A Tale of Two Hacks Continued – 3 Days to Kill

Not only did I sit through Pompeii but I also watched 3 Days to Kill

3 Days to Kill

 

3 Days to Kill (2014) – Rated PG-13

A dying CIA agent trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment.

One Line Review: 3 Days to Kill is half a week too much.

Yesterday I picked on Paul W.S. Anderson. Today is McG’s turn. McG, with his pretentious moniker, fit right in with the world of music videos. He then made the reboot of Charlie’s Angels, which was way better than it had any right to be. Fetishistic in a good way, it featured Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu as the adorable, butt-kicking leads. Scenes were constantly stolen from them due to a wonderfully extensive cast of villains and sidekicks (Bill Murray, Sam Rockwell, Tim Curry, Kelly Lynch, Crispin Glover, Matt LeBlanc, and Luke Wilson). Heck even LL Cool J and Tom Green were good in their roles.

Unfortunately McG followed this up with the rather dismal Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle, the heavy-handed We Are Marshall, the humorless Terminator Salvation, and the tone-deaf This Means War. I have to think that Charlie’s Angels was a fluke, particularly after 3 Days to Kill.

3 Days to Kill smacks of formula. After watching Liam Neeson kick butt each February for the last few years, we are now trying Kevin Costner as our aging action star. This is not a bad idea but this vehicle certainly is.

3 Days to Kill is churned off the Luc Besson printing press of action movies. Luc Besson wrote and directed some brilliant action movies such as La Femme Nikita, Leon (The Professional), The Transporter, and District B13. Unfortunately he now just mixes and matches action scenes with gaping plotholes and cringeworthy plot devices to produce the next franchise.

La Femme Nikita became Point of No Return became La Femme Nikita (tv series) became Nikita (tv series). Recycled bits ended up in Columbiana. Taken 3 has been announced in spite of Taken 2 being fairly awful. The Transporter 4, 5, and 6 have been announced in addition to a failed TV series based on the property.

3 Days to Kill features that hoary old secret agent/hitman on a final mission. Our agent, Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner), finds out that he has a fatal condition in his brain that has spread to his lungs and that he has mere months to live. This results in Costner giving us cute little coughs throughout the movie – never an actual coughing fit mind you, nor does he resort to the old chestnut of spitting up blood.

There is a hilarious scene early on where McG forgets that Ethan is terminally ill and has him ride all around Paris on a bicycle. Ethan isn’t even winded but god forbid he should take two quick steps toward an enemy and he collapses.

Ethan is given the opportunity of an experimental drug to treat this condition if he finishes his mission. The experimental drug is delivered in a comic, over-sized hypodermic in a large box. When his heart races, the drug causes him to hallucinate (what they actually mean is get woozy but what they say is hallucinate). To counteract this, he occasionally has to drink vodka. Yes, specifically vodka – no, I am not making this up.

The screenplay thinks it has various interesting things to say about family. This might work if the script weren’t so idiotic. Ethan is either completely ruthless or the softest touch in history swinging from moment to moment on the script. He abducts villains to his house, tortures them lightly, and then releases them from his house yet no one has a clue where he lives.

This stupidity just goes on and on throughout the script. Everything is stretched way too thinly to do any individual subplot any justice. We have Ethan’s wife who teaches him about family as does his daughter as do the squatters in his apartment as do not just one but two different villains. None of this heartfelt, all of it feels cliched except the squatters which feels like Besson read a French news story about them and adapted it.

Costner deserves a better vehicle. You deserve a better film.

Hatfields Ring Bag of McCoys Fire Bones

When I was a kid, I loved miniseries. Of course when I was a kid there was no HBO, no VCRs, and you could play any TV series out of order as, other than soap operas, there was no sequential storytelling. How fares the TV miniseries now? Apart from the BBC and Ken Burns (both of whom do miniseries exceedingly well), we have:

Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire (2012) – Not Rated

Stemming from a small town, a volcanic eruption triggered by an oil rig ignites a domino effect of eruptions that extends across the world, dooming all of humanity if the devastating string of explosions can’t be stopped.

Ring of Fire isn’t awful. That’s about all I can say for it. They wisely hide their budgetary limitations but shying away from CGI as much as possible. Characters often talk of events that would be shown in a big budget blockbuster. Acting is better than an Asylum movie but not by much.

If they jettisoned a few unnecessary subplots, Ring of Fire would have easily fit in a single movie slot. Also, a note to filmmakers, you don’t have to make your catastrophe global if ALL of the action is local, it comes off very silly. Shaky cam is DEAD, please let it stay that way.

Hatfields & McCoys

Hatfields & McCoys (2012) – TV-14

Close friends Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy return to their neighboring homes after the Civil War — Hatfield in West Virginia, McCoy across the river in Kentucky — to building tensions and resentments that soon explode into warfare.”

Hatfields & McCoys is a very good miniseries covering the highlights of the infamous feud. The Hatfields come off as the clear aggressors in the early stages but later the McCoys are unable to put the feud behind them, mostly because they don’t feel as though they’ve gotten even.

The general storyline is fairly factual though the miniseries does up the actual body count during several of the more celebrated incidents. Hatfields & McCoys does succeed at evoking rural life in the late nineteenth century, interfamily relations, and ultimately the pointlessness of the feud.

Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones (2011) – TV-14

Reeling from the sudden death of his wife, author Mike Noonan moves into his backwoods writing retreat, only to be swept up in a supernatural conspiracy that involves a custody battle over a young girl and a vengeful ghost that haunts his house.”

Although the miniseries is often the ideal format for Stephen King adaptations (It, The Stand), Bag of Bones does not work very well. It is not a bad miniseries and Pierce Brosnan is always welcome but there is not much here to recommend. Bag of Bones merely hits the highlights of the novel and we never get invested in the characters. It either needed to be three parts or have portions of the story trimmed and altered to make it more cohesive and coherent.

Man of Steel = Bizarro Superman

Some July 4th thoughts on Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Pardon my beating the dead horse – I hope this will be my last post on this topic. Previously I covered why I felt that Man of Steel wasn’t a good movie. Now I’d like to cover why this isn’t even a Superman story. Almost all of the characters come from a bizarro Superman world where they say and do things antithetical to their nature.

Bizarro Superman
* Watch Jor-El ride an insect dinosaur!

* Gasp at Lara’s hesitation over whether to save their infant son!

* Listen to Jonathan Kent argue the merits of letting children die!

* See Martha Kent risk her husband’s life because they left the family dog in the car!

* Witness Superboy irradiate his teacher and classmates giving them cancer!

* Feel Superman’s rage outweigh his common sense!

* Wonder as you find out that the ‘S’ does not stand for Superman!

* Marvel as Jor-El and Superman argue FOR genocide!

* Yawn as Perry White speaks against journalistic integrity!

* Cha-ching! at all the in-your-face product placement, from Nikon to Nokia, IHOP to Sears!

* Gape as Superman deliberately endangers the lives of everyone in Smallville – repeatedly!

I would also like to make the argument that Zod is actually the tragic hero of the story, desperately trying to save his people. First he fights against the corrupt and decadent government, just as Jor-El does, then Zod tries to uphold the law and prevent Jor-El from stealing Krypton’s heritage. He tries to help Kryptonian outposts after the destruction of Krypton. Unlike Jor-El, he respects his foe and has regrets. Everything he does is to try and save his people.

There are plenty more reasons for my above arguments but I don’t post spoilers. Man of Steel is not egregiously bad and the fight scenes are fun. I just had to vent some more.

Man of Asbestos

Man of Steel

Man of Steel (2013): I had very high hopes for this. I love director Zak Snyder’s update of Dawn of the Dead (2004) and his comic book movies, 300 (2006) and Watchmen (2009). These fooled me into thinking he was a great director. He then made the vanity project, Sucker Punch (2011), which was truly awful, despite having some nice visuals.

Christopher Nolan co-produced and co-wrote the story. David S. Goyer co-wrote the story and penned the screenplay. He worked on all three of Nolan’s Batman pictures. This was a really good sign as all of those were tightly, smartly written. The only concern would be that Batman’s darkness would carry over to Superman. Unfortunately it did in a number of areas and the titular Man of Steel does not feel like Superman.

The good: Some of the fight scenes are intense and quite well done. There are a handful of cute moments (when Lois first decides what to call him, a scene involving a copier, Lois finding out what anonymous means).

The bad: Everything else. Seriously. Henry Cavill is not bad as Superman but he is certainly no Christopher Reeve and he has absolutely zero chemistry with Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Russell Crowe underplays well in what should be a cameo as Jor-El but is in way too much of the film and many of his later scenes undercut any tension. The writing of Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent is pretty much the exact opposite of the way Jonathan has always been played and his final scene is absolutely ludicrous. The most egregious offender is easily Michael Shannon as Zod. Every scene has him playing his character on ’11’ – moderation and nuance are not in this actor’s repertoire.

Snyder uses flashbacks willy-nilly and to terrible effect. Ditto with his soft-focus on the camera. Ditto ditto with his jump cuts. The special effects are serviceable but many of them look cheap. Hilariously, the flying in Superman from thirty-five years ago looks better than the flying in Man of Steel (except the sonic booms).

The dialogue is pretty bad. The re-imagining of Krypton started off interesting but quickly became ridiculous and went on for far too long. Man of Steel could have used about thirty minutes cut from the running time. Man of Steel also appears to have used last year’s blockbuster, The Avengers, as a template, particularly the last half hour.

Finally, as with Iron Man 3, the ultimate resolution could have been used much earlier, saving countless lives. At least Man of Steel has less unnecessarily slow dipping mechanisms to employ than Iron Man 3. Also less fun.

Wife POV: “Superman: now with less chemistry, less logic, and more flying insect dragons than ever before. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You’re welcome.”

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Hot off his successful turn as director and actor on Dances with Wolves (the first western my wife ever liked), Kevin Costner assayed the title role in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves while leaving the directing chores to Kevin Reynolds. The title itself seems a dumbing down of the legend – an implication that one wouldn’t know who Robin Hood was without appending ‘Prince of Thieves’ to his name. It is yet another Robin Hood film available on instant play and in its own way is funnier than Robin Hood Men in Tights.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

AVOID: Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (1991) – Rated PG-13

“Kevin Costner stars as Sherwood Forest’s outlaw hero in this 1991 version of the classic tale of intrigue, romance and pageantry. When the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) murders Robin’s father, the legendary archer vows vengeance. To accomplish his mission, Robin joins forces with a band of exiled villagers (and comely Maid Marian), and together they battle to end the evil sheriff’s reign of terror.”

I hardly know where to begin. This movie is staggeringly awful. I thought it was bad in 1991 but I decided for our third entry of swashbuckler week to give it another try. Robin is played as a complete idiot – how he survived to adulthood is beyond me – even Azeem (Morgan Freeman) comments on it.  At one point they mention that Robin has stolen 3-4 million over the past 5 months. King Richard’s ransom was only 150,000 marks just as a point of reference. Shortly after that they ooh and aah over a tiny chest of money they recover – which would barely even be noticeable at the rate they are supposedly stealing money. Friar Tuck has no problems murdering – no self-defense here – a member of the clergy. A scribe uses modern contractions on paper and the bishop uses the word husband in the marriage ceremony. I could spend an entire day cataloging the anachronisms and then another day cataloging all the continuity errors (Kevin’s hair is wet! it’s dry! it’s wet! it’s dry! plus checkout his Speedo tan line in the nude scene.). There is even a late for the 80s training montage thrown in the mix!

They give Sir Guy of Gisbourne bad teeth to show that he’s evil as Robin who has clearly been in prison quite a while in the holy land has good teeth. In a move straight out of a Bond film, The Sheriff of Nottingham is so evil that he kills his own men. The Sheriff claims to belong to the old religion – a reference to paganism and/or Celtic beliefs and yet he is shown with a witch in front of an inverted cross. He also appears to only have about 6 henchmen until he takes Robin’s camp completely by surprise with dozens of his own men plus hired Celts (hundreds of years anachronistic but hey why stop now) and catapults. How you surprise a camp hidden in the middle of a forest with catapults is only one of the many mysteries in this film. They don’t even bother with Prince John as the Sheriff himself plans to be king. Heck they even reveal later that he isn’t even the Sheriff. He is most put out when Robin interrupts him trying to rape Marian while being married on the church floor. No seriously!

It is also hard to find a movie that reeks more of political correctness than this one. Presumably to balance out people who might be aware of the Christian atrocities during the Crusades, Robin is given a Moor companion, Azeem (Morgan Freeman). In jail all the Christians are bound with chains bolted to the wall but the Moor who is under a sentence of death is merely tied with a bit of rawhide. Azeem spends the entire film spouting platitudes and even, in one howlingly funny scene, performs a C-Section. According to Wikipedia. the first successful C-section in which the mother survived occurred during the 1500s. Azeem also sports a telescope! And makes incredible explosives! And spouts off about FREEDOM! in fluent English! The truth is that Robin is just a hindrance and Azeem could probably have taken Nottingham single-handedly. Maid Marian fights Robin while dressed as a man in her first scene and is shown to be a capable fighter in another later scene. They also take great pains to point out that Robin is rich and privileged.

And then there is the ‘acting’. Kevin Costner mugs his way through the whole film. Morgan Freeman tries to keep a straight face while speaking wisely. Christian Slater shouts and snarls every line that he is given. The only ray of light is Alan Rickman who seems to realize just how awful this movie is and is determined to outdo it with his performance.

People Watch: Sean Connery has an unbilled cameo as King Richard and Brian Blessed has a brief role as Lord Locksley (who must have dropped Robin on his head repeatedly as a young child)