Channing Tatum has had a really good year. He bolstered his female fan base with Magic Mike, proved he can be funny as hell and earned a fan base among men with 21 Jump Street and even got respect from stuck-up critics with his work in serious films like Side Effects. So why would he sign on to do a sequel to a movie of his that nobody liked, not even hardcore fans of the G.I. Joe show and toys? The answer to that is because he barely does. This is not a Channing Tatum movie, despite being one of the largest people on the poster and controling half the shots of all the trailers. But that's a good thing.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra came out in 2009 and it was a terrible failure in almost every way and THE black eye in Joseph Gordon-Levitt's career. But Hollywood is as greedy as Wall Street and if they think they can get bank out of a franchise, then goddamnit, they're gonna do it. But how do you get people to show up for a sequel when they hated the first one so much? You relaunch the franchise with a re-imagining. But doing a relaunch just four years later looks desperate. So what G.I. Joe: Retaliation does is both; it is a sequel and relaunch and they accomplish that by killing off everyone from the first one within the first ten minutes. That's right, Duke is dead and Roadblock, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is the new face of G.I. Joe (which is silly to those of us that grew up on it).
I give this movie some credit for doing that because it's ballsy and not easily pulled off. However, they didn't really succeed in making it a whole lot better. Even by bringing a slick new director in Jon Chu, who only has expierence directing movies with dancing in them like the Step-Up series and Justin Bieber's documentary, they still couldn't shake off the vibe that it's a pretty stupid movie. In full disclosure, I'm not sure why that bothers me so much considereing that the premise for the cartoon and toys was stupid. This movie has a plot not that much more thought out than those featured on the show in the '80s and a moronic script to match.
That's not to say the movie is a total loss. The Rock is a decent leading man as long as this is the kind of movie he quarentines himself in. The man is so large now that he looks like he could die at any second from an exploded heart, but that's how we like our action stars. He's a throwback to the squared jaw, biceps bigger than a human head star of the '80s action flicks that were stupid, bloated and fun...and that's exactly what G.I. Joe: Retaliation is. If I was a 10-year-old again, I'd proably enjoy it like I did those.
The best part of this film is Jonathon Price (Brazil, the Pirates of the Carribbean films), who returns as The President and seems like he has a blast playing two roles. Bruce Willis pops his head in for a small role that's also silly and fun as well. Do you have to see the original to enjoy this one? Not really. The studio knew that since hoping people would come back to find out how that cliffhanger ending turned out was a long shot. Not really sure who this movie will appeal to outside of the boys and fathers of boys who want to have as close to "family fun" as you can while watching copious amounts of people dying, but I guess we'll find out. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C-
Funny thing about advertising is that it's a necessary evil. On one hand, you need it desperately to tell people you exist, especially in a movie season that pumps almost 100 films out in three months, and on the other hand, it can make people think your movie sucks. The Croods is an animated movie about cavemen starring Nicolas Cage...what about that would possibly make anyone want to see it? Add in shotty advertising that made me think this was another forgetable family cartoon that should've gone strait-to-video and you've got a problem. Well, I'm here to tell you that there's lots of reasons to see this and the advertising doesn't do it justice.
This was a collaborative directing effort from two guys. One is named Kirk De Micco who has done nothing but crap like Space Chimps and Racing Stripes, but the other is Chris Sanders who is a former Disney guy who directed the amazing How to Train Your Dragon and worked on The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Cleary, you can see the difference in pedigree. What transpires in The Croods are stark contrasts between who did what and the parts that don't work really don't work and the parts that do are great!
If you can look past Nicolas Cage, who sucks even when you don't see him, you have a great and talented cast around him. Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, 87-year-old Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein, ABC's Dancing with the Stars) and Clarke Duke (NBC's The Office, Hot Tub Time Machine) all star and all shine as very gifted voice talents. The script is written well enough so that all characters are comedic and the only one that is purely scenery is Catherine Keener's (Where the Wild Things Are, 40-Year-Old Virgin), who sadly is the mother and plays no important role whatsoever.
Most animated films are 3D just because it's easy to make them that way and ticket prices are much higher becaues of it, but Sanders proves he knows how to really utlize it with How to Train Your Dragon and dazzles us again with The Croods. The depth perception used in the 3D makes the plentiful action sequences well executed to the best of their ability and hightens the excitement. Judging the animation is not really something I'm expierenced enough to talk about but some areas seem rough while others seem way advanced.
The story of a father's compulsive need to protect his family and deal with his daugter falling in love with a boy seems downright...well...Stone Age and that's the downside of The Croods; there's nothing original. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? It's for kids. It's effective. It's fun and shockingly emotional (but maybe that's just because I'm new to this whole fatherhood thing). I know 3D is pricey and bringing the family can add up to the downpayment of a car, but The Croods is worth it for a night that everyone can enjoy. The Croods (Rated PG)
Any movie fan worth their oversized weight in Sour Patch Kids knows director Chan-wook Park. He's the South Korean acclaimed director who gave us Oldboy. I would say it's impossible to enjoy films from a cerebral level and not fully love this 2003 crime masterpiece. (It's currently being remade right now for American audiences; I'm nervous.) After that we sunk our teeth into his horror Thirst and if we really geeked out on Park, we enjoyed the Vengeance series. Stoker is his first foray into an English-speaking film made for American audiences. Judging by the response from people leaving the theater at the screening of it, most Americans aren't ready for him.
Almost every single person that was telling the studio representative their opinion of the film as they walked through the lobby said things like "worst film ever," "I don't know what happened" and "Huh?" I, on the other hand, couldn't have loved it more and am eager to watch it again since it is a film that demands multiple viewing. Not because the plot was complicated but because of the gorgeous way Park presented it to us.
Stoker stars Mia Wasikowka (Alice in Wonderland, Lawless) as a high schooler who's lost her father in a car accident. Her mother, played by Nicole Kidman, lustfully allows her brother-in-law, played by Matthew Goode (Watchmen, A Single Man) to live with them and that's when people start disapearing. Doesn't sound like much of a plot, especially when you consider that it's not a mystery and you know early on in the film that Goode's character is fishy. But it's the poetry of the dialogue and cinematic painting of the direction that make this movie hypnotic.
The film is violent but nothing compared to Park's other films and it's not overly sexual either; but it's still brave and bold in both areas when you consider that they tackle both in disturbing and forbidden ways. The narrative jumps around but stays continual; that might make some lose track of what's happening but it's not challenging; it's deliberate, as is every single thing you see. The costumes, the sets, the props, the stagnation in line delivery...all are choices made by Park to make this entire film feel off kilter.
The runaway star of Stoker is Goode who has created a character that is just as creepy, charming and evil as Norman Bates or Hannibal Lecter. He's so good that it makes me wonder why the studio released this now instead of Oscar season. In fact, Park deserves a nomination as well as does most of his crew. Perhaps they buried the film because they had a feeling people would react to it the way the ones leaving my theater did.
This is not a film for everyone. This was made for those who enter a darkened theater for an expierence that stays with them. The plot is nothing new and it does move at a sluggish pace for most of it, but images and context are burned into your head and make Stoker a film you won't soon forget. It commands you to discuss it with people who've also seen it. I expect blowback from people who go see it based on this review, but those of you who, like me, can appreciate film for every aspect within will thank me for saying how much I think you'll enjoy it. Stoker (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A