Tag: 2 stars

Movie Review: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) (1964)

Man, France has been letting me down lately. I’ll have to watch Amelie or something soon. The operatic The Umbrellas of Cherbourg covers the lives of a mother, Madame Emery (Ann Vernon), and her 17-year-old daughter, Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve), whose unprofitable umbrella shop and slightly upscale lifestyle has led to financial struggles. Geneviève is in love with Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), a mechanic, and they hope to be married soon despite her mother’s reservations about his ability to provide for her. When Guy is drafted and sent to Algeria, Geneviève is heartbroken but waits for him faithfully despite their growing emotional distance.

She finds she is pregnant and tries to hide it from her mother’s friend and jewelry dealer Roland (Marc Michel), who develops a strong attachment to her. Eventually he proposes to Geneviève despite her pregnancy, and she accepts, believing he can better support her and her soon-to-be-born child. Guy returns to discover that his love has moved to Paris with a new husband and a daughter he’s never even met, so he goes on a bender and stresses over his sickly aunt. Maybe he’ll find new love in a place he never thought to look, or something.

Ugh. This movie is so dumb. Though supposedly made “for all the lovers in the wide, wide world”, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is surprisingly unromantic. Guy and Geneviève are in love, ok, but I have no idea why. Their conversations are inane and unfeeling and I don’t know anything about their relationship, except that it’s not strong enough to survive a few months apart. It’s completely unconvincing. The relationship between Geneviève and Roland is also not founded on anything- he’s captivated by her beauty I guess and she’s incapable of thinking for herself. Then Guy turns around and realizes he’s in love with a character we saw for a few minutes at the beginning, and she’s not at all put off by his neediness or self-absorption. At first I felt bad for him because what Geneviève did is unnecessarily cruel, but then Guy didn’t even try to find them or make an effort to see his daughter. All of the people in this movie are flat and unlikable, and I quickly grew weary of their whining. I couldn’t even pretend I cared what happened to them.

The entirety of the dialogue is sung, which I can deal with, but the music isn’t very good and the lyrics are overly simplistic (then again I can’t really speak to that since I was watching translated subtitles). It’s not really melodic and there’s little sense of clear, connected rhythms or movements. It sounds all over the place and boils down to a bunch of people clumsily singing stilted dialogue over a scattered score. The only saving grace here is the gorgeous visual design: everything is extremely colorful and whimsical, and people have a tendency to match their clothes to the wallpaper, which I really enjoy. But a gorgeous aesthetic is not enough to give a story depth or interest.

2/5

Movie Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Oh my, oh my. I traveled to Stuttgart to catch X-Men Origins: Wolverine in English, not wanting to miss out on any of the glorious nuances of such a fine piece of cinema. Prepare yourself for some serious ranting from a rather dedicated X-Men comics fan. Let me just start off with a huge siiiiigh, and we can begin. Spoilers ahead, etc, but you should really know what you’re getting into here.

So here are some things that happen in this movie: Baby Wolverine is a sickly child in like the 1800s, and there’s an asshole older boy who hangs around- he is the son of some hairy guy, who was I think a stable worker/farm hand-type in the employ of Baby Wolverine’s dad. One night asshole boy’s dad is manhandling Baby Wolverine’s mother, strikes down BW’s gentlemanly dad, and confesses that he is in fact BW’s real father. BW is angered by this information, pops out his bone claws for the first time and kills his father in a rage, then gets a whole “NOOOOOOO!” moment when he realizes what a freak he is. Baby Wolverine and asshole now-brother (who has gross claw fingernails and a healing power) run away and pledge to stay together forever. There’s a montage of various wars they fight in side by side, all grown up and portrayed by Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine) and Liev Schrieber (Victor/Sabretooth).

When they’re sentenced to death by firing squad but do not die, they’re recruited by William Stryker (Danny Huston), who’s “putting together a special team of special people like you”, etc. We fast forward a few years later and sort of meet the team, or at least we view them briefly, as they perform a job hunting down a special kind of metal. There’s John Wraith (will.i.am, if that’s the correct way to write it), who can teleport, Frederick J Dukes (Kevin Durand), who doesn’t seem to have powers?, Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), who is good with
a gun, Bolt (Dominic Monaghan), who can control electronics, and Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), who has badass sword skills and a nonstop mouth. Eventually Logan gets sick of the nonsensical violence employed by the group, and runs off to lead the quiet life of a lumberjack in Canada, leaving his brother to stay with Stryker and give in to his darker tendencies.

