Monthly Archives: July 2008

Up Next: Wanted

I got a chance to see Wanted, with Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, and James McAvoy earlier this week. The film was much bloodier and tougher than I expected. I’ll be posting a full review next Tuesday.

Terminator Salvation: Teaser Impressions

Warner Brothers recently released a first trailer for next year’s Terminator Salvation film. It’s only a minute in length, but I like what I see. Christian Bale looks perfect as John Connor. With him in this role, it’s easy to get excited about the film. The graininess of the teaser makes it tricky to say much about the action, but I like the mood and general movement of the shots.

Having said that, I have one huge concern with this movie: director McG. His résumé is wafer thin, and includes the awful Charlie’s Angels and the even worse Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. I’m also concerned about Moon Bloodgood’s role, as I wasn’t impressed with her in Pathfinder. But again, Christian Bale can carry a film by himself, and having both Bale and Terminators in the same film can overcome a lot of weaknesses.

Terminator Salvation is scheduled for release in the summer of 2009.

Review: DOA: Dead or Alive

doa_cov.jpgYear: 2006
Director: Corey Yuen
Starring: Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Holly Valance, Sarah Carter, Natassia Malthe, Kane Kosugi, Eric Roberts
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 60

Plot
Scantily clad women fight.

Quick Review
DOA: Dead or Alive’s dumb story, total lack of a premise, and randomness clearly keep the film from scoring high on an aggregate. But if you have low expectations, enjoy solid martial arts fighting, and like women, DOA is hardly a waste of time. You may be surprised and find that this 87-minute film entertained you.

Full Review

Let’s start with this: DOA is a terrible film. The stupidity of the movie is impressive. The best example I can think of is the entire premise of the movie. There is the thinnest story involving a martial arts doa_1.jpgtournament held on an extravagant island palace in the orient. The organizer of the tournament is in reality the evil villain, who uses the tournament as a front for downloading the participants’ ultimate moves into his computer program and then making high-tech sunglasses with the data embedded. These glasses will then enable the wearer to beat any fighter in the world. This is a wonderful idea of course, until the sunglasses fall of. Which gives you a perfect example of how utterly inane this entire film is.

Scenes, motives, and actions often make little sense. If there is any premise, it is that there is no premise. There are too many goofy elements to list them all, but here are some of the hilarious examples. The multimillionaire evil villain keeps his fortune in cash, in a safe on the island, with the access code tattooed onto his former boss’ daughter’s back. Invitations to the tournament come flying at participants from the doa_4.jpgmiddle of nowhere in the form of high-tech metallic shuriken. It’s like FedEx on steroids. Parachuting off a temple? No problem, we can deliver. On a boat in the South China sea? No problem, we’re there. Throughout the entire movie—which mainly consists of violent fight after violent fight (and a beach volleyball game tossed in as a tie-in to the DOA volleyball game)—nobody bleeds or gets bruised, except for some slightly dinged pirates at the end. Heck, except for the rare smudge, no one in this film even gets dirty. The peak of this incredulity are two large, lengthy swordfights where apparently people fall over when you pretend to slice them up.

If you’re an engaged reader, you’re probably thinking I hated this film. And no critic in his or her right mind should admit to liking this film. As a coherent film, it is a mess. But I am not a critic in his right mind, and I’m reviewing this film as an action film, so we have some leeway.

Working to this film’s advantage is the fact that it is based on a video game. For the most part, movies based on video games suck. And my expectations for a movie based on a fighting game are even less. So I was pleasantly impressed that DOA bothered to toss a story into the mix at all, was doubly impressed that I could understand it, and even more impressed that in some miraculous way, they actually told the story. And it’s equally apparent that this film never really expects anyone to take the story element doa_3.jpgseriously anyway. Low expectations can make for good entertainment, and DOA takes advantage of that.

But where DOA actually succeeds as an action film is in its martial arts fighting sequences. This is the forte of director Corey Yuen, and he works magic with the action in DOA. The fights are fast, creative, and elemental. The physicality of the women fighters—who are the focus of the film—is quite impressive. They jump, gyrate, and deliver round-house kicks with remarkable athleticism. The main actors trained for four hours a day for three months before making the film, and it shows. There is a strong stylistic similarity here to the fights of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In many ways DOA is a derivative work of less impact, but still, the fight scenes are plenty engaging.

But action is clearly not enough to save this film, for there a definitely better films to watch for martial arts action. No, where this film rescues itself is in its focus on beautiful, scantily clad women doing the fighting! Now, I could say the obligatory and politically correct line: “DOA will appeal to the sex-deprived teen male, but if you’re past the age of thirteen, you’ll likely find better ways to spend your time.” And at doa_5.jpgtimes, yes, DOA does go over the top with juvenile crotch shots that weaken the film. But several of the women are gorgeous and highly athletic. Their fight scenes are dynamic and vibrant. The babe factor of this film is sky high, and even more helpful is that some of the women do respectable jobs acting. Holly Valance, as the assassin/thief Christie, does a fair job in her role, and leads the cast in the looks department. Jaime Pressly steals the top acting award, as she puts a sassy southern spin on Tina, a former pro wrestler looking to win the tournament. On the lower end, Devon Aoki and Natassia Malthe come across lifeless in their roles, and Devon stands out as the least appealing of the actresses.

