Monthly Archives: January 2016

Movie Review: War

Two of the best action stars of recent memory, Jason Statham and Jet Li. One would think building a box office hit with these two superstars would be a walk through Central Park. Evidently not, or maybe Hollywood is just that incompetent.

If there’s anything I’ve missed this last month, it’s been my followers and reading my blogging compatriots latest works, which I will be getting back to pronto, but there’s something I’ve missed about this whole blogging thing that I’ve missed even more than that. You know what it is? I just have a craving to watch a bottomless film. I get some sort of cynical satisfaction out of kicking a film when it’s down and very rarely do I pity such productions. Many of these films are begging for derisive commentary, especially when their primary motivation for making this thing and wasting everyone’s time was to make a quick buck.

There are few things I hate more than half-hearted effort. If you’re going to do something, do it right or don’t bother. I’m a perfectionist and always will be. Nothing I do will ever be good enough for me and I don’t think that’ll ever change either, so when I watch a film like War, featuring two great action stars in Statham and Li, and then watch Philip Atwell get the honor of sitting in the director’s chair, well, let’s just say getting on E-Bay and looking for a noose to hang myself with isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

What’s wrong with Philip Atwell? I’m glad you asked. Would you like to know what Atwell has specialized in? Music videos. The only feature film he directed prior to War was a music tour video. He directs rap stars’ music videos and for reasons unknown, this guy was given the keys to a $25 million vehicle with Statham and Li in the back seat. Wow.

A slow clap doesn’t give this boundless fallacy the justice it deserves. That would be like if I was a Nascar owner and gave the keys to my car to my son because he’d had some experience driving a PT Cruiser. That would be like allowing my daughter to cook on the grill because she’d had some experience with an Easy-Bake Oven. The comparisons are endless and I would encourage you to make some of your own in the comments.

The tone of this film from the very beginning is off. Events occur too quickly and suddenly we’ve already had a time jump. As I just mentioned in my last review, time jumps early in films usually aren’t a good sign. That time jump was a precursor to this film’s failings.

There’s nothing wrong with the stereotypical revenge ploy in an action film, but when that becomes the film’s magnet, the primary component of the experience, there’s some evident problems with that.

For one, a revenge film is predicated on the notion that the audience will be rooting for the protagonist and want to see justice served. Very rarely are we going to root for someone because the film told us to. Instead, we want to be given reasons why we should root for him, reasons that aren’t plot-related. We want character background, what that person meant to our protagonist, what loss they felt and naturally an inside look at our hero. When a revenge film doesn’t give any character background, the person is killed off within eight minutes, we’re not privy to how that loss impacted our hero and the only time we ever see our hero is when he’s shouting orders regarding how important it is that we catch his nemesis, you get a movie like War, an artificial action installment that feels like a sad penguin looking up at the sky wondering why his parents didn’t give him wings.

What’s more embarrassing about this is that these are basic questions that should be answered in the drawing board stage. These are entry-level questions and concerns for any movie. A film company and director can’t claim ignorance here. They can claim negligence and unbridled stupidity, but not ignorance.

So you could say I was pretty disgusted with War at the halfway point, especially when I stopped the film and went through Atwell’s “experience” for the 20 seconds it took to go through it.

Statham and Li have few scenes together, which leaves their rivalry far too cool and collected for anyone watching to get emotionally enraged and want to start screaming internally for Li’s demise. With two actors as talented with stunt choreography as these two, you would expect some fight scenes between the two, but minus a four-minute segment, which occurs in the last ten minutes of the film, you won’t find any. Atwell is so out of his element that he doesn’t even know his actors or how to properly utilize them. This type of unpreparedness is unacceptable and I can only guess that’s why Atwell has never been allowed to direct anything since.

A quick sidenote: While I was scrolling through Atwell’s Wikipedia page and his “experience”, would you like to take a guess what the first thing his page had to say was? “Philip G. Atwell (often misspelled Phillip G. Atwell)…”

That’s right. His profile was calling out those who didn’t do their research. Atwell didn’t make his Wikipedia page, I understand that, but does anyone else find it ironic that a man who’s clearly incompetent and grossly negligent in his work has caused others to be negligent with the spelling of his name? I just thought that was funny.

You see, writing reviews about films this bad on occasion can be difficult to me and far more time-consuming then they should be. I’ve been writing this review for two hours now and that’s because I honestly hate talking about it. War is great at causing a war of inner turmoil inside of you and makes you wonder how anyone could possibly mess up an action film with Statham and Li but doesn’t create much of anything else. The stunt pieces are there on occasion but the story is so topsy-turvy and out of sync that it disorients the action sequences the film is able to throw together.

