Film Review: Orcs! (2011)

Release Date: June 6th, 2011 (UK)
Directed by: Andrew Black (as James McPherson)
Written by: Anne Black, Jason Faller, Kynan Griffin, Justin Partridge
Music by: Panu Aaltio, Ben Carson
Cast: Adam Johnson, Maclain Nelson, Renny Grames, Barta Heiner, Michael Behrens, Brad Johnson

Rub Pictures, 3 Men in a Tub Productions, Camera 40 Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

When I first read about this movie, I thought the concept was damn cool and if handled correctly, this could’ve been a great, entertaining and badass cult film. Then a few months later, I saw the trailer and it was hard for me to muster up any interest in watching it until now, a decade later.

The main reason for watching it was that it was free on Prime Video and it was only 78 minutes. Sure, part of me hoped I’d be wrong and that I’d find something amusing and entertaining in the picture. While I didn’t hate every aspect of it, it was dull, overall, and it suffered from what appeared to be a PG-13 rating.

The only real positive was the lead actor, who had charisma, was legitimately funny and at least kept this movie from being a total waste of time.

Apart from that, this was a disappointing, tame fantasy horror flick that needed some old fashioned gore and over the top badass moments. Had this been directed by someone like James Gunn or Peter Jackson before he actually made his own orc movies, we could’ve been treated to an exceptional picture that would’ve lived on for decades as a real cult classic.

Instead, we’re given a neutered, mostly boring movie that shies away from the brutality that one should expect from a film about deranged orcs savagely murdering every human being they come in contact with.

I thought that the orcs actually looked pretty good for the budget and limitations of this movie but they were wasted because of their lack of actual brutality on the screen.

In the end, this could’ve and should’ve been great. I don’t understand the creative direction of the movie and the filmmakers didn’t seem to understand what this picture needed to actually deliver.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other modern, really low budget horror movies.

Documentary Review: Something Ventured (2011)

Release Date: April 24th, 2011 (San Francisco International Film Festival)
Directed by: Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine
Music by: Laura Karpman
Cast: various

Geller/Goldfine Productions, Miralan Productions, 84 Minutes

Review:

I saw this way back when it came out but I remembered it pretty fondly, so I decided to give it another watch when I saw it was free with Prime. Also, I didn’t remember much about it other than I had liked it about a decade ago.

So this goes through the early days of venture capitalism and since that’s something I’m a fan of, I found this pretty interesting. Plus, all these old school O.G. venture capitalists all seemed like pretty good guys and they came off as quite likable.

What’s most interesting about this is that it gives some details on the creation of a lot of iconic companies. It also shows many of these men talk about their failures and missed opportunities.

Ultimately, I liked that everyone sort of wore everything on their sleeve and weren’t afraid of talking about the good and the bad. There are lessons to be learned from these personalities and their trial and error.

This is a fairly short and quick watch and while it is primarily just talking head interviews, everything is superbly organized and presented while the multiple narratives and subjects flow well.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on business.

Film Review: The Ides of March (2011)

Also known as: Farragut North (working title)
Release Date: August 31st, 2011 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: George Clooney
Written by: George Clooney, Beau Willimon, Grant Heslov
Based on: Farragut North by Beau Willimon
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella, Jennifer Ehle, Gregory Itzin, Michael Mantell

Exclusive Media Group, Cross Creek Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“If you want to be president, you can start a war, you can lie, you can cheat, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t fuck the interns. They’ll get you for that.” – Stephen Meyers

Being the last few days before the 2020 Presidential Election, I figured I’d watch a few films that cover that very subject to some degree. I chose this one mainly due to the cast and because I hadn’t yet seen it.

While it was a decently acted film, it was also kind of boring and other than a few key plot points, nothing really seemed to happen, other than Ryan Gosling running around plotting and scheming to save his own skin and to suppress his own guilt. But I guess that’s politics.

This was directed by George Clooney and while I love the guy as an actor, his directorial efforts need a lot of work. It’s not that this is a bad movie, it’s just a severely dull one that sees an incredible cast just sort of sleep their way through the scenes.

