Film Review: Elektra (2005)

Release Date: January 8th, 2005 (Las Vegas premiere)
Directed by: Rob Bowman
Written by: Zak Penn, Stuart Zicherman, Raven Metzner
Based on: Elektra by Frank Miller
Music by: Christophe Beck
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Terence Stamp, Bob Sapp, Jason Issacs (uncredited), Ben Affleck (cameo, scene cut)

Marvel Enterprises, Regency Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox, 97 Minutes, 100 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I like your bracelet, by the way. Do you know what those are? Here. They’re warrior beads. They’re from Indonesia. Centuries ago, you had to be the best fighter in your village to earn them.” – Elektra, “Wow. I bought’em off eBay.” – Abby Miller

I never wanted to see this because the trailer was a complete turnoff that made this film look like absolute schlock of the highest and worst caliber. Not good, cheesy schlock but the kind that’s so drab and pointless that it’s shocking it even got a theatrical release and wasn’t used to torture terrorists.

Having finally seen this, I wasn’t wrong. This is definitely a terrible movie, littered with atrocious special effects, generic and lifeless characters, as well as wasting the talents of the few good actors in it.

What’s even worse is that this doesn’t feel like it belongs in the same universe as 2003’s Daredevil, which was a pretty decent movie if you watch the Director’s Cut instead of the theatrical version. Hell, even Ben Affleck filmed a cameo scene to tie them together and for whatever reason, it was cut from the final version of this film.

What this does feel like is a made-for-TV SyFy movie of the week. It’s duller than a plastic knife left too close to an open flame with about as much personality and charm as a lobotomized sloth.

The only real silver lining in this is that Jennifer Garner looks absolutely stunning. But she’s always pretty stunning and one shouldn’t have to suffer through this deplorable production just to see her kick the shit out of people while being super hot.

Elektra is bad, really bad. I mean, I guess it’s better than 2004’s Catwoman but at least that film had some memorable moments. Everything in this film is completely forgettable.

Rating: 1.75/10
Pairs well with: the 2003 Daredevil movie, as well as other superhero films from the mid-’90s through mid-’00s.

Film Review: Batman Begins (2005)

Also known as: Batman 5 (working title), Batman: Intimidation (script title), The Intimidation Game (fake working title)
Release Date: May 31st, 2005 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boone Junior, Jack Gleeson

DC Comics, Syncopy, Warner Bros., 140 Minutes

Review:

“But I know the rage that drives you. That impossible anger strangling the grief, until the memory of your loved one is just… poison in your veins. And one day, you catch yourself wishing the person you loved had never existed, so you would be spared your pain.” – Henri Ducard

When this first came out on DVD, I watched it almost weekly for a few years. I loved this film and to me, at least at the time, it was the greatest Batman film ever made. Hell, before the DVD release, I think I saw this at least three times in the theater.

I would end up liking The Dark Knight even more but the Nolan trilogy started with this film and it was a great introduction to his more serious and realistic Batman film series.

In retrospect now, I like the 1989 Batman slightly better but it’s magic was undone by the later films that followed and even though it took eight years, Batman Begins was the cinematic reboot that we needed after the Schumacher Batman pictures.

This film is so good, as are the ones that follow, that I’ve kind of accepted that no one will ever make a Batman film series as great. Frankly, these are the best films that Christopher Nolan has made and while the first film in a trilogy can often times feel like a practice run, this one is fairly close to perfect.

My only real gripe about it is that the pacing feels a bit disjointed at times. But there is also a lot of story and a lot of characters to balance here. I think that Nolan got much better with that in the next film. These aren’t things that break the film in any way but if I can’t give this a perfect score, I feel that I should explain why.

This is still energetic and every scene feels necessary. But it also feels like so much was wedged into it that it could’ve actually benefited from an extra 20-30 minutes. And that’s not something I’m usually a fan of, as I love 90 minute running times and this picture is already well over two hours. But when a film is this good, I never seem to mind that it requires more of my time.

Nolan got the best possible performances out of all of the actors involved and everyone in this is absolutely perfect. This was well cast and even Katie Holmes, who was replaced in the sequel, pulled off the best performance of her career. Normally, I wouldn’t put her at the same level as everyone else in this movie but she held her own and I was disappointed that she was recast in The Dark Knight.

