Archives for April 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

G. I. Joe: Retaliation PosterRating: ★★☆☆☆

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a no-brainer of a movie. If a supernatural force beyond understanding urged you to like “The Rise of Cobra”, then it is likely that you will enjoy the sequel just as much. Bless you. However, if you hated the 2009 film at least half as much as I did, then you should be smart enough to avoid its 2013 follow-up. Besides, I’m pretty sure that you’ve long decided on whether you’ll see this or not since it’s already been out for almost three weeks.

Sigh. I shouldn’t be writing this review. It’s almost 1 in the morning and I have to be at work in a few hours. (Damn it! I have to be at work in a few hours!) So what gives? You see, movies that are as preposterous as “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” are the most fun to review. And, dear reader, when a movie like this is released, I cannot resist. Roger Ebert specialized in reviewing movies that are dumb beyond belief. I write this in further dedication to his spectacular life.

For the 15th time, Channing Tatum reprises his role as Channing Tatum. He isn’t around for long through as he is quickly replaced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the film’s lead hero. The Rock (The Tooth Fairy) makes a better action star than Channing Tatum, which doesn’t really say much for The Rock, since Justin Timberlake and even Jay Leno would also make a better action star than Tatum. With over 20 movies in his resume, Tatum’s career highlight so far is playing a stripper in “Magic Mike”. Is it about time for the 32-year-old non-actor to take a long, honest look at himself?

Channing Tatum and Dwayne Johnson in G.I. Joe: Retaliation

The majority of the Joes are wiped out early on, leaving the fate of the world in the hands of Roadblock (The Rock), Flint, and Lady Jaye. The latter two Joes provide the film with its face value, especially Jaye. She is one of those sexy characters who can avoid all levels of suspicion by simply keeping her head down and her boobs up. We’re lucky she’s on our side. They are later joined by General Joe Colton, effortlessly played by Bruce Willis, probably because he doesn’t care. Colton supplies one of the two entertaining scenes in the film by touring us to his seemingly normal suburban home that has more firearms and ammunition than the entire Philippine Army.

One of the few returning cast members from the original film is Storm Shadow, the gravity-defying ninja with an awkward weakness. Storm Shadow’s first sequence establishes him to be an invincible warrior who can withstand almost all sorts of beatings. He suffers a major electrocution and an explosion big enough to blow up a McDonald’s. No worries. He walks it off like any other ninja would. Later, in the film’s climax, four or five box crates are pushed against him. He gets knocked down. Say what? Poor Storm Spirit. Two more box crates and he would’ve died.

Movies within the same category as “Retaliation” makes its living from advanced gadgets and weaponry. And while this sequel runs on action and adrenaline, its use of technology is utterly joyless and anticlimactic. Consider the sequence when Cobra is rescued from imprisonment. A cluster of robot fireflies is sent to the prison. Think about it. Millions and millions of dollars and hundreds and hundreds of hours must have been spent in the creation of such a complex device. I had high hopes for its capabilities, but what do the robots do the moment they reach the prison gates? They explode. Say what? Whatever happened to firing a rocket launcher? Is it me, or did the evil mastermind Cobra spent millions just to blow up a gate?

Cobra and Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: Retaliation

The scene doesn’t even end there. Firefly, the villain played by Ray Stevenson, not the exploding robots, drives his motorcycle full speed towards the prison’s thick, maximum-security entrance. Seconds before Firefly collides with the wall, he dislodges himself from the motorcycle, causing the motorcycle to do some dislodging on its own. The vehicle, which turns out to be a model far advanced than what it appears to be, separates into about six different pieces. It strikes the wall at full force, and explodes. While I sat motionless and exhausted inside the theater, I imagined Michael Bay, sitting inside a different theater, watching the same movie, saying to himself: “Challenge Accepted”. Oh, dear.

As the extremely wealthy Cobra is released from his bondage, so does his master plan is revealed to us. Are you ready? Seven armed satellites have been positioned above seven countries. Each satellite holds a bomb. A push of a button can annihilate half of the human race! The Joes must act fast! To defeat Cobra and save mankind, Roadblock and his team must… but wait! How much money did Cobra allot for this project? Where did he build the seven satellites and seven bombs? Where did he get the manpower that made this all happen? When did he find the time to print Cobra Flags and Cobra Banners to display outside the White House? I don’t have the exact numbers, but I’m pretty sure that Cobra has the most expensive “Take over the World” budget in movie history. If Cobra just waited a couple more years and saved up, he could have just bought the world.

One last thing: how did those bomb-satellites reach the orbit without getting noticed? Did Cobra commence take off during NASA’s lunch break?

Roger Ebert. My Hero. In Memory.