Every performance seemed very understated and the only one that worked for me was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s. Everyone else just played what should’ve been very emotional scenes like they were devoid of emotion and feeling. While I also like Gosling, he does this quite a bit and sometimes it’s like someone needs to push him into expressing himself more passionately and less coldly.

Marisa Tomei was the best part of the film, as she exists in contrast to everyone else’s “cool as a cucumber” approach. However, she’s a fairly minor character and not maximized in a way that benefits the picture, overall. But when she’s onscreen, at least I felt something.

I guess Paul Giamatti also conveyed emotion but like Tomei, he’s used sparingly.

The story felt skeletal and I find it hard to believe that it was adapted to film if this movie is anything close to the source material. If so, it feels like a lot was left out or scrapped in favor of a more palatable running time.

Although, this movie could’ve definitely benefitted from more context, more story and a more energetic pace. You probably could’ve fit all that extra context and nuance into the picture had it moved with some actual life.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other films about presidential elections.

Film Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Also known as: Aries (fake working title), Mission: Impossible IV (working title), MI4, MiGP (informal titles)
Release Date: December 7th, 2011 (Dubai International Film Festival)
Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by: Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec
Based on: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Josh Holloway, Anil Kapoor, Lea Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson (uncredited), Ving Rhames (uncredited cameo), Michelle Monaghan (uncredited cameo)

TC Productions, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures, 132 Minutes

Review:

“The Secretary is dead. The President has invoked Ghost Protocol. We’re shut down. No satellite, safe house, support, or extraction. The four of us and the contents of this car are all that remains of the IMF.” – Ethan Hunt

Well, out of the four Mission: Impossible films that I’ve seen, this one is hands down the best. Now I still have to see the two after this but following the third movie and this one, the franchise seems to be on a great trajectory following the second film, which killed the series for me way back in 2000.

I loved this movie from top-to-bottom and it had a superb cast that had solid chemistry, allowing them, as a unit, to carry the picture and alleviate the big burden from just being on Tom Cruise’s shoulders. As great as Cruise is, this made for a better film where he was still the star but a part of a great ensemble that made this movie seem bigger, cooler and more important than any of the previous ones.

As far as the cast goes, I wish that Ving Rhames was more involved and didn’t just appear in a cameo at the end.

The story here was also the best of the series. Although, it is hard to top Philip Seymour Hoffman as the villain in the previous chapter. Still, the villains in this one are good and I was enthralled by their plot and how it effected the bigger picture of this franchise not just in this movie but moving forward beyond it.

The action sequences were stellar and the stunts were damn impressive. Each of these sequences sucked you right in, keeping your eyes glued to the screen. I loved the tower climb sequence, as well as the sandstorm chase.

All of the techie stuff was also very clever and while this dips its toe into the James Bond high-tech spy thriller pool, these films feel very much like their own thing and the tech is unique and fits the film’s style. It’s similar to Bond but our heroes here aren’t just using tiny gadgets with one function or suped up, weapon-loaded cars. The tech here is bigger and more interesting than just being one-off gags or easy solutions to an immediate problem.

I also loved the cinematography and the way the film was shot, as it had massive scope and just looked pristine and perfect. The locations contributed a lot to this but everything was masterfully crafted and captured on film.

Michael Giacchino’s score was really good and the more of I hear of his work, the more I like it. I think he has the ability to become one of the top composers in the game, which is refreshing as so much of the music made for films these days is forgettable and almost generic, paint-by-numbers compositions. Giacchino’s scores harken back to a time when film scores were iconic, memorable and would go on to stand the test of time by living on in people’s minds for decades. While I can’t call him a John Williams or an Ennio Morricone, I’ve greatly enjoyed his work and it exceeds what has become the norm.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is an incredibly solid blockbuster picture. Everything in it just feels right and I was smiling ear-to-ear from start-to-finish. And honestly, that’s all I want from these sort of movies. 

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Mission: Impossible films.