In closing, this is a stellar motion picture where everything just works in the right way from the direction, cinematography, acting, the musical score by Hans Zimmer and the great character development.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Film Review: V for Vendetta (2005)

Release Date: December 11th, 2005 (Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: James McTeigue
Written by: The Wachowskis
Based on: V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, David Lloyd
Music by: Dario Marianelli
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Rupert Graves

Anarchos Productions Inc., DC/Vertigo Comics, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Fünfte Babelsberg Film GmbH, Silver Pictures, Virtual Studios, Warner Bros., 132 Minutes

Review:

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” – V

While this is a film that kind of blew me away in early 2006, when it hit regular theaters, it doesn’t have quite the same effect on me now. Maybe it’s because I’m older and my views on the world have evolved, allowing me to see through the simplistic, good versus evil formula that this story employs.

It’s still a damn good movie and it’s hard not to pull for the heroes as they stick it to real fascism in an Orwellian type of world but its solutions to the problem aren’t really solutions and they’re kind of juvenile and reckless.

And honestly, is it really a film about smashing fascism or is it a film about a guy simply out for personal revenge and using his theatrics to inspire regular people to put themselves in danger in an effort to get him what he selfishly wants?

Either way you chop it up, it’s still an entertaining film that leaves the audience with a lot to ponder and for fans to discuss till the end of time. Hopefully, those can be rational discussions as we now live in a world where shitbirds want to burn everything down because, “ermahgerd ferscism ers baaahd!”

The film is perfectly acted and I’m saying that as one who rarely likes Natalie Portman. She is great in this and so is everyone else. Hugo Weaving is the real glue that holds it all together, though, and he was able to give the performance of a lifetime while fully obscured by a mask and a cloak.

Since it’s been so long since I’ve seen this, I forgot how much it deviated from the original story and after having recently read it, I’m not sure why, as the structure and story of the comic seemed more effective to me. Some of these alterations are major, like all the TV station stuff. I guess it makes sense for the film but it wasn’t necessary in the grander scheme of things and it makes me wish that this were more of a beat-for-beat adaptation like Watchmen mostly was.

This is a story that would probably work better as a television series. Granted, nowadays it’d be butchered and reworked into some sort of weird amalgamation of shit like the Watchmen TV series but the comic is paced in a way that would work better in an episodic format over ten or so episodes.

As a film, however, this mostly works. I feel like it succeeded at generating the emotion and weight that it needed but some things were left out and could have made it even more effective.

In the end, it’s still solid, looks great and it showcased incredible acting performances from its stars.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the comic it’s based on, as well as all the Watchmen comics and film.

Documentary Review: The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior (2005)

Release Date: September 25th, 2005
Directed by: Kevin Dunn
Music by: Jim Johnston
Cast: Ultimate Warrior (archive footage), Vince McMahon, Triple H, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Eric Bischoff, Adam “Edge” Copeland, Ted DiBiase, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho, Jim Johnston, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Steve Lombardi, “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Bruce Prichard, Sgt. Slaughter, Jim Ross

WWE, 90 Minutes

Review:

“He was probably too stupid to know where he was from! Either that, or someone paid him to keep it quiet. ‘Here’s 50 bucks, don’t say you’re from Pittsburg!'” – Bobby “The Brain” Heenan [on the Warrior hailing from “Parts Unknown”]

This was a controversial documentary from a pop-culture standpoint and it is one that the WWE sort of wishes they had never made because it’s sentiment doesn’t paint one of its most popular legends in a very positive light. But I guess Vince McMahon had thin skin and a bug up his ass in 2005, which suddenly went away around 2014 when he put the Ultimate Warrior in his Hall of Fame.

That being said, when you watch The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior, it actually isn’t that bad and it’s not as heavy on the bashing as one would expect based off of the historical hype surrounding it.

I did see this back in 2005 but I hadn’t really watched it since. Back then, most of the information and stories about the Ultimate Warrior were already public knowledge. What made this interesting, though, is that the stories were now told by several of his former peers, colleagues and bosses.

This is kind of a disjointed production, however, as it spends a lot of time building up the man and his career. It takes digs and soft jabs throughout but it does convey his impact on the wrestling world. In a way, this is one part career retrospective and one part tabloid.

The tabloid parts of the film surround the stories about controversy, scandal and the Ultimate Warrior just being a general douche to most people.

Was he a likable guy? Probably not. Did he do some stupid shit that was only done to serve his own ego and self-interest? Absolutely. But does he deserve the condemnation that this documentary tried so hard to manufacture? Probably not.

The thing is, this was made with a very clear agenda in mind. Hell, the agenda is in the title. So it’s kind of hard to take this too seriously, as the WWE has a track record of re-shaping history to suit Vince McMahon’s wishes. I’m not saying that people are outright lying but if you have 90 minutes of a dozen or more people sharing their worst experiences with someone, you can paint anyone out to look like a total piece of shit.

