Archive for Action

Quick Cuts: Fun With the Oscars

Posted in 2013, Best Of Lists, Oscar-Worthy, Quick Cuts, Special Columns with tags , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  Fun with the Oscars
With Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  It’s Academy Awards time.  I thought we’d have some fun and do our own Cinema Knife Fight version of the Oscars, picking from familiar Academy Award categories, but staying within specific genres.

Here’s my take on the Best of 2012 Horror movies and the Best of 2012 Action movies:


Best of HORROR movies 2012:

-Best Supporting Actress- Alice Eve, THE RAVEN

-Best Supporting Actor- Richard Jenkins, CABIN IN THE WOODS

-Best Actor- Ethan Hawke, SINISTER

-Best Actress –Kathryn Newton, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4

-Best Screenplay- Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, CABIN IN THE WOODS

-Best Director- Timur Bekmambetov, ABRAHAM LINCOLN:  VAMPIRE HUNTER

-Best Picture – CABIN IN THE WOODS



Best of ACTION movies 2012:

-Best Supporting Actress-Kate Beckinsale, CONTRABAND

-Best Supporting Actor- Leonardo DiCaprio, DJANGO UNCHAINED

-Best Actor – Tom Cruise, JACK REACHER

-Best Actress- Scarlett Johansson, THE AVENGERS

-Best Screenplay- Joss Whedon, THE AVENGERS

-Best Director- Quentin Tarantino, DJANGO UNCHAINED

-Best Picture- THE AVENGERS


L.L. SOARES: And I’ve decided to do three list, for Horror, Action/Drama and Science Fiction.


Best of HORROR movies 2012:

-Best Supporting Actress- Hannah Fierman, V/H/S (segment “Amateur Night”)

-Best Supporting Actor- Fran Kranz, CABIN IN THE WOODS

-Best Actor- Neil Maskell, KILL LIST/Ethan Hawke, SINISTER (tie)

-Best Actress –Sarah Bolger, THE MOTH DIARIES

-Best Screenplay- Amy Jump and Bean Wheatley, KILL LIST

-Best Director- Ben Wheatley, KILL LIST

-Best Picture –KILL LIST



Best of ACTION movies 2012:

Is  DJANGO UNCHAINED really an action movie? If so:

-Best Supporting Actress-Salma Hayek, SAVAGES

-Best Supporting Actor- Leonardo DiCaprio/Samuel L. Jackson (tie) DJANGO UNCHAINED

-Best Actor – Christoph Waltz/Jamie Foxx (tie) DJANGO UNCHAINED

-Best Actress- Anne Hathaway, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

-Best Screenplay- Quentin Tarantino, DJANGO UNCHAINED

-Best Director- Quentin Tarantino, DJANGO UNCHAINED


-Best Fight Choreography – THE RAID


John Carter

Best of SCIENCE FICTION movies of 2012:

-Best Supporting Actress- Emily Blunt, LOOPER/ Charlize Theron, PROMETHEUS (tie)

-Best Supporting Actor- Pierce Gagnon, LOOPER

-Best Actor – Taylor Kitsch, JOHN CARTER

-Best Actress-Noomi Rapace, PROMETHEUS

-Best Screenplay- Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon, JOHN CARTER /Rian Johnson, LOOPER (tie)

-Best Director- Andrew Stanton, JOHN CARTER

-Best Picture- JOHN CARTER


ARRUDA:    Have fun this weekend watching the real thing!  Thanks for joining us!




Posted in 2011, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Coming Attractions, Horror, Remakes with tags , , , , , , , on September 2, 2011 by knifefighter

by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene: The stark surface of the moon. An astronaut slowly makes his way through zero gravity.)

ASTRONAUT (crackly audio): Mission Control? You’re not going to believe this. They’re back again!


ASTRONAUT: Those Cinema Knife Fight guys. You know, the guys who don’t need helmets to breathe up here.

(MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are practicing their golf swings. MA launches a golf ball that hits the astronaut square in the helmet. The astronaut screams as he’s propelled off the lunar surface.)

MA: Oops! Sorry about that!

LS: Sorry? Look what you did! You just sent that guy into outer space!

MA: Shouldn’t we throw him a line or something?

LS: We don’t have time. We have to start this month’s COMING ATTRACTIONS column.

ASTRONAUT (flying off into space): Help me out guys! Last time you were here you told me you could do anything because you were writers, and that’s why you could breathe up here!
MA: He has a point. Okay, we’ll write you back down.

(ASTRONAUT suddenly finds himself back on the moon): Cool! Thanks, guys! Can I take my helmet off too?