Film Review: Green Lantern (2011)

Release Date: June 14th, 2011 (New Zealand)
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Temuera Morrison, Geoffrey Rush (voice), Michael Clarke Duncan (voice), Taika Waititi, Clancy Brown (voice)

DC Entertainment, De Line Pictures, Warner Bros., 114 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“You’re impertinent, Hal Jordan. You’re rash, volatile, opinionated – It seems Abin Sur found another just like himself.” – Sinestro

Man, I had high hopes for this film when it was coming out. Although, I thought Ryan Reynolds was a poor choice, despite liking him in general. He’s just not the Hal Jordan type and luckily he found his superhero calling once he started making Deadpool movies. I’m ignoring his first outing as Deadpool in that Wolverine movie though, as that was atrocious beyond atrociousness.

Anyway, this film was a supreme dud. It could’ve been great, especially coming off of the heels of how great the Geoff Johns run was in the Green Lantern comics just before this movie. Also, this had an incredible cast apart from the Reynolds misfire.

I think my hopes were also high due to how well the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies were in those first few years. But I guess the filmmakers behind this didn’t learn the lessons from the bad comic book adaptations, as they took the villain Parallax and essentially made him a giant fucking cloud like Galactus in the laughably awful Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

For positives, I liked what they were doing with Hector Hammond and I also liked the world building they did with the Green Lantern Corps. I also liked most of the people in the film but they should’ve used Sinestro more, especially with Mark Strong in the role. They also sort of wasted Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett without giving them more and better material to work with.

The special effects were pretty terrible. There are some good effects moments but the film looks overly cartoon-y and the Oa scenes felt more like a Pixar movie than anything I could try and attach to any sort of reality.

Also, giving the Green Lanterns fully CGI costumes was a bad idea.

I guess the biggest disappointment out of this was that it was directed by Martin Campbell, who did two of my favorite James Bond movies: GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other crappy superhero movies of the ’00s and ’10s.

Film Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

Also known as: Ghost Rider 2 (working title)
Release Date: December 11th, 2011 (Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: Neveldine/Taylor
Written by: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S. Goyer
Based on: Johnny Blaze by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert, Idris Elba

Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Hyde Park Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[voiceover] Why does the devil walk on human form anyway? I have no idea. Maybe he doesn’t know either. Maybe he passes on from body to body, down through history, waiting for the perfect fit. But I know one thing, on Earth, he’s weak. His powers are limited. He needs emissaries to do his dirty work, so he finds them or makes them, using his greatest power, the power of the deal.” – Johnny Blaze

I dreaded going into this, as there was no way it could be better than its predecessor, which was a pretty big pile of cinematic shit.

However, I was wrong.

Granted, I may be alone in my assessment of this picture but I found it to be more palatable than the first Ghost Rider film because it just went batshit crazy from the get go and Nicolas Cage was fully unchained and allowed to be the insane madman he can be when he turns his performance up to eleven.

This is still a terrible film and I doubt I’ll ever watch it more than once but I didn’t find myself wanting to fast-forward like I did with the previous one.

I think it also helped the movie that Idris Elba was in it, even though he should never have to be a part of a production this atrocious. He was a bright spot in this turd, however.

Elba couldn’t save the movie, though, as it had a bafflingly bad script, not a very good story to begin with and then was littered with horrendous CGI special effects and awful acting.

Honestly, based off of the first film, this one should’ve never been made and I think that it was only greenlit, at the time, in order for the studio to try and hang on to the intellectual property rights. I mean, it’s obvious that no one associated with this film gave a shit about it.

Well, except maybe Nicolas Cage, who dedicated himself to the insanity so much that it’s only worth seeing because the level that Cage performs at here, must be seen to be believed.

At the end of the day, the movie feels like cocaine that somehow became sentient and then sniffed itself.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the Ghost Rider film before it.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Also known as: Pirates 4 (informal alternative title), P.O.T.C. 4 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: May 7th, 2011 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: the Pirates of the Caribbean amusement park ride by Walt Disney, characters by Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert, On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Sam Claflin, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Stephen Graham, Richard Griffiths, Greg Ellis, Keith Richards (cameo)

Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney, 137 Minutes

Review:

“[comes out of his quarters and glares at Sparrow] Gentlemen. I be placed in a bewilderment. There I were, resting. And upon a sudden, I hear an ungodly row on deck. Sailors abandoning their posts, without orders, without leave. Men before the mast, taking the ship for themselves. What be that, First Mate?” – Blackbeard

I haven’t seen this Pirates of the Caribbean movie since the theater and frankly, back then, it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

It’s not that this is a bad movie, it’s just a pretty boring one that feels smaller than its predecessors and seems to spend more time dilly dallying than getting down and dirty.