The editing of the film is so lazy that the when characters speak in different languages, there are misspellings in the translation subtitles. That’s how lethargic this crew gets in their work. It’s lackadaisical and I honestly can’t even.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (CreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson PeakThe MartianBlack Mass)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2Beasts of No NationTerminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwisted)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (EverestHerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitz)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Ridiculous 6The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErased)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next DoorThe Colony)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for War: 41.

I haven’t felt this disappointed at the end of a movie in a while. Just eternal sadness. Statham gets another loss in Winners And Losers (WAL).

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Movie Review: The Gunman

It’s been far too long.

I’m not going to lie, 2015 wasn’t a good year for me in a lot of ways, but here’s to 2016 and a fresh start. To get things going, since I’ve been gone for forever, I’m running a blogathon. I’ll be posting every day for at least the next week and will have a Movies in 2015 post up by the end of the month. That’s something else I want to talk about real quick. I saw a lot of films this year and I didn’t write reviews on them. I’m sorry about that and I intend to end that habit here and now. More reviews and more fun for us all. Here’s to 2016. Cheers and enjoy today’s post.

When the trailer for this came out early in 2015, I knew to avoid it, but when I’m scrolling through Netflix and see an opportunity to see a film from the current year, I usually take it, even if I know it’s not going to be an enjoyable one.

The Gunman is that opportunity and while, like me, you may be inclined to hit the play button on this one, I would strongly encourage you not to.

Plopping down the street like a haphazard drunkard, The Gunman bumps into nearly every obstacle possible on its way down the alley of degradation. It’s not hurting anyone so much as it’s being a nuisance to society and you just want to throw it in a cell for a few days until it gets itself back together. However, like the story of Humpty Dumpty, The Gunman never comes back together again. After shattering itself on the pavement in the opening stanzas, there’s no tug or general want to see where this story takes us, especially when “8 years later” appears on the screen before the film’s reached 15 minutes.

A general note: Any time jump of more than a year is a bad sign and any competent director should avoid such time jumps. Unless your story is a jump from childhood to adulthood a la J.J Abram’s Star Trek or due to a prison sentence a la Double Jeopardy, there’s rarely a need to do this. For the purpose of flow, I would advise all stories to avoid doing this. Most times I see the phrase “years later” impress itself upon the screen, I can feel my whole body sink a little and my brain begin to cringe inside my skull. More often than not, prepare yourself for some shoddy storytelling because it’s all downhill from here. Surprise, surprise: The Gunman‘s no different.

Director Pierre Morel, whose name you might recognize as the director of the hostage hit, Taken, doesn’t know what he’s doing here and his expertise as a cinematographer is never utilized here. You would think a film directed by someone who found his place in the industry through visuals would demonstrate said talent when he was at the top of the totem pole, but evidently not. The Gunman is an insipid piece and one of the more calmer action films you’ll see from 2015. Our star character, Jim Terrier (Penn), might be the most boring assassin a camera has ever followed. With no moral qualms to highlight and no reason to fear him or view him with awe, Terrier holds no cards in his hand of any value. Penn’s tenacity is an afterthought to a script that’s glancing up at the clock anxiously waiting for it to all be over. The plot wasn’t thought out well, the villain’s motive is illogical and the points the plot decides to emphasize don’t resonate at all.  There’s no grit or ear-splitting tension in the script’s action sets and no cold, collected dialogue that grips. With a clunky plot and a supporting cast that’s more of a nuisance than it is a help, poking holes in The Gunman isn’t all that difficult.

The Gunman is that Christmas present that you don’t want to open and you do your very best to slowly push it into a corner and hide it under a blanket or anything within reach. You know what it is, you don’t want that and you want it to go away. Problem is, the present is obnoxiously large and so out of place that there’s no way to hide it and so you’re called out on it, are forced to open it and do so begrudgingly with a look of disgust and frustration on your face as you unmask this abomination.

Out and open to see at this white elephant party, everyone looks at it with the same sense of distaste as you, only confirming the inherently-flawed product left before you.

It’s when you look at films with good writing and even great writing that you look at The Gunman and realize how truly awful this film is. Before 2015 was out, I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Hateful Eight and The Revenant, and they’re all galaxies ahead of this. I watched Insurgent recently and again, it’s so far ahead of this. The Gunman is just bad. It has plot holes, the action it does offer is segmented and Penn is left on an island trying to make his case as to why his character is relevant. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Time to move on to the next film.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (CreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson PeakThe MartianBlack Mass)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2Beasts of No NationTerminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwisted)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (EverestHerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitz)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Ridiculous 6, The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErased)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for The Gunman: 29.

It’s a short one to get this blogathon started but to summarize, The Gunman is one of the worst of 2015 and with failings in every department, it’ll probably make my worst of 2015.

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