Watched with girlfriend Archive

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Movie Review: Sunshine Cleaning

Summary Judgement:  The movie is touted as  “…a quirky and well-acted dramadie…”.  For my time, it is none of those things.

Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin

Directed by: Christine Jeffs

Written by: Megan Holley

Sunshine Cleaning stands as an example of a story where an absence of awful material fails to propel the story into the realm of being good.  Its branding as a “dramadie” speaks more to the movie’s inadequacies as either a comedy or a drama rather than some fantastic fusion of the genres.  Truly, it took seventy-five minutes before Sunshine Cleaning managed to get a single laugh out of me.  At the same time, the dramatic elements came with all the depth and predictability of Happy Gilmore.

Amy Adams plays Rose, a single mom and maid with a heart of gold (my kingdom for a movie where the maid is a Machiavellian plotter).  Rose is sleeping with Mac (Steve Zahn) a married police detective and her former high school sweetheart.  Mac tips Rose off to the fact that she could raise the money she needs to send her seven-year-old son, Oscar (Jason Spevack), to private school by cleaning up crime scenes.  To help with the would-be business, Rose enlists her feckless and jobless sister Norah (Emily Blunt).  If only to answer “Who’s looking after Oscar?” Alan Arkin reprises his Little Miss Sunshine role as the outspoken grandfather, sans that character’s charming affinity for porno.  And that is the movie; Rose and Norah clean crime scenes while Grandpa babysits.

The whole production comes off as a bunch of separate plot threads that never really come together to form something meaningful.  While Rose tries to balance being a mistress, entrepreneur and mother, Norah “bonds” with the dead people, so much so that it creates a wholly wasted sub-plot.  Like so many other things in this movie, a potentially interesting relationship between Norah and the daughter of their first client, both of whom rank fairly high on the damaged people meter, is cast aside for no apparent reason.  Even Rose’s tawdry relationship with Mac seems to embody the spirit of this film as their trysts feel awkward and clumsy.

Part of the problem with this movie might have to do with the fact that Norah and Rose have all the nuance and complexity of teenagers on a mediocre sitcom.  Even though the characters talk endlessly about dealing with the dead, the emotional realities of cleaning up after murders and suicides never quite seem to hit home.  Wiping up blood and guts comes off as “icky” rather than macabre.  I think we’re supposed to find the comedy in those parts of the movie.  When the story manically tacks to the dramatic, the emotional infusion comes with all the subtlety of a poorly executed colonic.  Combine this with the duo’s sophomoric fixations and foibles and the plot of Sunshine Cleaning could easily be transplanted into a latter season episode of Full House. Even a veteran actor like Alan Arkin can’t escape the black hole of wasted potential that is Sunshine Cleaning.  Arkin’s character, having lost his wife to suicide and raised the girls on his own, should be a broken and world-weary allusion to Willy Loman.  Instead, he and his get rich quick schemes come off with all the elan of Klinger trying to get a section eight.

After spending ninety minutes almost absent tension or laughter, Sunshine Cleaning left me feeling nothing more than an hour and a half older.  The movie isn’t bad, so much as it is safe.  On occasion, Sunshine Cleaning tentatively creeps toward being outside of the box, only to beat a hasty retreat back into the box.  Hell, this movie takes the box and turns it upside down before crawling under it and proclaiming to all who pass by that the box is now a spaceship.  Much like watching an eight-year-old indulging their imagination, Sunshine Cleaning’s charm lasts for about five minutes before becoming an exercise in boredom.

Overall Score: 0


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Movie Review: Tron Legacy

Summary Judgement:  Twenty years ago I would have loved this movie.  Eight months shy of thirty, I find Tron: Legacy to be an acceptable action picture, but not much else.

