Find Me At Screen Rant

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Jack Reacher



Jack Reacher, an entertaining Tom Cruise vehicle produced by Tom Cruise starring Tom Cruise as Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, concerns an event that hits close to home for its similarity to recent tragedies: a sniper murders five people in Pittsburgh (including taking aim at a young child, queasily but unintentionally invoking Newtown, CT). The police capture a former Army sniper as responsible, but he asks for a mysterious man named "Jack Reacher" to clear his name. Reacher, a drifter who lives off the grid and wears one outfit he purchased from Goodwill every day, is a former Military Police who only concerns himself with "doing what's right". 

As Reacher, Cruise eschews his Mission: Impossible hero Ethan Hunt's manic tendency to leap off the top of the tallest buildings he can find. Soft spoken, methodical and alert, Cruise relishes being the smartest guy in every room. There's also an amusing runner early on where every woman who encounters Cruise thinks he's the hottest shit on Earth. Unwilling to directly admit the same is Rosamund Pike, the attorney defending the accused sniper. Together, Cruise and Pike investigate a hidden conspiracy behind the seemingly random sniper murders which may or may not involve her district attorney father Richard Jenkins, police officer David Oyelowo, but definitely involves the villainous Werner Herzog. There's also the fetching Alexia Fast involved; her character is named "Sandy", rather unfortunately referencing a second recent tragedy in the Northeast. 

Jack Reacher is notable for the most overt callbacks I've ever seen another movie make towards Oliver Stone's JFK. Verbiage is lifted straight from Stone's famous conspiracy jargon: "grassy knoll", "one pristine bullet", "patsy", and there's even the words "turkey shoot" posted on a sign prominently framed in the center of one scene. Besides invoking JFK, Jack Reacher also homages Lethal Weapon with Cruise's mano e mano slugfest in the rain with Herzog's top henchman Jai Courtney (who looks a little like writer-director Christopher McQuarrie's friend and collaborator Bryan Singer). McQuarrie helms Jack Reacher with a confident stride and a fondness for characters exchanging smart, snappy patter, while sprinkling in startling bouts of pleasing action and a rather extraordinary car chase. If you're sold out of seeing Django Unchained and have to choose a default movie to see instead, make it Jack Reacher

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Live Tweeting the 2012 WWE Slammy Awards

Unless Ricky Gervais is hosting drunk and ripping on Hollywood celebrities, there's still no better awards show than the WWE Slammy Awards. This year's featured the return of Ric Flair to WWE, which is enough to give this show a thumbs up from me. But a bunch of other ridiculous stuff happened too. I hung around to watch Monday Night RAW live and tweet through the whole show. Like the Slammys and WWE in general are these days, my tweets are unapologetically AJ Lee-centric.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Arrow 1x9 - "Year's End"

It's an Arrow Christmas! For some reason, Oliver decided he really, really, really wanted a Christmas party and he wasn't gonna take no for an answer. And for the first time, I have cause to disagree with my man John Diggle: I don't think Oliver would land in St. Nick's "Nice" column. 

I've had a difficult time relating to Oliver throughout the series, but another precedent was set: I'm totally on his side when it comes to that dude Shane who was hanging around and tried to bang Thea at the Queen Christmas party. I hate that kid. If I were the Hood, I'd have terrorized that kid and used him for target practice.

Some big stuff has come to light now: The Island was a Chinese prison and the two baddest mofos on the Island were Yao Fei, the Chinese Green Arrow, and Deathstroke. And of course the reveal of who the Dark Archer really is after the obvious feint that it's Yao Fei come to Starling City to test his protege Oliver:

Malcolm Merlyn is the Dark Archer. Of course! It was so obvious I can't believe I didn't see it coming. We had the foreshadowing a couple of weeks ago when Tommy watched his dad fence. And of course a Merlyn is the Dark Archer! Kind of weird that if Tommy ends up following in his dad's footsteps, he goes down the Harry Osborn path. Actually, that's more annoying than weird, how obviously Arrow set up a Peter-MJ-Harry love triangle.

The archery battle between Oliver and Merlyn kind of exposed how awkward it is to do a superhero fight between two archers. Guys who are so good they never miss have to miss as the other guy vaults and tumbles out of the way. Continue until someone doesn't miss. A future battle between archers would be more fun with they used trick arrows. Then there'd be some variety.

I did enjoy seeing Oliver thoroughly get his ass kicked by Merlyn. He got clobbered. He got his clock cleaned. Arrows in the back! The way Oliver snapped them off against the wall was cringe-inducing. When he jumped out of the window, cracked his injured back on the dumpster, landed on the sidewalk and called Diggle for help, all that was missing was him being on fire (that came in an earlier scene when Merlyn tried to explode him) and it would have been just like in Batman Begins when Scarecrow kicked Batman's ass in the Narrows.