LS: Don’t push it. Now, please leave us alone. We’ve got a job to do.

MA: That’s right. We’re back here on the moon—the last time we were here was back in July because of the latest TRANSFORMERS movie—because the first movie we’re reviewing in September is the long awaited and much anticipated APOLLO 18.

APOLLO 18 is the film that’s had a zillion different release dates. Seriously, its release date has been changed five times, but it looks like it’s really going to be released this time on September 2.

There really aren’t any known names associated with APOLLO 18. It’s directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, with a screenplay by Brian Miller and Cory Goodman, not exactly household names, although Goodman was one of the writers who worked on PRIEST (2011). Uh-oh.

LS: I hated that movie!

MA: But the trailer for APOLLO 18 looks really cool, and based on that, and that alone, I’m actually looking forward to this one and hope it’ll be a surprise hit.

LS: Yeah, it looks like yet another BLAIR WITCH-type horror flick that is filmed like a fake documentary. This time it involves a secret moon launch where things go horribly wrong. I’m looking forward to this one as well.

MA: And there’s also another horror movie opening on September 2nd, SHARK NIGHT 3D.

LS: The premise for this one sounds good—we finally get to see some 3D sharks coming at ya! Let’s hope it’s better than the last one, JAWS 3-D back in 1983. That movie totally wasted the gimmick. My only worry is that this movie is rated PG-13. How can you show realistic shark bites and carnage with a PG-13 rating? I’m guessing that this won’t be half as good as last year’s 3D killer fish bonanza, PIRAHNA 3D!

MA: I hated that movie!

LS: Of course you did. You have no taste.

MA: I know very little about SHARK NIGHT 3D. But I was shocked as well to learn that it’s rated PG-13 since all the trailers make it look like it’s an R-rated thriller. I’m not expecting much from this one.

On September 9, its CONTAGION in 3D, and I’m already getting nauseous about this one. It’s one of those movies where they show you everything in the trailer. I can’t imagine there’s much left in the movie that I don’t know about.

LS: We could probably review the movie based on just seeing the trailer.

MA: As you can tell by the title, it’s about a disease that threatens to wipe out civilization as we know it. Blah, blah, blah. It boasts strong star power, with a cast that includes Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Laurence Fishburne.

LS: Too bad it looks boring as hell.

MA: And it’s directed by Steven Soderbergh who burst onto the scene back in 1989 with SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE.

LS: I liked that movie!

MA: He’s made a bunch of movies since then, including the George Clooney OCEANS 11 movies, but none with as much critical acclaim as his debut picture.

LS: I don’t know about that. Didn’t he direct ERIN BROCKOVICH in 2000? That one got an Oscar for Julia Roberts (even though Ellen Burnstyn turned in a better fperformance that year for Darren Aronofksy’s REQUIEM FOR A DREAM).

MA: Yeah, okay, he did direct ERIN BROCKOVICH.  Gee, I wonder how I forgot that one?

LS: Because it sucked. Soderbergh made two really great crime movies in the 90s, though—OUT OF SIGHT (1998), based on a book by Elmore Leonard and 1999’s hitman drama THE LIMEY, starring the terrific Terence Stamp.

MA: CONTAGION was written by Scott Z. Burns, who was one of the writers responsible for THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007). In spite of the talent involved with this one, I’m not really looking forward to it.

LS: Me neither. In fact, I’m dreading it so much I’m not even going to see it!

MA: That’s right. I’ll be reviewing this one without you.

LS: Sucker! Well, I deserve a break once in awhile. And CONTAGION seemed like a great excuse to take a weekend off.

MA: Most likely we’ll have a guest reviewer filling in for you.

LS: On September 16 we’ll be covering two movies, DRIVE and STRAW DOGS.

DRIVE is based on the crime novel by James Sallis and features Ryan Gosling as a getaway car driver. It sounds pretty cool, and has a cast that includes Bryan Cranston (from the excellent AMC series, BREAKING BAD), Ron Perlman, and Albert Brooks, playing against type as a sadistic crime boss.

STRAW DOGS is a remake of the Sam Peckinpah classic from 1971, starring Dustin Hoffman. It’s about a guy who moves into a quaint cabin in rural England with his new wife (it’s where she grew up) and how some hostile locals decide to make their lives a living hell. In the original, Hoffman played a meek guy who is forced to become violent to protect his wife and home. James Marsden has the Hoffman role here, and Alexander Skarsgard (he plays Eric Northman in the HBO series TRUE BLOOD) as the leader of the bad guys. While I don’t think this movie needed a remake – I am a huge Peckinpah fan and the original film is just fine – I am a little curious about this one.