Roger Ebert at the Movies

He really was my Hero. He delivered me from a lot of the dismal possibilities of an uncertain life: the tragedy of a wasted youth, the temptation to rebel, and the confused depression of having to face a future without a path. Everyone who knew him will share certain memories of his life – his reviews, his achievements, his passion, his complex relationship with the late Gene Siskel – but it is our personal memories of him that will prove to be the most enduring, the most significant.

My memories of Roger Joseph Ebert are one of my most prized possessions. His wisdom changed the way I identify people, his humor changed the way I carry my problems, and his values changed my perspective and priorities. He was my teacher, my supporter, and my correspondent, and during times of doubt and sadness, he was also my encourager, my counselor, and, above all, my friend.

And now he is gone.

A great light has just faded in my world, and I am in what feels to be, the darkest point of my life.

Roger Ebert: My Hero

It is unusual for someone to express this much sorrow for a film critic, but to categorize Roger as a simple “Film Critic” is to commit a crime against his memory. Yes, his inexorable passion for the movies permanently altered the essence and practice of film criticism itself, but it was his kindness, empathy, insight, compassion, humility, and invincible optimism that defines his humanity. If it was possible for me to give him my youth, he would be dancing to “Singin’ in the Rain” somewhere in Chicago right about now.

I first encountered Roger’s reviews when I was 16 years old (five years ago), which was the peak of my prayer life. I had been asking God for something that millions of other people are searching for: a direction. I was one of those aimless high school students who was too busy playing video games to pursue anything of real substance. I had already been in love with the movies at that point, but there was nothing more to it. I stumbled upon Roger’s work, and after a few months of endless reading, my dream was born. I kept reading and never looked back. God provided a direction for my journey by introducing Roger to me.

They say that God works in mysterious ways. Isn’t it mysterious that he intended for me to find a deep connection with a person who is two generations older than I am?

Roger Ebert

Long ago I decided that I wanted to become a film critic by profession. I still do. From the very beginning, I knew that it wasn’t a common profession and that it didn’t involve a lot of monetary rewards. I didn’t care. I still don’t. I found a passion that made me feel good about myself because there was an urgent importance to it. I have a stable job that has taken over a large portion of my life, but the fire of my dream remains burning. To abandon a dream because it doesn’t pay much is to betray the gift of your existence.

One of my lasting attributes is my extreme insecurity. I never enjoyed talking about myself, but you couldn’t shut me up whenever Roger was mentioned in a conversation. He is one of the few things that I am completely and unashamedly confident about. That I’m one of those people who was blessed enough to discover his razor-sharp, lightning-quick wit. That I’ve memorized his pans that has obliterated the reputation of countless bad movies that had it coming. That I’m part of a group of movie-lovers who understands that “a movie is not about what it’s about, but how it’s about it”.

I recited Roger’s words on command, and I would recite Roger’s words even if no one asked for it, and even if I know that they’ve heard me tell them before what I’m about to say. A lot of my friends know how much I admire him, but no one will ever understand how much he means to me. Whenever I feel left out on a particular movie, I could always count on Roger to either back me up or correct me. With Roger, it never really mattered if you agreed with him or not; his opinion may be worlds apart from your own, but you can find peace with his reviews knowing that he only intends to make you a smarter moviegoer.

Reflecting on these things, I somewhat feel hopelessly alone now that Roger’s no longer around.

Roger Ebert on Imperfections

Roger loved the movies more than anyone, and he was the absolute best at what he did. He transformed freedom of expression to an art, and no force in this world could make him compromise his work or surrender his passion. (Roger continued to write, tweet, host film festivals, and appear on television during the last decade of his life despite suffering from cancer.) When Roger wrote about the movies he loves, he transcended opinion writing and approached perfect poetry. When faced with the task of reviewing a bad movie, he was merciless in his condemnation. He did everything in his power to preserve the most profound of all the art forms by lifting the movies that shape it and burying the ones that shame it.

I consider it my duty to continue what he, for so long, fought for. Werner Herzog considers Roger to be the Soldier of the Cinema; he spent 46 years of his life paving a path for those who value the movies as much as he did. Roger left us with 15 books to his name, over 10,000 reviews from his website, and hundreds of other essays for us to read, analyze, breathe. We are well-equipped. All we have to do is march.

Roger’s Blog is one of the calming refuges of my messy life. I would leave comments on his entries in hope that he would one day reply. Guess what? On June 18, 2010, he replied. It was his 68th birthday. I told him about how much his writing gave me a hope, a dream, a skill, and, eventually, a job. Summarizing that lengthy comment on that blissful day, I gave him my eternal gratefulness and told him that he was my biggest Hero. I imagined his voice saying the words as I read his reply: “Anyone receptive to inspiration will find it somewhere.” Oh I was receptive all right. And boy did I find my inspiration. He’s gone now, but I’ll be thinking of him every day, just as I always have.

Thank God for Roger Ebert.

Thumbs Up from Roger Ebert