Archive for the ‘US YEAR OF PRODUCTION 2010’ Category

THE GREEN HORNET [REVIEW 2]

2011/02/11

http://www.greenhornetmovie.net/

USA 2010  Directed by: Michel Gondry  Written by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg  Based on The Green Hornet by: George W. Trendle, Fran Striker  Produced by: Neal H. Moritz  Cinematography by: John Schwartzman  Editing by: Michael Tronick  Music by: James Newton Howard  Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Edward James Olmos, Edward Furlong, Analeigh Tipton, David Harbour, James Franco

So Seth Rogen is a movie star. And he’s made to where he is through a string of formulated comedy roles. Let me rephrase this: he’s made it to stardom by walking through a series of films playing himself. Which is fine, he did what he did. As Woody Allen famously said, “If you cast right, then actors won’t need to act.” And, because of Rogen’s own belief of his star power, he’s decided that he’s got enough audacity to write and produce a feature film. And looking at the resources pool, what better story to tackle than to jump on the bandwagon and reprise a bygone TV series onto the big screen. And, I mean big; so big that the studio had dropped $120 million into making “The Green Hornet.” Otherwise, in Hong Kong, back in the ‘70s, also known as “The Kato Show,” due credit by then an unknown Asian actor named Bruce Lee.

Now we’re getting somewhere. As camp as it was and lasting only just a season, “The Green Hornet” garnered cult status. Not because the show was fantastically scripted or well-played. It simply rode on the shoulders of the lightning-fast, and charismatically enigmatic little Bruce. No one had seen anything like it back then. The kids loved it… Seth Rogen may have been one of those kids. Although probably by a decade later, seeing it on reruns.

The platform was great: a cult show, money to burn, a movie star at the helm (Rogen); add on a few more stars from other parts of the world, and voila, a movie golden egg is laid.

Not quite.

To start, Rogen is not a character actor, he’s a personality. The title character is supposed to be a millionaire mastermind that orchestrated all the fights and heists, and required someone with a bit more depth and believability. Think Christian Bale’s Batman. As a matter of fact, the Green Hornet “is” a carbon copy of Batman. Bruce Wayne (Batman’s alter ego), a billionaire playboy that is a masked vigilante by night. And plug in Kato in place of Batman’s sidekick, Robin, and there’s your springboard TV show. To be precise, both “Batman” and “The Green Hornet” were airing at the same time back in the day as TV series. Both equally kitsch.

Fast forward to today, as producer, looking at what the neighbor’s doing – Nolan’s “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” I’d probably want to jet the other way too. Except, where Rogen knew which road not to head down, he didn’t figure out which way is right. So “The Green Hornet” seemed like a hodge podge of action and reaction, with the missing ingredient of intention.

Seth Rogen wasn’t completely blurred by his fame. Somebody probably told him to curb his enthusiasm and holster his desire to gobble up every second of the hero scene. And so, Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou was called in to play a masterful Kato, an ass-wupping McGuyver – a multitalented gadgets engineer – and a helluva coffeemaker. I suppose it’s a good way to get away from Bruce Lee’s version, who was just a butler with really, really cool moves. But, again, the formula didn’t work here. No Asian sensation worked well playing in the Hollywood sandbox, aside from Jackie Chan doing silly comedy routines. But Jay Chou’s Kato wasn’t supposed to be silly. Sometimes, he reminded me of an Asian Leonardo Dicaprio, with a lot less acting chops and a whole lot more verbal flops.

Adding to this confusion cuisinema is Cameron Diaz as Rogen’s wishful love interest, who actually fell for Chou (just to be safely non-prejudice). She looked like she’d stepped out of the original TV show – a dozen wrinkles older than both Rogen and Chou put together; her involvement in the whole story was…thinking back, didn’t really need to be there. That’s how much money the studio had coughed up – enough to spill it on an A-list starlet just for laughs. Finally, they thought a serious Oscar-winning foreign heavyweight was needed to round off this bowl of badass: Christoph Waltz. But even his menacing Nazi Doberman fangs from “Inglourious Basterds” didn’t pinch a reaction here. Not one moment was he convincing as an organized crime kingpin on a ruthless path to monopolize the city.

