Category Archives: Reviews

John Carter

My first thought while watching JOHN CARTER was, wow, where did all the money go? I mean, it looks like it cost a lot, but what on earth pushed the budget into the stratosphere the way it did?

But still, as I watched it, it was fine and all but completely flat, uninteresting, and just problematic. Technical limitations aside, there’s probably a reason it took 100 years for John Carter to appear on film. Because, while most people can enjoy a good sci-fi or fantasy story, there’s a certain threshold before it crosses into a territory for die-hards (and kids) only. John Carter is one of those things. At a certain point the made up stuff, the silly names, the reality tweaking, it all just becomes eye-rollingly dumb to a lot of people. Myself included.

So when it’s handled by someone who wants to keep it as true to the source material as possible, as Andrew Stanton did, there’s a sort of tunnel vision problem that comes up. All this stuff is so cool to fans of the book, but it has to be made inviting to, you know, everyone else. Tone down some of the ridiculous costumes, smooth out and explain some of the outlandish plot elements. At least slather on a sense of wonder to it, instead of just treating it matter of factly as the film does. Aside from some initial surprise at his new jumping powers, Carter doesn’t seem all that interested in the new world he’s on. If there’s no curiosity from him, why should I care?

So what other problems were there?

Casting

If you’re going to cast relative unknowns as your lead actors, they better have the potential to be movie stars. They have to have that pesky “it” factor to carry a film like this and make the characters the icons they deserve to be. Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins are not those people. They’re not bad actors by any stretch, and they’re not a drag to watch. But they’re not very compelling either. I may not be the best judge on female looks, but Collins doesn’t look like a princess, she doesn’t have any real allure, and she didn’t seem passionate for her cause either. Concerned, sure, but she didn’t exactly convey a sense of desperate urgency.

Kitsch, on the other hand, is dull. He’s not especially good looking, his body isn’t that great (which is important is you spend 80% of the film shirtless), his voice is flat, and his performance is just as flat and passionless as his costar. He looks apathetic to his plight 90% of the time. His voice, for me, was distracting. Overly grizzled, like a guy in a high school play trying to sound like a senior citizen. It also sounded vaguely like James Franco’s voice, which just made me think they should have cast him. At least he’s convincing even when bored.

Just What’s Going on Here?

I’m not a big fan of nitpicking plot holes, but when there’s a list of legitimate questions that arises when you think back on the movie, that’s a problem. Some of this comes down to the tunnel vision problem when the story is made by a die-hard fan of the property. The kind of “Gandalf can fly them safely out of Mordor, but not in?” kind of thing.

What’s John Carter’s deal anyways? Why is he so upset? OK, something happened to his family. But what and why? It’s not entirely clear, nor why he seems to blame his country for it. There’s no sensical link between where he directs his anger and the source of his pain. But now that he’s an angry loner, what is he searching for? And why? Why is he suddenly an amateur archaeologist looking for riches? What’s he doing there?

Ok, now we’re on Mars. The goal is to get home. OK. He’s made it clear he doesn’t care about the struggles of the natives, even when there’s clearly a good and bad side, he remains all Swiss about it. Fine. They’ll have to change his mind about it. But do they? Not really. Since the audience will be empathizing with the other characters we’ll just expect our protagonist to fall into line. And he does. He enters not caring, and then starts caring, with little reason given for him to do so. At first he doesn’t trust the princess because she clearly only wants his help for her cause. He explicitly distrusts her. She lies to him, and he gives her a chance to redeem herself, and then we found out she lied again. When Carter learns of this, theres on reaction. So, burned by lies once, that’s bad. Lie again, ignore initial goals and help the liar. Really?

Tharks are at least the most interesting group on the planet, but their struggles aren’t too interesting either. Carter empathizes with Tars because they both share daughter troubles, but Carter gave no indication he cared about the Tharks, just Tars and his daughter. Now he wants to be their leader? Really? Why?