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Sheen and Olivia Wilde

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

Perhaps marking three score of undergraduate exams in the last three days has liquefied my brain to stale tapioca, but I didn’t hate Tron: Legacy.  That isn’t to say that it is a good movie, per se.  Were I god-emperor of entertainment, I would change a great many things about Tron.  First, I would balance out the Bridges to Boxleitner ratio a little more evenly.  Then, I would teach the writing team that it is okay to let the images tell the story, rather than making the dialogue chock-a-block full of exposition.  Despite these and other flaws, I still found Tron: Legacy a passable action movie/sequel.  I mean, it’s not like we’re dealing with The Phantom Menace or Robocop 3. The simple fact is that Tron: Legacy is too average to do anything to my childhood memories of light cycles and the ring game.

*Minor Spoilers Ahead*

Tron: Legacy is a story about a world built inside of a computer.  Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) creates this world after he’s digitized into his former employer’s mainframe during the original Tron movie.  This virtual world, known as The Grid, was to be a place of perfection and equity between people and their programs.  To help build this world, Flynn created a program in his own image called CLU (CGI Jeff Bridges).  CLU, however, interprets his directive to create the perfect system a little too literally and starts purging all imperfections.  These imperfections include a group of programs who spontaneously appear on The Grid and, for some reason that I didn’t quite understand, hold the key to humanity’s future.  Skip ahead in the story and Flynn’s spoiled brat of a trust fund offspring Sam (Garrett Hedlund) gets digitized into The Grid when CLU, who has turned himself into the Mr. Burns of cyberspace, sent a pager message to Kevin Flynn’s trusted friend and colleague Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner).  While this works without painfully taxing the part of my neo-cortex that manages suspended disbelief, it could have worked better if there was even an ounce of nuance in the storytelling.

I suppose there’s nothing wrong with  CLU being so megalomaniacal that you might mistake him for a 1930s European dictator, especially when other characters start talking about his purges and his “Black Guard”.  It even fits with established canon because it’s not like the MCP from the original movie was up there with Shakespeare’s Iago in the playbook of complex antagonists.  Similarly, I can’t find fault with programs dropping to their knees when they see Kevin “The Creator” Flynn lay some hurt upon CLU’s security goons.  I mean he made The Grid and probably everything in it, so that likely makes him  akin to The Dude God.  Then there are all the references to Steve Jobs in the form of Kevin Flynn’s trade shows or the exorbitant pricing of Encom’s OS 12 when the only innovation is putting the number 12 on the box.  My issue is that where the original Tron nudged me in the elbow and asked, “hey, did you get that reference to technology or religion that we just made?”  Legacy has sexy ladies in glowing spandex slap me in the face with a hot skillet before asking me if I want some more.

Granted an action movie can sometimes get away with such heavy handedness, an unfortunate side effect of Tron’s aversion to subtlety is that most of the characters come off as horribly one-dimensional archetypes.  Kevin Flynn is The Dude the wise master Jedi.  Sam Flynn is the spoiled rich kid with a heart of gold.  Quorra (Olivia Wilde) while not a bimbo, is indeed a token female character who will likely end up having sex with Sam.   CLU is Hans Gruber.  Jarvis (James Frain) is CLU’s Wayland Smithers.  Occasionally the movie attempts to add some depth to the characters.  One such example sees Sam and Quorra leafing through Kevin Flynn’s library and name-dropping nineteenth century writers like insecure English lit students.  But rather than offer character depth, this struck me as an attempt to show the audience that one of the writers watches Frasier on a regular basis.  Despite all this, I still didn’t hate the movie.

So what the hell is wrong with me?  Am I blinded by nostalgia?  Normally, cookie cutter characters and a predilection to exposition would motivate me to cut a movie up like a civil war barber-surgeon in the aftermath of Gettysburg.   Strangely enough, I think the movie’s biggest flaws are working together in a very weird way to keep the movie above water; the movie follows the action film formula (exposition, introduction, petit conflict, relaxation, escalation, deus ex machina, resolution) so perfectly and uses well-established action hero archetypes so effectively that it becomes a triumph of mediocrity.  Tron: Legacy is a safe movie for Disney precisely because it is so firmly entrenched inside the box.  Even the shiny visuals don’t really do anything new thanks to James Cameron and his movie that shall not be named.  The only genuinely good thing about this movie is Daft Punk’s soundtrack – which I listened to while I wrote this review.  Actually, there are two good things, Daft Punk and Toby Turner’s literal trailer.

