Film Review: Jonah Hex (2010)

Release Date: June 17th, 2010 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Jimmy Hayward
Written by: Neveldine/Taylor, William Farmer
Based on: Jonah Hex by John Albano, Tony Dezuniga
Music by: Marco Beltrami, Mastodon
Cast: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley, Aidan Quinn, Lance Reddick, Tom Wopat, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

DC Comics, Legendary Pictures, Mad Chance, Weed Road Pictures, Warner Bros., 81 Minutes

Review:

“War and me took to each other real well. It felt like it had meaning. The feeling of doing what you thought was right. But it wasn’t. Folks can believe what they like, but eventually a man’s gotta decide if he’s gonna do what’s right. That choice cost me more than I bargained for.” – Jonah Hex

This has a measly 4.7 rating on IMDb. I’m calling bullshit on that. This is not as bad as a 4.7 would imply but I’ll get into why.

This film came out, it didn’t look exciting, it didn’t generate the right kind of buzz and it just sort of fizzled out immediately. To be honest, I didn’t support its theatrical run and sort of forgot about it until a friend and I were talking about Josh Brolin and his multiple comic book roles. So I figured that I’d check it out, eight years later.

What I didn’t know, at the time, is that this thing has a pretty stacked cast. Not only do you have Brolin and Megan Fox, probably the hottest starlet circa 2010, but you also have John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley, Aidan Quinn, Lance Reddick, Tom Wopat and an uncredited Jeffrey Dean Morgan. This is a movie full of manly men with talent.

There is a lot working for this movie but there is also a lot working against it, which is why it wasn’t successful. Well, and the trailers made it look goofier than it actually was.

The biggest problem with this picture is running time. Now I have to assume that this fell victim to producer meddling, being behind schedule or a writers’ strike. Reason being, this film should not have been just 81 minutes. It feels like there is a half hour missing from the movie and there probably is. Maybe a lot of scenes came out so bad that they got cut and this is the only way they could have salvaged the film. Whatever the reason, this picture lacks character development, story development and any real emotional weight or deeper context.

That aside, however, this is a balls to the wall action fest with some cool ideas and the kernel of something that could have been really damn good had it been managed much better.

Brolin was good as Hex. Fox was incredibly hot as the eye candy, which is all she needs to be. Malkovich was a formidable villain but just didn’t have the time to properly shine and the same goes for Fassbender, really.

Ultimately, this felt like a completely wasted opportunity. It had some very good pieces but the puzzle was left unfinished with most of the pieces hammered into the wrong place.

I still think that there is more going right for this film than wrong and I can’t give it a rating below a 5 out of 10. The film just feels unfinished and I wish they would have spent the time to work out the noticeable kinks and given us something more worthy of this film’s roster of onscreen talent.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other sci-fi/comic book/western hybrids: Cowboys & AliensWild Wild West and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. Also, the Jonah Hex episodes of Legends of Tomorrow.

Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Release Date: July 29th, 2014 (Mexico City premiere)
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Written by: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Whoopi Goldberg

Nickelodeon Movies, Platinum Dunes, Gama Entertainment, Mednick Productions, Heavy Metal, Paramount Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“So, they’re heroes in a half shell?” – Vernon Fenwick

*Written in 2014.

Okay, what the hell was that?

I just got out of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I left confused and annoyed. I anticipated it not being on the level I had hoped, as Michael Bay produced it and he’s been making a ton of money bastardizing and destroying the Transformers franchise, but I thought that this having a different director than Bay himself, may have turned out to be a secret blessing. Well, it wasn’t.

First of all, I don’t like the Turtle designs. Yes, everyone has bitched that they are too big and bulky. Well, people are right on that one. Also, their faces are odd. This doesn’t even compare though to how awful Master Splinter looked. His design was just wrong. His gi was Pittsburgh Steelers colors and not the traditional red that it has always been. But then again, even that wasn’t the tip of the iceberg.

The absolute worst character design in this film was Shredder. He looked like a Michael Bay Decepticon covered in way too many big knives and pretty much just resembled a really bad Rob Liefeld character from the early ’90s. Oh yeah, he was also just some scarred up Japanese guy in a robotic power suit. Shredder is a fucking ninja in a samurai outfit with awesome yet simple blades on his fist and shoulders. He’s not a hard character to do right. Hell, just look at the 1990 live action film, Shredder was perfect in that. Perfect!