Carter spends all his time on Mars wanting to go home, looking for a way to leave and not caring about their problems. Sure, he falls for a girl, but in the end he’s suddenly all “Mars is the only place that felt like home?” Really? You spent all your time there looking for every reason to leave and ignore the goings-on. When did this change happen, and why didn’t I see it?

The Therns, the villains of the thing, are also unclear in their intentions. What are they trying to accomplish anyways? They’re clearly a godlike race of some kind, which always has connotations of benevolence to an audience. But it’s not clear if they’re benevolent or malevolent here. What is their goal? To destroy Mars? OK, why? They just destroy places? Why? Why do they take their sweet time doing it in secrecy? It’s conflicting to have a godlike people with murky goals, who are praised by the natives, but only Carter can see their true intent? Why doesn’t he tell them?

It’s doubly confusing when you color code these characters, and label the Therns the same as the good guys. Bad guys are red, good guys are blue, Tharks are green (and they’re also good), and the Therns are also blue. When you color code it like that, the audience will come to associate blue forces as something for good and the red as bad. The Sith always had red light sabers for a reason you know. It’s a subtle problem, but it’s a problem. They couldn’t be any other color? They had to be the same shade of light blue as the good guys?

Yet, as I said, it wasn’t a bad movie. Most of the action is interesting enough. The dog thing is adorable and fun to watch. It moves along at a nice pace. The 3D was so subtle I often forgot I was watching a 3D movie. But that’s probably more of a problem than a blessing. Because why am I paying double the price for it then if it adds nothing fun?

It seems like something that could have been a great new franchise. But instead it was poorly handled and made it dull while being simultaneously ridiculous in all its style and sci-fi-ness. Disappointing.

C+

Review Catch-Up

I feel bad I’ve finally gotten around to seeing some stuff lately and haven’t commented on them yet. Sure, I’m already way behind the curve because things are usually released a bit later here, but whatever. With the Oscars coming up this weekend, seems like a good time to do it.

The Artist

The current front runner for best picture, since it’s sweeping nearly every award show, I had very high hopes. Aside from the occasional curmudgeon here and there I had only heard raves about THE ARTIST.

But, wow, I was incredibly disappointed. And, unlike in many cases, I don’t think I was a victim of hype this time. I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

I mean, really, THE ARTIST? This? This is what everyone is going nuts for? This?

Sure, there’s a slight caveat in that I saw it in German. Since the movie is silent that meant I mostly had to fend for myself when it came to the dialogue cards. I understood enough of them, and their message is made clear by the context and what’s happening, but that may have had an effect. I saw it with Shinyee, who was able to translate for the two or three times I had no idea what it was saying. That and the title cards were so fast I sometimes couldn’t even finish reading them.

Still? What the hell is so special about this. The story? It’s very simple. And not in a cute or interesting way, but a stupid way. And it’s sort of a rehash of other movies that have dabbled in this subject matter before (albeit with dialogue). Why can’t he start making sound movies? It’s not really explained. Is his voice terrible? Can he not really act? Does he just not want to? If so, why not? He just doesn’t, because he likes silent movies. So? He doesn’t show passion for it, just arrogance that it’s the better art form.

And, really, she’s a stalker. It’s creepy.

Not that the movie is terrible. It’s enjoyable enough. It has some fun moments. The two leads are absolutely wonderful to watch, Dujardin in particular. They do a great job.

But best picture? Really?

C

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Chris thought this was the dullest movie he’d ever watch. I wouldn’t go that far, but considering it’s a spy movie about intrigue and backstabbing and espionage and all that, it’s certainly not very tense. At all. It plods along at a pace that’s just shy of boring. And the story isn’t even terribly interesting. We don’t get to know the characters very well, and the big reveal at the end isn’t that big a reveal.

The dialogue was also somewhat frustrating. A lot of obtuse lines and sentences that cut off halfway be-

And why was Gary Oldman nominated for this? You’d be hard pressed to call it bad, but you’d be equally hard pressed to call it Oscar worthy.

C

The Descendants

Of the best picture nominees I’ve seen (7 out of 9 so far, seems War Horse or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close won’t show in English anytime soon), THE DESCENDANTS has been my favorite.

