THE GREEN HORNET: The Film Babble Blog Review


THE GREEN HORNET (Dir. Michel Gondry, 2011)

A $90 million dollar superhero movie dropping in the middle of January may seem like a bad sign, but “The Green Hornet” isn’t terrible – no, it’s just so standard issue, formulaic, and only occasionally funny.

Hmm, maybe it is a bad sign.

Seth Rogen, who also co-wrote and co-executive produced is our unlikely hero here. His character Britt Reid is a partying rich 20 something and fairly close to roles he’s played before. He’s slimmer here, but he’s still the same schlubby loser who lives from buzz to buzz.

When Rogen’s disapproving newspaper mogul father (Tom Wilkinson) dies from a bee-sting, our slang talking bozo inherits his entire estate including his mechanic/man-servant Kato (Jay Chou) who makes a mean cappucchino.

Chou outfits a black Chrystler Imperial with machine guns and bullet proof glass and what do you know – they’ve got a crime fighting duo thing a-happenin’!

Christoph Waltz (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS) is the drug kingpin villain who wants to rule Los Angeles with a crew of pimped out thugs and a double-barrelled handgun.

Through the film’s fast pace, albeit one with too many montages, we see Rogen and Chou fight attacking foes, getting their gear together, and smashing up their Imperial so much that they need a line of back-up cars.

There’s also Cameron Diaz in a nothing role as Rogen’s secretary (at least there’s one lady present in this boy’s club I suppose), Edward James Olmos as the newspaper’s long suffering managing editor, and a slimy David Harbour as the District Attorney who’s motives you can see coming from a mile away.

Its a noisy mess of a movie full of destruction displaying very little of the visual style that Gondry has shown in such films as THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. The brief instances of Gondry’s flair are lost in the slick shuffle – a segment with split screens inside of split screens in yet another montage hints at what could’ve been.

As much as I like Rogen and have been highly amused at his work – his jokey jargon didn’t carry the movie through as amusingly as expected. He’s, of course, not an actor that gets lost in a role – he’s just Rogen playing dress-up – and that like just about everything else here gets pretty tiresome.

There’s some entertaining chemistry between Rogen and Chou, but their dynamic seems a bit off at times. However a fight scene between them after a falling out is one of the stand-out set pieces of the film.

As the only one with grace in the cluttered comic book chaos, Chou is the film’s true star. Though underwritten, again like everything else, Chou makes the most of his portrayal of a refined perfectionist who can level an army of gun toting goons.

THE GREEN HORNET is too big, dumb and ho hum to be the major fun its meant to be, but maybe for a mid-January superhero flick it can pass muster.

But just barely.

More later…

BE KIND REWIND – Viewed, Reviewed, And Returned To The Dropbox *

* It’s a film new to theaters but I couldn’t resist the old school videotape lingo.

When STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH – was the first in the series to not be made available on videocassette, many reported it as the death of the VHS format. Well BE KIND REWIND is here to capture one last gasp of the magnetic medium as the final nails are hammered into the coffin. As a former video store employee who has worked for various chains over the years (most are out of business now and the remaining ones will be soon) I was really looking forward to this movie and excited that it was coming to my hometown theatre. So let’s pop it in and push play:

BE KIND REWIND (Dir. Michel Gondry, 2008)

The premise is simple – after all the rental videotapes at a neighborhood store in Passaic, New Jersey get erased, the employees who are strapped for cash and in danger of being evicted remake the films in the inventory with themselves as actors. Sounds good so far, right? I mean we get Jack Black and Mos Def playing out scenes from GHOSTBUSTERS, RUSH HOUR 2, BOYZ N THE HOOD, 2001, and many others in homemade costumes with half remembered mostly improvised dialogue. For some reason they call these 20 minute D.I.Y. versions “Sweded” and they become so popular that their store soon has a line around the block. Danny Glover is the owner of the business and the building it resides in, which he claims jazz legend Fats Waller was born in. Glover soon sees the value of the “Sweded” videos and takes part in them as do most of the customers oddly including Mia Farrow (appearing a bit frail and out of it) whose character is far from defined. Melonie Diaz is recruited to be the love interest in the remakes and she sparks some feelings in Mos Def – but that’s not fleshed out either. Also it’s cool to see Marcus Carl Franklin (the young black kid who was one of the Bobs in I’M NOT THERE) in a small part as one of the local loyal customers.

