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Monthly Archives: July 2011

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Horrible Bosses (2011) – A prime example of the archetypal, half-assed, Hollywood comedy. Jason Suedekis, Jason Bateman and Charlie Day play three nice, hardworking fellows who all happen to work for selfish pricks. They haphazardly concoct a plot to kill each other’s authority figure problem. The black comedy potential here is ripe and yet it isn’t touched on in the slightest. The three bosses, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell, are so far over the top that the movie blows any chance at genuine laughs immediately. No one would ever remotely behave like these three cretins and watching good actors mug like this seems unfair to the talented performers trying to have fun. Suedekis, Bateman and Day pepper a few chuckles into things in a few places but the movie fails to build to anything. It gives up on its own sinister plot and instead turns into a lazy farce where nothing interesting happens and everything wraps up nice and neat. Snore.

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Fright Night (1985) – A not quite icon of 80’s horror films but something that numerous horror buffs know and appreciate. Vampire moves in next door to a teenager who too quickly learns that he’s a member of the bloodsucking undead. It is very hard to watch at first due to the nagging lead character and sheer dumbness of his actions. Most of the other characters don’t seem to bright either. William Ragdale’s is handed a top flight moron of a character to play and everything about it feels painfully forced and idiotic. There are so many contrived moments I can’t even begin to list them. Despite the first reels agonizing fumbling’s it gradually gets past its brainless tendencies and turns into a half passable horror show. Chris Sarandon steals most of his scenes as the suave, prostitute killing vampire neighbor. Also helping are some physical effects which are quite gnarly and wonderfully grotesque. Some shades of Carpenter’s The Thing came to mind. A sequence where an impaled wolf turns into a human is a real highlight. Curious to see if the upcoming remake does anything better with the premise.

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Of Gods and Men (2010) – An acclaimed French drama about a group of French monks running a monastery in Algeria circa 1996. The monks are an integral part of the community, providing medical supplies to the poverty stricken locals as well as building spiritual bridges between Islam and Christianity. Then Muslim extremist move into the territory and begin to threaten and kill all foreigners regardless of intent. The monks must choose, stay in their monastery and carry out their duty to the higher calling they’ve chosen or pack up and abandon the community that depends on them to save their own lives. It’s all very moving and tastefully handled, but if you’ve ever seen a movie anything like this you know how it ends as soon as it begins. Fans of finely crafted, spiritual movies, of which there are precious few, will have no problem appreciating this kind of high minded movie experience. If you prefer things with cool explosions and ass kicking, this is not for you. At no point do these monks kick anyone’s ass.

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Ten Word or Less Review: A good but average American.

Comic book heroes are defined more by the costumes they wear.  They are defined by the faults and conflicts which drive them to put on spandex costumes in the first place.  Within the Marvel movie universe as it has been established to date, the popular theme among its heroes has been arrogance.  Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, and Thor are on certain levels the same character.  Both are the well-to-do rich kids who have been so totally indulged their entire lives that their mental and/or physical strengths are robust to the point that blind narcissism is their crippling Achilles heel.  Confronted by their faults they suffer a crisis of conscience and have to change as people.  More simply said, both heroes are jerks who have learn to stop being jerks.  Both wind up fighting a big robot.  Simplistic to be sure but adequate enough material for light weight comic book flicks.  Now along comes Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, the total opposite of both.  With the playbook flipped on its head what kind of arc does Marvel have in store for Rogers, the patriotic do-gooder out to thwart a power worse than Nazis?

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a 90 lbs. weakling urgently trying to join the army during WWII but being denied at every turn because of his puny physical prowess.  Upon a stroke of luck Steve’s plight is overheard by Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a military scientist looking for a candidate to turn into a super soldier.  Before Steve knows it he’s strapped into the kind of big metal tube a movie like this loves to slap a central character into.  Some minor digital mayhem ensues and voila!  Steve is transformed into Captain America and he’s free to punch the lights out of Hydra, an evil Nazi appendage run by the Red Skull, (Hugo Weaving), a mad genius who is harnessing an unknown power of the universe to create his allied soldier killing weapons.  Adventure ensues, battles are fought, soldiers are rescued, Nazi bad guys are pummeled and blown away, there’s even singing and dancing!  At a certain glance it all seems so perfect and fully formed.  So why does something feel so distancing about this thing?

As I sat watching Captain America and I kept lingering on why I did not like it more than did.  In addition to the attributes mentioned above it’s a very handsomely mounted production.  I will always give 30’s and 40’s set comic book heroes half a chance as you can never have enough vintage cars and retro aircraft humming around an adventure flick.  The performances are uniformly excellent from top to bottom.  Chris Evans as the Captain of the title is humility, honesty and admirable patriotism rolled into one swell and charming fellow.  Tommy Lee Jones causes his share of giggles as the gruffly humorous type of army general he can play to the hilt in his sleep.  Stanley Tucci is the benevolent scientist who sees the good in Rogers and knows it will make him a great hero.  Hayley Atwell is a delightful presence as the Captain’s unrequited romantic entanglement.  Rounding it all out is Hugo Weaving, turning in a near movie stealing performance as the menacing Red Skull.  He’s Voldemort with a bad sunburn.  The film could be no better cast as is.  But despite all the up’s, there’s one persistent thing lacking to the whole adventure.

Once Steve becomes Captain America, he has no further journey to take as a character.  The disconnect that sits quietly, but heavily, on Captain America’s shoulders is that its title character has a sweet nature, is good looking and is totally boring.  Captain America takes it’s time to get Steve Rogers into full blown Captain red, white and blue but once Steve overcomes his physical shortcomings, he’s set.  He has no emotional baggage to deal with or character deficiency to fight against.  He’s brave and aching to fight against evil which he does so with great zeal.  If this were the 50’s we’d be looking at Gregory Peck in a red, white and blue costume.  The heads at Marvel surely appreciated that they were getting to tell a classic piece of Americana, something totally different in tone from their existing properties, but what they failed to account for was the fact that their hero would cease to be interesting the minute he gets his muscles.  Evans charms to no end with his unfaltering humility but the simple fact remains that his character is wrapped up with a nice little patriotic bow on it by the movie’s halfway point.

Director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, October Sky) deserves a lot of credit for being subtly unorthodox in various ways.  The man clearly loves the era and genre he’s playing in and can’t fashion enough details to fill out his little corner of the Marvel universe.  He’s a step ahead of fellow Marvel movies in that his film actually feels like it takes places in a particular time and place.  Other Marvel films have been frustratingly devoid of any actual atmosphere or scope.  He also boldly chooses to be quite patient in telling Steve Rogers story.  The film doesn’t feel like empty exposition in between its action scenes.  Those action scenes are also punctuated with some surprisingly direct violence.  Lots of soldiers, bad guys and even an old lady buy it in hard hitting fashion.  But on the flip side of this Captain America is lacking any real show stopping set pieces.  Johnston has never been a master of staging great action and it’s a fairly large drawback when all is said and done.  Just a couple of wow moments would help tremendously, but alas they aren’t here.  Captain America is so completely even handed and mid-tempo from front to back that waiting for a pulse pounding moment eventually becomes a little frustrating.  Only in its final moments does Captain America really throw the audience for any kind of loop.  By ostensibly mimicking a little known movie from the 1940’s, Captain America finally arrives at a stirring emotional place we’ve been waiting for it to get to.  But once we’re there, the credits role.

Captain America may be a grand departure in many ways from its Marvel brethren but in one important way it feels just like the rest.  It’s a good shot at making something memorable for the audience but an integral element has been undercooked which trips up the effort as a whole.  Steve Rogers should never be given the mopey treatment, ala Batman, but a chink has to be found in his patriotic armor.  The movie gives us that, but only at the end when there’s no time left to explore the ramifications of what happens.  He can still be an interesting character to watch, we’ll simply have to wait and see if that’s allowed to develop.  Something tells me next year’s Avengers movie won’t be the time or place for that to happen.

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Ten Word or Less Review: The end.

This is what Harry Potter finally comes to.  After 10 years and 6 ½ films, the world finally closes the last cinematic chapter on the Potter universe.  It’s had some magnificent ups and dreadful downs in its unprecedented life.  There’s no need to dwell on it in its entirety so we’ll stick to what’s at hand now, The Deathly Hallows: Part 2.  The final half of a last film broken in two, Part 2 contains all the final revelations and story beats so many have been waiting years to know, if you didn’t read the books that is.  The question is, does Potter go out on a swooshing broom stick, wand in the air casting spells over the viewer, or does this last bit of movie crash into the ground, the victim of a killing curse?  I won’t linger, it’s the former.  The Deathly Hallows concludes this long journey on an almost sublime note, pulling together a decade’s worth of strings and characters in fine and moving ways.  It may not be perfect, but to be as good as it is is an exceptional accomplishment.

Recounting Potter plot at this stage is daunting, challenging and mostly pointless.  At this point you know it or you’ve ignored this whole fine mess.  The shortest way to say it is that Harry is at the end of his journey.  Voldemort is nearly all powerful and on the attack while Harry is on a race to find a way to destroy him.  Many, many characters stand on each side, ready to go war for the other.  The majority of the back end of the Deathly Hallows is a battle epic between forces of good and evil with major characters finally facing the choices which will decide their fate.  If the first half of Deathly Hallows was all moody build up, this is all payoff.  Hallows catches the wind in its sails early on, shedding the tone of Part 1 fairly quickly.  It’s rapid paced but doesn’t feel rushed.  It knows when to be patient and when to hit the accelerator.  Director David Yates has what feels like millions of story points to polish off and he’s able to handle the majority of them with grace and finesse.  While more knowledgeable fans of the Potter story in novel form will surely miss things, those who have appreciated the story as presented within the films will find a very satisfying pay off.

As robust and populated as The Deathly Hallows is with characters we have all grown to appreciate, this finale is primarily about Harry and Voldemort.  Daniel Radcliffe turns in his last performance as the cornerstone of this epic endeavor and as time has marched on he’s gotten progressively more mature and shaded.  Potter has in many ways been a frustrating lad over the years.  He’s been at times too passive a protagonist, many times too dense when compared to his contemporaries.  A muggle in magicians clothing to be sure.  It often seemed Potter accomplished little without the help of his betters which made his entire presence kind of dubious.  But as each movie moved on Radcliffe found a little bit more to give the character.  Maybe Harry was simple and lacking insight, but Radcliffe eventually made us root for the fellow despite his shortcomings.  It was in Order of the Phoenix when Potter all but admitted these deficiencies that I finally quit fighting against the poor kid.  He’s a young man chosen to do something far beyond his grasp, but in the end he embodies the kind of bravery we want in our finest movie heroes.  Maybe he is a bland sort, but then again most of us are and there in lies part of his charm.

On the flip side is Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort.  Casting Fiennes for this part was a coup for the series and though used sparingly since his introduction in Goblet of Fire, he’s always made what could be a run of the mill baddie into an amazing and hypnotic tour de force of scenery chewing.  In part 2 of Hallows Voldemort is a constant presence and as the film speeds along Fiennes brings up waves of arrogance and fear in Voldemort.  He knows his victory is not assured and it’s so fascinating to see small moments of panic break into his terrifying façade.  Fiennes is an old school British thespian to the core and to see him relish being so thoroughly vile in these movies has always been eye opening and enjoyable.  

With a cast this big on hand it’s not surprising to report that not everyone gets screen time to themselves.  Alan Rickman gets his last due as Snape, a part people always clamored to see more of but never quite got.  Here Rickman has a handful of scenes to chew on as his cloaked professor of unknowable intent and he’s magnificent in every single one.  The man can convey an ocean of thought with just a simple stare.  Admirers of the novel will appreciate the care given to explaining Snape’s motivations and the dramatic payoff is one of the highlights of the entire series.  Less successful in terms of feeling included and purposeful are Ron and Hermoine.  With this film primarily about Harry and Voldemort’s conflict, Potter’s reliable chums are limited to running behind their lead, occasionally interjecting a thought or some action.  But this was never really their tale and they got their due in the first part.  We can move down the cast and find just about everyone who was ever in a Potter film: Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson, David Thewlis, Helena Bohnam-Carter, Gary Oldman, et all.  Giving everyone a proper send off, or in some cases even a line to utter, was apparently not a viable option.  Some characters get a good note to go out on, Neville and the Malfoys come to mind, but many are painfully glossed over.  The lack of anything for Hagrid to accomplish at story’s end feels like a terrible slight.  Giving a few more character beats here and there could not have hurt but as this is essentially the back half of a 4 hour movie, building in space for everyone and everything we want to see one last time would take days.  It’s a shame we don’t have more, but it’s easy to apprecaite what we do.

With this grand concluding chapter Harry Potter solidifies his place as not just a financially successful movie franchise, but a noble and worthwhile one.  So many film series lose sight of what makes them resonate with viewers as time marches on but Potter has stayed the course and delivered on a promise made 10 years ago.  Not only is Hallows a fine conclusion in its own right but it feels as if it’s making the previous efforts better by extension.  Potter can now proudly take it’s place, head and wand held high, with the titans of fantasy movie lore.  Now just don’t follow in the footsteps of that damn fool named Lucas and make any prequels.

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Ten Word or Less Review: A shot glass full of barf.
The movie equivilent of a bucket full of vomit being thrown all over you, Hobo With a Shotgun is an example of selling a shit movie with a catchy title that thrills folks with the idea of an avenging homeless guy dispensing justice with his pump action death dispenser.  Rutger Hauer comes out of storage to play the nameless hobo, a boxcar rider who finds himself in a town with no justice, only violent criminals who kill and mane in gory ways.  Fans of arterial spray will be thrilled.  Hobo may be a throwback exploitation piece but more specifically it’s an ode to all things Troma.  The no budget studio that specialized in garbage like The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke’m High, paying homage to Troma is on par with trying to write poetry about fresh roadkill.  Sure you can do it, but why would you want to?
Hobo spends its excruciating 90 minute run time showering you with blood and puke and expects you to be thankful for the experience.  The so-called humor running through it is like sitting in a bar next to a drunk guy who thinks telling you a bad joke as loud as possible somehow makes it funny.  Then when he manically laughs at his own flat punchline he notices you not laughing so he tells the joke over.  For an hour.  Getting progressively louder each time he tells it.  I’m not saying charbroiling a school bus full of kids with a flame thrower can’t be funny, sure it can, but here it isn’t.
It’s a damnshame to watch the once great Hauer languish in this grotesque crap.  He’s certainly a game performer here, chewing up and spitting out his purple dialogue for all it’s worth, even trying to put small moments of pathos where he can, but there’s just no competing the buckets of blood, severed limbs and wretched acting flying across the screen.  His fellow performers turn in uniformly painful work.  I have no idea who these actors are but all I can hope is that I never see them again in anything more significant than a commercial for frozen burritos.
At it’s best Hobo With A Shotgun is annoying but most of the time it is excruciating to a high degree.  Fans of splatterfest gross out flicks will love it.  Many have already championed it as some kind of cracked masterpiece but I’m here to remind people that just because you put a frame around a pile of shit doesn’t make it a work of art worth looking at.  It’s still just a pile of shit.

Harry Potter and the…

Sorcerer’s Stone – It’s just awful.  The Potter franchise gets off to a dubious beginning.  A boring, drawn out, dorky kids film with some terrible special effects, bad performances from the kids and some slavish adhereing to every drop of Rowling’s text, and certain things were still confusing.  After loads of fuss and anticipation this movie lead me to believe that Harry Potter fans were a pack of dopes excited about zip and zilch.

 

 

 

 

Chamber of Secrets – I was so thoroughly unimpressed by Stone that I didn’t even see this in the theater, and to this day I’ve seen it only once, so my recollections of it are kind of vague.  A sense of danger is actually there, giant spiders and a big, freaky snake dragon thingy at the end, but overall most of the same problems from Stone carry over.  It’s an ungodly overlong 160 minutes, the longest in the series.  The producers determination to fit in every little thing Rowling wrote down makes for another Potter adventure full of crap Potter fans want to see on screen, but contribute nothing to the narrative of the movie.  I think I’m done with Harry Potter.

 

 

 

Prisoner Of Azkaban – Hold the fort.  The worm turns.  Everything is better here and for the first time Potter feels like a franchise worth following.  Director/Hack Chris Columbus mercifully steps aside and Spanish auteur Alfonso Curon, a shocker choice, takes the reigns and turns the Potter world on it’s head.  The sunny, overlit skies become cloudy and ominous and for the first time Hogwarts actually feels and looks English.  The kids also begin to gel with their parts, turning in semi-mature work, no longer being cutesy or belabored.  Richard Harris died and took his benign, granddad Dumbledore vibe with him.  Replacement Michael Gambon takes over the role and brings mischievousness to the part.  David Thewlis and Gary Oldman also come on board to liven things up.  Thewlis instills a lot of hard life and tragedy into werewolf cursed Lupin while Oldman goes all haggard and crazy as Potter godfather Sirius Black.  Most important of all, Curon hacks away at the text, turning in one of the shortest Potter efforts, 141 minutes, and in turn actually achieves narrative tension.  Hooray for tension!

 

Goblet of Fire – Things go wrong again but not horribly so.  Sadly, Curon doesn’t return and another surprise director of a different sort steps in, Mike Newell, an okay helmer with a resume peppered with solid if down to Earth works (Donnie Brasco).  Once again things are overlong, back to over 2 1/2 hours, and a real sensation of wheel spinning hangs over most of the effort.  Newell can’t make this Potter novel feel like anything more than a series of set pieces meant to kill time.  Brendon Gleeson’s Madeye is a fun creation but the plot is transparent.  The movie doesn’t spark to life until the very end when Ralph Fiennes makes his grand enterance as the noseless one and kills the pasty creep from Twilight.  All in all it feels like the Star Trek III of the Potter films.  Something which works in pieces but fails as a whole.

 

 

Order of the Phoenix – So here’s the Star Trek II of Harry Potter films.  New director David Yates gets Potter firing on all thrusters, getting some of the best performances out of the cast, utilizing fantastic effects and generally building up a solid sense of dread which culminates in a showstopping, heart tugging climax.  Once again a sprawling novel is pared down to its most basic, streamlined points and is all the better for it.  Fans may miss many pieces of Rowling’s magical, monolithic text but the movies are flirting with being something genuinely special, not just popular, at this point.

 

 

 

Half-Blood Prince – Yates hangs onto the job of director for the most serene of Potter movies.  There’s very little action but the point seems to be to enjoy quiet time with the characters before everything goes to Hell.  It’s probably too prosaic by half but it’s a likable if tension free experience.  It’s probably the nicest looking Potter film to date.  Jim Broadbent joins the cast and turns in the kind of fine, quirky performance the series has specialized in since it started.  All in all it’s very okay but it can’t quite shake the sensation of being filler.

 

 

And a finished Deathly Hallows?


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Ten Word or Less Review:  Click here for full review!!!


3D cinema has become a sort of cinematic battle ground since Avatar made 2 billion bucks.  A silly gimmick which was once defined by yo-yo’s being tossed at the screen, the process has become a sore spot for many film goers as scores of movies post convert to 3D to justify inflated admission prices.  Every week brings another 3D experience to the multiplex which viewers must wring their hands about how to see.  To 3D or not to 3D, that is the question.  All the while the results vary from audacious to horrendous.  Me? I say screw 3D.  Whatever a movie is at its core is going to be obvious no matter how many dimensions it expands into.  An empty, stupid movie is an empty stupid movie whether things fly out of the screen or not.  That brings us to two recent viewing experiences, Drive Angry and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  Both are features which were heavily pushed as 3D experiences, but in both cases I rejected the extra dimension and let the movie stand for itself.  The results may surprise you.

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Drive Angry – Though pushed heavily as a gimmick laden 3D experience and nothing more, which certain parts were clearly conceived as, Drive Angry is a prime example of revisionist, grindhouse cinema.  Nic Cage, blending seamlessly into the scuzzy scenario, plays John Milton (ha ha), a father escaped from Hell to avenge the death of his daughter and out to thwart the sacrifice of his granddaughter, doomed to be butchered at the hands of Satan worshipers looking to bring upon Hell on Earth.  Cage hooks up with an ass kicking hottie (Amber Heard) who refuses to take shit from the masculine side of the gender line and together they embark on a road trip replete with wicked, gruesome violence, retro muscle cars, lots of meaningless sex, and a devil may care attitude which puts many a genre throwback to shame.  Looking at you Machete.

Drive Angry is exceptional lowbrow fun and proof positive that it’s the enthusiasm of the minds making the material, not how much money they have to play with, which is important.  Angry is a lean mean machine which strives to entertain in goofy, gruesome ways.  The 3D aspect, while clearly the intent of a lot of shots, doesn’t make or break the experience.  The movie exists on its own merits and though cheap looking around many corners, it proves more entertaining than just about every bloated summer chore to hit the theater since the season started.  Cage is great in a role tailor made for his patented quirks.  Heard is a hot body with genuine pluck and ball busting attitude which never feels fake.  She’s a find and a half and here’s hoping she lands in future endeavors worth her talent.  Terminally undervalued character actor William Fichtner plays Satan’s handyman, The Accountant, a retriever of souls out to repossess Cage’s escaped con from Hell.  Put it all together and you’ve got a magnificently trashy movie experience which will delight fans of good movie garbage.  And speaking of garbage, we come to the other side of the 3D coin.

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHRf01Gjosk]

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – The Transformers franchise has become what’s commonly referred to as a critic proof.  No matter how many people stand up and call it a piece of shit, people will see it in droves.  $400 million worldwide in less than a week!  This lemming like quality of the audience can make critics crazy but I understand the compulsion.  We buy into a promise of unparalleled visual mayhem and plunk down our money for a glorious payoff.  But rarely does an audience experience this promised grandeur and looking for Michael Bay to deliver it really is a fool’s errand.  Dark of the Moon vastly improves upon the incoherent horseshit of his last robot battling effort, but many of his signature deficiencies are still loud and clear.

You can boil down the complaints about Bay and his Transformer flicks into four major things.  First, they are incoherently edited and ignore any kind of comprehendible action geography . Meaning they can be like watching a blender grind up your movie as it runs.  Second, they are routinely overlong by 20-30 minutes, if not more, and tight scripting would help things greatly.  Third, they are populated with characters which could at best be called mentally challenged. I.E. he loves to pollute his bloated opuses with one asinine caricature after another.  Fourth, though these films are called Transformers the robots themselves always seem superfluous to their own story.  Dark of the Moon shows improvement in Bays abilities with this first complaint.  TDOTM, thanks to the editorial demands of 3D, has forced Bay to reign in his aggressive style and he’s managed to craft compelling action set pieces which dazzle.  Action fans, and 3D admirers I hear, will love his robot battle interludes.  There’s scores of graceful shots of towering Autobots and Decpticons flying through the air which have no small amount of wow infused into them . The movie is also bookended with notable segments, kicking things off with a spiffy premise and ending with a gigantic war of robots.  But there’s about 80 useless minutes in the middle and he’s fixed none of his other nagging deficiencies.

TDOTM runs an incredibly bloated 150 minutes, too long by 30-40 minutes at least.  The movie is needlessly bloated in the plot department, filled out with scores of characters who rank somewhere between jackass and idiot.  John Malkovich, John Turtorro (his third outing), Alan Tudyk, Ken Jeong and many more aggressively mug their way through the protracted narrative and nothing they do contributes a thing.  Frances McDormand manages to escape unscathed.  If Bay isn’t out to humiliate these professionals for taking his dirty money, then one is forced to assume he has one of the most tone deaf senses of humor of any working director.  Or he simply thinks everyone watching is as dumb as the people on screen.  Heading up the cast of embarrassed thespians is their leader, Shia LaBeouf.  LaBeouf’s third turn at his Witwicky character is grating in too many places.  LaBeouf, prone to being overly spastic as it is, cranks it up to 11 here.  After three films you’d figure there would be some residual ability of the viewer to like the character, but you don’t.  It’s impossible to care about any of it.  Bay has never rung a genuine emotion out of anything, ever and to expect as much here is ridiculous.  But to be so completely unmoved by so much energy is a Hell of an accomplishment that only he could manage.  And once again the Transformers, from Optimus on down, feel like marginalized supporting players.  They’re there throughout, but with so many people running around playing dufus, the robots take a backseat, making an impact only occasionally.

With all the needless exposition and goofy characters, TDOTM, becomes as uneven as a broken see-saw. A movie which wow’s one minute, then infuriates the next 10.  If these movies are your thing then nothing I’ve said matters one bit and you’ll watch slack jawed as Bay crafts the finest 3D action porn around.  But no matter how many dimensions it thrust itself into it’s an experience with a few high points, but a lot of low and lousy ones riding right behind them.

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQeADlEuySs]

The Driver (1978) – The 60’s and 70’s were good to the nameless badass genre as well as the car chase flick.  The two go hand in hand and certain trappings of each continue to be emulated on occasion to this day.  The Driver features comedy and romance leading man staple of the 70’s Ryan O’Neal, shaking off his audience friendly persona and going into a understated McQueen mode as our nameless protagonist, a driver for stick up men who says little but whose skills behind the will are without equal.  The emotions are buried deep and the car chases are deftly handled by pro Walter Hill.  I bet Michael Mann loves this movie.  Hill has spent most of his career making under the radar or forgotten action movie gems (Southern Comfort, Trespass) and The Driver fits nicely into his resume.  I had never heard of Driver until recently.  O’Neal’s career would spend the next decade fizzling which is a shame.  Between Paper Moon, What’s Up Doc?, and The Driver, as well as Love Story for the ladies, he clearly had across the board range which many, including himself it seemed, forgot how to  appreciate.

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTnCVS0RVaw&playnext=1&list=PLE7215E4FE9243BC1]

36 Quai des Orfèvres (2004) – A crafty French cop thriller with the often great Daniel Auteuil, another guy who does great stoicism, and stalwart Gerard Depardieu as rival cops caught up in backstabbing politics against one another.  The plot runs around and around itself, never quite settling into one place, which doesn’t work against it.  36 begins as a cops and robbers piece, moves into something more akin to a cop against cop conspiracy flick and then gradually downshifts into revenge film.  It’s stylishly made by Olivier Marchal who manages to keep his shifting focus mostly in order.  A fair amount convoluted happenings are required to make all the pieces fall into place but everything has been assembled with such compelling atmosphere and skill that there’s no need to hold much of a grudge.  It’s a cool import with bursts of action and melodrama that should keep even the most subtitle averted viewer paying attention.

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6G5pyFhmAqE]

Rubber (2010) – It would have taken a director of unique skill to make this conceit work.  A tire comes to life, yes a tire, and rolls around killing those who slight it.  How does a tire kill?  See Scanners.  But director Quentin Dupieux clearly is not the guy to do this bizarre scenario justice.  There’s an idea here and not a bad one, that within the world of film anything can be made terrifying or compelling, no reason necessary, but Dupieux clearly hasn’t the faith in his audience or the balls as a movie maker to handle it straight.  He fills out his weird experiment with fourth wall breaking filler that never accomplishes anything other than annoyance.  A hillside bound audience watches the movie with us, constantly serving to voice whatever insecurities might be mounting in the viewers at home.  What should be handled as avant-garde horror/action film is simply turned into a pretentious, pointless art house goof.  Seekers of the curious and weird may find something to appreciate about this but otherwise it’s mostly a waste.