Sure, it’s bleak and potentially depressing and heavy. But, for a film about death and loss and betrayal, it certainly has some vitality to it. Alexander Payne is so great a giving us flawed yet still likable characters that just have shit dumped on them but pull through it with tenacity and good humor and humanity. A great performance by Clooney as well.

A

Hugo

I think HUGO is the first film I’ve seen where I can safely say the 3D actually enhanced it. Where it’s a downright necessity to see it in 3D. Scorsese plays with the format in such fun and subtle ways. Here it’s actually a tool instead of a gimmick.

Unfortunately, I found a lot of the film to be a bit of a jumble. Themes jump all over the place, scenes and subplots mash together in weird ways and transitions, and the characters all seem a bit shallow and never have enough room to really breath. What drives Hugo more anyways? Is it fixing the automaton and finding closure with his father? Bonding with the girl? Movies? Where did movies come from? They’re never mentioned until halfway through the movie, then they’re suddenly the most important thing and the focus for the rest of it. It’s weird and distracting.

But this doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s still great. The story is jun, no matter how jumbled, and when it starts preaching on the magic of movies you can’t but help be swept away by the magic of it. You spend the last 30 minutes or so on the edge of tears in a way. And the boy who plays Hugo has crazy eyes. I don’t know if they were CGI enhanced or what, but they sure are huge, blue, and emotive. An anime character brought to life.

It didn’t take long for me to think turning HUGO into a Broadway musical was inevitable. Because it would make for a fantastic one. You can practically slot the songs in now.

A-

Moneyball

Sports bore me. So a movie about baseball statistics should in theory be just as boring. Turns out it’s pretty interesting.

Not amazing, mind you, but certainly better than I thought it would be. Brad Pitt actually delivers and Oscar-worthy performance, and the direction is fantastic.

How Jonah Hill got a nomination I will never understand. Because he just sits there, mouth agape, barely saying anything. He adds nothing to the movie as a whole and he could have been replaced with anybody and had the same effect.

B+

Melancholia

I like Lars Von Trier, I really do. Granted, I haven’t seen all of his work, but I appreciate what he does and how he does it.  But man, MELANCHOLIA was pretty insufferable.

It’s about the end of the world, but not really about the end of the world. The crux of it all, the whole point, is him examining the idea that people who are depressed handle high stress situations better than others. Because, well, they’re already expecting the worst. And what’s more high stress than the impending doom of the entire planet? Judging by the first half of the film, I’d say an elaborate wedding is, but still.

I have serious problems getting into films with asshole and/or very selfish characters. And boy, is Kirsten Dunst’s character Justine weirdly selfish. The first hour of the film is her wedding, and she wafts around ignoring it all. She disappears, she delays, she tells people off, she takes a nap. Why? It’s never really clear what the bug up her ass is, but that kind of behavior is hard to make relatable, understandable, or excusable. Honestly. “We’re going to cut the cake soon.” “OK, I’m just going to go take a LENGTHY BATH.”  The thought process just doesn’t jive with reality.

The logistics seem weird too, although it’s a minor and moot point. But, for instance, they announce that they’re going to cut the cake at 11:30pm. Which she’s ultimately late for. Then, even later, they walk out to the golf course to launch paper lanterns and stuff. And then, later still, she tells off her boss while they eat soup, also out on the golf course. It’s got to be at least 3 in the morning at this point, if not later. What kind of wedding serves soup, on a golf course, at 3 in the morning? What kind of wedding attendees would put up with countless lengthy delays, and still be down for some pre-dawn lawn soup? Who, I ask?

I digress. That’s all the first half. Part 1. Part 2 follows her sister a few weeks later. Justine is depressed as shit and comes to her sister’s to wallow. Then the world ends. And it took a little while, but afterwards I realized that the first part didn’t seem to have much point at all. It didn’t really tell a story. It didn’t set any mood for the second half. And the second half is only marginally interesting and suffers from some other logical conundrums. Kiefer Sutherland’s ultimate decision at the end, for example. That doesn’t fit with anything else at all.