“Far from defined” and “not fleshed out” pretty much state my problems with this film. Early on the magnetizing accident which causes the blunder to set the plot in motion is a foreteller of many clunky contrived plotpoints ahead and much of the film feels extremely disjointed. Jack Black’s shtick wears out its welcome within the first 10 minutes (or sooner) and Mos Def is likable but too lackadaisical to give this material the needed zing it requires. As I suspected with his previous film THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP, Michael Gondry doesn’t appear to be the greatest writer – he really should have only directed here and let somebody more experienced with film comedy take a pass at the screenplay. The best parts are obviously the remakes – it’s great to see Glover and Farrow redo DRIVING MISS DAISY (albeit briefly – Black and Mos Def do their own version earlier on), Black’s ROBOCOP outfitted with kitchen pots and pans has its moments, and the cardboard cut-outs when they attempt THE LION KING get some laughs too. It’s amusing as well to see Black remake KING KONG because, you know, he was in a real KING KONG remake! This time however he plays the ape which might have been the direction Peter Jackson should’ve taken but I digress.

The second half with its jazz soundtrack and the neighborhood communal sentiment (which I could never completely buy into) seems stolen from Spike Lee. Not quite the ode to the soon to be extinct VHS format, nor the definitive videostore movie (not that there is such a thing) BE KIND REWIND is not without its charms but it’s a tad undercooked. Definitely not a must see on the big screen – I would recommend waiting for video. Digital video that is, that way you can go right to the good parts (the film recreations – duh!) and you can Fast Forward, I mean chapter-skip through the forgettable rest of it.

Okay, now hit Eject!

More later…

Dreaming On: THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP, THE ILLUSIONIST, And HOLLYWOODLAND

“So many social engagements, so little time.”
– Gale (John Goodman) RAISING ARIZONA (Dir. Joel Coen 1987)

Yeah – lots going on. Recent theatrical releases, new releases on video, and some notable music DVDs need to be blogged ’bout but this time out I’ll just deal with the last few movies I saw at the theater :

THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP (Dir. Michael Gondry) Many many movies have been about earnest yet clumsily romantic young artists who live fuller in their dreams than in reality. Gael Garcia Bernal fills the part with wide eyed likeability though unfortunately the flimsy sitcom premise doesn’t sustain the big picture. The wonderfully fluid dream sequences will no doubt make this a cult favorite in years to come but it feels like a rough draft. The relationship between Stephane (Bernal) and Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsburg) doesn’t sparkle and the uneven narrative doesn’t help – I feel like a good 20-30 minutes could be edited out and the flow would improve greatly. Still, with the amount of unadventurous crap out there, THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed by film babblers like me – visually it is a beautiful film, so I’ll conclude : flawed but worthwhile.

THE ILLUSIONIST (Dir. Neil Burger) Based on the short story Eisenheim the Illusionist. However, I heard Eisenheim (played by Edward Norton) through the accents sound like ‘Asinine’ as if thats what the characters name would be in a crude Mad magazine satire. Not that this flick is asinine – no its a fairly entertaining period piece mildly marred from unecessary and purposely unexplained special effects and a twist ending right out of THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Norton puts in a stoic and strangely unenergetic performance and Paul Giamatti chews scenery as a Chief Inspector intent on figuring out Eisenheim’s tricks while Jessica Biel provides the elusive love interest. Maybe the real illusion the movie pulls off is that it is better than mediocre – it’s not but at times you’ll think it is.

HOLLYWOODLAND (Dir. Allen Coulter) If I were still in quick quotable blurb mode like in my last post I might be tempted to just write “Hollywoodbland!” but that, like the Asinine the Illusionist in the review above is just silly non-criticism and definitively inaccurate. While I agree with the Onion AV Club that this feels like an HBO original movie and concur with the New York Times that it “tells several stories, one of them reasonably well”, I enjoyed the performances and bought into the boulevard of broken dreams pathos. Having watched the reruns of ’50’s TV Superman starring George Reeves as a kid I appreciated that they nailed the look and style in the recreations. Adrian Brody does solid work as the gumshoe hired to solve the mystery of Reeves headline making suicide and we switch back and forth in time from him to Ben Affleck’s surprisingly note-perfect portrayal of Reeves in the events leading up to his death. If not remarkable HOLLYWOODLAND is a decent pointed period piece, I’m not sure if I’m on board with the film’s implications in it’s conclusion – involving mistress Diane Lane and her jealous studio boss husband Bob Hoskins but that doesn’t make it ring hollow.

Hmmm, I’m sensing a trend here – I mean I just babbled ’bout 3 movies that were neither great nor awful just decent. I hope we’re just in summer to fall transition and the movies will get much better or at least more interesting. We’ve got some possibilities coming with THE DEPARTED, FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION, STRANGER THAN FICTION, and RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, but no breath holding here.

Some more babble ’bout some concert films and a notable documentary when film babble returns…

More later…