While the first Tron was hardly Citizen Kane, at least it offered the audience something new.  Tron: Legacy offers the audience something utterly familiar, but perfectly adheres to the conventions of popular narrative.  In short, I don’t hate the movie because the story, uninspired as it may be, was well told for the masses.  Tron: Legacy connects to that part of my brain that seeks entertainment without critical thought.  Granted, that didn’t stop me from filling my yellow legal pad with the movie’s plot holes as I knocked back a few post-movie pints.  Still, credit where credit is due for getting one past my ninja-like impulse to eviscerate bad movies.

Tron: Legacy might have avoided my hatred, but that does not stop me from branding it as a mostly thoughtless action movie that lacks any of the charm, subtlety or novelty of the first film.  If you love the original, you can watch this sequel without fearing for your precious childhood memories.  End of line.

Overall Score: 0

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Television Review: The Walking Dead

Summary Judgement:  Despite a familiar backdrop, The Walking Dead has the potential to do for horror what the Battlestar Galactica remake did for science fiction.

Produced by: AMC

Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal and Sarah Wayne Callies

The way I see it, there are two types of zombie fans in the world: The type who dress up as the undead to go on zombie walks and those who dress up like their favorite zombie killer to go mess with people on the zombie walk.  The Walking Dead will likely appeal to both groups of zombie aficionados.  More importantly, the show has something to offer those who never considered the zombie genre as anything other than an excuse for over the top gratuitous violence.

Although I haven’t had any exposure to the monthly comic that is the show’s source material, I dare say this is one of the most sophisticated uses of the zombie genre that I have ever seen.  The only appropriate comparison that comes to mind is Max Brooks’ novel: World War Z. The fact that the show opts for a mood of suspense punctuated with the occasional scene of violence, rather than reveling in montages of zombie killing set to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, clearly demonstrates a grown-up tone.  Furthermore, an impressive amount of human drama permeated the hour and six minutes of TWD’s first episode.  Even though I barely know them, I already care about the show’s principle characters.  Doing that in one episode is quite the feat considering that after three episodes of HBO’s The Pacific, I didn’t really know anybody’s name, let alone care about if they died of dysentery.  Truth be told I was cheering for the intestinal bacilli.

As I mentioned earlier, TWD’s plot begins on a note that it borders on being derivative.  There’s nothing particularly unique about the story’s first act; Danny Boyle did the same thing in 28 Days Later a year before the first issue of TWD was published.  Uninspired as it may be, the first episode, as a whole, remains sensational.  A small town cop, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), wakes up after an indeterminate amount of time in a coma to find that something is not quite right.  As he literally drags his atrophied body out of the hospital, he finds burned out buildings, abandoned military hardware and scores upon scores of dead bodies.  Inevitably he stumbles across his first zombie.  Stricken with fear, Grimes continues the search for his wife and son only to find his home abandoned.  In the interim, our hero finds other exposition devices survivors who bring him up to speed on the state of the world and the rules of zombification.  In sum: don’t get bit.  If you get bit, put yourself down before you turn.  Well fed and rested, Grimes sets off to find his lost family, thus establishing the hero’s quest.

