s just the book. The comic was meant to only live within the paneled realm which Dave Gibbons created; certain story telling elements could only be portrayed in a comic book format, and untranslatable to any other format. But, damned if you can keep a filmmaker down, someone really wanted to reach a wider audience other than kids who spent too much time at the comic shop.

For all the cogs, there is only one spoon.

From Stage right strides in Zack Snyder, a respectable director hailed for his faithful representation of comicdom’s Frank Miller’s 300. He was able to capture the grandeur and glory of a chest thumping battle-hardened king Leonidas. Could Snyder capture the ethos, pathos and multiple underlying story elements that made Watchmen a timeless masterpiece? Well, he comes pretty close.

Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985 where costumed folk fight crime, pursue justice, and have deep psychological problems. President Nixon is running for a third term, and the doomsday clock (a huge symbol in the comic book) is set 5 minutes to zero hour. Cold war tensions have reached a tedious high with the Soviets invading Afghanistan, yet are reluctant to strike with America in possession of the living superman Dr.Manhattan. The chain of events starts with the murder of one Edward Blake; costumed vigilante Rorschach investigates only to find Blake is actually the superhero ‘The Comedian’. Rorschach believes he has discovered a plot to eliminate costumed adventurers and sets about warning his retired comrades: Dan Dreiberg/NiteOwl II, Dr. Manhattan and Laurie Jupiter (Juspeczyk as told in the comic). Dreiberg informs Adrian Veidt, the world’s smartest man and former costumed avenger Ozymandias with little success. This all of course the set up so far, and I don’t want to spoil it for those who have never read the book, so I’ll stop here, but I can at least elaborate on what I did, and didn’t like.

Didn’t I see you in ’27 Dresses’?

Zack Snyder was handed the role due to his success with merging special effects with live action, he does a fine job here; he seamlessly matches up a pre mega-scraper New York complete with Gunga Diner elephant float, conveys mood, theme and attitude all incredibly well. Dr. Manhattan’s ethereal blue glow is handled in practical way as I found out on his blog, it matches the character and it the blue is never a distraction, only a tool that never distracts from the bigger picture. The flashbacks are handled quite well, as he choose to cast the actors younger and let the rubber latex add the years on in the 1985 timeline. The sets are wonderfully dreary without letting on they were lifted quite literally from Dave Gibbon’s artwork, and he does a fantastic job of translating literal famous comic poses onto the silver screen (See Rorschach’s jump onto Comedian’s balcony, or Dreiberg in quiet contemplation after hearing the line ‘you quit’). There’s never a moment on screen that isn’t drenched in history or burgeoning with in-references and nods. Each place you look on screen there’s a visual queue, a tip of the hat to the comic fans, and for non comic fans there’s always something worth coming back to. The mythology painted from the visuals is a rich tapestry from which you can find something new in repeated viewings. The lighting lends a heavier context with certain characters and there’s a certain flux in the flow of any scene. I was thoroughly engulfed in this world; a mix of real sets and computer generated backgrounds gave it more depth and I praised Snyder’s attention to detail.

Thankfully the blue smurf penis was petitioned out of this publicity snapshot

The characters themselves are visually stunning (Malin Akerman Anyone? Damn!), but just as Dr.Manhattan is detached from humanity, I too felt the actors were a little too disconnected. Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg didn’t feel as intimated or as non-threatening in plain clothes; his physical demeanor and mere presence at times were staged as him being powerless, yet he always felt much more in command. Malin Akerman is as always a knockout, but she felt like she was going through the motions of her character, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Dr.Manhattan’s numbness to the world wasn’t really felt through Billy Crudup’s voice, but he does come close a few times. Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt, the world’s smartest man certainly feels like he’s conveying the same detachment, although if his words carried the same impact as his punches he would have been fully realized. All this, and the one character that came shining through was the stark black and white characterization provided by Jackie Earle Hale in Rorschach. The raspy voice over’s, absoluteness of his morals and drive for the truth couldn’t have been played better.
Too bad there’s no such thing as a sequel in this universe, I know who Hollywood would happily create a spin-off for his character.

Damn you Bruce Wayne, damn you.

The logic behind someone putting on mask and doing dumb things at 3:00am isn’t explained easily; it takes someone that’s little bit off kilter and willing to bend rules to do something like that. The overall feel of the book is captured nicely through the music, tone, dialogue and pacing. There’s never a moment you feel left in the dark with anyone’s motives and I can’t say enough about the eye candy throughout the production. As a comic geek, I was thrilled to see this adaptation come to fruitition. Everything is a little bit larger than life, and the production crew really outdid themselves in this Alan Moore tale of politics and superheroes. There were many layers omitted for obvious timing reasons, but that’s the fate of a book to movie adaptation; there’s always going to be a few sacrificed plot devices to fit the entirety of a film.

If you want a film that’s beautiful to look at, has lots of history and a loyal fan base, check out Watchmen. You won’t be disappointed.

8.5 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


Best Poster of the Year by far.

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Pierre Morel
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, an alarming amount of French/Albanian Terrorists
Production Company: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: Jan 30, 2009

If there’s a lesson to be learned from Taken, the white knuckle thrill a minute movie, it’s this: Do not, under any circumstance, fuck with Liam Neeson.

That’s right Heir Schindler himself is ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills, the killing machine set off by the kidnap and sale of his daughter to an Albanian sex trade ring. He stops at nothing to find his daughter, and you believe he’s justified in getting the information necessary, and punishing the people responsible. I could be partial to this, as the most difficult scene for me to watch was his utter helplessness but cool demeanor when his daughter informs him there are people trying to kidnap her. During that harrowing phone conversation however, Mills is able to pick up enough information through his auditory senses and actually speaks to one of the assailants and issue perhaps one of the most bone chilling threats ever uttered on the silver screen:

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Between that quote, and the poster itself, some sort of Oscar hardware should be handed out for sheer bad-assery. Of course, this is considered a mindless action movie of the variety that could only be churned out in the same fashion as The Transporter series, or perhaps at some level of The Professional. It certainly works for me.

If you tell me where she is, I’ll give you a copy of DarkMan

Speaking of The Professional, you’ll notice that this penned by Luc Besson himself. There much of the same themes in the main character: he’s a professional, the best at what he does, and has ruthless methods. The other common theme between the two pictures is that lead actor is a quiet, unassuming male respected for other works than mindless action. Hats off to Besson and the production company for lassoing Neeson in, as anyone else would have sounded corny or comedic in their interpretation of the lines. Part of me wondered why someone of Neeson’s status as leading dramatic man decided to play the part. After watching the movie however, you can tell he brings all his acting chops with him in every scene. And it’s bloody brilliant on his part. I prefer the brand of highly competent, highly professional action hero that has been churned out in the last five years (Such as the Bourne Series), compared to the eighties cigarette smoking, testosterone filled, one-liner quips spouted off at the correct moment hero I grew up on. The maturity is needed to fill the void left over by the cocky actioneers and violent ways, the newer breed actually have goals and aren’t willing to bend their ways to get them.

Next time, I’ll use a light saber on your ass!

I can’t say enough about Liam Neeson, he’s just so damn good as the guy who pulls out all the stops to get his daughter back. As a new father to a daughter myself, I identify with his character. I’d do everything in my power to achieve the same end, and if I had the same skill sets and knowledge Bryan Mills had, I’d tear down the Eiffel tower myself to get back what was mine. He brings an additional weight to his performance that Taken would otherwise would have been without, and become straight to DVD fodder. The action might be mindless, but the motivation is clear, and watching the straightforward Liam-beats-the-ever-loving-daylights-out-of-people-plot is well worth money.

8.5 out of 10