Will Arnett

Jonah Hex (2010, Jimmy Hayward)

If you ever find yourself not believing in the idea that White people of wanting talent can fail upward, watch Jonah Hex. Every one of the principals from the film worked again when, based on the film as evidence, maybe John Malkovich should’ve gotten another job. Sure, Josh Brolin isn’t terrible in the lead, but it’s not like he acts enough you’d think there’s something to him as a talent. Michael Fassbender and Megan Fox are just plain bad, though Fassbender’s failing at a part, Fox isn’t even acting a part enough to fail at it. Of course, she is sympathetic because Hex really likes victimizing Fox, the only woman in the cast with a speaking part.

At least, with multiple scenes and a speaking part.

The film runs an indeterminable seventy-five minutes (eighty with end credits); it feels closer to a couple hours just because it’s so boring in its badness. The only times Hex gins up any energy is when it’s being surprisingly bad in some way or another, like when Black man in 1876 Lance Reddick has to tell Brolin he knows he wasn’t racist when he was a Confederate soldier, he just didn’t like following orders.

Hex is a heritage not hate bunch of nonsense from 2010. It’s a very lazy film and could have just as easily not had the sexism, the racial optics, some ableism, and given everyone less work and based on everything else in the picture, they’d have embraced it, but screenwriters Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor had some very definite places they wanted to go with the film. Ick places.

It’s a stunningly bad lead turn from Brolin. Yes, it’s clear director Hayward has no idea to direct actors—or even whether or not he should be directing them; I swear in a couple scenes it looks like Fox is glancing off screen for some kind of guidance. Or editors Kent Beyda, Daniel P. Hanley, Tom Lewis, and Fernando Villena just do bad work. Yes, all four of them for a seventy-five minute movie. Hex reuses at least three minutes of the same footage, bringing the “original” footage runtime down to seventy-two, then throw in another couple for the opening animated sequence, which Brolin narrates and recaps what happens between the prologue and the present action, and you’re down to seventy.

And for a seventy minute “intense Western action” adaptation of a comic book… Jonah Hex is still surprisingly bad. Incompetent might be the best word, but no worries, both producers failed up.

The only reasonable performance is Malkovich, who gets through it without any exertion or ambition, but without any failings either. He’s perfectly fine as a Confederate general who fakes his death so he can come back and firebomb the U.S.A.’s first centennial celebration with a steampunk super weapon. Sadly it’s about the only steampunk thing in the film, outside some explosive crossbow guns Reddick makes for Brolin; steampunk might at least be interesting.

Hayward’s a terrible director. He’s not good at action, either with explosions, guns, horses, fists, knives, or whatever else. Jonah Hex makes you realize what truly bad ideas Hollywood producers have about what makes something good.

Maybe the only thing I’m grateful about with Hex—other than the runtime—is not recognizing Michael Shannon, who seems to have a cameo and I do remember seeing someone who looks a little like him but thinking it was Neal McDonough. Wes Bentley’s quite recognizable and quite bad. One has to wonder what Malkovich thinks of acting opposite people who can’t make bad material palatable.

Will Arnett and John Gallagher Jr. have small parts I hope they talked to their agents about recommending.

Jonah Hex is a crappy movie and not in any interesting ways.

Oh, and Aidan Quinn. Poor, poor Aidan Quinn. He too hopefully had a long talk with his agent.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jimmy Hayward; screenplay by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, based on a story by William Farmer, Neveldine, and Taylor, and the DC Comics character created by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga; director of photography, Mitchell Amundsen; edited by Kent Beyda, Daniel P. Hanley, Tom Lewis, and Fernando Villena; music by Marco Beltrami and Mastodon; production designer, Tom Meyer; costume designer, Michael Wilkinson; produced by Akiva Goldsman and Andrew Lazar; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex), John Malkovich (Quentin Turnbull), Michael Fassbender (Burke), Megan Fox (Lilah), Will Arnett (Lieutenant Grass), John Gallagher Jr. (Lieutenant Evan), Lance Reddick (Smith), Wes Bentley (Adleman Lusk), Tom Wopat (Colonel Slocum), Michael Shannon (Doc Cross Williams), and Aidan Quinn as the President of the United States.


