[Red Riding Hood]

I’m done, guys. I have detected a pattern, and I am not seeing another movie with Billy Burke in it for the rest of the year. Or possibly ever. He’s in all these movies that are obviously bad, but *should* be bad in an entertaining way. But they are not entertaining! They are just boring! They are full of possibilities for campy dialogue and crazy plots, but do they go there? No, they do not.

Red Riding Hood had potential. It’s directed by Catherine Hardwicke who also wrote and directed Thirteen, the cast includes Gary Oldman as a werewolf-hunting priest, and the cinematography looked gorgeous. In the stills, anyway. I rarely see trailers.

Plus, it had a number of key elements that at the very least could point to some excellent camp melodrama. Werewolves! Excessive cleavage! A love triangle! Adultery! Almost-incest! Bondage! Torture! Trees and houses with spikes on them for no apparent reason! Gary Oldman *and* Lukas Haas as priests! BSG’s Colonel Tigh! AN IRON ELEPHANT THAT IS AN OVEN AND ALSO A PRISON.

And yet. It was astonishingly dull. The picture opens with a flashback to two thirds of our love triangle as bloodthirsty youth, and then we are rushed forward, soap opera-like, aging them up so they’re old enough to have sex. They live in a village! At the edge of a deep dark woods! And Amanda Seyfried is in love with the penniless lad wot she grew up with, so of course she has been promised to Jeremy Irons’ son instead. (His actual son, that is; Jeremy Irons is not in this movie. Unfortunately.)

Thus, we have a love triangle. Hooray? Except it is totally a chemistry-free love triangle. And who has time for love anyway when there is a werewolf at large? A werewolf who has been around forever and yet! Has suddenly started breaking its deal with the village and killing people instead of tiny pigs or whatever the villagers have left out for him/her/them! Terribly ungrateful.

Naturally, Father Lukas Haas calls Father Gary Oldman, werewolf hunter and object of Haas’s giant man-crush, who shows up with a goon squad made up entirely of actors of color (in case you were wondering where they were in this lily-white production), the aforementioned iron elephant, and an amazing manicure. Oldman tells us that his wife had been a werewolf (HELLO REMUS ILU BB) and so he has Expert Knowledge in the Pain and Suffering when the Curse is on Someone You Love.

Part of his expert knowledge is a bit of Plot! We are currently in a blood moon! Which means this is the only time the werewolf can make new werewolves! And it will be a blood moon for THREE NIGHTS.

At which point I sigh heavily, because obviously there must be Three Nights of Movie Remaining and I perhaps did not bring enough coffee for this.

And so it continues. Characters wander around the village for no apparent reason until the plot rams them into each other. We’re told that it is very cold, but there is no knitwear! We see sweeping shots of glorious mountains, and fog mysteriously gathers only in the graveyard. Actors who have previously demonstrated talent are apparently replaced by robots. (Seriously, Virginia Madsen. What happened?) People die, but no one seems to care very much. Gary Oldman puts on a weird accent, but also delivers the greatest line of the whole picture: “Lock him up! In the elephant!” Which is possibly the only memorable line at all.

The audience thinks about who the werewolf obviously is, and then thinks about how the movie could be so much more interesting if it was one of the other characters instead. Some people fell asleep. Would that I had been so lucky.

The cinematography *was* pretty enough. But on the whole, I think Red Riding Hood was even duller than The Wolfman, which is amazing. I mean, for one thing, Emily Blunt bothered to act, whereas Amanda Seyfried did not. Perhaps because Emily *can* act? Plus The Wolfman had Anthony Hopkins having nearly as good a time as he did in The Rite, Hugo Weaving having more fun than anyone on the planet ever, and though both films featured dismemberment, only in The Wolfman was a hand still able to fire a gun after the fact.

I’m sure there are good werewolf movies out there, but this is not it.

[Drive Angry 3D]

This is what we knew about Drive Angry going into it: Nicolas Cage breaks out of Hell and/or prison to prevent his grandchild from being sacrificed to Satan. And William Fichtner looked badass in the trailer as The Accountant. Whatever that meant.

Based on this (car chases and also devil worshiping!), we believed this movie had the potential to rank right up there with our beloved Legion.

Sadly, this was not so. Instead it was pretty much a case study of what my mom thinks *all* movies are: purely gratuitous sex & violence. Seriously, there was an astonishing amount of sex. There was at least as much sex as there was angry driving, and that includes the initial drive out of hell. Because that’s how one gets out, apparently. Now you know.