After a few years Stryker shows up to warn Logan that someone who is most likely Victor is picking off the old team, as Bolt and Wade were recently found dead. Wouldn’t you know it, Victor shows up and kills Logan’s girlfriend Kayla (Lynn Collins), just to piss him off. Logan becomes Weapon X after Stryker persuades him it’s the only way to defeat his brother, allowing adamantium (the metal they were searching for earlier) to be bound to his entire skeleton in a really painful process. He hears that the plan is to extract his healing factor DNA and wipe his memory so that another super powerful soldier can be produced, and escapes before they have a chance. Totally nude. Into a waterfall. Now he’s on the hunt for Victor, who has been working for Stryker this whole time, extracting mutant powers from the ones he’s killing.

Logan meets up with Wraith and Dukes (who is now very poorly CGI-ed into The Blob), who point him toward Remy LeBeau aka Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) aka a big reason I was excited for this movie. Turns out Stryker and Victor have been up to some crazy mutant children stealing and experimentation on an island with nuclear reactors, from which Gambit had escaped. He drops Logan off there in his plane (yeah, Gambit is a pilot?) and now it’s all “oh hey look what you did to me you killed my girlfriend wah wah wah I could really punch something”. But whoa mindfreak! Kayla is alive! She’s a mutant with persuasive powers who pretended to be dead so Stryker could convince Logan to become Weapon X. Her sister Emma is one of the kidnapped kids. As is, by the way, a young Scott Summers aka Cyclops. Ugh. I can’t go on. But I must. Some of the stupidest stuff is coming up.

Logan and Kayla free the kids, but before they can get very far Stryker unleashes Weapon XI aka Deadpool (Scott Adkins), who is actually Wade Wilson with his mouth sewn shut, an
amalgamation of mutant powers, and no mind of his own. So just like in the wars, Logan and Victor team up against a common enemy. On top of a nuclear reactor. It’s pretty boring. The kids are led out by Professor Xavier’s mind messages so that Patrick Stewart could have his weird younger-age cameo. After Logan beheads him, Weapon XI falls into the reactor and is presumed dead. Stryker realizes the best thing he can do is shoot Logan in the head with adamantium bullets, because, literally, “His brain will heal. But his memories won’t”. Oh. My. God. Gambit finds him all disoriented, and tries to help him out and get him to leave, totally psyching me up for a possible Wolverine/Gambit buddy movie, but no, Wolverine just wants to be by himself and figure it out without any stranger’s help. Buh. Kayla dies, so sad, but not before persuading Stryker to “walk until his feet bleed, and then walk some more”. Victor just sort of runs off. My secret scene at the end credits was Logan hanging out in Japan (one thing vaguely accurate about the character! great job “writers”!) drinking hell of alcohol. No, he is not drinking to forget. He is drinking to remember.

Oh my god typing out that long-ass summary just brought back the numerous feelings (well mostly feelings of “anger” and “that was so dumb”, but in large quantities) I felt after just seeing it. I mean even from a non-comic fan’s perspective it sounds stupid right? What isn’t stupid is just tired, or not done well. There were a bunch of characters introduced for seemingly no reason, and given little to do. The only one of Stryker’s team that stuck out in any way was Wade, and that’s mainly because he actually had lines. I didn’t even catch the names of some of the other team members, and they served very little purpose to the plot. Waste of screen time. X-Men 3 had similar issues with an overabundance of characters and no one knowing what to do with them. Also the whole “kids are being experimented on, let’s save them!” aspect was so pointless. I felt it was added on as almost an afterthought, since for the most part the focus had been on Wolverine’s revenge, which should have been enough. Then suddenly we’re supposed to care about a bunch of faceless children, one of whom happens to be a whiny jerk from the other movies, and that becomes a part of the movie’s big ending scenes? Really?

There were a few things I liked. I’ve always thought Hugh Jackman makes a good Wolverine, despite his height, and he was consistent here, and looking great. Liev Schrieber, though far too neatly-shaven for the role, did a surprisingly good job, bringing a certain underlying viciousness and cruelty that is integral to Sabretooth. And though their time was short, I thought Wade Wilson and Gambit were really done well. Ryan Reynolds has the sarcasm and pluck, as well as impressively-jacked arms, to do the character. Gambit is a favorite of mine (and most X-fans, I’d wager), and I dug Taylor Kitsch in the role. He didn’t do the accent strongly enough but he definitely had the charm, confidence, and skill with a staff down. I liked the Bolt character despite my aversion to Dominic Monaghan (ughhhh Charlie). Also in general I found this movie pretty funny. I know it wasn’t supposed to be, but the laughter helped fight back the frustration. It was definitely entertaining, in its way. And the action scenes were decent.