MA: I’m looking forward to DRIVE. I always enjoy Ron Perlman, and in the trailers Albert Brooks looks like he’s having a field day playing a real bad-ass villain, so this could be fun.

And based on the trailers I’ve seen, STRAW DOGS looks pretty intense.

On September 23 we’ll be reviewing THE KILLER ELITE, a hit-man movie starring Jason Stratham, Robert DeNiro and Clive Owen. This one looks like it’ll be fun, and I always enjoy DeNiro, so I’m looking forward to it.

LS: To tell you the truth, I haven’t enjoyed DeNiro in a movie in a long time, so I’m really hoping he’s good in this one.

MA:  I liked him in MACHETE (2010), and he was good in LIMITLESS (2011).

LS:  Clive Owen is pretty reliable to turn in a good performance, and Jason Stratham is one of the few action heroes I actually enjoy watching in these kinds of movies. So it looks pretty good to me, too. It shares a name with a 1975 spy drama called THE KILLER ELITE, starring James Caan and Robert Duvall, but I’m not sure if it’s an actual remake.

This same weekend, we might also review ABDUCTION, starring Taylor Lautner—the shirtless werewolf guy from the TWILIGHT movies.

MA: Say it ain’t so!!!

Not good looking. Can't act. How did he get a movie career?

LS: It really depends on if we’re in the mood to do two movies that weekend. The way I see it, ABDUCTION might be an unintentional laugh-fest, because Lautner is a horrible actor, or just plain unwatchable. If it’s one of those “so-bad-it’s-good” movies, I’d be interested in seeing it. If it’s just plain bad, I hope we decide to skip it.

MA: I’ll barf now (barfs into barf bag) and that’s really all I have to say about Taylor Lautner and ABDUCTION.

We finish the very busy month of September with DREAM HOUSE, a haunted house movie starring Daniel Craig, which opens on September 30. Not that I’m a big fan of haunted house movies, but I am a big fan of Daniel Craig, and this movie looks somewhat interesting, so I’m looking forward to it.

It also has Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz in the cast, so it has some star power. It’s directed by Jim Sheridan, who directed MY LEFT FOOT (1999) and IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER (1993), two excellent films featuring Daniel Day-Lewis, so it has an experienced director at the helm.

LS: I don’t know a lot about this one. I guess it sounds okay. But what I have seen of the trailer, this one could go either way.

MA: All right then. That wraps things up from here. We can leave the moon and go home now.

LS: I dunno. I kinda like it here. With no one here to distract me, I could really make some headway with my novels.

MA: Yeah, but what are you going to do when you get hungry? Order take-out?

LS: Everyone knows the moon is made of cheese. (Reaches down and plucks up a succulent slice of Swiss cheese, which he promptly eats.)

ASTRONAUT: Are you kidding me? All this time I’ve been sucking down that awful liquefied astronaut food, and I could have been feasting on cheese? Let me have some! (begins to remove his helmet).

MA: No, wait—!

(Without his helmet, astronaut gasps for air. MA helps him put his helmet back on.)

ASTRONAUT: It’s not fair!

LS: Quit your whining! At least you get paid!

ASTRONAUT: Well, if you put it that way—but that moon cheese looks awfully good.

LS: You can buy all the cheese you want when you go back home.

MA: Speaking of which, I’m heading there now. (to LS) Are you coming or staying?

LS: I guess I’ll head back. Something tells me I wouldn’t get much writing done here anyway. (ASTRONAUT chops at the moon’s surface with a golf club, looking for cheese.)

MA: Okay, folks, we’re heading back to Earth, and we’ll see you in September with reviews of lots of new movies!

LS: See you then!



Posted in 2011, 3-D, Blockbusters, Cinema Knife Fights, Comic Book Movies, Science Fiction, Superheroes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2011 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares


(The Scene: A beach at dusk. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES approach the wreckage of a crashed alien spaceship.)

MA: Wow, we’ve found a real live alien spaceship!

LS: Maybe they’ll abduct you to some distant galaxy so I can be spared your bad taste in movies.

MA: No, I think it’s your mother ship come to take you back home. L.L. phone home!

LS: How dare you compare me to that twerp, E.T.! And, for your information, I was born right here on Earth!

(They hear a groan from the spaceship. They approach to find a dying green alien with a bright pink face. The GREEN ALIEN extends his hand and shows them a green ring.)

