Archive for the ‘Viggo Mortensen’ Category

MOVIE: The Road (2009)

June 22, 2010

Movie’s fine.  Viggo’s good.  Book was about a thousand times better.

Man, I’m bummed out.

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Genre:  Drama, Post-Apocalypse
Cast:  Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Garret Dillahunt, Michael K. Williams, Molly Parker

MOVIE: Doomsday (2009)

April 22, 2010

I saved this movie to my DVR about eighteen months ago, when we first got DirecTV and had three months of free HBO.  I kept meaning to watch it and never getting around to it, until last night when I decided enough was enough.  Turns out, never getting around to it was probably the way to go.

This movie, directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent and Dog Soldiers, the second another movie I keep meaning to watch and never getting around to; the first one I enjoyed overall but had some serious beefs with), is about a killer virus nicknamed  “Reaper” that, as the story opens, has infected most of Scotland.  There’s no cure, there’s no vaccine, there’s nothing that can be done except die.  And so, in an attempt to protect themselves and the rest of the world, England makes the decision to wall off the entirety of Scotland, using super-high steel-plated gates stretching the length of the land border between the two nations.  Anyone trying to cross the wall (or fly/boat out) is immediately killed, no questions asked.  Except for one — a little girl whose mother hands her off to some British soldiers about to leave Scotland for good (always one  ol’ softie on the chopper, huh?).  This little girl, it turns out, is about to become our movie’s heroine.

Cut to about thirty years later, and Scotland is a dead nation, still in isolation, while England, cut off from the rest of the world by disgust (their methods not having been globally approved of) has slipped into a recession so deep it’s led to massive ghettos, debilitating poverty, and urban over-population.  The little girl from the helicopter is now Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) of the Department of Domestic Security, a bad-ass with a computerized fake eye.  When an outbreak of the virus suddenly strikes London, the Prime Minister decides there are only two options:  wall off London and let everybody die, or send Sinclair and a team into Scotland to find survivors who might hold the key to a vaccine or cure.

They opt for the latter, naturally, and here’s where the movie goes from intriguing to (Mad Max + Riverworld) x (The Road – Viggo Mortensen).  The team crosses into Scotland and finds themselves immediately surrounded by a gang of survivors, dressed in rags, leather, and spikes with incongruously high-maintenance hair (Scotland suffered from dramatic shortages of food and cloth, apparently, but clearly no shortage of pomade and razors).  They end up killing most of Sinclair’s team, taking her hostage to find out what she’s up to and how she was planning to escape the wall back to civilization.

When Sinclair learns that one of Scotland’s most famous scientists is still alive on the inside — a man who had been working on a cure 30 years ago — she decides she has to find him.  He becomes the quest.  But before we get there, we must first sit through endless, repetitive scenes of shoot-outs and car chases with the mohawked rebels, lots of predictable political nonsense, and a whole mess of ridiculous dialogue.  Not to mention incessant doot-doot-bonk-bonk style synth music, which apparently Marshall thought would add dramatic suspense to (every single moment of!) his film.  But which instead primarily sounded like it had been scored by me at age 14 with my Casio.  That is no compliment, sir, even if I have been playing the piano since I was five.

Do the good guys win?  Oh, sort of.  I guess it depends on what you mean by “win.”  If you’ve read down this far, and you watch these sort of things, you already know how this one ends.  It ends with me rooting for the virus to win, and hoping there’s a sequel that features the H1N1 swine flu virus wiping the entire cast into oblivion.  Doomsday II:  Oi!NK. (Ha ha, get it?  Oi!, the British exclamation?  Shut up, that is HILARIOUS.)  Now THAT’D be a movie worth recording to the DVR.  Hop to it, SyFy Network.

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Genre:  Virus, Science Fiction
Cast: Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Caryn Peterson, David O’Hara

National Poetry Month 15/30: G.I. JANE in 5-7-5

April 15, 2010

Celebrate National Poetry Month with us!  Add your own haiku about G. I. Jane in the comments!

