Archive for the TV Show Movies Category

21 JUMP STREET (2012)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Cop Movies, LL Soares Reviews, R-Rated Comedy, TV Show Movies with tags , , , , , , on March 19, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: 21 JUMP STREET (2012)
By L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A bench outside of an office door that reads “Principal” in an urban high school. L.L. SOARES is sitting on the bench, staring into space)

LS (to audience): Oh, there you are. I was wondering when you’d get here. They sent me to the principal’s office again. Can you believe it? If this keeps happening, they’re going to blow my cover as an undercover cop. And I can’t find Michael anywhere. I’m starting to wonder what happened to him. I hope the bad guys didn’t discover he was a cop and do something awful to him. (laughs)

Well, while we’re waiting for Arruda to show up, I might as well review the new Jonah Hill comedy, 21 JUMP STREET. I have to admit, I wasn’t planning to go see this one. If you read our monthly CKF COMING ATTRACTIONS column, then you know we were planning to take this weekend off and review a DVD instead. But I started hearing some very positive things about this movie—and what the hell, we needed the content—so I decided to check it out. I think I’m flying solo this time.

(LS checks his cell phone and makes a call)

LS: He won’t answer his phone or return my text messages. I wonder what happened to him. Oh well, might as well get to the review.

I don’t know how many people reading this remember the TV show 21 JUMP STREET, which aired for five seasons from 1987 – 1991. It was on FOX back when that network was just starting out, and the cast included Holly Robinson Pete, Peter DeLuise, and a guy named Johnny Depp, who went on to become a big star. Some of the old cast members make cameo appearances in the new movie, including a pretty funny scene toward the end.

The show was about cops who looked young enough to go undercover in high schools and bust drug dealers and stuff. I think I watched it just one time, and I didn’t like it all that much. So when I heard they were making a movie out of this old show, I wasn’t all that excited. And then, when I saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it didn’t look very funny at all. I really wanted to just skip this one and call it a day.

But I ended up seeing it, so I might as well give you the details.

The movie version begins with two guys named Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) going to the police academy. Turns out these two guys know each other from high school five years earlier. Schmidt was some nerdy guy who dyed his hair blond like Eminem, and Jenko was the big stupid jock who bullied him on a regular basis. But, while trying to graduate from the academy, they learn something about each other. Jenko is great at the physical aspects of becoming a cop, and Schmidt aces every test. So they decide to help each other out and bury the hatchet. Not only do they both graduate, but they also become buddies and partners on the beat.

Their first job is patrolling a park on bicycles. The life of a cop is nothing like they’d seen in the movies, and they’re bored out of their minds. They want to see some serious action. When they arrest a biker guy for drugs one day, they blow the whole thing by not reading the guy his Miranda rights (Jenko can’t even remember what the words are). But instead of getting fired, their boss, Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) transfers them to an undercover unit that meets at an abandoned church with the address of 21 Jump Street. As Hardy tells them, his bosses aren’t very creative and they only decided to start the Jump Street unit up again because they couldn’t think of anything else to do. This is one of several jokes that show the movie is very self-aware, and pokes fun at itself for being the movie version of a TV show.

When they get to Jump Street, Schmidt and Jenko find a bunch of other misfits sitting in the pews, and an angry Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) giving everyone hell. He doesn’t seem too happy with the quality of cops he’s got for his little project. He immediately sees Schmidt and Jenko as a couple of morons, but he sends them to a local high school anyway to crack a drug ring. Seems someone is selling kids a new LSD-type drug called HFS (the letters make sense if you see the movie) and one kid who posted a video of his high on YouTube (which is kind of funny) dies from it.

This is where similarities between the movie and the TV show end. This is a comedy, after all. Schmidt and Jenko show up at the school with new identities—they are now brothers Doug and Brad—and are intent on infiltrating the drug ring and bust the dealer and the supplier. To do this, they have to get in with the “cool” kids. But high school has changed a lot since Schmidt and Jenko were last there. Back then, Jenko was the popular jock and Schmidt was a loser. This time around, the nerdy, smart kids are the cool ones, and Schmidt gets to be the popular one of the duo.

There aren’t a lot of really big surprises in 21 JUMP STREET, but I did find it funnier than I expected it to be. A lot of this is because of the chemistry between Hill and Tatum. These two guys are believable as buddies, and they play well off of each other. The script by Michael Bacall (based on a concept by him and Jonah Hill) was also a bit smarter than I was expecting. When Hill’s character finds out that his job will be to go back to high school, he doesn’t just jump right in. He almost has a panic attack. High school was horrible for him—he doesn’t want to do it all over again! And Tatum’s character, who was cock-of-the-walk to first time he was in high school, is baffled about how much things have changed in the pecking order since he was a kid.