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of action sequences, there are. But with Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan not appearing in this film, it just feels like it’s missing depth and narrative richness.

I guess the trade off is that you get to spend a lot more time with Jack Sparrow, as he has to fill in the blanks and carry this picture without his familiar co-stars.

But, at least, Geoffrey Rush returned as Barbosa and honestly, he’s my favorite character in the franchise.

Apart from that, we get Penelope Cruz, whose role is pretty forgettable. Especially, since she didn’t return for the fifth film.

The villain is played by Ian McShane and while I love him in just about everything he does, he doesn’t seem to do much in this movie until the end. He sort of avoids action until the final fight and just spends most of his time giving speeches and orders to a slew of one-off, disposable characters.

I like that this tapped into the Fountain of Youth story but it gets a lot of that legend wrong. I guess the plot is based off of an ’80s swashbuckling novel but I’ve never read it and I’m not sure how close this film’s story is to it. But I was anticipating seeing the characters romping around Florida, as opposed to Caribbean caves with magic gravity-defying water.

Anyway, this is an okay adventure film to kill a few hours but it pales in comparison to the trilogy of films that came before it.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Documentary Review: Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ (2011)

Release Date: October 1st, 2011
Directed by: Chad Schaffer
Music by: Doug Easley, Adam Woodard
Cast: Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart, Jerry Jarrett, Bill Dundee, Sputnik Monroe, Jackie Fargo, Rocky Johnson, Jimmy Valiant, Andy Kaufman (archive footage), Hulk Hogan (archive footage)

Off the Top Rope Productions, 91 Minutes

Review:

For those who pay close attention to what is posted here at Talking Pulp, you know that I’ve watched and reviewed a lot of wrestling documentaries, as of late. I’ve got to say, this is one of the better ones I’ve seen over the last few months and it caught me by surprise with how good it is.

While I’m a fan of the old school wrestling that came out of Memphis in the ’70s and ’80s, it wasn’t something that I had easy access to until I became a tape trader in the ’90s, even then, I still didn’t have the appreciation for it that I would over time. Seeing this though, that appreciation has truly magnified.

Lately, as a Memphis fan, I’ve been really fortunate due to what I’ve learned from this film, as well as the Kentucky Fried Wrasslin’ podcast by Scott Bowden and Brian Last. Unfortunately, Scott recently passed away and it was hard not thinking about him while watching this film.

But man, Memphis Heat is solid through and through and it really gets into the history of the territory, covering as much as it possbily can in just 91 minutes. Frankly, I could’ve watched a thirteen episode documentary television series on this and still wanted more.

It gave me a lot more context into the stars and the stories that I already loved while cultivating my passion for the wrestling business in a new way. While I’ve always appreciated great legends like Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Hart, this really made me fall in love with their work. It also gave me a better understanding of the Memphis wrasslin’ style, the culture around the territory and just how incredible it must have been to see these shows live.

For old school wrestling aficionados, I’d say that Memphis Heat is a must own and I’m sure that I will watch it again much sooner rather than later.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries you can find on Highspots.

Film Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Also known as: Planet of the Apes: Genesis, Genesis: Apes, Caesar, Rise of the Apes (working titles)
Release Date: July 28th, 2011 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Written by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Based on: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
Music by: Patrick Doyle
Cast: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Andy Serkis

Chernin Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Caesar. I’m sorry. This my fault. This has to stop. This isn’t the way, you know what they’re capable of. Please come home. If you come home, I’ll protect you.” – Will Rodman

I’ve already reviewed the two films after this one but this film came out in a time where I wasn’t writing movie reviews. So I figured that I’d go back and give it a rewatch because I had fairly fond memories of it and because I want to revisit and review the original film series as well.

All three of the films in the most modern reboot series are consistently good. This one sits in the middle for me between the other two but they’re all pretty close in quality and enjoyment.