“The Green Hornet” was a continuing series of moments waiting for a punch line that would never surface. Its editing looked far better in the trailers than the actual scenes. The dynamics between its cast were often awkward without development. A few clips of innovative fight sequences got me sitting up, then only put me back down with nonsensical car crashes. And there were lots of them. So, in the end, was this tribute to Bruce Lee, or to the fan-boy fantasy, or just to Rogen’s own ego? Maybe the sequel will tell. Let’s just hope the studio will run out of money for a trilogy.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

THE GREEN HORNET [REVIEW 1]

2011/02/09

http://www.greenhornetmovie.com/

USA 2010  Directed by: Michel Gondry  Written by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg  Based on The Green Hornet by: George W. Trendle, Fran Striker  Produced by: Neal H. Moritz  Cinematography by: John Schwartzman  Editing by: Michael Tronick  Music by: James Newton Howard  Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Edward James Olmos, Edward Furlong, Analeigh Tipton, David Harbour, James Franco

THE GREEN HORNET is built around three main premises. First of all, that James Reid is some sort of ass and that Britt Reid is the good guy, what is important for him becoming a credible superhero. Secondly, the friendship or companionship between Britt and Kato: the Green Hornet is essentially a duo, as none of the two can be without the other. Third of all, a strong adversary causing necessary conflict as well as the need for a new superhero in the first place.

Now, THE GREEN HORNET clearly runs into trouble after a few minutes. Take the father-son relationship to begin with: it doesn’t occur to me how anyone can believe that the father is an ass and Britt is the good guy. Clearly, the father is right about everything he does, says or demands from Britt. Britt Reid however is a loser, a guy with no goal in life or motivation, a parasite, pretty much the Paris Hilton of the Reid clan, minus the fragrance and fashion deals. In conclusion, the Britt Reid character as portrayed here is anything but likeable, and his transformation into an incapable hero doesn’t exactly change that first impression (also not after he and the audience learn that his father wasn’t as much of an ass as we all thought).

Then, the Britt-Kato thing doesn’t work out at all: I am amazed how little effort has been spent on clarifying their relationship in the first place. The story goes something like this: Britt fires most of his father’s staff after his untimely death, discovers that his coffee looks different one morning, asks for the guy who usually makes his coffee (Kato), and demands him to come back. So what could be more logical than Kato, a highly capable inventor and martial artist who doesn’t know Britt at all at this point, comes back right away to live happily ever after as chief barista of that couch potato? Once the first coffee is served, we all come to realize how great a guy Kato is and Britt convinces him, for no obvious reason, to become his sidekick. Again, who’d want to be the sidekick of a fat brat? Ouch. This is, without any doubt, some of the worst scriptwriting I have seen in a while.

Last but absolutely not least, the Chudnofsky character never develops into the great villain he could have been. Once again the script and its character development are a huge letdown, introducing Chudnofsky with verve and esprit in his first scene (which is also the only memorable scene of Christoph Waltz, unfortunately), only to dismantle the character quickly through an array of idiotic scenes, turning a potentially charismatic villain into a one-dimensional decal. I’d like to think that this is not Mr. Waltz’s fault, but that the actions and dialogue as defined by the script simply gave him little room to play that character any better than he has.

What makes things even worse is a range of further pitfalls, namely Seth Rogen and Cameron Diaz. We all know that THE GREEN HORNET is first and foremost a Seth Rogen film now, and that shows (but not in the right way): as much as I like Mr. Rogen’s earlier work he tries to adapt the Green Hornet to Seth Rogen, instead of adopting his trademark character to the Green Hornet. The result is that Mr. Rogen’s interpretation of the Hornet makes the film look like a spoof, not the quirky hero-anti-hero tale it’s supposed to be. And there is a fine, but distinct line between a comedic vigilante movie and a spoof. THE GREEN HORNET however never gets it right.

Also not with the help of the ever-overacting Cameron Diaz who could come right from the set of THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY. In fact, many of Ms. Diaz’ scenes seem like first takes, and that also goes for a considerable number of scenes throughout the film.