Hill has come a long way since movies like ACCEPTED (2006) and SUPERBAD (2007) and it’s not just because he was nominated for an Oscar for his remarkable performance in last year’s MONEYBALL. He’s just become a smart, go-to comedian who isn’t always in good movies, but who at least tries to make the movies he is in, better. Tatum has seemed on the verge of becoming a big star for a while now, but he can’t seem to find the perfect fit when it comes to roles. I thought he made some interesting choices earlier in his career, in movies like 2009’s FIGHTING, but lately he’s been appearing in a lot of romantic tearjerkers like DEAR JOHN (2010) and THE VOW, which came out earlier this year. The romantic movies have done well for him, but he just isn’t the household name yet everyone expected him to be. It’s interesting to see him in a comedy, and he has more comic potential than I would have thought. Of course, having Hill to play off of doesn’t hurt. But Tatum holds his own here just fine. The two of them actually make a pretty good team.

The original FOX series 21 JUMP STREET (which aired from 1987 - 1991) featured future movie star Johnny Depp!

(A KID walks by and stops)

KID: Hey Mister, why are you waiting outside the principal’s office? Are you a parent?

LS: Of course not! I’m a kid, just like you. I got busted by Mr. Hillerman! Damn, I might even get expelled?

(KID looks at him strangely)

KID: How are you in Mr. Hillerman’s class? You look like a 40-year-old man.

LS: I stayed back a lot. Now get out of here kid, I’m busy.

KID: And you’ve got some gray in your beard.

LS: I think I hear your mother calling you, twerp (pushes kid away).

Where was I? Oh yeah, the supporting cast does a good job, too, including Brie Larson (who some of you may remember as Envy Adams in 2010’s SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD) as Molly, a girl who Schmidt falls for, and Dave Franco (who we saw last year in the remake of FRIGHT NIGHT) as Eric, the guy who is supplying the new designer drug to the kids at school. And Rob Riggle is pretty funny as the goofy gym teacher, Mr. Walters. I especially liked the scene where Schmidt and Jenko have to take the HFS drug during school to prove they’re not cops, and get stopped in the hall by Mr. Walters—and begin to have all kinds of crazy hallucinations while they talk to him.

I also liked Ellie Kemper (who was also in last year’s BRIDESMAIDS) a lot as Ms. Griggs, the chemistry teacher who gets all nervous and flustered around Jenko, who she clearly has a thing for. I actually wish she had been in the movie more. And the always funny Chris Parnell (from such shows as SUBURGATORY, 30 ROCK and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE) is pretty funny as a pretentious drama teacher.

There are scenes you know are bound to happen, like when Schmidt ant Jenko have a house party to win the other kids over, and buy lots of booze (and steal weed from the police station’s evidence room) to get the other kids to like them. This part of the movie is nowhere near as outrageous as the similarly themed PROJECT X that we reviewed here a couple of weeks ago, but it’s funny enough.

It took two guys to direct this one—Phil Lord and Chris Miller—but they do a decent enough job. Not everything works, though. The bad guys are especially lame: a handful of tattooed biker dudes who keep showing up over and over again (when we first see them, they’re the guys Schmidt and Jenko try to arrest to get off of their bicycle beat, and they’re involved in the designer drug storyline, too). For biker dudes, they don’t seem all that scary, and are there really just five guys in their gang? I think a much stronger (and scarier) bad guy would have helped this movie a lot.

Going in to 21 JUMP STREET, I had zero expectations. I simply thought it was going to suck. The movie is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it was at least better than I expected, and provided a few laugh-out-loud moments, always a good sign in a comedy. And Tatum and Hill are very likable as two buddies trying to make a name for themselves on the police force.

(The door opens and the Principal’s SECRETARY comes out)

SECRETARY: The Principal will see you now.

LS: Oh no, I bet I’m in big trouble.

SECRETARY: Are you sure you attend this school, sir? You seem a little old.

LS: Old? No, I just have very hyperactive hormones.

SECRETARY: Whatever. Just this way.

(She leads him to another door, and LS goes inside, to see MICHAEL ARRUDA sitting behind a desk)

LS: You’re the principal here?

MA: I had to find some way to get into the column this week, didn’t I? Since I didn’t have a chance to see the movie. So what did you end up thinking of 21 JUMP STREET?