This film focuses on the events that started the ape takeover of the planet. It handles that in a great way too, as it focuses on science run amok but with good intentions behind it. So it’s really not too dissimilar from science run amok in the real world. It’s also not too dissimilar from how some corporations are willing to compromise ethics for profit. Social and political critique aside, the setup to the ape takeover feels plausible within a real world setting.

In a lot of ways, this reminds me of the fourth Planet of the Apes film from the original series, in that it goes back in time to the early stages of the uprising. It also does this film some favors in that the fourth original Apes movie had my favorite story out of the lot.

This is well acted from James Franco, Freida Pinto and John Lithgow as the main human characters, but it is superbly acted by the living legend, Andy Serkis, who performed in a motion capture suit in order to play the main ape, Caesar.

The bond and emotion between Serkis and Franco is uncanny and you feel everything that both of them feel, every step of the way through this story. While it has to be somewhat difficult to pull performances off when motion capture is involved, Andy Serkis truly nailed it as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films and I think that he’s even a bit better in this. Serkis has truly mastered how to speak through his eyes, his posture and subtle movements.

What’s really impressive, is that even though I’ve already seen this film and knew about the moment where Caesar speaks for the first time, it was still chilling to see it again and it’s the moment that really cements this film as something special.

I really liked this trilogy and I don’t think that it would’ve existed if this film hadn’t worked as well as it did.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Planet of the Apes reboot movies that followed this one.

Film Review: X-Men: First Class (2011)

Release Date: May 25th, 2011 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Oliver Plat, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Caleb Landry Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Michael Ironside, Ray Wise, James Remar, Hugh Jackman (cameo)

Marvel Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Ingenious Film Partners, Twentieth Century Fox, 131 Minutes

Review:

“I can’t stop thinking about the others out there, all those minds that I touched. I could feel them, their isolation, their hopes, their ambitions. I tell you we can start something incredible, Erik. We can help them.” – Professor Charles Xavier

While I haven’t seen this picture since it was in the theater, it left a great impression on me and gave me hope for the future of the X-Men franchise in film. Granted, we’d get two pretty good movies and two mostly poopy ones, but the weak whimpering farts of the second half of the prequel series of films didn’t take away my satisfaction with this one and its followup, Days of Future Past.

It was nice to revisit this, all these years later, as it holds up fairly well, even if I’m not as optimistic about the franchise now.

To start, this was much better than the last of the first run of films, X-Men: The Last Stand. That movie left such a bad taste in my mouth that anything better would have made me happy. Luckily, this was a lot better but I think that my original impression was a bit over-inflated due to the precedent set before it.

That’s not to say that this isn’t solid, it is. This is, in fact, a damn good superhero film and one of the best in the schizophrenic X-Men series.

What really sets this one on a pedestal is that the story was pretty good and the acting, at least from the core actors, was convincing and impressive. I didn’t know much about Michael Fassbender, before this, and I wasn’t yet sold on James McAvoy, but this picture cemented both men as two of my favorites over the last decade.

On the flip side of that, you also had some really weak performances from January Jones, who felt out of place and awkward, as well as the younger actors in the cast. A few of them would become better actors over time but they all mostly felt green, here.

I did like the inclusion of Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt in this, as well as character actors Michael Ironside, James Remar and Ray Wise. While the character actors had small roles, they added an extra level of legitimacy and coolness to the picture.

I loved that this took place in the ’60s, tied to the Cuban Missile Crisis and also went back into Nazi Germany to establish the relationship between Magneto and Sebastian Shaw. The general look and aesthetic of the film were really good and it actually fits with the previous X-Men films, despite those being set over thirty years later. One thing Fox did well, while they managed the X-Men movie franchise, was that they kept everything sort of visually consistent.

My only real gripe about the film is that there isn’t enough emphasis on the actual “first class” of students, which this film is named after. They all felt generic and disposable, cast to play archetypes and nothing more. Sure, some of them are major comic book characters but they didn’t feel that way in this movie.

Overall, this was a good, fresh, soft reboot of the series. It eventually ties to the older films and the series becomes an even bigger continuity clusterfuck but at least this generation of the franchise started out on the right foot.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Fox X-Men films.