Insubordinate Quentin Lance would concur: Starling City has the worst police commissioner ever. Like, Captain of the Enterprise-B in Star Trek Generations-level shitty. Obviously, the guy is corrupt but he's also way too young and clearly incompetent to be commissioner of police. Clearly, he's planted by 'the organization' Merlyn and Moira are deep into. The same organization that wants to commit mass murder to fulfill the "vision" for Starling City.

DC Universe shout outs, besides Deathstroke and The Dark Archer: "The corner of (Denny) O'Neil and (Neal) Adams."

The quips were pretty good this week. Felicity, the Queen (pun intended) of Super Fast and Precise Bing Searches and Oliver and Walter's personal Lucius Fox, had my favorite.

Oliver: "Felicity, you're remarkable."
Felicity: "Thank you for remarking on it."
Oliver: "Merry Christmas."
Felicity: "I'm Jewish."

Tommy: "How are you, sir?"
Quentin: "Proficient with firearms."

Oliver: "I think the vigilante needs a better codename than 'The Hood' or 'The Hood Guy'."
Malcolm: "How about 'Green Arrow'?"
Oliver: "Lame."

Somehow, though, I think that name will catch on, lame as it is. This is why Oliver needs an intrepid girl reporter type in his life to coin a codename for him instead of the man he doesn't yet know is his arch(ery) enemy.

P.S. I kind of miss Helena.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Expendables 2



"Good times with weapons for the males over-fifty crowd" is the selling point of The Expendables 2. Its returning band of oily misfits, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, and Randy Couture turn out to be very good salesmen. Already a grunting, snarling, leathery, sinewy, musclebound gathering of pumped-up action heroes, The Expendables 2 throws in more bang for your buck by including the previous movie's cameos of 1980s megastars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis in major roles where they get to murder dozens of bad guys with machine guns while wink-wink swiping each other's classic catchphrases. If that's not enough, The Expendables 2 throws in Chuck Norris, who seemingly went through the entire list of Chuck Norris jokes on the Internet and picked out his favorite one. Lundgren, Crews and Couture each get moments to banter and don't seem to mind being upstaged when Arnold, Bruce and Chuck roll in. Stallone anchors the whole thing with his gravelly gravitas, lightening up in scenes with Statham where they bust each other's balls. Arnold, Bruce and Chuck could have a splinter group of their own called Deus Ex Machina, which is the purpose they serve via how often they appear to save the Expendables' asses.

This time around, the Expendables must chase down a cabal of paramilitary Bulgarian roughnecks throughout the wilds of Eastern Europe to find and retrieve five tons of plutonium ("Great Scott!", Doc Brown would exclaim if he and his DeLorean were in this movie). Stallone's grisly crew are joined by a couple of novelties: a female CIA liaison, and a Chinese one at that, played by Nan Yu, and a young stud muffin sniper, played by Liam Hemsworth. Yu replaces Jet Li as the Expendables' token Asian as Li literally jumps out of the movie after the gonzo explode-a-thon that opens the picture. Hemsworth gets a backstory of a tour of duty in Afghanistan gone bad and a gorgeous French girlfriend waiting for him in Paris. He always addresses Stallone as "sir" and makes a positive impression right away. Which means this pretty boy has to go. And go he does, with his pretty pecs carved up and Stallone's own bowie knife awesomely karate kicked into his heart by the villain of the piece, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Katniss Everdeen would be as heartbroken as Stallone was.

In a movie where the characters have names like "Lee Christmas", "Hale Caesar", "Yin Yang", and "Toll Road", Van Damme tops them all as a villain named "Vilain". That's right up there with "Sinestro" and "Cy-Kill" for bad guy names. But it turns out Van Damme, sporting heavy bags under his eyes that Rocky Balboa  would pummel in a different movie, is the real secret weapon of The Expendables 2. Relishing getting to play the heavy, and a heartless homicidal maniac at that, Van Damme completely upstages everyone with his Brussels badness and utterly hilarious line readings every time he's on screen. The main event fight between Stallone and Van Damme delivers the Balboa body blows and Bloodsport spin kicks 80's nostalgia junkies paid to see. It's always a shamelessly bloody good time with the Expendables, but The Expendables 2 is more rowdy and rollicking than its predecessor. Sincere thanks to The Expendables 2; I don't remember the last time I laughed so heartily at every single thing Jean-Claude Van Damme said and did.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Warm Bodies



Vampires and werewolves are exhausted and zombies are all in vogue now, thus Warm Bodies arrives just in time to usher in the era of teen zombie love stories. A curious but earnest and amusing attempt to make the zombie something a pretty girl could fall for, Warm Bodies stars Nicholas Hoult from Skins and X-Men: First Class as R, the most sensitive, intelligent zombie there ever was. It's all on the inside, though. On the outside, he's still a zombie (albeit attractive and one who isn't obviously physically degenerating and shedding body parts and viscera) but on the inside, he yearns to be able to express all these feelings he still has and be... normal. Warm Bodies finally presents the life of a zombie from the zombie's point of view in a clever, illuminating way. But as a zombie, Hoult still needs to eat brains, at least for a while, until he meets a girl.