LS: I give 21 JUMP STREET ~ two and a half knives. Not a must-see movie in theaters, but maybe worth seeing at a matinee, or waiting for it to come out on DVD so you can rent it.

MA: Doesn’t sound like I missed out on too much.

LS: So what do we do now? I’m done with my review.

MA (raises his voice): Well, I’m going to have to expel you, young man, to make an example out of you. I will not tolerate such behavior in my school.

LS (laughs): That’s hilarious. They’re really going to think you’re the principal here.

MA (pushes a buzzer on his phone): Send in security.

(Two THUGS enter the room and each grab one of LS’s arms)

LS: What’s going on here?

MA: I am having you escorted off of school property, and don’t you dare come back.

LS: This is a joke, right?

(The THUGS force LS outside and throw him out onto the parking lot)

MA: I don’t believe it. I finally got the upper hand this time, and I didn’t even have to review this week’s movie.  (laughs)

(MA presses the buzzer on his phone again)

MA: Please hold all my calls, Mrs. Wetherbee.

(MA stretches out on his fancy office chair and takes a nap).

-THE END –

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

L.L. Soares gives 21 JUMP STREET~ two and a half knives!

THE LAST AIRBENDER

Posted in 2010, 3-D, Daniel Keohane Reviews, Fantasy Films, M. Night Shyamalan Movies, TV Show Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2010 by knifefighter

The Last Airbender (2010)
Film Review by Daniel G. Keohane
(with assistance from Andrew and Michael Keohane)

OK, before I get to whether THE LAST AIRBENDER (2010) is worth the price of admission, I want to discuss a trend with movies that popped up after James Cameron made an astronomical profit with AVATAR (2009). “Converting” new releases to 3D and charging $3 – $4 more per ticket. Unlike Cameron’s film, which was shot as a 3D movie, THE LAST AIRBENDER, like CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010), was not. It was converted to some semblance of 3D as a trendy gimmick. The “In 3D” tag at the end of the previews for this film only began appearing in the past couple of months. Now, this is not to say that the process did not add something to the visuals. There was a depth to the image you saw on the screen you might not have gotten in the 2D version, and perhaps some of the visuals such as the climatic ocean scene might not be quite as oh-wow-ish. But not by much. It much akin to watching a movie on DVD, then seeing it on Blu-Ray. Yes, there is a slight improvement, but not enough to justify the extra cost, or the eye strain I felt after the movie ended. Putting on glasses to see a simulation of 3D isn’t going to do much for a film with already-beautiful cinematography, which is how I’d describe most of M. Night Shyamalan’s films, say what you will about his storylines. Like my 18-year old son Andrew said after the movie ended, this fad is driven by the studios in a quest for as much money as possible, and will probably fade out with time because the Surgeon General will finally announce that watching too many 3D movies ruins your eyesight. More likely, moviegoers will finally stop being suckered by the words “in 3D!” on a marquee. Most of us have already figured this out. I recommend if you see THE LAST AIRBENDER, or the upcoming HARRY POTTER films, pay for the original 2D version. Save the extra 4 bucks for a down payment on popcorn, or for a film that was actually filmed in 3D.

Now, to the film. This review is culled not only from my own opinions, but two others’. Andrew is going into his sophomore year in college, where the anime television series AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER (2005 – 2008) is a cult hit (Shyamalan renamed the movie version without the word AVATAR for obvious reasons), much like STAR BLAZERS (1979) was for my generation in high school. My nephew Michael, another fan of the show, is turning 11 this month (the screening doubled as his birthday present). I’ve watched a number of episodes with Andrew (the entire series is available instantly on Netflix), so I’m familiar with the series as well.

The movie was not officially subtitled BOOK ONE: WATER (this was shown in the opening credits, however), so I assume the studios have not decided whether or not the next two films in the series will be developed. THE LAST AIRBENDER covers the first of the three seasons of show, which takes place on a mythical world where the four natural elements: Air, Fire, Water and Earth, are embodied and harnessed by four distinct “nations.” People from each are able to “bend” these specific elements to their will, and have lived in harmony with each other for centuries because of one person called The Avatar, who can harness all four elements and act as a GORT-like police officer, keeping balance between the nations and kicking butt when one gets out of line. Reincarnated over and over, the most recent Avatar, Aang (Noah Ringer) ran away from his Air tribe when he was twelve years old and had been missing for a hundred years. With no Avatar, the Fire Nation decided to wipe out the Air Tribe to assure he won’t come back, and began taking over the world. As the movie opens, Water and Earth have become subjugated by the war machines of Fire, and all hope is lost.