And while the film clearly is aiming for the young male audience, the hunk factor in this film won’t disappoint female viewers. Brian White, as Zack, leads the male cast in the looks department, and most of the other male actors are equally athletic and impressive physical specimens.

The end result is that I’d be lying to myself if I panned this film with a bad rating. Sure, the dumb story, total lack of a premise, and randomness of the film clearly keep it from scoring high on an aggregate. But if you have low expectations, enjoy solid martial arts fighting, and like eye candy, DOA is hardly a waste of time. You may be surprised to find that this 87-minute film entertained you.

Fun Fact

According to Holly Valance, about 40 bikinis were ruined while making this film.

Score
Pace: 76
Plot: 12
Action: 82
Consistent Premise: 9
Script/Quotes: 28
Characters: 57
Acting: 47
Villain: 29
Body Count: 7
Time to First Dead Body: 1 hour, 16 minutes, 30 seconds
Babes: 96
Hunks: 86
Explosions: 38
Special Effects: 83
Stunts: 87
Ending: 43

Overall: 60

[tags]Dead or Alive, DOA, movie review, action movie, Corey Yuen, Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Holly Valance, Sarah Carter, Natassia Malthe, Kane Kosugi, Eric Roberts[/tags]

Next Up: Dead or Alive (DOA)

Time for another review of a movie based on a video game. This time I’ll take a look at Dead or Alive, directed by the acclaimed Corey Yuen. This film features some stunning actors, but does it make the grade as an action film in the usually dismal game-to-movie category?

I hope to post the review next Tuesday.

Review: Hancock

hancock_cov.jpgYear: 2008
Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 80

Plot

A malcontent, recalcitrant superhero struggles to find his true self.

Quick Review
Hancock brings a fresh, humorous edge to the superhero movie. The quick pace, twisting plot, and original premise make this highly entertaining movie easy to watch and well worth seeing.

Full Review
Take everything you know about superhero movies and toss it out the window. Hancock takes the superhero genre of film and tosses it on its head. John Hancock (Will Smith) plays the role of the sullen, chancock_2.jpgantankerous hero who has fallen into public disdain due to the wanton destruction he wreaks whenever he performs a public service. Rude, disheveled, and feisty, Hancock manages to get himself booed even when saving someone’s life. A chance meeting with Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), who plays the role of an optimistic public relations specialist, begins a transformation in Hancock, however. From here the film canters forward nicely, and tosses in a few twists and surprises on its way to a satisfying conclusion.

Hancock works as a film for a number of reasons. First off, this is a funny film. It takes quite a bit to get me to laugh out loud in a movie theater, but there were several occasions where this film had me chuckling. There are two elements to this. The script delivers nicely in many places with some sharp lines. Add in the acting of Will Smith—who nails the role of superhero John Hancock—you end up with some genuinely entertaining scenes. To a point, some of this humor is hardly original, but the combination of hancock_1.jpgSmith and script make it highly effective.

All along the way, Smith’s acting helps this film. At times, yes, he does seem to get a bit wooden in his role, but overall he does an excellent job striking a rather difficult balance with his character. If he turns up the nastiness too much, he risks alienating the audience to his character, but if he softens it too much he risks taking the unique edge off his character. Smith manages to find the perfect middle ground. You find yourself relating to and rooting for Hancock, and if this didn’t happen, the film would have failed miserably. Add in effective support from Jason Bateman and functional support from Charlize Theron and you end up with the foundations of a strong movie.

Even with this foundation in place, Hancock could have ended up a very mediocre film, but the film gets a lot of the critical details right. The 92-minute film progresses briskly: just when I felt like things were settling in, the film changed things up with some effective plot twists. The entertaining story sticks to its hancock_4.jpgpremise as well, and the characters stay within themselves.

Action-wise, Hancock ends up on the more subdued end of the scale. The strengths of Hancock are its story, characters, and script. In many ways, this film is more of a drama than an action film. Although the action fits in beautifully, it plays a definite minor role in the movie. Even the villain is more of an afterthought than a role. What action we do get, however, is effective and fast. Hancock’s exploits give the film some moments of high energy and occasional humor. It’s hard not to chuckle at the whale scene!

In terms of babes and hunks, Charlize Theron adds some adequate eye candy to the film from the female side of things, and a clean-shaven and buffed Will Smith shines from the male side. Other than that, there is little to note.

In conclusion, Hancock deserves strong kudos for its fresh take on a superhero, its punchy script, its entertaining story, and its unique characters. While this film never reaches any level of greatness, it stands as a highly entertaining hour and a half of fun and action.

Fun Fact
According to IMDB, the script for this movie has been in existence for over ten years.

Score
Pace: 71
Plot: 83
Action: 61
Consistent Premise: 88
Script/Quotes: 77
Characters: 94
Acting: 84
Villain: 21
Body Count: 14
Time to First Dead Body: Not Sure
Babes: 67
Hunks: 83
Explosions: 37
Special Effects: 73
Stunts: 40
Ending: 71

Overall: 80

[tags]Hancock, Peter Berg, Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, action movie, movie review[/tags]