Continuing on the awful things about this movie, here is a list of things from the comics they fucked up beyond forgiveness, at least that I care about (surely there’s a lot I didn’t catch). Most of you probably aren’t interested in this and you are free to skip to the end, but gosh darnit it’s my blog and I would like to complain. So thanks, in advance, for putting up with me. Beware many cuss words.

-First of all. Emma Fucking Frost. My god. She is one of the best ever characters, both as a villain and X-Man, and they changed her so much it didn’t even make any sense! She was barely in the movie, yet still they managed to do everything wrong: give her the wrong power (turning into her diamond form is her secondary mutation, which developed much later in life, and which she rarely usues because her telepathy is so strong that it is usually all she needs), fabricate a sister, make her generally useless (when usually she is a woman who Gets Shit Done), and oh, she wasn’t even that hot. Sorry, Tahyna Tozzi, but you are no Emma Frost. Though I am willing to blame the writers for most of the character’s issues. What was the point of even having her in the movie? None whatsoever. They just wanted to invoke my ire. Well great job guys, ire is officially invoked.

-I don’t even read Deadpool but, really guys? REALLY? Show a pretty good Wade for five minutes then take a different actor, give him a shitload of powers, sew his mouth shut and call him Deadpool? What? An all-powerful enemy is bad enough, but they could have at least just made him another dude. It could have been some random guy they found and renamed Weapon XI. And now there’s plans for a Deadpool movie, and I hope they retcon the hell out of it and they make it an actually good movie so we can forget this movie ever happened.

-Give Gambit red eyes. It’s so easy, you guys. Come on.

-Sabretooth and Wolverine are not brothers, and never have been. It is dumb to say that they are, and fabricate some deep connection between them. They have always been enemies from their days in the Weapon X program due to their conflicting ideologies and inability to best one another. That is good enough, Wolverine writers. We don’t need to add more to it.

-As much as I don’t like Scott Summers, do we really need to change his backstory? Now he’s part of some secret experimentation crap? And that’s how he met Professor X? No. Also, the glasses he wears do not cover his entire eye area (only the front, not the sides), and I hope we know what that means (obviously the filmmakers did not). Yes, it means his concussive force blast would be popping out of the sides of his glasses! It’d be mad hectic! Get it right! It’s the little things, really.

-The Blob. looked. so. awful. I don’t know if it was CGI or a bad fatsuit or a combination, but he was just so poorly done. So fake. Also, The Blob did not start out as a muscle guy and then eat too much and become impossibly fat. Part of his power is his size. He has his own gravitational field for goodness sake.

– I’m no Wolverine expert, but I’m pretty sure he’d have sensed that Kayla wasn’t really dead. It’s not a big deal, since I understand it was like a main thing of the plot that he want revenge for her, but come on. That Romeo and Juliet shit would not work on Wolvie’s super senses.

-Adamantium Bullets? Really? This isn’t even a comic-related thing, I guess. But my god it is just so so so so so stupid I have to comment. I’m pretty sure they forgot about the whole memory-loss thing and threw in “adamantium bullets will destroy his brain memories!” while they were in the middle of shooting. Buh.

-Laaaaame secret ending. Though I’ve heard the other one was more interesting. Deadpool putting back on his own head, or something? Though that makes me nervous that the Deadpool movie will actually involve this stupid monstrosity version of the character.

Yeah sorry this has been quite a rant, I guess. Anyway, this movie is pretty bad, but some of the cast members do their best to make tolerable. If you’re not a comic fan it might be more to your liking, but honestly it was pretty dumb in general. It tried to be serious and could have succeeded, if it hadn’t been written and executed so poorly. Too bad. Maybe the sequel will suck slightly less, and won’t be such a sausage fest (will someone please for once in their goddamn lives write a decent role for a super heroine in a movie? Please? Elektra is really not enough, and My Super Ex-Girlfriend definitely doesn’t count).

2/5 (.5 extra for Hugh Jackman’s butt?)