MELANCHOLIA does have some, OK, a lot of beautiful images. The prelude of the world ending is gorgeous and hynoptic and lyrical. The music, mostly the overture from Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde, is stirring and all that. The opening is a lot like the opening of Trier’s last film ANTICHRIST (which, to my surprise, I did enjoy) style-wise. Just no hardcore sex and child deaths.

Can’t say I really recommend it. People really seem to be digging it though, so maybe I missed something.

But can we please stop pretending Kirsten Dunst somehow deserves an Oscar nomination for this? Because, let’s be honest. She’s nothing spectacular here at all.

C-

The Adventures of Tintin

Being American I, of course, knew next to nothing about Tintin.  Other than it was hugely popular in Europe, but something no one cared about in America.  Like Asterix, or Nutella.  For starters, I thought the dog was named Tintin.  But I had probably confused that with the dog Rin Tin Tin (something I also know nothing about).  I also thought Tintin (the human, that is) was a kid who solved mysteries.  A teenager maybe, something like the Hardy Boys.  So I was also surprised to see he was an adult.  Guns, I was also surprised by the presence of guns.

Anyways, I was still vaguely excited about THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (or, as it’s known here in Germany, Tim und Struppi).  It looked fun.  And it is fun.  It’s so old-fashioned in its authenticity.  It sticks to its guns following a story of grand adventure and mystery and intrigue.  Sure, the mystery isn’t that interesting, but it’s not convoluted or stupid.  No hokey pablum or pandering here.  It certainly doesn’t feel like a Hollywood family adventure film.  It’s almost too mature for that.

There’s even plenty of real danger.  Gunshots and sword fights with people dying and everything.  Sure, the violence is clearly as sanitized as possible to ensure it stays family friendly.  But it is commendable to actually include such things again.  Surprising as Spielberg is the guy who famously replaced guns with walkie-talkies in E.T.

This is probably the first time motion capture animation has almost surpassed the dead-behind-the-eyes problem like so many of its predecessors.  And I’m glad I didn’t see it in 3D as there’s a lot of action going on, and a  lot of fast movement, which is the enemy of 3D in my opinion.  Spielberg also uses a few too many of the “things poking into the frame” thing that is always annoying.

The action is a lot of fun, with a few really great sequences.  Tintin trying to slip among a bunch of sleeping crew members to steal keys is especially amusing.  But the big set piece, a chase scene in a Moroccan seaside down, done in one continuous “shot,” is the real show stopper.  Really fun.

If anything it seems a bit weak though because Tintin just isn’t that interesting a character.  They try and frame Captain Haddock as the more interesting person while Tintin is just a resourceful guy who asks himself a lot of questions out loud (if it wasn’t for his dog, he’d look like a crazy person).  He just doesn’t have much personality at all.  But the quirky side characters may be the charm of the comics, I have no idea.

But I don’t expect Tintin mania to be sweeping America any time soon.  I think it’ll be a popular movie, and sequels will be welcomed, but it’s still just not that exciting a property.

B

Drive

Since I’ve been absorbing much of my movie news via the internet, being so far removed from the action and not really having people to talk with, DRIVE has been on the top of my lists of movies I’ve been dying to see this year.  A great preview, great reviews, and most of my friends raving over it via Facebook.  It’s gonna be great.

And, well, it is I guess.  But I wasn’t particularly floored by it.

When Albert Brooks’ character talks about the movies he used to produce he laughs and says something to the effect of “they say they felt European.”  Fitting, of course.  Director Nicolas Winding Refn know exactly what he’s doing, and how every single moment should be captured, and just how self-aware to make the film.  Because despite it’s American pedigree (Danish director aside), American cast (well, except Carey Mulligan), and patently American subject matter (we love cars!) it’s very European in style.  Slow, sparse, stylish, and….techno music.  It’s all present very European…-ey.  But it tweaks and plays with the style here and there.

