Thursday, July 31, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Knights of Badassdom (2014) **

R, 86 min.
Director: Joe Lynch
Writers: Kevin Dreyfuss, Matt Wall
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn, Summer Glau, Peter Dinklage, Margarita Levieva, Jimmi Simpson, Danny Pudi, Brett Gipson, Joshua Malina, W. Earl Brown, Brian Posehn

“Knights of Badassdom” is the type of geek core movie that you really want to work. It’s got a great premise, a great cast, and great potential for humor and referential jokes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, and I’m not sure I will be able to pin point why.

It tells the story of a group of LARPers who are terrorized by a demonic version of a member’s ex-girlfriend after their “wizard” inadvertently casts a real spell. I mean, really? Doesn’t that sound like a great idea for a movie? Damn! I want to see that movie! However, I just did and I read that synopsis again and I feel like I didn’t just see that movie because it really should’ve been much more memorable.

I can’t really fault the cast either. I mean Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau. I mean really? How can you go wrong with Summer Glau? Well, they don’t really go wrong with any of these people, yet it still doesn’t quite work. As far as the performances go, it almost seems as if the characters and dialogue are all written for Jack Black to perform them, but these people are here instead. They do their best, but they need better material than Jack Black does in order to make it work. Black could take inane dialogue and sell it with his enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is his thing. These people have the enthusiasm, but it has a different flavor from other actors than it does from Black.

That’s not to say that Black could’ve saved this. I don’t think he could’ve, because I wouldn’t have wanted to see him in all the roles, especially Glau’s. That girl has a great smile. That’s something she doesn’t do enough in her other roles. Anyway, I like these actors. I like this premise. The movie just doesn’t quite meet my expectations. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) *

UR, 102 min.
Directors: The Brothers Strause
Writers: Shane Salerno, Dan O’Bannon (“Alien” characters), Ronald Shusett (“Alien” characters), Jim Thomas (“Predator” characters), John Thomas (“Predator” characters)
Starring: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis, Ariel Gade, Kristen Hager, Sam Trammell, Robert Joy, David Paetkau, Tom Woodruff Jr., Ian Whyte

I really don’t know why I torture myself with these terrible entries to franchises I love, but for some reason I seem to return to them even more often than I do the good ones. “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” is probably the worst entry of both the “Alien” and “Predator” franchises. It doesn’t speak well that even the studio didn’t feel it was worth referring to this movie with its full title and generally referred to it as “AvPR” even in its advertising. It’s like they were saying, “Why bother?” before they even released it. Fair warning, I guess.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Leviathan (2013) ***½

NR, 87 min.
Directors: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel
Featuring: Captain Brian Jannelle

I have no idea how they filmed “Leviathan”. It is a documentary about a fishing vessel. There is no dialogue, no commentary, no explanations. That’s not to say there is no narrative. There are long passages of film when it is impossible to tell just what you’re looking at, including the opening sequence.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lucy / **½ (R)

Lucy: Scarlett Johansson
Professor Norman: Morgan Freeman
Mr. Jang: Choi Min-Sik
Pierre Del Rio: Amr Waked

Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by Luc Besson. Running time: 90 min. Rated R (for strong violence, disturbing images and sexuality).

Luc Besson’s new sci-fi thriller “Lucy” is one of the more interesting action movies to come along recently. It’s one of the more interesting screenplays by Besson since his early films, like “La Femme Nikita”, “The Professional”, and “The Fifth Element”. But then again, the word “interesting” isn’t necessarily the highest compliment you can pay to a film. It’s a tough one to figure, because in some ways it is a great movie. However, in the end it leaves you feeling cheated out one of the two movies to which it couldn’t fully commit.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Unknown Known (2014) ***½

PG-13, 103 min.
Director/Writer: Errol Morris
Featuring: Donald Rumsfeld
Voice: Errol Morris

In his first feature, “Gates of Heaven”, documentarian Errol Morris interviews an old woman who just lets loose on his camera with a five minute monologue that goes from one end of the spectrum to the other in a way that sees her contradicting her own point by the time she reaches the end. “The Unknown Known” is a feature-length version of that same monologue, this time with former two-time U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as the interviewee.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Planet of the Apes (2001) **½

PG-13, 119 min.
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Pierre Boulle (novel “La Planéte des Singes”)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Kris Kristofferson, Erick Avari, Luke Eberl, Evan Dexter Parke, Glenn Shadix, Freda Foh Shen, Chris Ellis, Anne Ramsay, Lisa Marie

Tim Burton’s 2001 remake “Planet of the Apes” stands as the bastard child of the franchise. Even in comparison to such wretched entries to the series as 1973’s “Battle for the Planet of the Apes”, Burton’s film is held with contempt in fans’ minds. I was never in this camp of thinking. In fact, when I first reviewed the film upon its theatrical release, I gave it 3½ stars. In light of the recent reboot series, my initial thoughts on Burton’s take seem ill conceived.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Silent (2014) **

NR, 3 min.
Directors: Limbert Fabian, Brandon Oldenburg
Writers: Limbert Fabian, William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg

Just because it’s a short animated film, that doesn’t mean it’s good. Just because it pays homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, that doesn’t mean it’s good. Just because it tells a clever story without words, that doesn’t mean it’s good.