The 2009 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Pt I

24 hours of straight science-fiction, hell yes. That is what happens at the historic Somerville Theatre every President’s Weekend. This was my first time at the so-called “‘Thon” and it was pretty rad. The theme was “Aliens Attack!” and 13 films were shown. I sat through them all except one. Lots of trailers and shorts were placed between them, which I really dug. Now, watching so many movies in a short period of time means it all sort of runs together, so I’m not going to give like 12 in-depth posts dedicated to each individual film. Instead you’ll get short reviews based on what I can remember/decipher from the sleepiness-induced hallucinations.

1. First up was Alien Trespass (2009), which hasn’t actually been released yet. It’s a very well-done send up of 50’s alien invasion movies. Eric McCormack plays Ted Lewis, a happily married astronomer who is perpetually smoking a pipe. His body is taken over by Urp, a recently-crashed alien who must stop the replicating, man-eating creatures that followed him to earth. He enlists the aid of Tammy (Jenni Baird), a surprisingly capable waitress, to defeat the imminent invasion. The story also follows Lewis’ wife, some curious teenagers, and the inept police department (one of whom is played by Robert Patrick aka T-1000). It’s very funny, with some great sight gags, allusions, and misunderstandings. Definitely one of my favourite movies shown at the marathon. It gets a limited release on April 3. 4.5/5

2. Then came It Came From Outer Space 3-D (1953), which I’ve wanted to see for a while ever since resolving to watch every movie referenced in the opening song to Rocky Horror. It was pretty good, but I hated the 3-D thing. It was with those old school red/blue cellophane deals, and it hurt my head to wear over my regular glasses. The 3-D wasn’t used particularly well in the film, either, but there were some times I thought I might be hit by falling debris. Based on a Ray Bradbury story and directed by Jack Arnold, it follows John Putnam and Ellen Fields as they investigate a supposed meteor crash and several ensuing missing persons cases. Putnam discovers that aliens have landed and are trying to inconspicuously repair their ship by taking on the appearances of various townspeople. They’re willing to be peaceful, unless someone tries to interfere. A good premise, but a little slow-moving. 3.5/5

3. Chrysalis (2008) is the only movie I really didn’t like, and most of the audience agreed. Taking place in an ambiguously chaotic, military-regime future and also based on a Bradbury story, it details the events of a botanical research facility with only three residents. When Smith (Glen Vaughan) suddenly sinks into a coma and begins to form a moss-like cocoon around his body, Dr Rockwell (Darren Kendrick) is called in to find a cure. They all stand around watching for a few days and at some point military people come. Rockwell thinks he’ll wake up to be some sort of savior, while Hartley (John Klemantaski), the head of research, thinks he’ll become a monster and constantly tries to kill him. The movie was really slow moving and overall pretty dull. I think it would have been more interesting as a short film, or they could have expanded upon the events of the outside world, which seemed to be experiencing some sort of epidemic and lots of rioting. It’s labeled as being in “post-production” on imdb, so maybe they’re still tweaking it. I just don’t think this story warranted a full-length movie. It looked pretty good though, considering this (presumably) had a very small budget, as a first-time directing/writing/acting situation for several main players. 2/5

4. One of the movies I was most excited for was Logan’s Run (1976), which overall I really enjoyed, but found way too lengthy. Based on the book of the same name, it chronicles the trials of Logan 5 (Michael York) as he discovers his seemingly utopian world is decidedly sinister. Everyone (on earth? in America? it is unclear) resides in a technologically advanced, hedonistic city that is completely walled off from the outside. Its residents are all quite young (and for the most part, quite white) because when they hit 30, they sacrifice themselves to be “reborn” to maintain equilibrium. No one knows what old age is, and no one really understands actual death. Logan is a “Sandman”, hunting down any who try to run away from the city when their time comes. He is charged with finding Sanctuary, the alleged safe haven for escaped runners, and enlists Jessica (Jenny Agutter) for her connections to the underground rebels to help him find it. As he learns more about the inner workings of the system, Logan desires to actually run away. But even if he and Jessica make it, they may find the outside to be much different than they expected. It’s a well-done dystopian tale that manages to be consistently engaging despite its length, though it does drag at the end. I haven’t read the book so maybe the filmmakers just wanted to keep as much of the original tale as possible. Visually it was grandiose and imaginative, except some of the female fashions were revealing to the point of making me nervous. 4.5/5

That’s it for now. You’ll discover the following four films next time!