One some level, I think this show can be viewed as a litmus test for the zombie horror genre.  Consider for a moment that producing quality horror for television is likely an extraordinarily difficult thing.  Most networks are going to put limitations on blood, guts, gore, desecration of Christian iconography and other such creepy hallmarks.  So the question becomes how do you play with the psychology of terror when your audience can get a beer on commercials?  Show too much of the horrifying thing and the novelty wears off.  Show too little and you bore the audience.  So far, TWD has kept an excellent balance between the two extremes.  As Grimes walks, runs, drives and rides horseback through a decaying urban landscape, brought to life through some of the best set construction you can imagine, the fear of zombies is always present.  This ubiquitous anticipation offers viewers an experience that oozes the kind of fear that keeps a person up at night.  When Grimes does kill a zombie, it is as much an act of kindness as it is self-defense.  This is doubly brilliant because it denies the audience catharsis that comes with a gratuitous kill while pairing the horror of mindless living death with an honest moment of humanity.  I might not be a television executive but that sounds like a winning formula to me.

Given the 5.6 million viewers for The Walking Dead’s first episode, a number that beats all rating records on AMC – including those set by Mad Men – it is safe to say that there is a strong audience for this type of television drama.  To put that number into further context, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno only averages about 3.6 million viewers [LA Times].  Hopefully the writers recognize that zombies make for great allegory and use them for more than target practice.  If they play their cards right this could move zombie horror into the mainstream in the same way that Battlestar Galactica set a new benchmark for space opera.

Overall Score:  +3.5 with the potential to go higher.

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Movie Review: Up

Summary Judgement:  I hate animated cutesy-poo “fun for the whole family” movies.  But I didn’t hate this one.  In fact, Up delightfully contrasts escapist fantasy with images of the real world, in all its sadness.

Directed by: Pete Docter and Bob Peterson

Written by: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson and Thomas McCarthy

Starring the voices of: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson and John Ratzenberger

For a film that includes children in its target audience, Up explores some surprisingly powerful themes.  During its relatively short runtime, the movie deals with, or at least mentions, gentrification, the loss of loved ones, divorce, emotional neglect, the nanny state, animal cruelty and fallen heroes.  These grim themes are balanced with an enduring motif of friendship, camaraderie, a genuinely funny archetype of the cantankerous old bastard and, of course, sentient dogs.  However, the film is more than just an emotional balancing act on the road to a happy ending.  Indeed, Up resists the temptation to sermonize on the ills of modern life.  Instead, the movie reflects the reality that bad things tend to punctuate the lives of good people.

The movie’s principle characters are an odd couple: Carl, a septuagenarian widower (Ed Asner) and Russell, an overweight pre-teen of divorced parents (Jordan Nagai).  Both of these characters ooze pathos.  The opening montage charts Carl’s relationship with his deceased wife, Ellie.  Carl and Ellie share a dream to visit the South American locale of Paradise Falls.  The financial exigencies of real life, however, constantly seem to get in the way of the couple’s travel plans.  This montage also offers a rather daring moment of honesty when we see Carl and Ellie in a 1960’s prenatal clinic.  Despite financial problems and their inability to have a child, Carl and Ellie live a happy life together.  Pixar scores major points for eschewing the hetero-normative assumption procreation is requisite to a happy marriage.  The montage, which culminates in Ellie’s death, leaves Carl cranky, paranoid and a creature of routine.  With Ed Asner’s voice giving life to a character that so brilliantly embodies the situation of elderly male widowers, my grandfather counted among that group, that I couldn’t help but empathize with the old coot.  That emotional connection let me suspend disbelief when it came to the concept of floating one’s house to South America via helium balloons.

Then there’s Russell.  Russell is equal parts overly keen and overly fed.  As a Wilderness Scout, he wants nothing more than to earn his ‘helping the elderly’ badge.  While this will allow him to graduate to ‘Senior Scout’ it will also necessitate his absentee father pinning the final badge on his uniform.  This desire for paternal approval is at the core of Russell’s character, matched only by his devotion to duty as a Wilderness Scout.  My fear as I watched the movie was that Russell’s need for approbation would be awkwardly forced on to Carl.  Again, the writers and directors surprised me.  The creative team refrained from going there too early in the film, instead leaving that moment of paternal bonding for the very end.  For most of the movie, Carl and Russell are just two people, both very lonely due to the recent losses in their lives.  Some might call that trite.  I call it honest since it presents fictionalized children as something other than vapid testaments to the innocence of days past without getting into that nonsense about empowering children, barf.

