I stand before you, humbled, and tasked with explaining, in comprehensible terms, just what the heck 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' is all about. Attaining comprehensibility, however, is a chore the filmmakers didn't wrestle with, doubling-down on pure adrenaline and big movie star charisma. It's a risky move and sometimes it works. Sadly, this is not one of those cases.
While there are chuckles to be had (I mean, that Cobra Commander helmet is just too incredible to dismiss) there isn't enough whiz-bang in this film to fully deflect the utter lack of a story or absence of intriguing characters. It is, surprisingly, the lesser of the two 'G.I. Joe' films, with Stephen Sommers' 2009 'The Rise of Cobra' featuring much more team spirit, pep and fun.
Let's not kid ourselves about this. Part of consuming Hollywood entertainment is that, on some level, we like these people. It's strange, but I probably like Tina Fey and Paul Rudd more than actual live humans I've met and have to deal with on a regular basis. Yes, I recognize that I only know them through the characters they play (and that includes their "as themselves" appearances on Letterman's couch or the Golden Globes stage) but their finely sculpted personas of vibrant, clever, likable people automatically gives them lift in any project they choose. When they star together in 'Admission' - a romantic comedy that is just a little bit smarter than the other leading brands - and one where they find a degree of happiness together, well, this puts the movie far off the likability charts.
A few titters wafted through the screening of 'Dead Man Down' as the WWE Studios logo came up on the screen. “Prejudice!” I thought. “Who is to say that Vince McMahon's new(ish) venture can't produce a quality piece of filmed entertainment?” Turns out all skepticism was justified.
'Dead Man Down,' a tiresome, predictable slog through every “in too deep” crime story cliché you've ever seen has as much subtlety as the average Face or Heel shouting into the mic during a Monday Night Raw. This is a dull movie that only perks up when it veers into the laughable, as when Noomi Rapace's character intentionally spikes Colin Farrell's character's two-years-in-the-making vengeance plot because she “had a moment,” but then bounces back into plan five minutes later anyway. Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself.
'21 and Over,' despite being the directorial debut of the odious 'Hangover' writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, isn't quite the bro-fest you might think it is. Yes, it definitely treads a bit into date rape jokes and offers an easy layup to any and all homophobes in the audience (more on this in a bit) but, by some miracle, more scenes than you might expect will actually make you laugh. Despite a premise that has the blur of a Xerox of a Xerox, there are individual sequences that are, surprisingly, clever and endearing.
Ed. note: What are the Top 20 Movies of 2012? We asked our film critic Jordan Hoffman (who previously put together a list of the Best Movies of the first half of the year) to compile a list of the Best of 2012 of all the many movies he saw this year.
Is it possible to hate something and yet, at the same time, recognize its greatness? This is a heavy philosophical question and one that I'd like to discuss with you. Anything to get these insufferably catchy tunes from 'Les Miserables' out of my head.
I can only take so much. I approach a family-friendly film with as open of a heart as possible, but when hit in the face with the shovel of whimsy and wonderment and wide-eyed optimism over and over and over again, eventually, I have to strike back. Sorry, 'Rise of the Guardians' - there's a lot that is admirable in you, particularly some of your design work, but you brought this on yourself.
Do yourself a favor, don't fall in love. This is my interpretation, at least, of Joe Wright's highly stylized version of Count Leo Tolstoy's "best novel ever" 'Anna Karenina' (which, I may as well fess up, I've never read).
Surely you've heard the soundbyte from 'Frankenweenie.' A hunched-over, snaggle-toothed, black and white Edgar "E" Gore, mischief in his eyes and a half-assed Peter Lorre in his voice. It's spooky and it's ooky and it's either the type of thing that you find really played-out or brings a tickle to your heart.
What's wrong with a little good clean fun? While a cappella versions of the biggest pop hits of the '80s, '90s and today are not exactly my jam, a crowd-pleasing comedy with a few unexpected subversive moments can be. It would take a misanthrope of the highest order to dislike 'Pitch Perfect,' preposterous and predictable though it may be.
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