Still, this is mostly entertaining and it allowed some other legends to blow off some steam. However, it’s hardly a clear or accurate picture of who the Ultimate Warrior really was at his core.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other ’00s WWE documentaries.

*since a trailer is no longer available, here’s an insane Ultimate Warrior promo.

Documentary Review: Forever Hardcore: The Documentary (2005)

Release Date: February 15th, 2005
Directed by: Jeremy Borash
Cast: Terry Funk, Konnan, Sabu, Shane Douglas, Francine, The Sandman, Tod Gordon, The Blue Meanie, Axl Rotten, Raven, Jerry Lynn, Joey Styles, Terry Taylor, Pitbull Gary Wolf, New Jack

Big Vision Entertainment, 128 Minutes

Review:

In concept, Forever Hardcore should be the better documentary than WWE’s The Rise and Fall of ECW.

Reason being, it doesn’t need to have the WWE slant on history, which all their documentaries have because for some reason, Vince McMahon likes to put his personal influence into everything his company commercially releases to the world.

However, this doesn’t live up to the hype that it had when it was coming out.

I definitely enjoy the interviews and insight of all the people involved but the editing and overall narrative felt choppy and disjointed.

Additionally, this didn’t get as many people as the WWE release and it didn’t really give a comprehensive history of the ECW promotion with the depth and detail of Rise and Fall. Plus, it wasn’t as organized in how it presented the story.

This is still a good companion piece to the better documentary, though. It gives different perspectives from people that the WWE didn’t bother to interview or those who chose not to participate in that one because of their own reasons and preferences.

The real highlight of this, for me at least, was Terry Funk. He sat out of WWE’s piece and saved his stories for this one. It was also cool hearing Sabu actually speak and give his two cents on the angles and history that he was directly involved in.

For die hard ECW fans, this is definitely worth checking out. For the casual fan, it probably won’t mean much.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: WWE’s documentary The Rise and Fall of ECW.

Film Review: Brick (2005)

Release Date: January, 2005 (Sundance)
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Written by: Rian Johnson
Music by: Nathan Johnson
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Noah Fleiss, Matt O’Leary, Noah Segan, Meagan Good, Emilie de Ravin, Richard Roundtree, Lukas Haas

Bergman Lustig Productions, Focus Features, 110 Minutes

Review:

“Throw one at me if you want, hash head. I’ve got all five senses and I slept last night, that puts me six up on the lot of you.” – Brendan Frye

This reminds me of that 2017 neo-noir Gemini. Reason being, I saw the trailer for it, was lured in and captivated by the visuals and tone but then upon seeing the movie, realized that it had nothing much to offer other than atmosphere and shitbabble conversations from characters written to appear as cool but actually coming off as pretentious douchewads.

With Brick, everything starts to come undone and loses its luster, as soon as you hear the first bit of dialogue.

Additionally, a lot of this isn’t well shot or well lit. It doesn’t employ anything beyond early film school level cinematography. The visual allure of the trailer was obviously just a selection of the movie’s best shots, probably handpicked by the producers in an effort to at least get enough people to watch this just so that the film could break even. Because even though Brick is sort of a cult film now, no one really knew about it for years.

To put it bluntly, Brick is a fucking headache. It has some talented people in it but what could have been great performances and maybe even iconic ones, is undone by director and writer Rian Johnson’s middle school dialogue.

It’s like Johnson is a teen that just discovered classic film-noir and crime fiction and just lifted 1940s dialogue from those sources, applied it to teenagers in a contemporary setting and thought that it was some sort of genius that would make him the new millennium’s Fellini.

But Hollywood apparently loved this film and Johnson’s horrendously bad Looper because he went on to make a Star Wars picture. Granted, it was the worst Star Wars film ever made and pretty much derailed the franchise.

The point is, the warning signs of Rian Johnson’s inability to actually make a competent film were very apparent with Brick.

This tried so hard to be cool but it failed, just as Rian Johnson tries so hard to be a filmmaker but fails, time and time again.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other overly stylized and quippy, shitbabble movies that miss their mark because they can’t see their mark.

Documentary Review: Grizzly Man (2005)

Release Date: January 24th, 2005 (Sundance)
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Written by: Werner Herzog
Music by: Richard Thompson
Cast: Werner Herzog (narrator), Timothy Treadwell

Discovery Docs, Real Big Production, Lions Gate Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

Grizzly Man is a documentary by Werner Herzog. It follows the life and tragic death of Timothy Treadwell, who was killed and partially eaten by grizzly bears along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard.