Three things that would have made the film more entertaining, at least to me:

1) If the baby had been recovered further from the end of the feature, so that Cage would be forced to Drive Angry with an infant seat & a baby-on-board sign.

2) If “3D” had been a part of the title, standing for something infinitely more awesome than headache-inducing 3 dimensions.

3) If Cage had acquired X-ray vision after *spoiler* he magically recovers from being shot in the eye.

Since none of these things happened, you should not see this movie at all. You should wait for Priest, which at least will include an inexplicably tattooed Paul Bettany trying to rescue a girl rather than Nicolas Cage with really bad hair trying to rescue a girl.

The only thing that was genuinely entertaining was Fichtner, The Accountant sent from Hell to retrieve Cage. He was pretty fabulous, like he knew exactly what sort of movie he was in and decided to have fun with it. He’s not in it enough to make it worth your time, let alone 3D prices.

If you must go to the movies this weekend, skip everything that’s actually opening & make a dent in seeing Oscar nominees instead.

[The Rite]

The Rite opens with a surprisingly squicky scene of a body being prepped for burial. Fear not, though, for that is the most shudder-inducing thing to happen in the entire film, barring only the threat of Anthony Hopkins naked.

The film is “suggested by” a book, which is my new favorite credit. I think all films should tell us what suggested them, if only so we can have an explanation. Some are surely good (suggested by a true story, suggested by a lack of films surrounding a certain population), others not so much (suggested by the public’s desire to see things blow up regardless of character motivation, suggested by [actor]’s desire to work close to home).

Anyway. This was suggested by a book of the same title, where a journalist followed a priest through exorcism training. The book might actually be interesting, but the movie was not.

The Rite is, basically, a recruitment video for the Catholic church. In it, our young atheist hero (Colin O’Donoghue as Michael) hitches his wagon to the star that is seminary school, so as to get a free ride out of this here town. It’s either that, or taking over the business at his family’s funeral home, and having been like, totally grossed out by the opening scene, I applaud his decision.

He makes the most of his four years of free education, and on the eve of graduation pens an “it’s not you, it’s me” letter to the priesthood. But God has other plans, as well as a bill for $100K if he doesn’t don that collar, and so off we go to Rome to Acquire Some Faith while laying the smackdown on the devil.

(By the way, Toby Jones is pretty much wasted as the Church’s heavy in the undergrad scenes, and Ciarán Hinds is wasted as the professor in Rome. Anthony Hopkins is not wasted, as he is obviously having a blast in the role of Rome’s go-to exorcism guy, Father Lucas.)

Once in Rome, Michael meets up with Father Lucas, offers a few test volleys of “Hey, maybe what these people really need is a shrink”, but spends most of his time hanging out watching Crazy Shit Happen in Italian. Which can be fine, if one can act, but Colin O’Donoghue cannot, and so watching him watch stuff pretty much put me to sleep.

Here are three things that would have made it more interesting:

  1. If the frog Father Lucas allegedly pulls from a young boy’s Pillow of Doom had indicated either the beginning of a series of plagues, or the presence of Lois & Clark esque clones.
  2. If Angeline, the journalist Michael encounters at Exorcism High, had carried through with her anvilicious name and been an actual guardian angel.
  3. If it had been a completely different movie.

Here are three reasons why people might want to watch it, which I suppose are valid:

  1. If you watch all exorcism movies ever.
  2. If you love Anthony Hopkins (and fear not — even though it looks inevitable, his robe never does fly open, to our great relief).
  3. If you have a free ticket. (Hey, that’s me!)

[Four or so people who were underused in No Strings Attached]

Last week, against my better judgment, I caught a screening of No Strings Attached. I was mostly tricked by the supporting cast, most of whom deserved better:

1) Cary Elwes. I’m not sure why he was in the movie at all. His entire character could have been cut, and it would not have affected the story at all. I can only assume that his key scenes were deleted.

2) Greta Gerwig & Mindy Kaling. They’re both hilarious. I’d like to see a movie just with them.

3) Olivia Thirlby. I maybe just wanted more of her because she’s so damn pretty.

4) Whatever band was doing the bluegrass-y cover of “99 Problems” in the bar.

Four Other Things:

1) There is a 90210 joke that no one else laughed at, much like the Moesha reference in Going the Distance. I am old.

2) Kevin Kline was not underused. In fact, he was used pretty much exactly enough.

3) Jake Johnson was not nearly as crass as one might have expected, particularly one traumatized, as I was, by the brother in Love & Other Drugs.

4) It actually kind of works for the first half. So if you are, say, on a cross-country flight, you could watch it through to the fully-clothed spooning scene, and then switch to Mythbusters or something.