Actually, the 1990 film is still the live action TMNT bible because this film just blew massive chunks all over everything.

Now don’t even get me started on how awful the Turtles new origin story was. It was garbage and a slap in the face of how awesome their beginnings were in the comics and the original live action film.

The evil plot in the movie was also laughable as hell. So, the evil corporate scientist douche is going to poison New York City with a special concoction he made only to make billions of dollars by offering up the cure for it a month later. How does he plan to secretly poison the city? By spraying it out of the radio tower on top of the giant skyscraper that has his own name on it. Yeah, smart plan science douche.

The Foot Clan also sucked. Their design had nothing to do with the Foot Clan that anyone would remember from any previous incarnation of this franchise. There was some kung fu Asian chick that led them but she was useless and uninteresting.

I should mention the few positives. I liked the Turtle characters. They got their personalities right and their relationship felt genuine. Their voices were a bit off but there were much bigger issues throughout the movie. Also, Will Arnett was good, Megan Fox was pretty tolerable and Whoopi Goldberg owned the small part she had. William Fichtner was good as the villain who wasn’t Shredder, even though his plan was complete ass.

Well, the film came and I finally saw it and being that I didn’t expect much, I’m not all that heartbroken. There is disappointment but Guardians of the Galaxy is still in the theater, so I can go see that a few more times.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: It’s sequel.

Film Review: Grindhouse (2007)

While I have seen both Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof multiple times, I never got to see the full-length version of Grindhouse until now.

When it came out in 2007, only one theater near me carried it and it wasn’t there very long, so I missed it. Also, the films were released separately, as expanded editions, when they hit store shelves. There wasn’t a full version of Grindhouse available after its theatrical run.

When I subscribed to Starz via my Amazon Fire Stick, I saw that the full version of the movie was available and thus, I could finally rectify this cinematic injustice. I’m really glad that I did because these films actually play much better in this format, as double-billed companion pieces to one another.

Plus, I finally got to see the trailers, as a part of this overall experience, even though I have seen them on YouTube multiple times since 2007.

Robert Rodriguez’s trailer for Machete was a highlight of the film and it was so good that it became its own motion picture and then expanded into a franchise. Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS trailer was interesting enough, as a trailer, but doesn’t seem like something that will work as a full-length feature. The same can be said for Edgar Wright’s Don’t. Now Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving should be made into a full-length slasher film in the same vein as Machete. Roth has hinted at making it and I hope he eventually does.

This film also spawned a contest for fans to make fake trailers in the grindhouse style. This lead to the full-length feature Hobo With A Shotgun, which was a hell of a lot of fun. I need to re-watch it and review it in the near future.

Moving beyond the fake trailers, we have the two big films that make up the bulk of the Grindhouse experience. So let me get into each film and discuss them on their own.

Planet Terror (2007):

Release Date: April 6th, 2007
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez
Music by: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Stacy Ferguson, Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Quentin Tarantino, Tom  Savini, Michael Parks

Rodriguez International Pictures, Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Now you’ve got a gal in your wrecked truck with a missing leg? A missing leg that’s now missing?” – Sheriff Hague

Planet Terror has always been my favorite of the two movies in Grindhouse. That still stands, as I love just about everything about it. It may even be my favorite Robert Rodriguez picture but it is a close race between this, From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete and Once Upon A Time In Mexico.

The film is essentially a zombie outbreak movie but it is really gross, even for that genre. People’s faces start bubbling into puss and there is a lot of blood and other strange bodily fluids oozing out of people throughout the movie. There are also lots of severed testicles and a melting penis. It’s a gross movie but it is still well done and it doesn’t overtake the picture making it a mindless gore festival.

Planet Terror has a lot of depth and character development for a movie loaded with a ton of people. Everyone has an interesting story and it is cool seeing it all play out as these people eventually come together in an effort to escape the growing threat of a zombie apocalypse.