Herzog, like in his other documentaries, weaves a wonderful tale out of extraordinary events and a very interesting character. This is one of my favorite Herzog documentaries, as it showcases a man, who many believe was out of his mind, and his crossing the line into living among the wild.

Timothy Treadwell was certainly eccentric and you can clearly see that, as much of the film is made up of the home movies Timothy shot while living with Alaskan grizzlies over thirteen summer seasons. One could bring his sanity into question and as the film went on, the less I liked the guy and thought he was off of his rocker. Did he deserve to die? No, but his incessant stupidity at being “one with the bears” eventually lead to him being one with the bears’ digestive track.

The videos that Timothy shot of the bears over the course of his time with them is nothing short of exceptional but he died for his work and very idiotically so. I understand passion but I also understand mental illness and I’m not saying that he was mentally ill but he certainly wasn’t all there and lived in a fantasy world where he thought he could tame the wild and thrive in it and among its apex predators. Even with thirteen years experience, one day the wild had enough of Timothy Treadwell.

This is a tragic story regardless of how you feel about Treadwell. In the end, I am glad I got to go on the journey and see things through his eyes, even though he wore rose-colored glasses.

And there is an awesomely epic bear fight about halfway through the film.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Encounters at the End of the World, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Into the Inferno, The White Diamond and Into the Wild.

Film Review: Venom (2005)

Also known as: Backwater, The Reaper (working titles)
Release Date: September 16th, 2005
Directed by: Jim Gillespie
Written by: Flint Dille, John Zuur Platten, Brandon Boyce
Music by: James L. Venable, John Debney
Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Laura Ramsey, D.J. Cotrona, Meagan Good, Bijou Phillips, Method Man

Outerbanks Entertainment, Collision Entertainment, Miramax Films, Dimension Films, 85 Minutes

Review:

“It’s a milking ceremony. It’s an old Haitian ritual. The Mambo is saving the man’s soul, clensing him of evil. It’s his last rites. The snakes are charmed by the Mamboto suck out the man’s evil, so that his soul may pass on.” – Cece

Man, this was shit.

And it wasn’t the good sort of shit. It was just stinky, funky, boring shit.

Venom is a slasher film that takes place in the Louisiana bayou. It has elements of voodoo in it too, as this film’s slasher is a victim of cursed ghost snakes that possess it and control it. Ghost snakes brought to life by shoddy CGI, mind you. I guess going to the pet store at the mall and buying a couple pythons for a hundred bucks a pop would have killed the budget. The entire CGI for this film probably cost about eight dollars.

Anyway, we get a group of teens and each one fits a predetermined role that anyone who has watched a slasher film knows exactly who’s who. Immediately, you know the girl who will survive and pretty much know the general order in which these kids will get picked off.

The villain is this scared up gas station worker with a big ass tow truck. He’s normal in the beginning but he crashes into some old voodoo lady, tries to save her but ultimately gets bitten by her cartoon voodoo snakes and becomes a swamp zombie. Seriously, he looks like a shirtless, maskless Jason Voorhees covered in mud like Dutch from Predator. Oh, and the cartoon voodoo snakes often times peek through the holes in his decaying body.

Everything about this film was predictable. Slasher films, however, aren’t known for being well-written affairs but at least the good ones tried to do something unique. I guess the voodoo twist is supposed to be unique but we’ve already had voodoo elements brought into slasher pictures; Child’s Play, Candyman and Maniac Cop III immediately come to mind.

Agnes Bruckner was the final girl in this and I thought she was carving out a nice scream queen career for herself as she did this and The Woods around the same time. The Woods is a better film, by the way, and it had Bruce Campbell in it. I can’t recall anything else Bruckner’s done but I remember seeing her in this and thinking, she might be the ’00s horror hero icon.

Method Man from Wu-Tang is in this too but just barely. I feel bad that he got roped into this when he could have done something better with his time like recording another follow up to Tical.

Probably the biggest reason why this movie sucks is that it has absolutely no balls. None. Every big kill happens just after the camera turns away. Sometimes we get to see the aftermath of a kill but the gore is minimal and this just feels like it was edited for television. Fuck this movie and its lack of anything truly horrifying.

Eh. I’m done. I hate this piece of crap. Granted, it’s not the worst horror movie of its decade but I’d rather get a tick in my urethra than ever watch this again.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Other mediocre or bad ’00s horror films: Stay AliveBlack X-MasProm NightValentineSorority Row, See No Evil, etc.

