Movie Reviews postsFriday January 15, 2016
Michael Bay is the Stone on Which Critics Sharpen Their Wit
Jeff Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere has been criticizing the dudes at “Honest Trailers” for being a bit behind the times, but I suppose they did their send-up of the trailer for Michael Bay's 2001 film “Pearl Harbor” to coincide with the opening of Bay's new war movie, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” which is getting a lot of attention. (Me, I'd attack “Honest Trailers” more for not being very funny.)
Anyway, Wells uses the opportunity to quote from A.O. Scott's “Pearl Harbor” lede, which he calls “one of the finest opening paragraphs in the history of movie reviewing.” It ain't bad. But it ain't Anthony Lane, who gave us the following in his blistering review:
[That's] the second-best question of the film, topped only when Evelyn [Kate Beckinsale] finds Rafe [Ben Affleck] packing a suitcase, and, quick as a flash, says, “Packing?” She is understandably distraught by her sudden change of fortunes. One moment she is trying to cope with two grown men scrapping over her like a couple of roosters, and the next, as she says in some exasperation, “All this happened.” I am not absolutely sure what she means by “this,” but I imagine that she is referring to the trifling matter of an enraged United States being hauled into a global conflict. I guess we should thank Michael Bay for so bold a revisionist take on the Second World War: no longer the clash of virtuous freedom and a malevolent tyranny but a terrible bummer when a girl is trying to get her dates straight.
Critic Criticizes Critiquing of Critics
There are a zillion ways to lampoon a film critic, and sadly actor Jesse Eisenberg found exactly zero of them in his Shouts & Mumurs piece, “An Honest Film Review,” in the latest New Yorker.
Apparently critics have been objecting to the piece (and are accused of being thin-skinned), but I question Eisenberg less than The New Yorker, which gave prime real estate to a non-writer. Yeah, I know, Eisenberg's got a book out. Read the piece. He's a non-writer.
According to this post by Sam Adams on CriticWire, Eisenberg says he got the idea after reading a negative review of a Woody Allen movie:
The review said something along the lines of, “Woody Allen makes another movie. This one doesn't really work, but hey, he's doing one a year. Slow down, Wood-man.” And I realized the guy was not criticizing the movie. He was criticizing his own lack of productivity and laziness, vis-a-vis Woody Allen's productivity. But instead he was putting down the movie.
Interesting interpretation. But not mine. Mine goes like this:
- Woody Allen keeps making mediocre movies, year after year.
- Maybe if he took more time (say two years?) the movies might be better.
So not only is Eisenberg's piece lame, it's based upon an incorrect interpretation.
On the bright side, he's got a fallback position.
Blurb Whore Refueled
I haven't thought about blurb whores in a while. I guess I didn't know if they still did them. Why, in a world that doesn't care what critics think?
Then this morning I saw an ad on IMDb.com that called “The Transporter Refueled,” which is getting shitty reviews, “the summer's sexiest action thriller,” or some such. First thought: Isn't it fall already? Second thought: Who the hell said that? Peter Travers? Larry King? Earl Dittman? I looked. And looked. And looked harder:
Can you read it? I zoomed in. And in:
Kyle Something, obviously. From “Made in Hollywood.”
Actually, after some quick searching, Kylie Erica Mar. She interviews celebs. But thanks for making it clear, ad agency.
The movie opened to $2.4 million on Friday, good enough for barely first place. Apparently not enough moviegoers are reading Kyle.
'Erik Lundegaard's Reviews ONLY count...'
I'm not sure when Rotten Tomatoes added the following disclosure, but I noticed it for the first time yesterday:
So please keep this in mind as you're skimming the reviews here. Most of these are not Tomatometer-approved. The Tomatometer does not recognize them. The Tomatometer barely recognizes their reviewer. Understandable, given the author photo.
Back in the Times: 'American Ultra' Review
I have a review of “American Ultra” in the Seattle Times today. Excerpt:
It's “Bourne Identity” meets “Pineapple Express.” Small-town stoner is in reality, and unbeknown to himself, a top CIA assassin. ...
Mike Lowell (Jesse Eisenberg) is the last remnant of a CIA program that turned three-time offenders into assassins, but which is now part of an internecine struggle between its creator, Victoria (Connie Britton), and middle-management douchebag Adrian Yates (Topher Grace), who has his own program, code-named “Tough Guy,” that turns psychopaths into assassins.
When threatened, Mike's pupils dilate and his inner assassin takes over; then he reverts back to vulnerable slacker. He kills two people with a spoon, for example, then needs a hug from his girlfriend. “I have a lot of anxiety about this,” he says, surveying the damage.
That's the sweet spot of the movie, and you do feel for Eisenberg, who's the best thing here. Kristen Stewart is also good. Most everyone else overacts, particularly Topher Grace and John Leguizamo, and not to comedic effect.
It made me think of what worked with the original 1978 “Superman” starring Christopher Reeve. Reeve played it straight, everyone else was a little over-the-top. The difference is that in “Supes” everyone else (Hackman, Perrine, Beatty) was funny and Reeve wasn't (he was heroic). Here, it's still Eisenberg who makes us laugh. The others don't.
Ultimately a missed opportunity.