Sometimes I found it took these notes a bit too extreme.  Ryan Gosling’s character is quiet, stoic, and contained.  But almost too much at times.  He’s almost robotic.  Of course, this is on purpose and is the point.  By putting up this wall between himself and others (and the audience) it makes us hang on every single thing he says and does.  And how he says it.  Carey Mulligan clearly disarms him, but he shows it as subtly as humanly possible.  Still, there are times where he’s frustratingly robotic and it stifles the mood.

The music will push the everything too far in the opposite direction.  The music is what most people seem to be talking about (but I think a lot of people will take the chance to “like” pre-approved obscure indie/hipster Euro techno), and one song in particular was just on the verge of cloying.  The song is “A Real Hero” by (person? group?) College and it works perfectly.  Too perfectly.  The words are so on the nose and obvious to the narrative that it’s simultaneously wonderful and distracting.  I’m still not sure how to really feel about it.

There’s little action in the film (but it’s nothing to sue over!), but it effective, gripping, and exciting stuff.  Not a car chase for the ages, but certainly a very good one.  The violence, which there’s also not a lot of, is especially graphic.  I would say out of place, but that would be a lie.  It’s also a tool Refn uses to play with the genre and expectations and whatnot.  We expect some action movie fightin’ and stuff, but we don’t expect it to be so rough.  It works here (unlike James Gunn’s SUPER, where it failed).

Albert Brooks is worth talking about too.  Apart from the music, Brooks is probably the second most talked about thing in DRIVE.  And with good reason, because his performance is chilling and crazy good.  I wish he would do more movies.  His own or in others.

Part of me is worried that my method of watching movies right now is starting to effect how I enjoy and process them.  I watch movies on my laptop in bed, which is not an ideal setup.  I could watch them on my computer monitor in the living room, but chair is too uncomfortable and I find the surroundings more distracting than the bedroom.  Regardless, I do wonder if I had seen this properly in a theatre, or even just on a TV while sitting on a couch, I would feel more enthused about DRIVE.

I also worry I’m using too many parentheticals (I realize there’s no plural of that word but…shit, I did it again).

B

Contagion

The opening scenes of CONTAGION are terrifying.  And, as much fun as it is to see Gwenyth Paltrow writhe on the floor in a seizure, you can’t fully fathom what Matt Damon’s character must be going through.  It’s flat-out disturbing and heart-wrenching.

Not to say the movie suffers from then on, but it certainly slows the tension.  The film never grows to a proper boil again, but stays properly warm throughout.  What’s most enjoyable about the film, for me at least, is it’s more of a scenario movie than anything else.  Though there are hints of the emotional pablum you might expect from a Hollywood blockbuster on the subject, it’s more about simply following a wide swath of characters and how they handle such a situation.  The horror comes from how feasible and realistic the situation is, and how even though we’re so organized at attacking the problem, we’re still so utterly screwed if and when it happens again.  More like when it happens again.

With so many characters strewn about (just check the cast list, there are an overwhelming number of fine actors here), things do get a bit tangled from time to time.  Not necessarily confusing, just tangled and tiresome.  Marillon Cotrillard’s character, for example, could be removed from the film entirely without detriment.  She disappears for most of it anyways.

EDIT – And, oddly enough, even with all these great actors they sort of phone it in.  They’re fine, but not at their best.  But, with the exception of Damon and Jude Law, they didn’t have a whole lot to work with.

I almost completely forgot Jude Law’s character.  Not because it was bad or anything, my memory just lapsed.  But I felt like that whole storyline, while very important for the film’s plot as a whole, was a nice but thinly-veiled attack on the Jenny McCarthy’s and Andrew Wakefield’s of the world.  When the character was facing the Attorney General I halfway expected him to just turn to the camera and shout “and vaccines DON’T cause autism!  Idiots!”  Though, I wouldn’t have minded if he had.