G.I. JANE

You heard me, it’s true —
I love this movie.  Shut up!
Viggo in short-shorts!

MOVIE: Halloween II (2009)

September 4, 2009

halloween2A couple of years ago, my mom and I were watching a bad disaster movie while my sister and her husband happened to be hanging out in the same room (I phrase it that way, instead of suggesting they were actually watching WITH us, for the sake of their own reputations, by the way).

All of a sudden, during a scene in which an airplane crashed into a snowy mountainside, my brother-in-law exclaimed, “Hey, they stole this footage right out of Stallone’s Cliffhanger!”  After an initial dropping of jaws (hey, Marni’s husband knows Cliffhanger so well he can identify a scene from it?  Dude, this guy can STAY), we decided he couldn’t possibly be right.  I mean, don’t be ridiculous – nobody would ever just STEAL footage right out of another movie, right?  And certainly, if you were going to steal footage, you wouldn’t steal it from Cliffhanger.

But as soon as the bad disaster movie was over, we decided to humor him.  We plunked in a rented copy of Cliffhanger, and guess what!  He was right!  The plane crash scene in the bad disaster movie had been lifted directly from Sly’s flick and spliced right in!  And the best part?  They hadn’t even bothered editing out the shots that included characters who weren’t actually IN the bad disaster movie!  It was hilarious and awesome, and also completely mind-boggling.

Why do I bring this up?  It’s because I was reminded of this experience Monday night while watching the new Halloween movie from Rob Zombie (read my review for his first one, 2007’s Halloween, here).  As I was settling into my seat with my bag of popcorn (dinner!), the trailers began to run, including the now-ubiquitous one for The Road. (Note: I’ve seen this trailer so many times in the last four weeks I’ve started to groan audibly every time it shows up.  And not just because it looks like an excruciatingly terrible bastardization of the book, either.  Oh wait, it is just because of that.  Never mind.)

At long last and half a bag of popcorn later (what? I was hungry!), enter Halloween II, which quite sassily opens with what looks like a direct remake of the original, complete with hospital setting and orderlies who delight in inappropriate sexual humor, which is how we know they’ll be the first to die.  Just as I started to get kind of annoyed – straight remake, Rob?  And not even a cameo from Lance Guest, in that case?  LAME, man.  Lame. – the movie suddenly switched gears.  Delight!  (Come to think of it, this might be one of the only times in my entire life I have been happy to see an “And then I woke up” scene in a movie.  Bravo.)

A few minutes later, we in the audience (and by “we” I mean “me,” because I was the only one there – score!) finally catch our first glimpse of the latest incarnation of Michael Myers, and this is where I suddenly had that thought about Cliffhanger.  Because, as it turns out, Halloween II stars Michael Myers as. . . wait for it!. . . Viggo Mortensen from The Road!!

Okay, okay, I’m not being LITERAL about that.  But by the time Zombie had plunked in the FOURTH clunky shot of a shadowy, grizzled, hoodie-wearing figure walking slowly through the early morning mist down an empty street or through a deserted field, I was laughing out loud, it was so similar to what you see in the trailer for The Road.  Dude, points OFF.

As for the rest of the movie, though, I am somewhat surprised to report that I thought it was pretty good.  I was pleased to no end that it wasn’t just a straight remake – straight remakes are boring, tedious, and almost always a complete waste of time – and I really enjoy the things Zombie has been doing with the character of Mike Myers in these last two installments in the series.  Zombie’s Myers actually seems more like a real person to me, which is something I find far, far scarier than the original Myers, who just seemed like an impossible, plodding, unstoppable creature of some sort.  Creatures don’t scare me, but violently crazy people do.  Zombie makes a real effort to make Myers seem human – sociopathic human, of course, but a person with a past and a complicated emotional history.  He seems plausible, in other words.  And plausible is the most terrifying thing of all.