It also really fits the old school 1970s exploitation style of horror pictures that populated grindhouse theaters in big cities. The cinematography really captures the right vibe and kudos to the extra graininess and inconsistent look of different shots in the same sequences.

The practical effects also work well in making this film fit the grindhouse mold. Sometimes there is obvious CGI and it is a reminder that this isn’t a true 70s grindhouse picture but it isn’t a distraction and it serves its purpose well enough.

The cast is also phenomenal. I remember that when I first saw this, that I hoped it would open up doors for Freddy Rodriguez. He’s still not anywhere close to being a household name but his character of El Wray should reappear in some way, in some other Rodriguez picture. He’s a guy too cool to just be confined to this one movie.

This is also my favorite thing that Rose McGowan has ever done. Plus you get a very evil Josh Brolin, an enchanting Marley Shelton, a bad ass Michael Biehn, plus Michael Parks, Tom Savini, Bruce Willis, Lost‘s Naveen Andrews and Quentin Tarantino as his most despicable character to date. Jeff Fahey, who is always stellar, really kills it in this movie as J.T. the Texas B-B-Q king. Also, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas has never looked better.

Planet Terror is unique, even for a film in a tired genre. It takes the zombie formula and ups the ante in every way possible. Rodriguez made a fine picture that should be mentioned alongside other great zombie classics.

Death Proof (2007):

Release Date: April 6th, 2007
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: Rachel Levy, Jack Nitzsche, Mary Ramos
Cast: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Parks, James Parks, Marley Shelton

Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, 114 Minutes

Review:

“Because it was a fifty fifty shot on wheter you’d be going left or right. You see we’re both going left. You could have just as easily been going left, too. And if that was the case… It would have been a while before you started getting scared. But since you’re going the other way, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to start getting scared… immediately!” – Stuntman Mike

When I first saw Death Proof, it didn’t resonate with me. I mean, I enjoyed it enough but it just didn’t compare to the work that Quentin Tarantino did before it. I still feel this way but I have more of an appreciation for the film now. Also, seeing it in the Grindhouse format, which is more condensed, serves the film better.

The problem I initially had with the film, and some of Tarantino’s other pictures, is that it is way too talky. Sure, he writes great dialogue but sometimes it can run on for far too long. Death Proof in its longer running time falls victim to this. The condensed Grindhouse version, however, is better balanced.

Another problem with the film, is that many of the characters just aren’t likable. This is especially true for the first group of girls we meet. At least the second group felt more like friends and their conversations came across as more natural and authentic.

Kurt Russell initially knocks it out of the park as the killer driver, Stuntman Mike. However, as the film and his character evolves, he completely loses the cool bad ass shtick and becomes a giant whining weeny. His character transformation isn’t a bad thing, it is just how it is executed that makes it a problem.

The one thing that really makes this a cool picture, however, is the cars and the stunts. Tarantino selected some seriously bad ass automobiles that were homages to films that influenced him. The stunt work and action was amazing and the sequence of the first major accident was shot and executed stupendously.

The problem with the film, being that it is supposed to be a grindhouse throwback, is that it needed more balls-to-the-wall mayhem and less chit chat. The fact that this has a lot more dialogue than Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror but somehow can’t develop characters as well is pretty baffling. Tarantino would just rather focus on cool conversations on subjects that directly interest him than to have any sort of meaningful character development. You just don’t care about these people in the same way you care about those in Planet Terror.

Regardless of my criticisms, I do still like this movie. But to be honest, I still think it is the worst film in Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre. Granted, that doesn’t mean much, as everything he’s done has been fairly great in some way.

In the end, this is still entertaining as hell and who doesn’t love muscle car chaos and kick ass chicks?

Additional directorial credits:

Robert Rodriguez – Machete trailer
Rob Zombie – Werewolf Women of the SS trailer
Edgar Wright – Don’t trailer
Eli Roth – Thanksgiving trailer

Additional acting credits from the fake trailer segments: Danny Trejo, Nicolas Cage, Sheri Moon Zombie, Cheech Marin, Udo Kier, Tom Towles, Sybil Danning, Bill Moseley, Will Arnett, Nick Frost, Jason Issacs, Simon Pegg, Peter Serafinowicz