Monday, April 12, 2010

Cop Out (2010)

Cop Out (2010) is a buddy cop movie that pays homage to the 80's, even down to the pairing of a white guy with personal issues (Bruce Willis), and a motor-mouthed black guy (Tracy Morgan).  Combine it with an irate chief of  police, cheesy 80s music, and snarky colleagues, and you have some serious nostalgia, quicker than you can say Another 48 Hours.

The crude, and occasionally funny, dialog was probably the highlight of the flick for me, although it does start to wear thin after thirty minutes.  As a side-note, I'm not offended by coarse language, but an encounter with a 10 year old foul-mouthed car thief left a rather sour taste in my mouth (but hey, who am I kidding - I was just as offensive when I was his age).

The plot is perfunctory, and combines Mexican drug dealers, a kidnapped drug lord's daughter, a baseball card, and a wedding.  Nothing is new, or presented in an inventive way.

The movie feels listless; there's no momentum propelling the movie film, nor are the characters particularly endearing (but Willis and Morgan do have some on-screen chemistry, and their interplay is amusing at times.)  Perhaps I'm just used to bigger vehicles for Willis, but the movie just felt too small for him.

If you're a child of the 80s you'll get a few retro-kicks from Cop Out (I certainly did). But if you're not a thirty-something like me, you'll probably want to give this a miss.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pandorum (2009)

I'm a big fan of the sci-fi horror/action genre, and it's not often that aficionados like me are treated to a well-executed example with high production values. Pandorum (2009) is one of the better examples of the genre, although it's not without its flaws.

Never quite reaching its initial promise, Pandorum (2009) draws several elements from other sci-fi movies, most notably the sense of paranoia and doom in Event Horizon (1997) and the isolation of Moon (2009).  The set design is the best part of the experience; it's well realized with superb lighting, and a fantastic sense of scale and grandeur that amplifies the isolation.  The plot has several satisfying twists, but into the cliche of personifying evil in a single person (much like Event Horizon) during the finale.

Two crew members wake up from a hypersleep, with only fragments of their memories remaining.  Bower (Ben Foster) escapes through a service duct to repair a reactor on the other side of the ship, while Payton (Dennis Quaid) remains. At this point, their stories diverge but then collide during the finale.

Bowers has the more interesting journey and encounters a woman who attacks him, only to be scared away by bestial humanoids (looking somewhat like the cave-dwellers in The Descent), armed with knives, clubs and some very pointy teeth.  After they meet again, the woman realizes that Bowers is not a threat and reveals she's a geneticist (although the film asks too much when the fact that she's an expert fighter is glossed over) that woke up several months ago, and has been in survival mode ever since.  She, along with two others they meet, accompany him to the reactor.

Payton, remains behind, and is joined by another crew member.  Both their stories are intertwined and are revealed throughout the film, but conclude in yet another cliche, as if the filmmakers were picking plot points out of a bag.

The action is confusing, filmed with quick cuts and close-ups, making it impossible to make out the flow of the blows and parries; this removes any tension from the fights. Perhaps a better choice would have had the good guys hiding in the shadows, dodging the humanoid beasts, while occasionally glimpsing the mangling of others from afar.  I can't help but this that this would have amplified the tension and despair.

Perhaps I'm being too critical.  I found the movie certainly very entertaining, and as a fan of the under-serviced genre I'm pretty pleased at the relatively high production values. However, as it stands this was an average movie; had the film-makers made a few different decisions with respect to the plot, action and pacing, this would have been a great movie.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From Paris with Love (2010)

From Paris with Love (2010) is a rather drab action flick in which John Travolta plays a top US undercover agent dissecting a drugs gang in Paris. The mystery grows deeper when he and his sidekick, a young spy-wannabe seconded from the US Embassy, uncover a deeper terrorist plot to murder a visiting US dignitary.

John Travolta character is a vaguely entertaining-to-watch bad-ass, but credibility is strained with his outlandish, boorish ways and when he and his sidekick snort cocaine in a crowded lift going up the Eiffel Tower (he manages to stay undercover how?)

The sidekick is pretty-boy bland, and apart from providing one plot twist involving his fiancĂ©, is largely inconsequential (he's largely overshadowed by John Travolta's larger-than-life character).

The shoot-outs and fights are filmed and edited in such a fashion that it's difficult to follow the flow of action in space from one shot to another.  The connecting shots between edits are very sparse, meaning that the viewers are left to interpolate the motion of the protagonists through space, making the action a very "jumpy" experience.  This makes it difficult to appreciate the otherwise (relatively) high production values in the action scenes (compare this to a classic scene in the shoot-out genre, the hospital shoot-out in Hardboiled (1992).