Teenage siblings Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) find Aang frozen in a ball of ice. They free him, and the boy slowly discovers that his people are all dead and a hundred years have passed. Once people discover who Aang is, the hope for an Avatar-inspired peace begins to spread. The Fire Nation discovers who Aang is and sets about trying to capture him before he can complete his training as Avatar – learning how to master the other three elements: Water (this film), Earth and Fire (whether the other two films ever see celluloid, box office sales alone will decide). Aang and his new friends set off for the northern Water Nation to get trained and battle the forces of Fire along the way, with a rather good climatic battle.

So, that’s Season One of the series, and this film, in a nutshell. Did the movie do the AVATAR series justice? How do you make an entire season of a television series into an hour and forty minute film? You can’t, unless you rework it, but doing so would have alienated the movie’s target audience. What Shyamalan did was stick to the main, underlying storyline of the friends striking out to master the element of water (Aang is already an accomplished Air Bender).

The attraction of the series wasn’t just this underlying quest, however, but the adventures the three young people have along the way. Each village they encountered had some unfortunate person(s) who needed help, and every experience inexorably served to train Aang as the Avatar. They touched on this briefly in the film, but there wasn’t enough time. What we get is a movie version of the primary quest for Water skills, with very little of the trademark humor which made the series so popular, or much growth in the relationship between the characters, who are drawn closer together as family by shared experience. One exception to this is the interplay between Aang and the Fire Nation’s exiled Prince Zuko, played to perfection by Dev Patel (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 2008). Zuko was banished by his evil Firelord father and has decided to reclaim his birthright by delivering the Avatar to his dad and thus insuring the continued success of Fire Nation’s dominance.

Let’s back up and see what worked in this rather complicated, dark film, and what didn’t.

As I said, some of the performances were on key. Patel played Prince Zuko to perfection, hopefully slamming some critics who complain about Shyamalan changing the implied nationality of the Fire Nation from Mandarin Chinese to his own ethnic background of Indian, or a more generic East Asian. I think it worked well, and so did Andrew. Aside from looking exactly like the character, Noah Ringer also kept on target as Aang. Like I mentioned, most of the humor was filtered from the story, so Ringer could only play the serious side of his character. That’s a loss, since the Avatar was part messiah-like figure, part goofy twelve year-old kid. In Patel’s and Ringer’s scenes together everything clicked. Shaun Toub (THE KITE RUNNER, 2007) also shone as Zuko’s Uncle Iroh. Though he didn’t look anything like this anime counterpart, he played the part with tight intensity and was a powerful presence in the film. Thankfully, Toub and Patel got quite a lot of screen time in this film.

This next plus is only a plus if you’ve seen the series. If you haven’t, the act of “bending” the elements is going make you mutter, Is this a movie about epileptics or something? No, it’s how they did it on the series. Andrew explained it best on the ride home. Each element requires specific style of gesture to control it. Water benders move with a grace, a flow like Feng-Shui. Earth benders stomp their feet and thrust their arms. Fire benders have violent arm motions, like martial arts. Air benders have a looping, Whirling Dervish dance. It’s clever, and specific, and I’m glad they kept these in the movie.

Many of the pluses mentioned above are also Andrew’s. He and nephew Michael would add that the action sequences were top-notch. The fights were well-choreographed and fun to watch. Especially those with the “Blue Spirit,” which were complex enough that the action was occasionally slowed to show what was happening – like THE MATRIX (1999), but without the cartoonish flair–more like a well-done martial arts film– which in many ways this film is.

Michael also liked how the film covered the primary plotline, and that it didn’t change the story much at all. He saw what he expected to, and also thought the graphics– the overall look of the film–was great.

The sets were the expected mix of CGI and elaborate physical sets, and this matched the series perfectly. It looked like the show. Fake 3D aside, some of the cinematography was stunning, though personally I think Shyamalan shines most when you get him outside in the real outdoors, but there wasn’t much of that, being set on a different planet and all. The ocean scene with the Fire Nation fleet parked outside Water Nation’s walls was gorgeous, and the ensuing battle a visual feast.

Which brings us to what did not work. As I mentioned, most of the humor which made the television series so fun to watch had been leeched from the script. This is unfortunate, and not a small issue, because what we were left with is a rather dark film. Considering this movie is geared to teenage and “tween” boys, maybe that’s OK. When humor was used in the film, it didn’t always work. I’m not the only one who felt this was a major gap, both Andrew and Michael wanted more of it.

