Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ten Statements About....G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (2013)

"What does it say about you that you prefer hanging out
with me instead of Seinna Miller, mate?"

"Drive it like you stole it!”
“Dude, as your friend, I’m telling need a new catchphrase."

1) Oh, Lord, is this film soulless and without anything resembling life.  What little energy this film has comes from the performances of people like Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce and Walter Goggins.  Without those performances, all we have is a string of place settings designed solely to get us from one 3-D set piece to the next.

Which is doubly puzzling considering how poor the 3-D transfer and the action sequences are.

2) For a film that really, really wants to be a twisty comic book action thriller, there’s very little plot getting in the way of the narrative.  So much is made of the action sequences that the quieter moments seem forced.  There’s a definite sense of  director Jon M. Chu dancing around in an effort to hide the fact that there’s nothing inside this film other than big shouty things and explosions.

3) The MacGuffin that the film is built around--a way to wreck nuclear-weapon-level havoc without getting nuclear-weapon-level fallout--is potentially really good, but it’s wasted pretty badly.  Far too little attention is given to the build up to the launching of the devices (that actually happens off-screen) that when said device is finally utilized, we almost forget that it was an element in the story.

"Forget about the star--check out THE TOY!"
4) Is it just Fox not wanting to pay out the sequel clause that led to them pretty much discarding a number of the characters from the previous film?  I’m sure, for example, that Rachel Nichols couldn’t have been too much more expensive than Adrienne Palicki, and we would have had the previous film to give us the sense that there is still characterization going on.  Without anyone but Channing Tatum (who’s gone at the end of the first act) on the heroes’ side that we’re familiar with at he beginning of the movie, there’s no way for the viewers to follow the plot.

5) And since we’re on the subject of returning villains--why did they bother bringing back Arnold Vosloo at all, given he literally gets about a minute of screentime by himself, forty seconds of which is silent?

6) The sheer fact of the matter is that the characters, both Joes and Cobras, are ciphers.  Sure, Palicki gets something akin to a speech explaining why she became a Joe, and there’s a big ol’ expository dump that explains what Elodie Yung’s Jinx is doing hanging out with Snake Eyes, but mostly it’s just actors striving to be two-dimensional.  Hell, Flint is such a non-entity that the hinted at romance with Lady Jaye never gets past the hints we see.  It’s as if the movie assumes that we will fill in the blanks because Jaye and Flint were romantic interests in the cartoon.

7) I don’t know which is worse--that the film couldn’t be bothered to be consistent with the first film when it shows the no longer destroyed Eiffel Tower, or that a major country is flat out obliterated and never really mentioned again.
"So that's where all our characterization went!"

8) You know, RZA, I understand you love martial arts and probably enjoyed being the leader of the clan that Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and Jinx belonged to...but you’re not very good.  And given how much expostory dialogue you’re given, being good is kind of a prerequisite..

9) Even though Ray Stevenson attacks his role as Firefly with gusto, I really have to wonder why he is here instead of, let’s say, Destro or, especially, The Baroness (you can’t tell me that Stevenson in a grungy mask is preferable to Sienna Miller in tight leather).  It’s not like Firefly is as well known a character as the other Cobra villains he replaces.  Plus the script plays outside the box with Firefly, giving him these robotic napalm bombs in the shape of...fireflies!  Get it?  Get it?

10) You know your movie is sucky when Walter Goggins is killed off as the warden of the high tech penitentiary that houses Cobra Commander and Destro (who is written out in a lame and half-hearted way)...and you kind of wish that he a) survived and b) was the real hero of this film.
There's a reason I didn't mention Bruce Willis in this
review...he doesn't deserve it.

Overall...a prime example of fan service over story, characterization or anything that makes a film a film, this is a sad, sad, sad sequel that manages to be bigger and stupider without being anywhere near as good as the original.  Now if they want to spin off Walter Goggins in his own movie....