Zombie also has a great eye for shots, in my opinion, as well as a terrific sense of humor, which he can apply with subtlety:  a rare gift.  Additionally, and maybe this sounds silly when it comes to a slasher movie, but I felt that in both these two Halloween movies, Zombie used an extremely sensitive hand at times when it comes to death.  Not often – there’s still a lot of skull-stomping (ugh) and brutality in general – but there was at least one scene in both films that made me feel truly SAD.  Poignantly sad.  And that too is a very rare gift, especially when it comes to horror directors.

This is not to say this is a great film, of course.  It has many, many flaws.  One of the biggest issues I have with Rob Zombie movies in general – and it’s just getting worse with time as he continues to insist on doing it – is that all the women in his movies, including the teenage girls, are totally trashy.  They dress trashy, they look trashy, they act trashy.  All of them.  Newsflash, Mr. Z.:  not all chicks are Sheri Moon Zombie.

And speaking of Sheri Moon, she was my other major problem with this movie.  Zombie cast her as Michael’s dead mother, and she appears in visions/hallucinations he has as a white-clad angelic-type figure there to offer support and advice – you know, sort of like Yoda and Obi-Wan in Return of the Jedi, except her advice is a little more Dark Side than The Force.

The whole “after-world” aspect of this movie was sort of ridiculous to begin with, but it MIGHT have worked — MIGHT — if Zombie hadn’t cast his wife in the role of Momsy.  Sheri Moon is a ridiculous figure – I loved her in The Devil’s Rejects, which is one of the most cleverly satirical and thoroughly disturbing horror films I have ever seen, but she’s absolutely miserable when it comes to playing a serious role.  No matter what she’s saying or how she’s trying to say it, she always, always looks like she’s on the verge of a maniacal cackle to me.  And that just made her “serious” scenes in Halloween II laughable, which was distracting because they definitely weren’t intended to be comic.

Piracy of footage from The Road trailer and miscasting of the director’s hot wife aside, though, this movie was surprisingly entertaining and well done.  Reasonable storyline, great acting from everybody except Moon (I’m a total sucker for Brad Dourif now that he’s old, by the way), and even a cameo from Weird Al Yankovic, which, what?, but never mind.  And even though the ending made me roll my eyes, it’s consistent with the originals, and workable for a round three.  Let’s just hope if there IS a round three, Zombie stays in charge, because I like the way he’s been handling these “reiminaginings” overall.

Though, dude, let your wife sit one out, would you?  Just ONE?   Hire her on as the grip or something, and you can still mack with her between shots, seriously.  We won’t mind.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre: Horror
Cast:   Sheri Moon Zombie, Scout Taylor-Compton, Danielle Harris (trivia from intrepid IMDb user and BotW reader Liz: Harris played creepy clown girl Jamie in the original Halloweens 4 and 5!), Brad Dourif, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane,  Margot Kidder, Weird Al (??)

BOOK: Resolution by Robert B. Parker

April 2, 2009

I’m not sure why I picked this book up, considering the fact I wasn’t that impressed with the first book in Parker’s Western series, Appaloosa, nor was I that impressed with the film version that came out last year (starring Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris).

The only way I can explain it is that I’ve been a fan of Robert B. Parker’s since I was a teenager, and, kind of like with the show ER, once I’ve invested over a decade in something — a TV show, an author, a convoluted procedure by which I consume a bag of M&Ms (don’t ask), it’s hard for me to let go.

In any case, as I’m sure you can tell, I wasn’t all that impressed by this second installment in the Hitch and Cole series either. In this one, Hitch has left partner Cole behind in Appaloosa, and been hired to “keep the peace” in the small town of Resolution. There’s a local guy who has been systematically taking control of everything in town, and the local farmers, keen to keep their land, eventually also enlist Hitch’s support in their cause. As those of us familiar with the character no doubt knew was coming, Cole shows up eventually, having finally come to his senses about flaky, flirty wife Allison. So, the team is back together again, uniting to save the town from the bad guy.

Here’s my problem — again, this is a storyline that I’ve encountered 86 gazillion times in the Western genre. I’m a big fan of that genre, so I know all these stories already, and Parker doesn’t seem capable of coming up with any new plotlines for this series. That would be fine, though, if the characters were unique and interesting. Here, they just aren’t. Watch Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, and then watch Ed Harris again in Appaloosa, and I think you’ll see what I mean. And in written form, Hitch and Cole are no more interesting. They’re just flat, with a few little personality affects that are supposed to authenticate them, but just aren’t quite “on” enough to seem anything but forced.

Anyway, I hate to say it, but dude, I sincerely hope Parker ditches this series soon and returns to the characters we already know and love – characters that have remained dynamic and authentic for years and years. I actually MISS Spenser when I’m in between novels. When I finished Appaloosa or Resolution, I honestly never gave Hitch and Cole another thought. Meh. Done.

[WESTERN]

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MOVIE: Appaloosa (2008)

February 9, 2009

appaloosa1I’m having a hard time with this one.  I actually saw it over a week ago and I STILL can’t decide if I liked it or not.  The film, based on a novel by Robert B. Parker, has all of the elements that I typically love about Westerns: intense male bonding, a smidge of romance, good guys versus bad guys, where the good guys aren’t really all that “good” but aren’t as “bad” as the bad guys so it’s close enough, etc. But at the same time, there’s almost too MUCH of the stuff I typically love about Westerns — which is the exact same problem I had with Parker’s novel, so I suppose this should have come as no surprise.

The story is about two old friends, Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his “strong and silent type” partner Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), who travel around working as lawmen for hire, helping towns that are having, shall we say, “security” problems.  Their latest gig is in the town of Appaloosa, where the mayor and others  have hired them to battle a bad guy named Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons), a rancher who has been trying to take over the town.  As Hitch and Cole settle in, they also become involved with another newcomer to Appaloosa, a young woman named Allison French (Renee Zellwigger), who Cole quickly falls madly in love with.  But Allison isn’t quite the “good girl” she makes herself out to be, leading to a series of complications that make Cole’s job in Appaloosa all the more challenging.

Here’s the thing, though.  As was the case with the novel, I never really felt like any of the characters in this film ever truly came alive.  Of the four stars, I would say Viggo came the closest, but that’s partly because his character’s job was mostly to look serious and occasionally throw out a sentence now and again.  Viggo’s good at that brooding, distant kinda thing.  Harris, on the other hand, was sadly forgettable as Virgil Cole, and that’s despite the fact he had the one role in the movie that involved a degree of wit.  Zellwegger I was more or less bored by, whatev’, and Jeremy Irons?  I don’t know why he was cast in his part to begin with.  He was completely wrong for it.

That said, the film did have its moments.  There’s a slowness about it — a loping easiness, I guess — that brings a nice rhythm to the story.  It’s a quiet movie about two extremely close friends doing their best to make the world a better place, and the relationship between Virgil and Hitch was one of the few that I felt actually had a little bit of chemistry to it.  There’s also a very intriguing lack of violence in this movie, which was a pretty interesting way to make a Western.  The one big shoot-out scene is over in seconds, and the characters even comment on it, Hitch saying, “That happened quick,” and Cole replying, “Everybody could shoot.”  I got a chuckle out of that, because I always find it kind of ridiculous how many times in movies and TV the shoot-em-up scenes last forever because nobody seems like they could hit the broad side of a barn with a tractor.

In any case, meh, I don’t know.  I thought Ed Harris might’ve been able to take the novel and transform it into something with a little more depth (he wrote the screenplay, in addition to starring in it), but I’m not convinced he did.  I mostly felt kind of underwhelmed the whole time I was watching this movie, and it hasn’t really lingered with me at all.  It’s not a BAD movie.  It’s just not that interesting or unique either.  I’ll try it again sometime soon and see if it goes down better the second time around (when expectations are lower, see?).

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Western
Cast:  Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellwegger, Jeremy Irons, James Gammon, Timothy V. Murphy

MOVIE: Eastern Promises (2007)

January 9, 2008

I’m pretty sure that not being blown away by this movie means I’m a moron.  But then, I said the same thing when I wasn’t blown away by Syriana, and then I realized that MOST people didn’t really “get” Syriana, and only said they did out of fear they’d be considered stupid if they say they didn’t.  So, maybe the same goes for this one.  Everybody’s too afraid to say Cronenberg ISN’T that much of a genius?  Or I’m a moron?  I’m sure you’ll let me know your opinion in comments.  Go ahead, I can take it.

This movie isn’t obfuscating the way Syriana was — it’s just not that interesting (in my opinion, anyway).  And maybe that had more to do with my mood while watching it (impatient and sort of distracted) than with the film itself.  Who knows.  Maybe if I see it again later, I’ll love it as much as the critics seemed to. 

Except that, now that I think about it, I wasn’t really blown away by A History of Violence either, the last teaming of David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen, and likewise a movie everybody raved about at the time.  I can’t remember why I didn’t like History that much — I’ve conveniently blocked most of it out now.  But I can tell you why I didn’t like this one:  Not only was it not that engaging or original a story, but I found the end cheesier than a Dominos deep dish.  And damn, them pizzas haz got CHEEZ.

The film opens with a midwife, Anna (Watts), called in to assist with a young woman’s birth.  The woman dies during delivery, leaving behind an infant daughter and a diary written in Russian.  Since Anna is part Russian herself, she takes the diary home and gives it to her uncle to translate.  He gets a few pages in and realizes the girl was a prostitute mixed up with the Russian mafia.  He urges Anna to let it go, but she can’t resist getting involved — at first innocently wanting to find out who the girl is so she can give her family the baby girl, and later because she’s just one of those people who can’t resist righting a wrong. 

When Anna’s uncle refuses to translate the diary any further for her, Anna takes it to a Russian restaurant (the card for which she had found tucked inside the diary).  The owner of the restaurant, Semyon (Mueller-Stahl), agrees to help, but we soon realize this is because he was directly involved in what happened to the girl, and wants to destroy the diary before it can implicate his family in a variety of crimes.  Semyon’s son Kirill (Cassel) is about as evil as they come — we think at first, anyway — and he begins harassing Anna.  But Kirill’s friend Nikolai (Mortensen), who also serves as Semyon’s driver, is a quiet, intelligent man who takes an immediate interest in Anna and ends up helping her in a variety of incredibly sweet ways. 

Ptew.

The ending of this movie reveals both Kirill and Nikolai to be someone other than we initially thought they were (I won’t tell you just how), but even though the characters and their revealed personality or identity twists were interesting, the story itself was just WAY too predictable for me.  And the final moments of this film kind of made me want to hurl.  Ironic, since I also get really annoyed when movies DON’T have happy endings — apparently, I cannot be pleased.  Yet, at the same time, seriously — the whole scene at the docks with the baby, was just. . . ugh.  The dialogue in that scene — ugh.  The acting in that scene — ugh (though, I’d argue that Naomi Watts’s acting is ALWAYS ugh, incidentally).  The outcome of that scene — ugh. 

I recognize that this is a well-made film, and I also got a kick out of Mortensen’s nekked fight scene — not just because he looks pretty good with no pants on (rare, in my experience), but also because that scene was quite brilliantly choreographed, in my opinion.  But the plot and characters just didn’t really do it for me.  The story felt to me more like a rerun of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit than a unique, intriguing film. 

Call me a moron.  Call me a girl of bad taste.  Heck, call me Ishmael.   It won’t change the fact I was thoroughly underwhelmed by this film.  And also, for the record, with Syriana, which has absolutely nothing to do with Eastern Promises, so I have no idea why I keep bringing it up.  I’ll shut up now.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Drama, Mob
Cast:  Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Sinead Cusack, Armin Mueller-Stahl