Not a lot of praise, either, for the characters of Katara and Sokka. Next to Aang and Prince Zuko, the brother and sister are the most important in the series. Nicola Peltz’s stilted portrayal of Katara brought the film down quite a few notches, due to her dialogue being mostly a series of overdramatic rhetoric. It’s how they talked in the show, but always interspersed with goofy clowning around and a wealth of humor. Since the latter was almost nonexistent in the final script, all she was left to speak were vague philosophical utterances. This seriousness could have been balanced by the brother, played by Jackson Rathbone (the TWILIGHT series, 2009 – 2010). In the television show Sokka is the comic relief, the joker who pulls everyone from their high horse if things get too La De Dah-ish, but this wasn’t possible with so much lightness lost in the script.

I mentioned the motions which benders use to control their elements as being very specific, and loyal to the anime series. However, I think the film spent way too much time showing Aang and Katara (a water bender herself) practicing their motions, sometimes with no water globules being raised up with their moves. These scenes could have been shortened a lot, especially considering how much of the story was cut to make room for scenes like this, where nothing really happens.

Being someone who’s seen every episode, Andrew was irked that pronunciations of many character’s names were changed. “Ahng” in stead of “Ayng” for instance. Why they did this is baffling, considering most people coming to the movie have seen every episode.

In the end,  there are pluses and minuses to THE LAST AIRBENDER. Most of the pluses will come from fans of the show, but also a few minuses. Anyone watching this movie without any knowledge of the AVATAR television series will likely walk out with another reason to hate M. Night Shyamalan. Which is a pity, because he’s the best thing to happen to Hollywood since sliced alien fingers, in my opinion. Shyamalan is by far one of my all-time favorite filmmakers. I know I’m in the minority here, but too bad. SIGNS (2002), THE VILLAGE (2004) and THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) are easily in my Top 20 favorites. Think what you will about his occasional plot issues, his films have style, the acting is (almost) always top-notch and his musical collaborator James Howard’s scores are consistently on-target. Unfortunately for THE LAST AIRBENDER, Shyamalan’s signature style, by necessity of recreating a well-loved TV series for the big screen, is missing.

Michael, Andrew and I agree that if you’re a fan of the AVATAR series, this movie (in 2D) is worth seeing, especially for the sets and the action sequences, and how it tries, and in many ways succeeds, in paying homage to the show’s basic storyline. I worry that we won’t see the next two seasons of AVATAR on the big screen. The studio, however, should consider the film’s target audience. My nephew said, “Why wouldn’t people want to go see this? This kind of movie is what draws me and my friends to the theaters in the first place!” That’s a quote from an 11-year old. Smart kid. And he’s smack in the middle of the film’s intended demographic. In that respect, it was successful.

Andrew and I give the film 3 out of 5 flying bisons, if you’re a fan of the show.

Michael was more generous and offered 4 out of 5.

If you are not familiar with the series and you’re over twenty, I can only offer 2.5 lemur bats out of 5. I’m sorry, M. Night. Don’t hate me because I’m honest. You still have created three and a half of my favorite movies of all time, and I know you’ll do it again.

If they let you.

© Copyright 2010 by Daniel G. Keohane

THE A-TEAM!

Posted in 2010, Action Movies, John Harvey Reviews, TV Show Movies with tags , , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by knifefighter

Back To The ’80s with THE A-TEAM
by John Harvey

Ahhh … 1980s action adventure flicks. How I long for them. The ridiculous stunts, explosions that should change the Earth’s orbit, guns with unlimited bullets and heroes with limited vocabularies. These were films where you could easily forgive a total disregard for physics, reality and logic, simply because everything was so cool. You know the movies I mean: ALIENS (1986), PREDATOR (1987),  LETHAL WEAPON (1987), DIE HARD (1988), and the list goes on.

While we’ve left the 1980s far behind us, the 2010 feature film revision of the 1980s TV series THE A-TEAM fits neatly into that genre of thoroughly mindless-yet-enjoyable, popcorn-chomping action romps.

Directed by Joe Carnahan, THE A-TEAM (PG-13) reminds you that in some cases a feature film remake is worthwhile. THE A-TEAM does a great job at paying tribute to the TV series without being a slave to the original material. In this updated version, the film delves into the origins of a framed crack special-forces unit including Col. Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), Templeton “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper), Bosco “Bad Attitude” Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) and “Howling Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley). After getting set up by mercenaries and shady government operatives, the team must break out of prison, recover stolen treasury plates and attempt to regain their good names through copious amounts of violence, mayhem and not a few hokey gags.