I saw this at The Atlas, mainly because my Regal Crown Card coupon for free popcorn was about to expire.  Apparently, as the actual mall is expanding (they’ve finally found an anchor store in Century 21), the theater has cut down on its staff.  This resulted in many of the previews and the first two minutes of the film being out of focus due to a misalignment in the 3D projector.  Among the notable trailers was another, story intensive one for Iron Man 3 (THE FREAKIN’ HULKBUSTER ARMOR!), one for Star Trek: Into Darkness that continues to make me think that the Roddenberry version I learned to respect is gone for good; and a thoroughly confusing one for World War Z that pretty much hides that there are zombies in this film at all.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


"Are you making fun of me?  Well, are you?"

"You will find immobility endurable, Doctor.  I speak from experience.”

1) This is the first of three linked serials, and this structure is one John Nathan-Turner loved to death.  While it’s not the most fondly remembered (The E-Space Trilogy, which was broadcast just prior to this one, tends to be the one most people talk about), it’s the most consistent and coherent of them, and the one that actually succeeds in telling a complete story over its three four-parters.

2) This is the only serial where Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric is the sole companion (at this point, Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa was a one-off character; she was offered the role of companion after Nathan-Turner saw the chemistry she had with Waterhouse)...and you can see here how Adric could have worked.  There’s a definite sense of the Doctor acting as a mentor to this bright young child, and the chemistry is there between Baker and Waterhouse.  I have to wonder if he would be better remembered if Baker had stayed on.

Or if he wasn’t made to share the Tardis with two other companions, but we’ll get to that in future episodes....

3) I didn’t realize it until it was pointed out in one of the documentaries on the DVD, but this is a set-bound episode.  The world of Traken is so well realized as a sort of Shakespearean paradise that you overlook the artificiality of the set. It also helps that so much of the scenes that take place outside take place at night, where that artificiality can be concealed.

4) Johnny Bryne’s script is very clever in how he manages to conceal the true nature of The Melkur until the last episode of this serial, while also making it rather apparent if you know the clues.  This was a massive surprise when the serial was first broadcast (Nathan Turner managed to conceal the big twist expertly in the months leading up), and it’s to Byrne’s credit that the clues are there all along.

5) And speaking of that big reveal....Geoffrey Beevers plays an excellent Master.  Chosen apparently for his deep speaking voice, Beevers makes the ‘eggface’ Master creepy and formidable.  I also think that the choice to let Beever’s eyes remain visible--something that the actor insisted on if he was to take the job--worked, as it makes the sense of him decaying even more profound.  There’s one moment where Beever screams in rage that chills me.
"Alright--I'm going to be all bad-ass now...but
after that, I'll be pretty much useless!  Fear me!"

6) This marks the first of Anthony Ainley’s long tenure as a recurring character...and here, as Tremas, he makes a really excellent ally for The Doctor.  Throughout all three of these serials, Ainley proves how amazing he is as an actor, and how great he could have been before the scripts relegated him to what amounted to a naughty scamp playing pranks on historical figures.

7) Based on her performance here, Sarah Sutton was asked to stay on as Nyssa, and you can kind of see why--she’s wonderful, and potentially would have been another gifted child for The Doctor to mentor.  Plus she’s got this weird fairy tale princess vibe that serves well in contrast to Adric’s urchin.  Pity that, like Ainley, Sutton will be wasted in the future (famously literally sleeping her way through a serial next season), but in this serial and a scant few others she’s pure gold.

8) Wow...I keep trying to remind myself that 1981 was a much different time and that John Nathan-Turner and the special effects crew of Doctor Who never realized that their show was going to be viewed on a high definition digital medium, but the hypno-eye effect that Shiela Ruskin’s Kassia displays is truly goofy.  It looks exactly like what it is--a pair of cardboard eyes placed over Ruskin’s real eyes.  Every time it shows up I start laughing.

9) So effective is Johnny Byrne’s script that I don’t notice how...sketchy and contradictory Traken society is.  We know there’s a Council, and a Keeper...but if the Traken Union is in perfect harmony, what are the Proctors for?  And what is life like outside the gates of the Council grounds?  We never learn, but because this story is so well paced, so well pr.

10) I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Master’s need to keep a Tardis within a Tardis, especially given that the Master’s Tardis still have a functioning Chameleon Circuit.  It seems so unnecessary.

Overall...a wonderful serial that gives us back one of the Doctor’s greatest foes (who would be magnificently scary for a little while), and a great launch for one of the best ‘trilogies’ of the series.