GREEN ALIEN: The ring has chosen you.

MA: Hey, bud, you’re not seeing double. There’s actually two of us here. Which one of us did the ring choose?

LS: It obviously chose me. (Reaches out to take ring.)

MA: Not so fast! We don’t know that. Let the alien answer first. Which one of us did the ring choose?

GREEN ALIEN (Points to MA, then to LS): You.

LS: Well, that’s it. This alien is obviously retarded.

MA: This isn’t getting us anywhere. Look, there’s two of us and only one ring, and we can’t share a ring.

LS: Share? There’s no sharing at Cinema Knife Fight! I’m taking it.

(LS grabs ring, as does MA, and as they wrestle over it, they inadvertently toss the ring into the ocean.)

MA: Oops.

LS: Now see what you’ve done!

GREEN ALIEN: The ring—the ring—. (Alien dies.)

MA (Shaking his head): Well, he’s having a bad day. Anyway, with the ring gone, there’s nothing left to distract us, so why don’t we start our review of GREEN LANTERN?

LS: I bet that ring sucked anyway. It sure was ugly. Since he came all the way from another galaxy, that alien could have at least brought us some cool bling.

Yeah, start the review.

MA: GREEN LANTERN (2011) is the latest superhero movie to hit the big screen, and this one comes from the DC universe. It’s about a character not as widely known as some of the other DC superheroes, such as Batman and Superman.

LS: I don’t know about that. In the comics world, Green Lantern is a pretty big deal. He was the central figure of the recent “Darkest Night” and “Brightest Day” storylines, probably the two biggest events in the DC Universe in the past few years. He just never had a movie before. Or a TV show. But comics fans know him very well.

MA: Well, for the rest of us in the real world, he’s not as well known.

GREEN LANTERN is about a carefree pilot named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), who is chosen by a dying alien to join the ranks of the Green Lanterns, a huge collection of super warriors who protect the universe from evil threats. They do this by showing no fear and by using their will power. They have the power to turn whatever their thinking of into reality. So, they can be as powerful as the limits of their imaginations. It’s kind of a goofy premise when you think about it. I mean, if you have the power to conjure up a ray gun, for example, to shoot your enemy, why not just conjure up a dead enemy and save yourself the trouble? I’m sure the comics did a better job of explaining all this, but it’s not covered in any satisfactory depth in the movie.

LS: I think it’s a key point here that the limits of a Green Lantern’s power is the same as the limits of his or her imagination. If there’s a flaw with this movie—it’s clearly that Hal Jordan doesn’t have much of an imagination. Neither did the writers of this movie.

MA: That’s a really good point, because, as I watched this movie, I kept thinking, where the heck is this guy’s imagination?  Why isn’t he using this new power he has to create all kinds of cool things?

Anyway, Hal becomes a GREEN LANTERN, which is a good thing, because the Earth is now threatened by a bad guy named Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a brilliant scientist infected by another alien, the evil Parallax, which turns him into a super intelligent baddie with a big head who looks like the Elephant Man wearing a lab coat.

LS: Hector is not the villain of the movie. He’s a pawn. A sad, dejected man who has great intelligence but still feels he is a failure. He becomes infected, by the way, because he is called in to do an autopsy on the alien who gave Hal his ring. But the alien has a bad wound that still has traces of the creature that killed him in it – Parallax. When he touches the wound in depth, the traces infect him, turning him into the Elephant Man thingie. He suddenly can read people’s minds and has telekinetic powers. He also has very big daddy issues concerning his senator father (Tim Robbins). He grew up with Hal and has always envied him. And he’s in love with Carol Ferris, who loves Hal. Once he gets his “powers,” it’s clear that all Hector wants to do with them is get back at the people who slighted him – his father and Hal – and finally “get the girl.”

MA: Yeah, there’s also a love interest for Hal with the beautiful Carol (Blake Lively) but, like the rest of this movie, this story doesn’t go anywhere.

LS: I thought Lively was a big weak link here. Sure, she’s attractive. But every scene she was in, I thought her acting was atrocious. It was like watching a very pretty robot. I kept thinking—aside from being hot —what does anyone see in this woman? Why do the main characters all want her affection? She just didn’t have any depth at all as a character, and I can’t tell if it’s her fault or the writers. Probably both.

MA: There’s not much else I want to say about the plot since this movie didn’t really do much for me, and I don’t think its story warrants too much retelling. But feel free if you want to fill in the blanks.