While THE A-TEAM does not have the same rabid fans as, say, STAR TREK, there are still many (primarily male) folks who remember the series well and fondly. Major missteps would have been noticed and potentially deadly considering the critical mass of pop culture icons, quotes and action figures that originated with this property.

Of course, the lynchpin for this movie is the characters and the actors who portray them. Okay … we’re not dealing with David Mamet character treatments here, but we are dealing with characters that give off a very specific tone and swagger that established fans remember vividly.

Casting for the central characters was mostly spot-on. My only beef lies with Bradley Cooper’s take on Templeton “Faceman” Peck, whose performance landed a bit flat. Though some of the blame may reside with the screenplay, which did not give Cooper nearly as much room to chew the scenery when compared to Neeson, Jackson or Copley. Cooper also had to do much of his acting opposite Jessica Biel (playing love interest and Army operative, Charisa Sosa), whose performances are almost always flat. This movie is no exception.

Speaking of scene chewing, you really have to hand it to Copley (a semi-obscure South African actor whose only major credit is DISTRICT 9) and Jackson (a UFC mixed martial arts fighter) who stepped into two of the most iconic, over-the-top roles with great success. It could be argued that their performances regularly upstaged film veterans Cooper and Neeson.

Plot is the other critical consideration in this movie. No … I’m not being ironic. Though intelligent storytelling does not float to the top of most minds when it comes to action/adventure flicks, there is a balancing act. If the plot is too simple, then it’s dull and predictable. If it’s too complex, then you spend too much time trying to decipher who’s doing what to who and where. In addition, tthis script also had to contain enough empty space to fit key moments and material from the original TV series.

In THE A-TEAM, the plot becomes a bit too haphazard about halfway through the film and takes far too many beats to sew things up. This is why the movie clocks in at two hours long while most tightly-written action films just barely nick the 90-minute mark. Rumor has it that THE A-TEAM screenplay passed through no fewer than 11 screenwriters before becoming a shooting script.

If it’s true … it shows.

Despite flaws in THE A-TEAM‘s script-by-committee, the movie still manages to capture the adolescent, superficial joy that came exploding from the TV screen starting in 1983. Make no mistake. THE A-TEAM is an utterly mindless movie. Still, it’s a good action movie.

– END –

© Copyright 2010 by John Harvey

LINKS OF INTEREST:

A-TEAM Movie Trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z93AADd2Dpo

A-TEAM Movie Website:
http://www.ateam-movie.com

THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE

Posted in 2008, Cinema Knife Fights, TV Show Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2009 by knifefighter

(And now, a review of quite possibly the worst movie of 2008 – LS)

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE
By Michael Arruda and L. L. Soares


(SCENE: We come upon L.L. SOARES digging a ditch in a cemetery. There are snow drifts and the earth is hard with frost. MICHAEL ARRUDA shows up to give him a hand.)

MA: Who’d you kill this time?

LS: No one yet. I’m trying to bury the X-FILES.

MA:  You mean X-FILES 2?

LS: No, the whole franchise, and it’s not called X-FILES 2. That would be too easy. Instead it’s called THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. As if that old chestnut of a slogan from the TV show wasn’t tired enough, now they have to use it in a movie title.

MA: What’s wrong with that?  I want to believe too. I want to believe that the truth is out there, that these things we write about are real on some level. You hear me? I want to believe, brothers and sisters! I— sorry,  I got carried away.

LS:  I think I’ll dig a second ditch.

MA:  But first, we have a review to do.

LS (groans): The thought of reliving this movie gives me the creeps.

MA:  Excellent.

LS: It’s something like ten years after the events of the first X-FILES movie. Since then, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) has left the FBI to become a full-fledged medical doctor at a Catholic hospital. Her former partner, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), has gone into a life of seclusion and has even grown a mountain-man beard.

MA:  I liked the beard. He should have kept it throughout the movie. It would have given the film an identity it lacked.

LS: This movie needed a lot more than some lame beard to give it an identity. It needed a totally different script!

Mulder spends his days clipping articles about strange phenomena out of the newspapers. On his wall is the old poster of a flying saucer and the words “I Want to Believe” from the TV show (sound familiar?)

An FBI agent goes missing, and the Bureau is using a psychic to find her, named Father Joseph Crissman (played by Billy Connolly). Father Crissman is actually an ex-priest who was convicted of pedophilia, but somehow the Bureau trusts this guy enough to follow his “visions.” So far, he’s led them to several severed limbs – evidence of some bizarre serial crime – but no sign of the missing agent yet.