While watching the film I was completely and utterly wrapped up in it.  It was tense and fascinating and smart and thoughtful and just emotional enough.  But, the further I get from the film, the more dull it becomes.  It just doesn’t stick with you that much, and maybe that’s the unfortunate flip side of all the characters being so simple.  So I guess that makes it worth watching once, but I don’t think it’s a movie people will be remembering much down the road.

It did make me think this is exactly how the film version of WORLD WAR Z should play out.  A matter of fact, scenario type narrative with less emphasis on one grand story and instead visiting many.  Just like the book.  So I hope Brad Pitt and those involved take note and do it right.  Because that book was some scary shit.

B

The Trip

I’ve always admired and enjoyed Michael Winterbottom’s films.  I admire any director with such versatility, range, and prolific output.  Have you seen TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK & BULL STORY?  It’s great.  And the “versions” Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon played in that movie are actually continued here.

Granted, THE TRIP is not for everyone.  Hell, I’d venture to say it’s not for most people.  Because, even though I did enjoy it, it is boring.  It’s just Coogan and Brydon driving around the northern English countryside trying fancy restaurants, swapping celebrity impersonations, and bemoaning how much they miss their girlfriend/wife.  Nothing really happens, and a lot of it is repetitive.  But it is a fascinating character study, and a great performance from Coogan (as himself, no less).  I just can’t recommend it really as, unless you’re in the right kind of mood, it’s going to be insanely boring.  Chris didn’t even watch it with me and he detested it.

One reason it may have been so boring/repetitive is it was actually a 6 episode TV series edited into feature form for North American audiences.  That…actually explains a lot.

It’s on Netflix.

B-

Rubber

The past few movies I’ve watched/reviewed have all been pretty awful, leaving me feeling a bit curmudgeonly lately.  Am I just watching only bad movies, or just in a bad mood?

Eh, they were probably bad movies.

Anyhow, I watched RUBBER yesterday, and found it…interesting.

It’s about Robert, a little rubber tire with psycho-kinetic powers that goes on a killing spree.  It’s funny, it’s weird, it’s thought provoking, and it’s at least worth a quick watch.  Sure, it wears out its welcome at about the hour mark, but it picks up again before the ending.

Though it takes place in America, and is all in English, it’s actually a French film.  It plays with the genre, pokes fun at it and all its clichés, and still manages to be interesting enough to fill out the 85 minutes or so.

It’s definitely weird, an you’ll have to be a bit open minded.  But it’s nice to see something really unique for a change.

It’s on Netflix

B

Red State

If you needed further proof that Kevin Smith is, at heart, still an amateur filmmaker, look no further than RED STATE.

It’s juvenile, not in his usual sense with toilet humor, but in its execution.  Poorly written, poorly plotted, poorly shot, poorly edited, and so on.  With the exception of acting, there isn’t much up to snuff here.

Smith decided to make something decidedly different for a change, which is good.  For me his comedies are all hit and miss and tend to fall flat for anyone over the age of 17.  I sure thought MALLRATS was the shit for a while, but I rewatched it recently and, well, it’s not.  But still, he has his place, and people like him, so whatever.

I don’t know why he keeps selling RED STATE as a straight horror film, because it’s not.  In any way.  There’s a tense, horror-esque scene near the beginning, but after that it devolves into a straight forward action-type movie with a lot of gore (and gore does not equal horror).  And he really had no choice as, given the way the story is set up, there’s no room left for anything to be scary once the ATF standoff starts.

The usual Smith hallmarks/problems are all there.  The dialogue is 40% clumsy exposition, 50% preachy grandstanding, and 10% smart-ass filler.  There are a few scenes where the exposition is just painful to sit through.  The characters just vomit plot points without any subtlety, just because they need to be out there.  There’s always got to be a certain amount of that in any movie, but it’s usually hidden as skillfully as possible.  You fold it in with fleshing out your characters and setting.  You mask it.  Here, they just say it.

The characters are all flat and ankle deep.  One note.  See-through.  In a comedy, this is usually OK (to a point) as many will just be there for laughs.  Here, where it’s all dramatic, you end up with characters you just don’t care about and can’t pin down.  Couple that with the fact there are a lot of characters spread around, some introduced very late, occasionally dying here and there, that there’s little time and reason to care.