LS: No, you just about covered it. The details actually make the story less interesting. We then have to get into the whole significance of colors. Green represents the power of will, which is the source of the Green Lanterns’ great energy. But there’s also, yellow, the color of fear, which was also harnessed by the ancient inhabitants of the planet Oa, who are blue gnome-like creatures who started all this crap. They created the green lanterns and sit on monolithic perches like a group of Yoda wannabes. One of their group turned to “the dark side” and tapped into the power of fear and it corrupted him, so he turned into the super baddie Parallax—the nebulous monster who is going around devouring whole planets (He’s an awful lot like the Marvel villain, Galactus, another bad guy who eats planets, who I like a lot better. Although he’s kind of goofy, too).

Otherwise, that’s it. The Green Lanterns try to stop Parallax as he drifts throughout the universe, devouring worlds. When he comes into the vicinity of Earth, then it’s up to Hal to save the planet. Can he do it? If you really care, go see the movie.

MA: I couldn’t get into GREEN LANTERN from the get-go. I found its opening sequences which explain the whole back story of the Green Lantern world dull, boring, and slow. It reminded me of the scenes on Thor’s planet in THOR (2011), and the scenes of the Jedi Council in the STAR WARS movies. In fact, GREEN LANTERN plays much more like a science fiction/fantasy film than a superhero movie.

LS: Well, it’s supposed to be like a science fiction film. Green Lantern is one of the most science-fiction based superheroes of all time, at least as much as the “alien come to earth” origin of Superman.

But I agree about the opening sequence. It’s meant to bring us up to speed right away, but it’s boring. And the whole thing about green being willpower and yellow being fear seems incredibly dopey to me. Why can’t the green power of the Lanterns just be pure cosmic energy? Why does it have to be willpower? Seems silly. “I will not eat that piece of cake, thus I have wild, green power!”

Also, the whole thing about the actual LANTERN—it’s a device that’s really just a giant battery. It recharges the ring when it runs out of power. I always hated the lantern in the comics, and here it’s no better. Why does the ring need the lantern to recharge it? Doesn’t willpower come from within? And don’t even get me started on the dumb-ass oath the Green Lantern has to spout to get the recharging process to work….

(A green Energizer  Bunny holding a lantern marches by them.)

MA (pointing to Bunny):  Who knew?

LS:  And, now that I think about, why doesn’t the Green Lantern lose his powers and need to recharge himself EVER in the course of a battle in this movie? If you’re going to introduce something as lame as the lantern, then give it some dramatic relevance. As it turns out, he doesn’t even need the damn thing for the rest of the movie, and this was one chance when they could have made an improvement over the comics and just gotten rid of the damn thing entirely.

(GOLLUM from the LORD OF THE RINGS movies appears on the beach, rubbing his hands together)

GOLLUM: Did someone here mention my precious?

MA: No, not that ring! We’re talking about the Green Lantern’s ring.

GOLLUM: Oh, that makes me sad. I will continue to search for my precious….

LS: Get lost, you idiot (Kicks GOLLUM in the butt, hurrying him along the beach and out of sight)


MA: The story didn’t grab me, the pacing wasn’t there, the characters were not likeable, and the special effects were passable, but that’s it. I also had the choice of seeing this one in 2D or 3D, and I chose 2D because, to be honest, I’m sick and tired of 3D movies coming out every other week , and then not being worth the extra cost of the ticket.  I hope movie audiences start to feel the same way and stop paying the extra money to see these movies.  Maybe they’ll go away.

LS: I saw it in 2D as well, and gladly so. Not only did I save money, but I knew the 3D aspects wouldn’t add anything to the storyline, just like most 3D movies we see. It was nice to avoid the extra tariff we’ve been getting screwed with to see bad 3D movies.

MA: While I like the Green Lantern’s power—he has the ability to turn into reality whatever he’s thinking about—and think it’s really cool, I did have some problems with it. One, it’s not used enough in the movie. I mean, we hardly see the Green Lantern use this ability. And two, when you think about it, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

LS: Yeah, like I said, for a movie about a character whose main power is his imagination, GREEN LANTERN is incredibly mundane. The character and the writers totally drop the ball on this one. The ring should have gone to someone who really would have excelled in using its power – like a fantasy writer perhaps?

MA: I came away from this movie thinking the Green Lantern’s story was rather goofy.

LS: In the comics, the Green Lantern is up there in popularity with DC heroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Personally, I think he deserved a bigger budget and a better movie. This one seems second-rate compared to the majority of superhero movies we’ve seen lately.

MA: I also didn’t like the characters in this movie. I didn’t hate them, but none of them were that likeable.