Special Agent Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) asks Mulder to come back to the FBI. She wants him to check out the credibility of the priest’s visions, and also use his past experience in bizarre cases to help track down the missing agent. Of course, to get in touch with Mulder, the Bureau has to first contact Scully, who is one of the few people who know his whereabouts.

Once Mulder and Scully get involved in the case, it goes from lame to plain old boring, as Father Crissman continues to have visions that bring them closer and closer to solving the mystery. Unfortunately, the mystery itself, as it unfolds before us, isn’t very interesting.

A subplot involving a dying child that Scully is trying to save in the hospital seems rather unnecessary as well, and while the fight to keep someone alive should be compelling, the truth is, it isn’t here.

(A PRIEST with long white hair stumbles onto the scene, and approaches MA and LS).

PRIEST:  It’s here. It’s here. She’s alive. My visions tell me she’s here. I see—.

(LS hits the priest over the head with his shovel with a loud CLANK! knocking him out cold)

LS:  Stars. That’s what you see now.

MA:  You know, I do see something down here. (Drops to hands and knees and starts digging in snow.)

LS:  I absolutely hated this movie, which surprised me, because I was a big fan of the television show when it aired on Fox from 1993 to 2002. Well, I was a fan of most of it. The last few seasons were pretty much a waste of time, and the first X-FILES film was mediocre at best. But it was a masterpiece compared to this movie.

Which is all sad, because there was a point when it was one of the best shows on television.

The problem was that the first film dealt with the whole alien conspiracy storyline that got more and more muddled on the TV series as it developed. The movie ended up asking more questions than it answered. But the best shows were always the ones that were self-contained cases rather than the conspiracy storyline, and creator/director Chris Carter seems to understand that this time around, and has dropped the complex alien storyline here in order to give us a story of tormented psychics, weird experiments, and severed limbs.

Too bad that the new film not only seems like a bad episode of the TV show – it’s also a  LONG episode –as in the length of a feature-length film, which it claims to be.

I actually had a hard time watching this one. I just got more and more restless as it went on, and wished I was anywhere but in a movie theater watching a lame X-FILES sequel. I mean, at this point, what is the audience for this thing? A lot of fans gave up on the show years ago, when it dropped in quality. And a lot of audience members who didn’t watch the show will not get any new interest in it based on this film.

The whole thing was just dismal. I WANT TO BELIEVE that I didn’t spend $10 to see this useless crap, but unfortunately, I did!

MA:  I found it!  I found a body part! (Lifts the severed head of an alien from the snow). Too bad this wasn’t in the movie. (Tosses head away and wipes green blood from his hands onto his clothes).

No surprises here. I didn’t like this movie either.

What’s interesting is that unlike you, I was not a fan of the X-FILES TV show. I caught one or two episodes here and there over the years, but I never watched it regularly, so I’m coming from the perspective of someone who didn’t have knowledge of the show.

But the one good thing about this movie is that you don’t need knowledge of the show to understand the movie. As you said, it’s a stand-alone plot. But, as you also said, it’s a lame and dull plot, and I agree with you on both those points. Talk about going for the non-dramatic!  This film was about as compelling as a snowflake. I mean, you have a story of a possible serial killing, and yet we don’t get to know the victims, nor do we know anything about the villains until the mystery is revealed, and even then, they’re not fleshed out. There’s simply no emotional connection here, other than to Mulder and Scully, but that doesn’t make for a very balanced movie.

Still, I enjoyed the two leads, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, and I thought they were both very good in this movie, as you would expect. They were believable, as they should be, having played these roles for so many years.

LS: I thought Mulder and Scully’s scenes together were incredibly flat for two characters who were once lovers. It’s not clear what their relationship is now, but they’re not married, and they had a child together who died.

I thought they did a good job showing the pain between them, the lingering ache of losing a child. But I couldn’t bring myself to believe there was ever any passion between these two characters. Watching them was like watching the sex lives of robots.

MA:  I believed that they genuinely liked each other and missed each other. That was expressed quite clearly to me, but no, based upon what I saw of them in this movie, I wouldn’t categorize them as passionate. The lack of passion didn’t bother me though. I didn’t think this was supposed to be a love story.

I also really enjoyed Billy Connolly’s performance as the psychic priest. His performance as a convicted pedophile generated the right amount of anger, disgust, and most difficult of all, sympathy. It wasn’t a knockout performance by any means, but in an otherwise stale movie, it added some spice.