Altogether that makes for a mediocre movie, a viewing experience that is spoilt by frequent annoyances and incoherence throughout, an impression no punch line, action sequence or set piece can reverse. THE GREEN HORNET is like a high-speed train without a train driver, racing full-steam on the wrong track into the wrong direction from beginning to end, without ever looking back or noticing that about nothing is right and everything’s wrong.

THE GREEN HORNET acts big, but tanks big time. It aims to be larger-than-life entertainment, but ends up a record-breaking waste of budget and resources, one of the most remarkable cases ever seen in contemporary cinema. The only reason no one notices is because it makes money nevertheless.

J.


 

 

 

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (2010)

2011/02/09

http://www.ispitonyourgravemovie.co.uk/

http://www.ispitonyourgravemovie.com/

USA 2010  Directed by: Stephen R. Monroe  Written by: Jeffrey Reddick  Produced by: Lisa M. Hansen, Paul Hertzberg  Cinematography by: Neil Lisk  Editing by: Daniel Duncan  Music by: Corey A. Jackson  Cast: Sarah Butler, Chad Lindberg, Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Jeff Branson Andrew Howard, Tracey Walter, Mollie Milligan, Saxon Sharbino, Amber Dawen Landrum

Meir Zarchi’s I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE wasn’t really a discourse on gender roles or a prime example of female empowerment, was it? So I guess that doesn’t make the 2010 remake a film of highly ethical intent either.

Even by genre standards I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE was never a truly accomplished work, but simply the right film at the right time (just like THE SOCIAL NETWORK is now). Amid video nasties, changing global politics and increasingly confusing, drifting pop culture output and lifestyles it seemed to be the perfect moment to cater to those who rent even the most disgusting stuff from the dark corners of the local video store and at the same time piss off the mainstream as good as possible. It wasn’t enough for a new SNUFF though.

In the context of early 80’s horror I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE mostly lived off of its general idea, even more of its title I believe, and less of its sketchy execution: I still think that the name made people watch it in the first place, followed by its reputation and content. Seen in a larger context I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE was nothing more than a cheap re-imagining of John Boorman’s DELIVERANCE, so overall it got far more attention than it deserved.

While being anything but a real genre milestone, it’s now a classic and a bit of cultural heritage, and an update seemed to suggest itself. So here is I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2010, and it follows the path of many contemporary remakes. Essentially, the film is a polished 2.0 version, featuring surprisingly artful dramaturgy, cinematography, editing and acting. The standards are comparable to what you can expect from a 2010 horror remake, and bearing in mind the gritty subject the new I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE seems almost too commercial.

Its biggest achievement is probably that it’s still politically incorrect, nasty and brutal, an uncomfortable, relentless rape-and-revenge flick that spends half of its time on psychological and the other half on physical torture. The more sensitive among the viewers (although I can’t really think of any reason a sensitive viewer should end up watching I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE) will notice that the film spends a substantial amount of time “preparing” the prey for dinner time, including inflicting extensive terror before the climatic rape sequence. It is debatable if this a) provides better reason for the victim to kill the tormentors, or b) is an extensive indulgence of violence that consumes the largest part of the film’s running time.

From a cinematic point of view the pace and gradual increase in momentum works very well for the film, working its way up from a subtle, but always present threat level to an almost unbearable, intense atmosphere shortly before the rape. What follows then is an entire second act that replays the sequential dramaturgy of the first act, only this time everything is accelerated.

And now for the biggest letdown: I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is completely unrealistic and not believable as soon as the revenge part starts. It is highly satisfying though, especially as the character description of the bad guys is relatively well-rounded, but that probably only means it appeals to our lower instincts more than our Christian upbringing. Where the film’s narrative falls apart is when the innocent city-girl-writer becomes a super-heroine torturing the rednecks with the help of ultra-sophisticated set-ups, methods or weapons. I don’t doubt she is capable of dreaming that all up, but I don’t see how she’s able to execute it.

If you’re in it for the thrills and frills and furbelows I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is an ok genre flick that’s as good or bad as its contemporaries. If you mind a serious slasher turning comical in the second half despite all brutality you’ll find better examples of the rape-and-revenge bracket elsewhere.

J.