Hal Jordan is supposed to be this likeable screw-up. He’s an amazing pilot, but in everything else, he’s a failure, although he means well. However, he doesn’t come off this way in the movie. How do I know he’s supposed to be this way? Because they tell us in the film. This is a classic example of where a story messes up by telling us things rather than showing us. We hardly get to know Hal at all. We see him briefly with his son, briefly with his girlfriend, briefly with his buddy, briefly training as a Green Lantern, basically, briefly doing everything. Hal comes off like a supporting character in a Tom Cruise TOP GUN (1986) movie. Hey, it’s Hal Jordan. He’s the guy with no fear in the cockpit with the son and the girl—yeah, but what do we really know about him? Nothing. And as a result we don’t like him.

LS: I agree. Ryan Reynolds is completely miscast here. Hal Jordan is supposed to be smart and kinda cool. As Reynolds plays him, he’s a smirking idiot who takes stupid chances and comes off as a real jerk. I have to admit, he grew on me as the movie progressed, but a better star would have made this movie a lot better. Reynolds seems like a kid trying to play a leading man. Early on, I actually hated the character. By the end, I just thought he was so-so. And you’re right about the TOP GUN comparison. Early on, I thought I was watching a sequel to TOP GUN, until the injured alien fell from the sky. Hal could have been so much better!

For some reason Hollywood loves Reynolds and thinks he is perfect for superhero movies. He also played Deadpool in the movie X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009). That worked a little better, because Deadpool is supposed to be a cocky clown. But supposedly his supporting role in the WOLVERINE movie went over so well, that a DEADPOOL movie is now in the works. Reynolds can do no wrong in the world of superheroes, I guess. But for me, he was a completely awful choice for Hal Jordan.

Oh, and by the way, as far as I can tell, that kid was not his son. It was his nephew. Although early on the kid is so worried about his uncle, it seems like a father/son bond. Of course, after that scene, we never see the kid again! So I guess that bond wasn’t very important!

MA: Yeah, I found Ryan Reynold’s performance as Hal irritating as well. I couldn’t bring myself to like him, which is not a good thing for a lead character in a movie.

Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, Hal’s love interest, is beautiful, and she’s a good actress, but in this movie the Carol Ferris character doesn’t do much, nor is she interesting. Lively was in THE TOWN (2010) and she was very good in that movie, so she can really act when given a challenging role. Carol Ferris is not that role.

LS: You can say that again. If Lively is a good actress, I certainly didn’t see any evidence of that in GREEN LANTERN. A CGI cartoon would have had more depth. And, while you mention one of her movie roles, you’re missing the fact that Blake Lively is best known for the TV series GOSSIP GIRL, which is about shallow kids screwing each other over. Not exactly Oscar-worthy material.

MA: I did like Peter Sarsgaard as the villain Hector Hammond, and his was probably my favorite performance in the movie. I like Sarsgaard a lot, and we’ve seen him in ORPHAN (2009) and THE SKELETON KEY (2005). However, as much as I like Sarsgaard, the character of Hector Hammond is not much of a villain.

LS: You mentioned two of Sarsgaard’s more mainstream/genre flicks, but he’s also been a hero of the independent film scene for a long time now. He’s been in some really good stuff like the Oscar-winning film BOYS DON’T CRY (1999), Wayne Wang’s provocative THE CENTER OF THE WORLD (2001), and had an excellent turn in the biopic of KINSEY (2004). Clearly, this guy can actually act, and he’s in the wrong movie here. It was kind of a letdown to see someone this good in a movie this mediocre. And you’re right, because of his talent, he made Hector the most interesting character in the whole movie. I wanted the movie to be more about him. But, in the end, he’s not even the central villain here. He’s just a lackey of the main villain.

And there was an issue that really bugged me. Every time Hector Hammond was about to do something evil, and someone’s life was in danger, the Green Lantern would suddenly appear and fight him. This made sense in a scene where Hammond sabotages a helicopter, because both of them are at the lavish party where it happens. But later on, there is no reason why Hal Jordon would know to be at a certain place at the exact moment he is needed. Hammond is the one who can read minds, not Jordon! This just seemed like bad writing to me.

MA: Mark Strong, who was extremely nasty as the villain in KICK-ASS (2010), is completely wasted here as the Green Lantern leader, Sinestro. I found Sinestro boring and annoying.