Film Review: Fantastic Four (2005)

Release Date: June 29th, 2005 (Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago)
Directed by: Tim Story
Written by: Michael France, Mark Frost
Based on: Fantastic Four by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Laurie Holden, Maria Menounos, Hugh Jackman (cameo in extended cut)

Marvel Entertainment, Constantin Film, 1492 Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Typical of Victor Von Doom to build a 30 foot statue of himself.” – Ben Grimm

I bought this on DVD in 2005. I’m not sure why, as I was not a fan of it in the theater. And frankly, this was still in shrink wrap until I opened it recently to rewatch the film for review purposes, as I am working my way through all of the early comic book movies before the Marvel Cinematic Universe came into existence.

I think that my opinion of the film is actually worse than it was back then. Maybe my palate is more refined and I’m less likely to accept sub par comic book movies in a day and age where we sometimes get to experience great ones. When this came out, I didn’t care that most of these films sucked, I was just glad that comic book motion pictures were being made.

But man, oh man… this is one atrocious turd pie.

If the film’s poster isn’t enough to tell you that this is some sort of shit festival, then you probably deserve to be kicked in the eye by a pissed off mule. Because let’s be honest, your eyes don’t work anyway.

Let me point out the only two highlights of the film so I can get them out of the way and get back to trashing this movie with fury and gusto.

The two highlights are Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans. I liked these two guys as their characters and I thought their camaraderie was perfect. But they’re also the most talented people in this film by a wide margin and I almost feel bad for them being subjected to this picture and its 2007 sequel.

Now back to the negatives!

All of the actors apart from the two I just mentioned were terrible. Jessica Alba is never really good but her line delivery in this film is probably her worst of all-time. She doesn’t feel like Sue Storm, doesn’t act like Sue Storm and frankly, just shouldn’t have been cast as Sue Storm. Her blonde hair and blue eyes just looked really bizarre and were kind of a distraction.

Ioan Gruffudd also didn’t feel like Reed Richards. He was just a total fucking dork and I get that Richards is a brainy guy but that doesn’t mean that he’s some sort of socially inept doofus. He was like a caricature from The Big Bang Theory if you were to strip away any attempts at making bad jokes.

Julian McMahon just didn’t work as Doctor Doom either. His character was just weird and he never had the presence or the weight that Doom should have. When we do finally reach the finale of the film, I like his look but by that point it’s too late and his dubbed lines, once the mask is on, just feel out of place and strange.

Fantastic Four also suffers from having a shitty script, bad direction by Tim Story and atrocious special effects.

But still, the Chiklis and Evans scenes do effectively reel me back in and keep this movie from being a total pile of shit, even though I hate the Thing’s rubber suit. In 2005, he didn’t need to look like a villain from a 1967 episode of Ultraman.

I think it is safe to assume that I will probably never watch this movie again. But I do have the tough task of having to watch its sequel once more, as I keep working through the pre-MCU comic book films for review purposes and because I like torturing myself with horrible films.

But seriously, this was like chugging diarrhea.

And because of that gross analogy (and my low rating), I do have to run this through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Its sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the reboot, 2015’s Fantastic Four. And I can’t forget 1994’s unreleased Fantastic Four film, which can be tracked down and seen nowadays. However, all these movies are terrible.

Documentary Review: Dust To Glory (2005)

Release Date: April 1st, 2005 (limited)
Directed by: Dana Brown
Written by: Dana Brown
Music by: Nathan Furst
Cast: Chad McQueen, Mario Andretti, Steve McQueen (archive footage)

BronWa Pictures, Dusted Productions, Gotham Group, 97 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

I know that it’s been out for a while but I just watched the documentary film Dust To Glory, which is about the famous Baja 1000 off-road race. For those who don’t know, the race is world-renowned and has been a part of Baja’s culture since 1967.

The film was phenomenally shot and the action really never stopped apart from taking breaks to interview the several subjects of the film. The people and their stories were great and added a lot of depth and history to the majestic race.

The director is Dana Brown who is the son of famous documentary filmmaker Bruce Brown. The elder Brown was known for the films Endless Summer and its sequel, as well as On Any Sunday, which is a motorcycle racing documentary featuring Steve McQueen.

The younger brown does a good job living up to his dad’s reputation and ability to weave together a good story. Dust To Glory is a sort of spiritual successor to On Any Sunday.

Whether you are a fan of off-road racing or not, this film is very accessible and tells a story interesting enough to keep one hooked until the end. There wasn’t a stone left unturned in covering every possible aspect of this race and the people around it. If anything, the film made me want to travel to Mexico to participate or at the very least, go as a spectator and scream my lungs off.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: On Any Sunday and Love the Beast.