October 27, 2013

counselor Greetings again from the darkness. The best dramatic writers thrive on creating a story filled with intricacies, multi-faceted characters, mis-direction, and a complex interweaving of sub-plots. Cormac McCarthy has proved he is one of the best such writers through his highly successful novels … some of which have made the transition to the screen: All the Pretty Horses, The Road, and of course, No Country for Old Men. This, however, is his first attempt at an original screenplay. Describing it as a disappointment is a severe understatement.

The cool parts of this movie: Bruno Ganz as a diamond dealer in Amsterdam and the two live cheetahs.

counselor2 The parts of the film that could have been interesting: the wardrobes of all main characters, Javier Bardem’s Brian Grazer-inspired hairdo, the line-up of luxury vehicles (Bentley, Ferrari, etc), and the “bolito”.

The parts of this movie that were never going to work: the opening scene with Michael Fassbender and Penelope Cruz frolicking under the sheets, dialogue that is too poetic for the characters, Brad Pitt as his grown up scammer from Thelma and Louise, Fassbender’s Texas accent, and Cameron Diaz (gold tooth, silver fingernails, cheetah tats).

counselor4 The part of this movie that is an outright disgrace: Cameron Diaz doing the splits while having intimate relations with the windshield of Bardem’s Ferrari … maybe this idea came from Joe Eszterhas after being rejected as too outlandish for Showgirls.

Chances are viewers will fall into two camps: thinking this is a wild and crazy ride inside the Mexican drug cartel, OR believing this is one of 2013’s sloppiest, messiest, most pointless and confusing wastes of time in a movie theater. I am solidly in group two and can’t even recommend you see this to determine where you fall.

The cast is filled with A-listers: Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz. The writer is a renowned novelist. The director is three time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott. How could it miss? Even the best actors can counselor3sometimes be miscast. Even the best writers have work best left unpublished. Even the best directors lose control of a project. It’s a movie tragedy when all those things happen in a single film.

I guess the best running joke throughout the movie is that Fassbender’s titular character is constantly receiving counseling, rather than offering it. At its core, the story is just another drug deal gone bad (do any movie drug deals ever go “right”?). With it’s unusual visuals, unrealistic conversations, and convoluted sub-plots, this one would have played better as a slideshow. Instead, I am left with this: I’ll never look at a smudge on my windshield the same again.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: your cable system doesn’t offer the National Geographic channel and you want to see two cool cheetahs

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: just the thought of Cameron Diaz humping a windshield stimulates only nightmares for you

watch the trailer:


January 16, 2011

 Greetings again from the darkness. There was much uproar when Tim Burton rolled out his 1989 feature length BATMAN film. He took the campy TV series, turned it inside-out, and created a dark brooding Batman … more in-line with the tone of the comics. In a near polar opposite move, writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg took the dead-pan humor and straight-laced characters of the Green Hornet TV series and have delivered a slacker version for their Gen Y fans.

Being a fan of the mid-60’s TV series, but too young to have experienced The Green Hornet radio series which ran from the 1930’s through the 1950’s, I will readily admit that I am not a fan of Mr. Rogen’s re imagined Hornet. However, I will also admit that Kato-vision and the new Black Beauty are very cool. And Jay Chou as Kato works very well. He exudes cool and brilliance and an understanding of his role.

 Where this film fails miserably is every time Seth Rogen utters a line of dialogue. Yes, EVERY SINGLE TIME. The film has no chance to build momentum through action or bad guy story line despite the presence of Christoph Waltz. Rogin slobbers through another line of dialogue and it’s like the air brakes on a semi locking up on icy roads. It’s just brings the flow to a standstill.

Besides Chou and Waltz, who are both very good, other supporting work is provided by Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Edward James Olmos and Edward Furlong. Diaz, Olmos and Furlong have little to do and Mr. Wilkinson was the perfect choice as Britt Reid’s dad … if only Britt Reid weren’t Seth Rogen! While adaptation can be a good thing, I doubt creator George Trendle had this in mind when he wrote the original Green Hornet character as the great nephew to the Lone Ranger. Rogen seems to think the Green Hornet is a spin-off of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS.

I am going very easy on director Michel Gondry because it appears he did all he could visually, while making do with a weak script and a lame lead actor.  Mr. Gondry has directed such feasts as ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and BE KIND REWIND, so he gets credit for the good parts of this one. 

If you see this film in 3-D, you can play with the glasses and easily identify which scenes were filmed that way and which weren’t. I would encourage you to only use the glasses when necessary, because the colors are definitely muted through the lenses.

My final complaint is the minimal use of the iconic Green Hornet theme song (Flight of the Bumble Bee) made famous by the great Al Hirt (link below). We get only a taste of it in the final scene. So, realizing I sound like an old geezer, I will say that I enjoyed Kato, Black Beauty and the action scenes, but desperately miss Bruce Lee, Van Williams and the uber-coolness of the original.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you have little or no experience with the TV series or the comic book line OR you believe Seth Rogen is a comedy genius.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are dedicated Green Hornet purist OR you suspect that Seth Rogen and Pauly Shore are related.


June 29, 2010

Greetings again from the darkness. I really liked director James Mangold‘s two most recent films – Walk the Line, and 3:10 to Yuma. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz both have great smiles and look really good in swim attire. Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, Little Miss Sunshine) is well cast as an off-center nerdy scientist. That’s the end of all the positive comments I have for this film.

The negative comments are for just about everything else in this summer “blockbuster”. It is billed as an Action-Comedy. There is plenty of action, though much of it is so far-fetched and ludicrous. There is almost no comedy. The rapid fire banter between Cruise and Diaz would have been much more effective had it been well written, instead of just fast paced.  Even the music is distracting.  Hall & Oates and Christopher Cross are painful enough, but they really should have let the composer watch the film before creating the score.

A quality action movie needs a real force coming from the bad guy. Here, the filmmakers instead provide us with a “is he a good guy or a bad guy” story line with Cruise. Anyone surprised at the real answer? Because of that, we don’t have anyone to root against. Some generic Spainish arms dealer played by Jordi Molla (Blow) and the government agent played generically by Peter Saarsgard. Generic is not a word you want associated with your movie.

This is Cruise and Diaz together for the first time since the far-superior Vanilla Sky. They both deserve better than this slop, though I feel confident they had a good time with the globe-trotting to Spain, Austria, Jamaica and a few U.S. stops in between. The fun they had filming did not translate into fun for me as a viewer. In fact, as they were driving away, I kept hoping for an ending like Thelma and Louise.