Month: April 2013

Thank You for Smoking (2005)

Thank You for Smoking, a sharp look at tobacco industry and lobbyists, is the kind of movie that works better in pieces than altogether. Singular scenes sometimes have more power than the film as a whole, and that’s the case here. It lacks much of an emotional scope, the overarching plot isn’t particularly interesting or involved, and most of the secondary characters only get a few scenes with which to make their mark — they’re take-it-or-leave-it characters with only one purpose in mind: Be broad caricatures that we can laugh at, simply because of how absurd they are. The lead is given to Aaron Eckhart, playing the charismatic Nick Naylor. He’s a lobbyist for Big Tobacco, working to gain the public’s favor and against any potential legislation that could impact the sales of cigarettes. He’s the best in the world at what he does, and avoids bringing in any morals to his work. He does it to pay the mortgage, and that’s it. We basically get to watch him work and live his life for a few days over the course of the movie. Along the way, he meets a fun and quirky cast of characters: his boss, BR (J.K. Simmons), the type of hard-nosed, profit-driven person you can expect from a big company; a Senator from Vermont (William H. Macy) who wants to put a picture of a...

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Rambo (2008)

Rambo is one of the most violent films I have ever seen. Its climax, which involves at least 100 deaths, is frightening. Some of the scenes earlier on made me turn my head, which is something that I don’t often do with movies. If nothing else, Sylvester Stallone has made his point: the problems in Burma are awful. The film portrays an ongoing war — some call it a genocide, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree — between the military and the rebels, and drops Rambo and a group of mercenaries and missionaries in the middle of it. That’s way oversimplifying things, but that’s the gist of it. John Rambo (Stallone) has been living peacefully in Thailand, presumably since the finale to Rambo III two decades ago, although he appears much the same as he did then. He’s approached by missionaries who want him to take them to Berma using his boat. The two main ones of the group are Michael (Paul Shultze) and Sarah (Julie Benz). Rambo goes along with it because of Sarah, although his reason for doing so isn’t really made clear. They wind up getting captured, so missionaries also approach Rambo and ask for a ride. He winds up tagging along, and before you know it, we’ve got an incredibly bloody battlefield. It takes about one-third of the movie for the missionaries to show up, by...

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Rambo III (1988)

Rambo: First Blood Part II marks one of the biggest missed opportunities that I can think of when it comes to the movies. It manages to still make for a mostly enjoyable experience, though. Rambo III comes along and makes even more mistakes than the second installment in the series. It, however, has a greater difficulty overcoming them. Don’t get me wrong, about half of Rambo III is a lot of fun, but you have to trudge through so much junk to get to the fun part that by the time you’re there, you feel defeated. John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), hero of the first two films in the series, is finally content with his life. He’s living in Thailand, and has finally made peace with all of his demons, and plans on just living out the rest of his days. Granted, he’s not really just sitting back as a retired man; he’s working and engaging in stick fighting, and all sorts of things. Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), the only other actor to appear in all three Rambo films, approaches him with a job. Rambo refuses, Trautman goes ahead with it anyway and gets captured, so Rambo’s new goal is to rescue him. The film takes place during a war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. The villains are the Soviets, and the rebels of Afghanistan aid Rambo in his...

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Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

I can see what the filmmakers were going for with Rambo: First Blood Part II. The first film introduced us to the character of John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), a Vietnam War veteran and someone who was most definitely suffering the effects of participating in that war. In this film, he’s made to return to Vietnam, the place that scarred him so effectively and viciously. First Blood worked so well as both an action film and a psychological thriller, so ramping up the second aspect by having him confront the place on Earth that scarred him makes sense. That’s not actually the movie we get, but at least the potential was there for it to happen. I’m not sure why that isn’t the route that the filmmakers took with this installment, but they didn’t. There’s no psychological aspect to First Blood Part II. None. We don’t know what Rambo is thinking at any given moment, and we don’t really care. He’s in the jungle, there are people to kill and other people to rescue, and nothing else matters. There’s a large part of me that’s really disappointed by this, but another part — a far more juvenile one — that thinks making a terribly uncharismatic action hero just kill the bad guys and nothing else isn’t a bad plan. So, yes, Rambo goes to Vietnam, explicitly told by the task...

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Pain & Gain (2013)

Director Michael Bay is known for cheesy and stupid entertainment. His films include such memorable movies like “Armageddon”, “Pearl Harbor”, and more recently, the “Transformers” films. But now, Mr. Bay is doing something a bit different: a crime movie. This time in the form of the flick “Pain & Gain”. How does it stack up against his big blockbuster films? Not by much. The film is one big cliché after another, the camera doesn’t have a sense of direction, but it is entertaining to see the actors on screen. “Pain & Gain” is stupid and typical of Michael Bay movies, but at least it’s entertaining. The story has three body builders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie) kidnap a snobby businessman and extort everything he has so that the body builders become rich. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan, and the body builders eventually become criminals. And all they wanted to do was live the American Dream. “Pain & Gain” is a movie filled with numerous cliches along the way. The story, while based on a true event, is exaggerated tenfold. The dialogue in this film is so corny, that you will laugh at what is being said. The characters are unlikable, except for one, which I will get to later, and everyone just doesn’t stand out. The editing is quick, as in any film of Michael...

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