LS: I actually like Billy Connolly. However, I thought his character was rather repellent, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a movie – characters don’t have to be likable to be compelling – but despite the movie’s attempts to make him sympathetic, I didn’t find myself moved to care very much about him. I also thought it was interesting how he’s a major presence for most of the movie and then when he dies, it is completely anti-climatic (has nothing to do with the story) and happens off-screen. Like the script just lost interest in him.

(The COWARDLY LION runs up to them, wringing his hands)

LION: I do believe in spooks! I do believe in spooks!

LS: Hey, you already “believe.” I bet you liked this X-FILES movie!

LION: I dunno. I was too scared to watch it!

MA:  Boo.

(LION runs away in fright)

LS:  Bully.

MA:  At least I didn’t hit him with a shovel.

I actually was drawn into the mystery during the first half of this movie. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go, and it was just mysterious enough to hold my interest. There were missing women, severed body parts, and visions from a weirdo priest. For a while there, it was fairly interesting.  I even thought, “You know what, I should check out the original episodes of the show on DVD to see what I missed all those years ago,” which I bet is exactly what writer/director Chris Carter was aiming for when he decided to make this movie.

But once the mystery is revealed, and we know what this film is about, it’s a letdown as it just isn’t that compelling, scary, or even all that interesting. Those thoughts I had about checking out the original series?  Pushed aside. I’ll finish the dozen or so series I’m watching right now first.

LS: You should still check out the early episodes at some point, to see how all of this actually WORKED at one point. But this franchise long ago passed its expiration date.

MA: THE X-FILES:  I WANT TO BELIEVE does in fact play like an elongated TV episode, and the sad part is, it’s not even a very good episode. It’s largely forgettable, in terms of plot. It also doesn’t make a very good movie, as there’s nothing cinematic about it. The key chase scene in the movie, for example, should have been a high point, a major source of excitement and suspense, but it falls flat. It’s dark, hard to see, and for a chase scene, rather slow. For me, that was the beginning of the end, because it was also around this time that answers started being revealed, and they where ho-hum revelations at best.

I also agree with you about the subplot about the dying boy. You know, I liked this plot for a while, and I felt for the boy, and Scully’s determination to save him I found admirable, but in terms of this movie, so what?  There wasn’t a strong enough tie-in to the main plot.

LS: The boy was supposed to be a surrogate for Scully’s child who died. It was supposed to make us feel something. But I just found this storyline forced and boring. Where it should have been poignant, it just hung there.

MA: Watching this movie was like eating a slice of white bread when you were expecting a hearty slice of rye.

LS: White bread would be a treat. This movie is like eating paper.

MA: You’d think that after a 10 year hiatus, writer/director Chris Carter would have come up with something more compelling.

LS: Definitely. For a while there, it was like Carter fell off the face of the earth, which is bizarre, since at the peak of the X-FILES show, he was being touted as a friggin genius. I guess in his case, genius is a fleeting thing. After all these years, he should have had a script that could knock us out. But this is a complete dud.

And it’s funny how the die-hard fans who still exist now seem kind of sad. There were people in the audience I saw this with who cheered the first time the X-FILES theme was played. They cheered the first time Scully and Mulder came onscreen. Even after two bad final TV seasons and a lame movie spin-off, these people still thought they were going to see the show returned to its former glory. And Carter keeps delivering low-quality product.

MA: I did enjoy the George W. Bush gag very much, and it was fun to see a movie with snow at this time of year, but that’s about it.

LS: George W. gags are a dime a dozen and have reached the saturation point where they just make me cringe. But the fact they also made fun of FBI founder (and total whacko) J. Edgar Hoover redeemed the joke.

MA:  Saturation point?  What planet are you living on?

THE X-FILES:  I WANT TO BELIEVE is about as intriguing as an afternoon nap. Perhaps a better title for this yawn fest should have been, THE X-FILES:  I WANT TO SLEEP.

LS (stops digging and raises his head to reveal he is crying blood): I just want them to stop making these films. I want to believe that I’m finally free of bad X-FILES movies!

MA (also begins to cry):  I want to believe that a man can fly!

(Suddenly, a full orchestration of John Williams’s SUPERMAN theme is heard, and Superman flies by above them.)

MA:  Thank you. I do believe!  I do believe!

(LS hits MA over the head with his shovel with a loud CLANG!, knocking MA into the ditch.)

LS:  I do believe this review is over.

MA (unseen):  There’s something else down here.

VOICE:  Phone home.

LS: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

—END—

They deserved better.

(Originally published on Fear Zone on 7/27/08)

© Copyright 2008 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares