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The Mechanic (2011) – I like the idea of an actor out there like Jason Statham.  In an age of digital madness and fierce editing techniques, where even Michael Cera can convincingly kick the ass of a guy twice his size, Statham looks to be the last non-Asian actor who’s paid to show up on screen and deliver a traditional butt kicking the audience can believe in.  He looks like a soccer hooligan who took up acting in between fights outside his favorite pub.  Admiration aside though the simple fact remains he’s made precious few movies worth viewing.  Crank was fun.  The Bank Job was quality.  Some people like his Transporter flicks but I’ve never taken in one in its entirety.  The rest of his resume is scattered bits of trash, some make their dime back, some don’t. Some don’t even see the dark of a multiplex.  This brings us to The Mechanic.

A remake of a Charles Bronson b-movie, Mechanic is a down the line action vehicle with hints of aspiration to be more, but not enough follow through to deliver anything besides your typical weekend programmer.  Director Simon West is no Walter Hill.  He keeps things simple and to the point, not really pushing for anything other than the bare minimum from his cast and story.  It makes for an adequate distraction but not much more.  One day Stratham might work with a director with higher demands.  I think he would be interesting fodder for a Michael Mann film.  But until that day comes the bald headed ass kicker will simply have to role with things and hope a movie worth our effort comes around.

Bolt (2010) – A co-worker was unusually adamant that I watch this standard issue looking Disney CGI film.  She seemed to be running under the assumption that becasue I put one of the hamsters we have at work in a plastic ball so that it could roll around the branch I would want to watch a movie that features a hamster in a ball as one of its main characters.  She don’t know me that well it seems.  Bolt is nothing awful or impossible to watch but it’s simply another in the endless line of interchangeable CGI kids flicks.  Here the Disney animators try to follow in the footsteps of bigger, brighter and more talented in house brother Pixar by judiciously borrowing certain story beats and character arcs for this story of dog who thinks he’s a superhero.  To make the point, Bolt is basically Buzz Lightyear as a dog.  But though animated to be as cute and cuddley as possible, giving him the voice of John Travolta was a mistake.  Bolt looks like a boundlessly energetic and plucky creature, but having the worn pipes of a middle aged actor come out of his yap ruins the effect.  Again, not horrible and not likely to make one weary or impatient, but pretty much geared to the 10 and under crowd only.

The Last Airbender (2010) – To watch the continued decline of director M. Night Shyamalan has become akin to watching a someone asphyxiate themself with a belt, except they never actually die, they just keep choking.  Their tongue sticks out a little more, the eyes keep bulging wider and wider, they keep violently twitching again and again, their skin turns shades of purple you didn’t think existed and just when you think it’s over, a full body spasm strikes and the whole horror show starts again from the top.  This is what the one time wonder kid of cinema has become.  If he drifted into ham-fisted self parody with Lady in the Water and The Happening, Last Airbender is Shyamalan with all outward signs of personality and skill completely amputated.  It feels like a movie made by an 8 year old who has been force fed prozac for months on end until lethargic apathy is the only state of mind he can project.

To cover the story and characters would be a waste I can’t bring myself to tackle.  Every single thing about Airbender is so completely wooden, so painfully dull, so utterly directionless and random, so totally lacking in the slightest bit of energy or character or plain freaking sense that its existence as a tentpole, super-budget franchise starter defies all logic.  How anyone green lit Shyamalan’s coma inducing pseudo script is mind boggling and how he was allowed to continue to shoot after day one demonstrates complete recklessness and/or stupidity on the producers behalf.  No half intelligent person would’ve let this go forward unless they had an economic, or perhaps literal, gun to their head.  Character dialogue and action feels so stilted that it’s as if a script was never remotely completed and that everyone is reading this trite for the first time from illegible notes scribbled on a notepad hanging to the side of the camera.  Not one line of dialogue ever need be uttered again.  Even ironically.  The only thing anyone could possibly give a passing approval to are it’s special effects, and in this day and age how is that any kind of accomplishment?  This catastrophic load of movie crap doesn’t even have a decent scene by accident.  It’s as if the movie has been made with the explicit purpose of making people suffer misery and woe for 100 minutes.  The fact that it was seen as the first in a series of movies is even more mortifying.  To make someone watch anymore of this would amount to a crime against humanity.  We’d have to send Shyamalan to the Hague.

The only person I can fathom liking this movie is George Lucas.  Simply because it makes his legendarily lame Star Wars prequels look uniformly excellent by comparison.  If you saw it and gave a nod of approval do yourself a favor and tell no one.  This is an astoundingly terrible motion picture made by a man who’s gotten caught up in a tragic game of one upmanship with himself.  Each time he makes a film he sets the bar as low as reason would dictate it could go, then he finds a way to lower it more.  In this case, a lot more.


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