On an excursion for brains, Hoult meets normal human and very pretty Julie, played by Teresa Palmer. Hoult conveniently eats her estranged boyfriend's brains and conveniently inherits all his memories of her. Next thing he knows, he has the hots for Palmer and, shades of King Kong, Hoult takes her back to his love shack, an abandoned airplane, which he's spent an untold amount of time filling with nick nacks and 80's vinyl records because they "sound... better..." "What are you?" a baffled Palmer wonders out loud, and the answer is the most fanciful zombie creation ever, calculated to the bone for her - and girls in the audience - to fall in love with. Which Palmer does, like clockwork. How can she resist his loving stares at her and how he doesn't talk too much and saves her from other zombies and even worse, the murderous CGI animated corpses ("Bonies") zombies eventually turn into? Warm Bodies offers the playbook for girls on what to do on dates with a zombie.

Hoult has a best zombie friend, Rob Corddry, who wants to eat Palmer's brains at first, but soon Palmer and Hoult's weird relationship triggers something in Corddry and the rest of their zombie brethren. Zombies can change, they can regain their lost humanity - Warm Bodies champions an optimistic take on the zombie that anyone living in the zombie apocalypse of The Walking Dead would never be able to accept. Having a hard time buying into this himself is John Malkovich, Palmer's father and the military leader of the what's left of the humans. One can understand how Malkovich has trouble seeing his daughter as serious about her zombie boyfriend becoming human again. It defies every convention ever known about zombies. Palmer's cheerful best friend Analeigh Tipton has a much funnier take on Hoult when he shows up at humans' walled city compound looking for Palmer on a balcony, riffing its inspiration Romeo and Juliet. Unlike the Montagues and the Capulets, Warm Bodies posits human and zombie can live together in harmony. Let the two crazy kids in love lead the way. And to its credit, at no point does Palmer ever consider becoming a zombie herself, so she's got her head on straight and has one over on Bella Swann.

Arrow 1x8 - "Vendetta"

Pound for pound, arrow for arrow, the best episode of Arrow yet. And the violentest. Most violentest. Violence galore. Dead bodies. Arrows in body parts. Bullets in the face! "I don't speak Chinese but I'm assuming you said goodbye!" says Helena. BLAM BLAM KABLAMMO! No mercy from the Huntress.

Oliver tried, man. He tried to save his new girlfriend from a life of homicidal rage and confusing justice for vengeance. He even enabled her; he gave her sexy archery lessons and gave her a crossbow and a sexy new suit. "Does it come in purple? I love purple." I liked how when Helena stormed out on him in the end, she of course had no inclination to give back the weapons and suit he provided her. These entitled rich kids.

Speaking of entitled rich kids, Oliver uttered a line of dialogue to Tommy that I don't believe has been uttered by anyone in human history: "My trust fund is your trust fund." Tommy instead accepted Oliver's offer of a General Manager position at his upcoming new night club. Progress on the nightclub has been slow because Oliver's been busy boning trying to save Helena Bertinelli. What a heartwarming moment between Oliver and Tommy. #HugItOut

The impromptu double date between Oliver, Helena, Tommy and Laurel - by the way, that's Green Arrow, The Huntress, Merlyn, and Black Canary at a fancy restaurant together - couldn't have been more awkward. It started off with Laurel threatened by Helena and ended with Helena storming off, furious at Oliver for still loving Laurel, after Tommy stormed off furious at Laurel for outing Tommy as broke and needing a job. That might have been the worst dinner date in superhero television history.

Meanwhile, Walter Steele is getting ever closer to finding out what evil lurks in the heart of his wife Moira Queen. I like the relationship between Walter and his girl Friday Feliciity. Though he was kind of right to threaten her for continuing to investigate Moira without his authorization, Walter also knew if anyone could figure out the secret to how to read the Maurader's Map ink of the book Walter found with the mysterious symbol it was Felicity.

So we learned that Oliver is deep down a hero. Helena, who sparked a gang war between the Mafia and the Triad so she could murder her father in the woods in cold blood, is not. Oliver's also a lonely guy with a ridiculously jacked physique, so it's hard to blame him for being so into a hot lady who also likes to dress up in leather and hunt bad people in the dark of night.

But if there's a real hero in all this, it's John Diggle.

I fucking love this guy. Diggle is the shit. He was having nothing to do with Helena when she showed up at the Arrow Cave. "Great, she knows my name." And he was right about her all along. And while he sort of threatened to quit, he wasn't gonna, because he believes in Oliver Queen and this crazy mission they're on. Although he might be more alarmed if Dig knew to what extent Oliver compromised himself to Helena, telling her about The List and everything. Then both Oliver and Diggle would probably end up right back at Big Belly Burger eating their feelings.

Mid-season finale next week with a... Dark Archer...? Wha--?