Up might not address all world’s problems, but it should be commended for the fact that it acknowledges some of the West’s glaring imperfections.  One such scene shows how Russell’s girth prevents him from climbing a hose to Carl’s floating house.  Certainly, the lad’s lack of physical prowess is fine comedic fodder.  However, it also gives parents an opportunity to critically evaluate their own little doughy video game warriors.  Then again, my estimate is that the lousy parents who don’t consider such things vastly outnumber the good parents.  The message will likely end up preaching to the choir or wasted on the folk who let Bill Gates and Steve Jobs do the bulk of their parenting.

I will say that I could have done without the sentient dogs; they were cute for the sake of funny, so I guess that is okay.  If robots, generic henchmen, or even robot henchmen replaced the dogs, the movie would not lose much.  Perhaps something had to give to keep a PG rating on the film.  Though, who needs a voice box collar to know what a dog is thinking?  I know what my cat is thinking.  It goes like this, “No matter where you go in the house, I’m going to get there first and be just slightly in your way but too cute for you to do anything about it.  It’s going to keep going down like that until you stop feeding me that dehydrated crap and serve me up the same kind of steak that you eat.  Alternatively, you could have the vet make me not a eunuch.  Occasionally, I will vomit just to watch you clean it up.”

That last paragraph perfectly illustrates my point about the talking dogs.  It might be a little funny, but it’s not really necessary.

Overall, Up is a decent piece of reasonably original story telling.  That in of itself should merit a viewing.  If you need more, the movie offers shiny CGI – with a 3D option for those into that sort of thing – a soundtrack inspired by classical music, not Randy Newman or Miley Ray Montana, and some poignant but still funny characters.   It might not be Wall-E, but Up is certainly worth watching.

Overall score: +2.75

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Movie Reviews: Robin Hood

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Screenplay by: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Max von Sydow, Danny Huston, Mark Strong and Oscar Issac.

Summary Judgement: Robin Hood shows us that if you throw enough money at props and costuming, you can always make a mediocre movie.

Very minor spoilers ahead.

It is clear that Ridley Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland intended Robin Hood to be a true-to-history epic in the style of Gladiator. Great idea, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves set the bar so low that film students with a low-end Sony Handycam could produce something better. Sadly, I’m at a loss to decide if this film fares any better than the last entry into the English outlaw genre.

Robin Hood begins with Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) and his crusader army pillaging their way across Europe.  Set against the first salvo of a prolonged siege, we find Marcus Aurelius…sorry, King Richard pensively musing in his tent.  When Richard decides to go mingle among his troops in search of “One Honest Man”, he comes upon Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe), brawling with his fellow crusaders.  Apparently, I slept in on the day my medieval history seminar covered “Crusaders and the Shell Game”.   I must have also missed the day when Dr. McDonald covered “Richard the Lionheart: A Giant Dickhead”.  Thus, the narrative unfolds from Richard acting like a petulant pillock, rather than a noble hero.  Historically accurate? Perhaps.  Inspiring? Hardly. Good story telling? Not so much.

Desertion and identity theft advance the plot wherein Robin Longstride, posing as Sir Robin of Loxley, returns to England.  At first, I enjoyed the film’s suggestion that the only thing separating nobility from the commons was a horse, shiny armour and rudimentary dental hygiene.  Then things got silly.  It is one thing to assume the airs of nobility through attire, enunciation and mannerisms.  However, no amount of toothpaste and witty conversation with Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett) will turn a common archer into a chevalier.  Are we really expected to believe, without even the benefit of a 80s style montage sequence, that an archer mastered the martial aspects of knighthood in only a few weeks?  Perhaps Scott and Helgeland think that everybody from the 12th century knows how to swordfight on horseback.  Oh, I should also mention that Crowe’s character is literate despite being orphaned as a child.  Don’t ask me how that happened.