LS: I liked Sinestro. I thought Mark Strong played him perfectly, as an arrogant, pompous ass. He goes on to become Hal’s number one nemesis in the comics. How would you know this if you don’t read the comics? Easy. The guy’s name is SINESTRO, as in “sinister.” They might as well have named him BADGUY-IO. And this movie is sort of an origin story of him as well—how he becomes a bad guy. In fact, there’s a very important scene during the end credits that follows up on this. So stick around a little after the credits start to roll, so you don’t miss it. This was clearly DC trying to imitate the whole “extra scene” thing that Marvel does in their movies (but which was missing from the recent X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, for some odd reason).

I’m hungry.  Let’s grab a snack.

MA:  Sure.

(LS & MA approach a snack shack on the beach.  A huge order of onion rings flies off the counter and lands in LS’s hands.)

MA:  The onion rings have chosen you.

LS:  I willed it to happen. For I am the Green Onion!

MA: While the acting in GREEN LANTERN is adequate, the characters the actors are playing are not, and so I blame the writing here. The screenplay was written by four writers, Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg. Four writers, and they come up with this?

LS: Yeah, that’s sad. With all those rewrites, they still only attain a level that is a disappointment for a big superhero movie like this.
And, for the most part, the acting seemed below-average to me. I liked Peter Sarsgaard a lot. I liked Mark Strong. I even thought Ryan Reynolds, despite being miscast, had his moments. But the rest of the cast was just ugh. Blake Lively seemed like she just wandered on the set and wasn’t sure what she was doing. Tim Robbins—who can be good, when given a decent role—was boring here as yet another evil politician. BORING! And Taika Waititi as Hal’s best friend, Thomas Kalmaku, was just plain grating. The less we see of him, the better.

And there’s so much wasted talent in smaller roles. The great Angela Bassett is reduced to a one-dimensional government drone. And actors like Geoffrey Rush (Tomar-Re) and Michael Clarke Duncan (Kilowog) seem to be having the most fun here, but that’s because they’re only using their voices to bring CGI characters to life. They don’t have to actually appear in the movie, so that frees them up a bit.

A character with the stature of Green Lantern (in comics) deserved better. This movie is going to be a lot of people’s first exposure to the character, and it’s a weak one.

MA: The humor also misfired. There were so many lines of dialogue that were supposed to be funny, but I wasn’t laughing. I think this was because I didn’t really know the characters all that well. And it was hard to laugh with Hal because it was difficult to know if he was a good guy or not. If he’s truly a screw-up, a guy who’s sort of a jerk, then his jokes aren’t that funny, but the film never really delivers in terms of creating a well-rounded fleshed-out Hal Jordan, and as a result, I think a lot of the humor suffers for it.

LS: There were scenes with obvious, cliché jokes where people in the audience laughed and I was thinking “What the hell are they laughing at?” It was like they laughed because they felt they were supposed to. But I think laughs have to be earned. Not just because “Hey, this is supposed to be funny, so laugh.” Real laughter is an involuntary response. I didn’t laugh once during GREEN LANTERN. In fact, the need for such dumb humor in a movie that deserved a more serious tone made me groan a few times instead.

MA: GREEN LANTERN was directed by Martin Campbell, the same man who directed the James Bond films CASINO ROYALE (2006) and GOLDENEYE (1995), two movies that had much more energy and style than this one. GREEN LANTERN looks fine, but its action sequences—and I was surprised by this—were just average. None of the action scenes in this movie blew me away.

In short, the word that best describes GREEN LANTERN is average, and these days, with all the other superhero movie competition out there, films that are genuinely excellent, average just isn’t good enough. I liked the previous two superhero movies we’ve seen this year, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and THOR, much better than GREEN LANTERN.

LS: I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I have to agree with you on every point. The thing is, I had heard some advance reaction to this movie, and it was almost all completely negative. So I went in to GREEN LANTERN expecting to see something that was the bottom of the bucket. The thing is, with such low expectations, I was surprised to find the movie wasn’t that bad. It’s certainly not the worst movie to come out in 2011. But it is a disappointment—because it could have been so much better.

MA: I give GREEN LANTERN two knives, and I give it two because it’s not awful. It’s just average.

LS: Average just about pegs it. And in a genre where you expect larger-than-life, flashy characters and lots of high-powered action, average is clearly a failure. I give it two knives as well. It was better than I expected. But nothing great.

(Stirring comes from the ocean waters.  MA & LS turn to see ABE SAPIAN from the HELLBOY movies emerging from the ocean.)

ABE SAPIAN:  Look at this ugly ring I just found.  I think I’ll give it to Hellboy for his birthday.

MA:  I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.  With Hellboy’s imagination, who knows what he’ll conjure up with a Green Lantern ring!

