Saturday, October 2, 2010

Robin Hood (Ridley Scott, 2010) UR

I tend to enjoy Ridley Scott’s work, so his addition to the several films that tell the story of Robin Hood, was met with some anticipation. In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, the director does not let us down. No stranger to filming epic battle sequences, Ridley Scott’s film is visually appealing.

Robin Hood and his comrades stand up to an abusive government to create a better quality of life for the common people. Robin Longstride comes across Robert Loxley, who on death’s door asks Robin to deliver his sword to his father. In order to accomplish this task, Robin decides to assume the identity of the fallen knight, and once home Robert’s father sees no reason to stop the charade. A corrupt sheriff and king add to the villagers’ frustration.

Russell Crowe (Body of Lies) once again teams up with director Ridley Scott, only this time as Robin Longstride. For a darker and grittier retelling of the story of Robin Hood, Russell Crowe does a good job playing the lone-wolf Robin Longstride. Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button) plays Marion Loxley, Robin’s love interest Cate Blanchett balances out Russell Crowe’s performance expertly. The chemistry between the two makes me wish they were in a better written movie. William Hurt (Endgame) also joins the cast as William Marshal.

While the directing and the acting are superb, the story does not deliver. The first half of the film brilliantly set up the political atmosphere of the time with the Crusades and the local authorities taking advantage of the villagers with all the men gone. Robin Hood examines Robin Hood before he became Robin Hood, more so than any other film. However, shortly after the halfway point, the storyline shifts from Robin Hood and his story to the story of a French invasion of Britain. Instead of Robin taking back what was stolen by the government, he is now leading an army against France; the second half of Robin Hood looks and feels just like Braveheart (Mel Gibson, 1995). In the first half of the film, Robin and company are talking about wanting to be able to keep the fruits of their individual labor, while at the end of the film, they switch to a socialist propaganda message, where everybody shares the collective wealth.  The writers obviously did not have a clear objective when sitting down to write this film; they couldn’t decide if it was going to be a character-based story about Robin Hood or an epic war story.

Rating: 3/10

© 2010 Nate Phillipps

Killers (Robert Luketic, 2010) PG-13

With the exception of 21 (2008), Robert Luketic’s career is built upon romantic comedies.  While the title may lead you to believe otherwise, Killers is first and foremost a romantic comedy, and on a secondary level, an action film. Robert Luketic may have several rom-coms under his belt, but that does not guarantee a good movie.

An insecure robot, er, woman meets a hunk while on vacation and they get married. Three years into the marriage a hit contract is placed upon the husband’s head, which leads the wife to discover that the man she married can kill with more than his good looks.

Ashton Kutcher (Spread) plays Spencer Aimes, the deadly-yet-charming contract killer who falls for Jen Kornfeldt, played by Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up). Joining the duo, Tom Selleck (Jesse Stone) and Catherine O’Hara (Where The Wild Things Are) as Mr. and Mrs. Kornfeldt, respectively. I liked Ashton Kutcher in The Butterfly Effect, but can’t say that he has what it takes to pull off a witty assassin. Kutcher’s performance outshines Katherine Heigl’s by far. Katherine Heigl’s portrayal of Jen Kornfeldt feels like it would be something acting students would watch in a class called, “How not to act on camera.” Tom Selleck and Catherine O’Hara are alright as the parents and in-laws; nothing to write home about on the acting front.

It’s easy to blame the actors, but the real blame rests with the writers. The concept of Killers is not that original, which could be overlooked if it played off of strong characters, strong dialogue, and interesting obstacles. Killers is a movie you might watch to appease your wife or girlfriend, but it is not something you will want to buy or watch ever again. If you like the concept, check out Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Doug Liman, 2005).

Rating: 4/10

© 2010 Nate Phillipps

Friday, October 1, 2010

Halloween Films Part 1: The Classics

Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)

Matching John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance sounds like a winning combo in any book, but Halloween is one of those movies that has not aged well.  Sure it's a classic, but it does not deliver the thrills and frights as well as it did when it first came out in 1978.  The first time I watched it I knew exactly who was going to die and when.  Of course it is only predictable because it pioneered the genre.  Only watch this one if you are a die hard fan of John Carpenter, otherwise check out The Thing or even scarier, Nightmare On Elm Street.

Rating: 5/10

Nightmare On Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984)

Johnny Depp's first film, Nightmare On Elm Street is almost as aged as the original Halloween is, but this one is less predictable.  Aside from Peter Jackson's DeadAlive, this film probably has one of the strangest ways to die captured on film.  Where Halloween is predictable and borderline boring, Nightmare On Elm Street leaves us with enough mystery to be a successful horror film.

Rating: 6/10

Night Of The Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

For a really good time, be sure to watch Night Of The Living Dead.  George A. Romero pioneered the zombie film and a franchise with his 1968 film.  As strange as it may be to say, this film is more exciting than the original Halloween.  I don't mean to pick on John Carpenter, because I love his other films, but somehow he fell short with HalloweenNight Of The Living Dead features some classic dialogue, of course the sort of dialogue only people who have seen the movie, or those people in their late 60s would understand.  Best line of the film, "They're coming to get you Barbara..."

Rating: 8/10

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)

Of all the horror films, and actually all the other films, I have ever seen, this is definitely one of the best shot films around.  It simply looks gorgeous.  My dad told me this film was super disgusting and made Saw look like a happy musical.  Despite being rated R, this film has no gore, no profanity and no nudity.  However, the filmmakers were so adept at conveying the grisly horror that happens off-screen that it still got the R rating.  If you watch one movie this Halloween, make it the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  It really is that good.

Rating: 9/10

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

With Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, we get some name actors Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles and Janet Leigh.  The horror of Psycho does not necessarily happen on-screen, but as with most Hitchcock it happens in your mind.  What sets Psycho apart from the other movies reviewed in this blog is the characters.  The characters in this film are developed to the max.  Just about everything about this film is perfect.  This movie spawned a remake and three sequels.  Anthony Perkins' performance is fantastic.  This is how horror movies should be made.

Rating: 10/10