As if the film didn’t flay Robin Hood’s mythology enough, Scott and Helgeland decided to reboot Robin Hood’s politics.  No longer is Robin Hood a pre-Marx socialist, robbing from the entitled rich and redistributing wealth as he sees fit.   Instead, he joins with England’s Northern Barons in their appeal for a charter of rights against unjust taxation.  I nearly vomited with disbelief as Maximus Decimus Meridius, ahem I mean Robin Hood uttered the phrase, “Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow”.  Seriously, Robin Hood was a libertarian?  Hey, Helgeland, I have two thoughts for you: first, stop stealing lines from Bioshock; second, will the director’s cut feature the Merry Men holding tea party placards with pictures of Obama-Hitler?

Despite a mood that is wholly incongruent with established mythology, the film does have a few strong aspects. Robin Hood does an excellent job at reproducing medieval England.  Everything in the film is wonderfully dirty, including teeth.  While the plot may have been contrived, the marvelously constructed sets and costumes were almost enough to make me forgive the film for its other flaws.  The acting is at least average, perhaps even good at some points.  The screen presence of Cate Blanchett, except towards the end when she is oddly recast as Elizabeth II, and Max von Sydow lend the film a feeling of maturity.  They also give Robin Hood somebody to talk to as Little John (Kevin Durand), Friar Tuck (Mark Addy), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), Alan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) and the Sherriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) are complete throwaway characters.  I recall hearing the Sherriff speak in two unimportant scenes.  Sadly, these individual qualities are unable to come together in a fashion that elevates the film beyond mediocrity.

Perhaps Robin Hood is further evidence of something I’ve been mulling over since I first watched Kingdom of Heaven: What if Ridley Scott isn’t as brilliant as we all think he is?  Allow me to take apart Blade Runner and Gladiator to illustrate my point. Blade Runner’s strength remains the enduring visual aesthetic of Los Angeles 2019.  However, Blade Runner’s story is just a watered down version of Philip K. Dick’s novel.  How about Gladiator? If you take the battles, guts and gore out of Gladiator, you’re left with about eighty minutes of sandal adorned revenge, incest and intrigue.  Sure, it looks pretty, but so does HBO’s Rome. I’ll never doubt that Ridley Scott is a fantastically talented visual artist.  However, I’m seriously starting to question if there’s anything more to him than that.

Criticisms of Oscar nominated film makers aside, Robin Hood remains a disappointment, not a huge disappointment, mind you.  I was certainly nowhere near as disappointed with this film as when a young Adam Shaftoe wore his Terran Confederation flight jacket to go see Wing Commander. Ah Wing Commander. You know, I’ve never actually had somebody take a dump on me.  Yet, I think I know it feels.

Robin Hood isn’t worth a visit to the theatres.  A $3.99 pay-per-view rental will suffice for Mr. Scott’s latest offering.

Overall Score: 63%

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Movie Reviews: Gunless

Directed by:  William Phillips

Starring: Paul Gross, Sienna Guillory, Tyler Mane, Dustin Milligan, Graham Greene and everybody’s favourite Cylon, Callum Keith Rennie.

Summary Judgement:  Take a blender: add two parts CBC-style comedy, one part spaghetti Western, one part History Bites, a dash of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, a sprinkle of Hot Fuzz and you get Gunless.

Gunless begins like so many other spaghetti Westerns.  A mysterious stranger with a noose around his neck rides into a peaceful frontier town.  He is injured, tired and on the run.  He has two concerns: finding some bullets for his revolver and tending to his trusty steed.  Unfortunately, The Montana Kid (Paul Gross), he has crossed the border into the small town of Barclay’s Brush in the Dominion of Canada.  Within minutes of arriving, The Kid finds himself offended by the local blacksmith, Jack (Tyler Mane).  Like any good frontier cliché, The Kid demands satisfaction in the form of a pistol duel.  Unfortunately, Jack doesn’t have a gun and The Kid won’t kill a man who brings a hammer to a gunfight.