LS:  Which is exactly why Abe should give it to him. Someone like Hellboy—with that kind of power.  Now that’s a story I’d like to see!

MA:  I suppose I can’t argue with that.

LS:  You could.  But you’d be wrong as usual.

MA:  The only thing I’m wrong about on a consistent basis is my ongoing decision to team up with you each weekend!  What am I thinking???

Anyway, we’re done here.

LS:  Yep, folks, we’re done.  We’ll see you next weekend with a review of another new movie.


© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives GREEN LANTERN2 knives!

LL Soares also gives GREEN LANTERN 2 knives!



Posted in 2010, Action Movies, Hot Chick Movies, John Harvey Reviews with tags , , , , on July 27, 2010 by knifefighter

SALT Lacks Sugar, Spice, or Anything Remotely Nice
Review by John Harvey

I’m terrified of Angelina Jolie’s mouth.

There I said it. And I’m not taking it back. Throughout watching SALT, I visibly cringed whenever the camera panned, snapped or zoomed in for a close shot of the film’s star, Angelina Jolie and her most notable physical trademark … two warring zeppelins dipped in lip gloss.

And these shots occurred very often.

Why? Because SALT has nothing to do with character, plot, dialogue or any other component part of movie craft that director Phillip Noyce apparently decided was extraneous to this film. What SALT is really about is this: Angelina Jolie looks totally hot while kicking ass. Or … um … she looks totally hot right before the camera cuts and her stunt-double kicks ass.

In a nutshell, Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a tough-as-nails CIA operative (and loving wife) settling into a desk job after being tortured horribly in North Korea. In steps Daniel Olbrychski playing Orlov, a defecting Russian FSB operative who accuses Salt of being a Russian sleeper super-spy that has been trained from childhood to do bad, bad things to America. Salt goes rogue (of course) and skips effortlessly through an unending stream of uninspired action sequences on a quest to clear her name … and save her husband … and save America … and other stuff. Honestly, once I started weeping softly into my upturned hands, I lost track.

During this mess, both Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor play CIA agents (named Ted Winter and Peabody respectively) who chase Salt while engaging in that tired thriller trope where one guy believes she’s innocent and the other doesn’t. These are two actors whose work I’ve generally enjoyed. But in SALT I expected them to break the third wall and say directly to the camera “Because the check cleared. That’s why.”

The central problem with SALT is that it asks the audience to treat  the movie in the same way audiences treated wonderful spy thrillers like THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990) or RONIN (1998). Which is to say, the filmmakers behind SALT want us to take the movie seriously, when the fact is that there’s no hook on which to hang that hat.

The only conspicuous use of a screenwriter occurs whenever a character needs to disgorge a heap of exposition or during breaks in the action for a weak attempt at portraying Salt’s romantic life via flashback. The characters are photocopies-of-photocopies-of-photocopies from any number of straight-to-video action films (and everyone’s acting reflects that). All the revelatory moments that are intended to inspire an “Oh my God!” actually get a “You’ve got to be [EXPLETIVE DELETED]ing kidding me!”

And for everything going wrong in SALT, here’s the punch line. There’s a segment of this film where they attempt disguise Angelina Jolie as a man. The result? Let me put it this way … have you ever seen the Wayans Brothers 2004 comedy WHITE CHICKS? (2004)* (see footnote below)

If this movie had been rewritten to be more tongue-in-cheek or even a spoof, then it probably would have been more enjoyable. In that setting, you can go for all the tropes and stereotypes and have fun with them. In SALT, the audience’s laughter was anything but intentional.

The fact is that fans of spy thrillers and action/adventure know to leave their expectation for authenticity and logic at home. That said, filmmakers still need to credit these viewers with more intelligence than someone who must read the instructions on the shampoo bottle every time they use it.

Honestly, watching SALT amounts to time I’ll never get back. It’s not worth a matinee ticket. It’s not worth seeing as a rental. Actually, if your friends rent it, just walk into the kitchen and drink alone for 1.5 hours. You’ll thank me.

But I’ll say this … thank God it wasn’t in 3D.

Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Written by: Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Daniel Olbrychski
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 1hr 39min


* WHITE CHICKS … a movie of such monolithic badness that after fifteen minutes of viewing, my bowels involuntarily voided themselves with such explosive force that I was propelled out of the theater on a jet stream of feces. This was the first and only time I’ve ever  used the phrase, “Thank you exploding bowels.”

– END –

© Copyright 2010 by John Harvey



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


A-TEAM Movie Trailer:

A-TEAM Movie Website: