Thursday, May 28, 2009

Movies #56 - #58: Taken, Righteous Kill, The Wrestler

I was recently asked something to the effect of, "What's with the counting movies thing on your blog? I thought the whole point was to do 30 movies in 30 days with 30-word reviews. And that was like six months ago." Indeed, the original premise was to do a 30/30/30 gimmick back in the month of November---for which I only managed to complete 24 films. The ongoing count, however, is now just a continual reference point for all new (to me) movies I've seen since November 1, 2008. I shudder to think what the 12-month total will come to, but something tells me that on October 31, 2009, the biggest scare of Halloween will be the realization of how much of my life over the past year had been wasted...wasted on films as godawful as Taken.

#56 - Taken (2008)

Released here in the states back in February, this actioner starring Liam Neeson was a surprise box office smash---raking in almost $145 million in domestic ticket sales (7th best on the year so far). Why so many people chose to pay to see a straight-to-DVD sort of movie is beyond me, but so they droves, apparently. Liam Neeson, perhaps the world's most overrated actor, turns in his usual dull, wooden performance. It's almost a dead heat now between Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson in the race for least interesting "star" in Hollywood. At least Ford can still be mildly charming once in a blue moon. Neeson...not so much. I have serious doubts he'll be able to play Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's next film...unless they start the film after Lincoln's been shot. But fine. This is an action film, not an emotionally complex drama. One need not be able to act in order to look good killing people in stunt-laden ways. It's just too bad, then, that the action is only slightly less dull than Neeson. While it's not entirely the sound designer's fault, nothing seems to crackle. Gunshots sound hollow and empty. Explosions seem muted and artificial. Peeling tires squeal like someone parallel parking. Those things matter more than we care to admit. The fight scenes are sloppy and poorly edited, and the villians, Albanians, are so generic as to not care whether they live or die. (money quote warning) If you paid money for this film, you were the one who was Taken.

#57 - Righteous Kill (2008)

Oh, dear god. Why do I do this to myself? I coulda had a life. I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a screenwriting Oscar contenda. But now I'm just a bum. A bum who wasted his life on shit-tastic crap like Righteous Kill. I was easily seduced by the trailer which had the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter and the promise of Robert DeNiro playing opposite Al Pacino, a pairing which generated a lot of heat in the movie Heat. Since then, however, both DeNiro and Pacino have continued to spiral downward into predictable roles which play off of their well-known on-screen personas. Christopher Walken does the same thing in his films, but he stopped taking himself seriously a decade and a half ago...which is why his schtick still works. The thrill of seeing these two screen legends together quickly fades once the paint-by-numbers story gets going. Someone is going around killing bad guys, and the suspect is likely a badly-acted-cop. That means we have several red herring scenes where suspicion is cast on everyone and anyone who's billed in the cast. If you've never seen a movie before, you might somehow be held in suspense as to who the killer is. You might also be a recently thawed caveman. (money quote warning) The only Righteous Kill here would be the one that puts a bullet in your brain before you're forced to watch this.

#58 - The Wrestler (2008)

Here's a good example of why it's sometimes better to see a movie before you see or hear too much about it. It's not that I didn't like The Wrestler---I did---but because it was exactly what I was expecting, it didn't seem to move me as much I thought it would. Mickey Rourke is, as we all now know, sensational in a role that I think only Rourke could play. He IS a wrestler, for all intent and purposes, and that's astonishing. He looks like his body has been abused---because it has. He looks like he's used steroids---because he has. He seems kind of crazy---because he is. The story is, however, entirely predictable. Whether because I've seen too many movies, or whether because of my screenwriting background, following the opening scene or two I could have predicted with alarming accuracy how every future scene would unfold. And that's mostly fine, I suppose. The Wrestler is ultimately about one thing...and that's the performance of Mickey Rourke. (money quote warning) Although it's not quite up to the heavy buzz which surrounded it, you'd be well served to let The Wrestler pin you for more than three seconds.

Taken 2/10

Righteous Kill 2/10

The Wrestler 7/10


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