For a movie that is barely an hour and a half long, Gunless is many things.  At times, it seems like the film is a cheeky send up on the Western genre.  Dramatic moments build with genuine tension before the mood is shattered with a well-timed piece of physical comedy.  There are scenes where Gunless seems like a film intent on subverting the myths of “the real west” as seen on film.  Unlike the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, which offered a vision of the west as a place of intense privation and misery, Barcaly’s Brush is a town – in the sense that it has half a dozen permanent structures – where people gather for Wednesday night dinner and the doctor pulls double duty as a tanner and taxidermist.  While all this is happening, there are flashes of comedy fit purely for Canadian digestion vis-à-vis a general store with a line of demarcation between its French Canadian and English owners.  To the film’s credit, this borderline schizophrenia is delightfully funny.

While I perceive these various quirks and nuances as integral to the film’s comedic effect, I will readily admit that this diversity will not land with all viewers, particularly those who have no taste for history.  Without a historical context, some of the writing, which I will praise as pleasantly Whedonesque – so much so that I could have seen Nathan Fillion playing Paul Gross’ role without any difficulty – may come off as silly rather than tongue-in-cheek and askance.  Then again, why the hell would you watch a Western if you don’t like history?

Given the recent media hoopla surrounding tax credits for Canadian films, I think film school dropoutssub-literate daleks reviewers such as Rick Groen at the Globe and Mail are unfairly targeting this film to express their outrage at tax dollars going to something they don’t like.  I won’t dignify his review with a link, or extensive deconstruction, except to say that three out of the eight paragraphs in his drunken tirade review are targeting the CBC and film production in Canada.  In light of all this negative criticism for Gunless, I would offer this question:  What would you like for a film that cost ten million dollars to make?  Sure, if Gunless had the budget of Spider-Man 3, I would have expected to walk out the theatre feeling like I had just spent a weekend at an 1890s California bordello.  But we are dealing with a low budget Canadian production that had fantastic set construction, excellent camera work and whose only discernible flaw was some dialogue that may have been out of place at the close of the nineteenth century.  Oh no, their use of Telefilm dollars didn’t reinvent the Western, surely that means the film is rubbish.  Come on Groen and company, how about getting off your soapbox and talking about the movie.

As a comedy, Gunless evoked more laughter than the charity titters I offered Steve Carell and Tina Fey in Date Night. As a Canadian film, Gunless stayed far enough away from the clichés of Canadiana to keep me happy.  A scene with a squad of North West Mounted Police kicking the crap out of The Kid counters any Dudley Doright airs that the film may project.  As a Western, Gunless shows a side of frontier history that many people ignored on their mandatory school trips to living history sites but pairs that with the clichés of the West for comedic pay dirt.

Kudos to Mr. Phillips for his fine contribution to Westerns and Canadian film.

Overall Score: 80%

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Movie Reviews: Angels and Demons

Directed By: Ron Howard

Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor and Ayelet Zurer

Reviewed in four Haikus

Run Robert Langdon
Amid Vatican narrows
No gun, only wit.

Former Jedi Knight
Seeks to make right The Father
Science against God.

Receive the sidekick
Dark hair falls like Hanks’ career
No contribution.

Abandon all hope
Police procedural plot
Sixty is the score.

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Movie Reviews: Julie and Julia

Directed by: Nora Ephron

Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina

Reviewed in four Haikus

Late Saturday night
Control is an illusion
iPhone beyond reach

Cute redhead cooks food
No gold statue for Meryl
Tucci wears turquoise

Occasional laughs
Unexpected Cold War plot
My soul needs a snack

Cookie cutter plot
The film scores an average grade
Sixty five percent