Screened Out: Manly Meh

By : Stephen Miller
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With On the Road, Jack Kerouac spun a novel of frenzied, rambling, bohemian brilliance. His story was a loosely fictional account of his friendship with sexy Neal Cassady, a charming, handsome, young ne’er-do-well.

SOOnTheRoadCassady led Kerouac on several cross-country trips in the late ’40s and early ’50s. Both men were aimless pioneers, explorers without new lands to conquer. Cassady wooed many a women (and a few men, including poet Allen Ginsberg), stole cars, did drugs and used his looks to get what he wanted.

At the same time, Kerouac was struggling to find a unique writing style. He typed this novel in long-form, jazz-infused sentences on a 120-foot, taped-together roll of paper. The groundbreaking product Kerouac created defined the Beats (a group he never wanted to belong to) and created generations of admirers who wanted to emulate those self-destructive travels.

This movie focuses on the relationships, but that’s at a great price – it mostly misses Kerouac’s mad genius.

The acting is pretty solid. Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) is fascinating as Dean Moriarty, the fictional version of Cassady. His swagger captures the conman perfectly. It’s easy to understand how so many fell under his sexual spell. Riley (Control) is less engaging as the fictional Kerouac, because his creativity is never given arc.

Such an unconventional book should’ve inspired unconventional filmmaking. By being too quiet, too small and too sensitive, the filmmakers missed the opportunity to render Kerouac’s world-changing language in movie form. | l |

SOGIJoeRetaliationWhat is it with spring and substandard action flicksIt’s as if, after Oscar season, everyone gives up Hollywood to the special effects people.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is like Jolt Cola for tweener boys. It’s brainless and bad for you, and only the most immature would find something enjoyable here. I cannot even recommend it after a breathtaking but pointless action sequence in the Himalayas, because it’s random, pandering and impossible.

If you care to, recall the first crappy film – through brain technology, an evil Cobra agent had taken over President Pryce. G.I. Joe soldiers Johnson and Tatum are unaware – spending hours playing video games, taking target practice, singing and bonding in scenes that feel like lead-ins to a gay porn flick. Then Tatum disappears. Johnson becomes the hero. Finally, Cobra wipes out a Joe station, and Johnson and a couple other survivors have to save the world.  And then Bruce Willis shows up.

This film has more tangents that a junior high geometry textbook.

Director Jon M. Chu has directed elaborate dance movies and Hong Kong actioners. This means maybe he doesn’t possess the ability to tell a coherent story arc with engaging characters. Sure, the source material is cheesy 80s cartoons and badly rendered comic books. If you’re going to spend millions of dollars to take us to the Himalayas and fly people around on ropes, however, first spend some of that money on a good, cohesive script. | l |

SOOlympusHasFallenOlympus Has Fallen…asleep. Apparently Bruce Willis wasn’t available for this caper that apes a Die Hard flick. It’s amazing how good some of the action is. It’s jaw-dropping that these respected actors signed on for this milquetoast plot with crappy, patriotic dialogue that would turn off even the most America-centric audience.Butler is a superhero secret service guy who’s demoted after a terrible accident. When President Eckhart and the White House are kidnapped by North Korean baddies,

Butler must step from behind his desk job to save America. Freeman, as leader of the Senate, becomes acting president, where he spouts inspiring, patriotic platitudes until freedom rings again.

The dialogue is so clunky it made me angry. The action, however, is watchable. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) seems to have a better sense this time of the special effects, but the great script and acting he once garnered from A-list actors has disappeared. Secretary of State Leo is a shame to the office (and this Oscar nominee is otherwise amazing in other films). Even Eckhart doesn’t seem fit for his presidential role, feeling more like a high schooler trying to perform older and more responsible.

Sure, it’s fun to watch cars blow up, the Washington Monument take a beating and portions of the White House explode. However, the story at the center is bland in that way that makes audiences disrespect America, or at least Hollywood. | l |


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