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Entries in hasbro (2)

Friday
Oct242014

Ouija

At the risk of sounding condescending, I have a tendency to mock those that believe in silly things. When I was younger, I was the one who would move the Ouija board slider to mess with my more gullible friends, as my cynical nature quickly took over as soon as we gathered around that board. I simply couldn’t help myself; it was just too easy. If anything, my cynicism regarding the so called “spirit world” has increased as I’ve grown older.

That’s not to say I can’t enjoy a good ghost movie, but this week’s succinctly titled “Ouija” was more than I could handle. It was hard not to roll my eyes when the skeptic characters, 15 seconds after huddling around the Ouija board, were all of a sudden believers. Where are the logical ones, the ones who refuse to believe such nonsense? Although horror movie rules dictate that they will ultimately be wrong for being non-believers, a decent representation would have been nice. At a short 89 minutes, however, I suppose such narrative and character arcs are too much to ask for. But even with my cynicism removed from the rest of the product, “Ouija” just doesn’t cut it. It’s not scary or interesting, the make-up and effects are subpar and the dialogue is ridiculous.

The very thin plot follows a young woman named Laine (Olivia Cooke) whose friend has just seemingly committed suicide under mysterious circumstances. She quickly learns that, just prior to her death, her friend had just used a Ouija board alone, which is against the rules if you want to safely contact the spirit world. A believer herself, she and a group of friends decide to huddle around the Ouija board at night in the house her friend died in to see if they can summon her spirit and uncover the truth surrounding her death.

Even with the thin plot, the events leading up to that girl’s death set the stage for a promising ghost movie. For example, backgrounds are prominent in the opening shots and though the girl is front and center, the eyes are drawn behind her. It sets a mood by cinematically implying something may happen, but then it doesn’t. It toys with perspective and viewer expectation in a way that too many horror films fail to do. Even when her fate ultimately befalls her, nothing much is shown, allowing the imagination to conjure up whatever horror she sees in her final moments. It’s heightened tension at its finest.

Unfortunately, this is all within the first five or so minutes of “Ouija,” the rest of it succumbing to a bland story and horror clichés, like slowly opening doors and reflections in the mirror that stopped being scary years ago and don’t find themselves reinvigorated here. The spirits here, like so many that came before, spend more time with mild trickery than actually getting the job done. One must wonder what the mentality is behind turning the oven on when, if they can already manipulate real world objects, they could easily do something much more effective. A gas leak explosion, perhaps?

Where “Ouija” ultimately falters, though, isn’t in its narrative absurdities, but in its abundance of jump scares, effective only in the sense that they’ll startle your heart to the point of racing rather than building to it and earning it. It’s the kind of scares where someone in the other room inexplicably and unintentionally sneaks up behind their friend with ninja-like stealth skills, a scare intended only for an audience dumb enough to fall for such lazy tricks. But I suppose the filmmakers had to try to spice things up somehow. If it weren’t for those occasional loud jump scares, I’m pretty sure I would have fallen asleep.

Even still, those tricks are preferable to the ghostly presences the audience is eventually introduced to. They look incredibly silly and they’re seen in such generic horror movie locations that they would be hard to take very seriously anyway. The characters venture into dusty attics, cluttered basements and even a psychiatric ward. One gets the feeling that the only reason they don't end up in a cemetery is because the Ouija rules expressly forbid it.

Simply put, “Ouija” is ill-conceived from top to bottom, rarely showing that it has any idea what makes a good horror movie. It’s very easy to make fun of those who think a mass manufactured Hasbro game has any supernatural properties to it, but you can’t blame those people for looking for some cheap thrills. The movie based on it wishes it could muster as much.

Ouija receives 1/5

Thursday
Mar282013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

One mustn’t expect much when sitting down to watch “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” It’s based on a silly Hasbro toy meant to portray the fighting spirit of the American soldier and as such, one should expect nothing more than mindless entertainment. In this case, the film nailed the “mindless” part, but forgot about the “entertainment.” Having seen the original movie only once, it’s hard to say which is worse—they appear to be equal in terms of quality—but this is action at its most basic. Only junkies of the genre will find anything to enjoy and even they might be put off by the lousy script, horrible puns and desperation seeping through this thing. “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is an early contender for one of the worst movies of the year.

According to franchise lore, the Joes are an elite covert special mission unit operating under the supervision of the US military. They’re given all the difficult jobs, the ones where a lesser group of soldiers wouldn’t make it back alive. However, they’re about to be set up and most of them are about to be put into retirement for good. After a successful mission with no casualties, an air attack comes by and wipes them out. Only a few survive, including Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), the new leader of the Joes. Along with his remaining comrades, he sets out to discover who double-crossed them and bring them to justice.

Of course, other prominent franchise characters play their roles as well, like Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey), though keeping track of them all is a daunting task for the uninitiated. So many characters appear, some of whom look similar enough to be indistinguishable from each other, that it’s sometimes difficult to tell who is on whose side. To blame this entirely on the existing franchise would be unfair, however, as it’s primarily the screenplay that does such a poor job of establishing them. “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” has the most hackneyed screenplay of the year so far and it’s filled with so much expositional dialogue that you’d be playing the odds if you bet that the rest of this year’s movies combined wouldn’t equal its amount.

It’s insulting, quite frankly. Characters, motivations, schemes, places, all are explained almost entirely through exposition, as if the audience is too dumb to figure it out for themselves. When so much of that exposition is interrupted with some of the lamest jokes this side of “Jack and Jill,” it becomes difficult to handle. One attractive woman introduces herself as a reporter for Fox News. “That must be why you look so fair and balanced,” the man says in reply, as if that somehow makes sense. Early on, one Joe tells another to prepare for extraction and he replies, “Extraction? What are we, teeth?” The villain even refers to himself as the “quicker blower-upper,” a clear play on words of Bounty’s paper towels.

These moments will make you roll your eyes so far into the back of your head, you may put yourself into a catatonic state. The only thing that could have saved “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” from total irrelevance is its action scenes, but they’re hardly exciting. Aside from one impressive, though CGI-fueled, battle on the side of a mountain, what is presented here is generic of dozens of other shoot ‘em ups that have come before. To make matters worse, the action scenes are too short and too few while the narrative sections are unnecessarily stretched out, despite their simplistic nature. One example of this simplicity comes fairly early on (so this can hardly be considered a spoiler) when the Joes figure out that the President isn’t actually the President. “Last week, he said soda. Now, he says pop!” one Joe proclaims. “When he crossed his fingers together, the right thumb rest on top, but now it’s the left!” she follows. If this is all the deduction it takes to uncover a terrorist plot, we would all be super soldier sleuths.

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is awful, yet it doesn’t even realize it. It doesn’t play off its own obvious deficiencies with a playful wink and nod. To the contrary, it actually thinks it’s good, but its dramatic moments are flat, its humor is desperately unfunny and its action scenes are unimaginative. Let’s hope next time someone double crosses the Joes, he takes them all out so we won’t have to sit through another one of their movies.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation receives 0.5/5