Michael Parks, who plays the Fred Phelps-like preacher and villain, does his best (and a good job) trying to create a creepy and frightening religious nutjob.  There’s a long scene, a very long scene, with him leading his church and preaching all creepily.  But that’s all we see, his character does nothing much later.  He’s given nothing to work with or do.  It’s disappointing, as at least a compelling villain could help carry the film, but instead it completely shifts focus to John Goodman.

And John Goodman, who is always great, does a commendable job here.  His problem, sadly, is movement.  As in he can’t convincingly move as the scene demands.  As the ATF commander in charge when a shootout starts, he can’t rush and hurry and be physically demanding.  He lumbers, he’s slow, he’s strained.  It could have been edited differently to hide that, but it wasn’t.  It’s not that important ultimately, but it was distracting.

And speaking of editing, Kevin Smith did a really terrible job here.  He usually edits his own movies, but he’s usually been editing comedy up until now.  And he just can’t do it.  Weird cuts, odd take choices, it’s all bad.

So, as per the usual, the film is weighed down by Smith.  The story and dialogue is too weighed down by it’s preachiness (about religion and government), the actors held down by thin characters, and the action held down by poor shooting and editing.  Not a moment of the final sequence is thrilling or tense or interesting.  And, ultimately, not a moment of the film as a whole is compelling.

D

The Three Musketeers

It seems a bit unusual for a movie like this to be released in Germany seven weeks before it comes out in America (where it opens October 21).  But then again, it shot in Bavaria and is chock a block with big European actors.  So there’s that.

Anyways, THE THREE MUSKETEERS is pretty awful all around.  It’s a very loose, almost steampunk adaptation of the story with a lot of visual flair, but is overwhelmingly hollow.

Paul W.S. Anderson is a terrible filmmaker.  Absolutely terrible.  He’s yet to make anything halfway decent.  So while I was intrigued by the trailers, seeing his name there led to some very low expectations going in.  And his usual problems are all there.  Wretched dialogue (and I mean wretched), flimsy story, odd performances, and action that while competent, is just so-so.

Each time these characters open their mouths things just get worse and worse.  There are some of the usual action movie eye-rolling one-liners, but in Anderson’s hands they’re just punishment instead of being par for the course.  I can’t imagine what he does with his actors, but they all deliver all their lines just…wrong.  Oddly said, poorly timed, and almost non-human.  Some of their dialogue wouldn’t be so bad if it had been delivered more naturally, or by actors with personality.

There are a lot of actors here who speak English as a second language.  That’s not an automatic problem of course.  Milla Jovovich and Christoph Waltz both do fine when speaking English.  But the rest.  Wow.  There’s a reason they haven’t broken through into English speaking movies.  Odd voices and no grasp of how to properly pace the words.  Til Schweiger especially (he’s sort of the German George Clooney, he’s huge here).

As I said before, the action is so-so.  It’s certainly not as awful as the rest of the film.  It’s not jarring or choppy or hard to follow (which is always a plus in 3D), like so many other films.  Chris thought, as far as swashbuckling goes, the action was pretty damned good.  I felt it’s certainly watchable, but lacks any real tension or oomph.  It has all the excitement of a theme park stunt show.  Everything looks carefully and painstakingly choreographed and executed.  Which of course it has to be, but usually you can stage it and edit it so that you’d never know.

The film is, however, gorgeous.  Really fantastic art and production design.  The locations, costumes, and props are all amazing to look at.  I still can’t tell if they actually shot at Versailles, or just had really great sets/matte work.  I know most of it was shot in Bavaria and Potsdam, but it sure looked authentic.  The special effects as a whole are pretty good, save for a couple of shots here and there that are pretty terrible.  There’s an explosion near the end that’s downright laughable.

But, man, is this movie just terrible.  And it never approaches the so bad it’s good neighborhood either, which is a shame as those are few and far between these days.

So when it does come out, just skip it.  Please.

D