Blades of Glory (2007, Will Speck and Josh Gordon)

A couple things are immediately interesting about Blades of Glory. First is Will Ferrell. While Ferrell’s top-billed, it’s really Jon Heder’s movie. It isn’t a question of likability–Ferrell, being funnier, is more likable–but of the script’s focus. It’s Heder’s story, with Ferrell along to make things a little more interesting.

But Blades isn’t a serious attempt at a narrative. The film occasionally attempts to talk about deadlines (for figure skating competitions), but the timeline accelerates to fit the pace. Blades is only ninety minutes and it probably could have shaved some of the love story between Heder and Jenna Fischer. None of the primary cast exactly gives a performance, just embodies a persona, and Fischer doesn’t have one. She’s boring, if mildly appealing.

It’s also a problem since Heder’s better opposite Ferrell than anyone else in the picture. When he’s on his own, Blades flounders a little.

There’s no reality–internal or otherwise–to Blades. But directors Gordon and Speck are careful to curb the absurdism with real figure skaters cameoing. At the beginning, with William Fichtner and William Daniels both showing up, it seems like they’re going to use character actors to amplify Blades‘s absurdism. But both actors disappear, Fichtner way too soon, and Craig T. Nelson–coaching Ferrell and Heder’s male figure skating pair–is sillier than he needs to be.

There are a lot of good jokes and some great ones. It’s a lot of fun, but Ferrell’s easily the best part of it.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon; screenplay by Jeff Cox, Craig Cox, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, based on a story by Craig Cox, Jeff Cox and Busy Philipps; director of photography, Stefan Czapsky; edited by Richard Pearson; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Stephen J. Lineweaver; produced by Stuart Cornfield, John Jacobs and Ben Stiller; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Will Ferrell (Chazz Michael Michaels), Jon Heder (Jimmy MacElroy), Will Arnett (Stranz Van Waldenberg), Amy Poehler (Fairchild Van Waldenberg), Jenna Fischer (Katie Van Waldenberg), William Fichtner (Darren MacElroy), Craig T. Nelson (Coach), Romany Malco (Jesse), Nick Swardson (Hector), Rob Corddry (Bryce) and William Daniels (Commissioner Ebbers).


G-Force (2009, Hoyt Yeatman)

I’m not a fan of the popcorn movie argument–it’s the one where people tell you you’re just supposed to enjoy the movie and not think about it–Stephen Sommers uses it in his defense and so does, somewhat more interestingly, Cameron Crowe (I think he called it populist to prove he’d been to college). Except if you aren’t supposed to think about something, why is it there? Don’t put it there if you don’t want someone to ask about it.

There is nothing to think about in G-Force. Not a single thing. There are fart jokes and there are cute little animals running around. They’re secret agents. Or commandos. It’s never clear. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention when Zach Galifianakis was explaining them (he created them) to boss Will Arnett because Galifianakis’s performance is the worst thing I’ve ever seen (not really, but close–he’s not having any fun and if you’re not having fun in G-Force, why are you in it?).

So these smart, talking, spy guinea pigs have a huge James Bond adventure. It’s fantastic. There’s never a suggestion anyone should think about anything after it’s happened–I’m not even sure there’s anything the viewer has to remember later on in the running time. It’s all present.

All the voices are good (it’s probably Jon Favreau’s best performance), but Steve Buscemi’s the real standout. And Tracy Morgan, he’s great.

G-Force also has excellent special effects, but they aren’t the point. There is no point.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Hoyt Yeatman; screenplay by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, based on a story by Yeatman; director of photography, Bojan Bazelli; edited by Jason Hellmann and Mark Goldblatt; music by Trevor Rabin; production designer, Deborah Evans; produced by Jerry Bruckheimer; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Darwin), Penélope Cruz (Juarez), Tracy Morgan (Blaster), Nicolas Cage (Speckles), Jon Favreau (Hurley), Steve Buscemi (Bucky), Bill Nighy (Leonard Saber), Will Arnett (Kip Killian), Zach Galifianakis (Ben), Kelli Garner (Marcie), Tyler Patrick Jones (Connor), Piper Mackenzie Harris (Penny), Gabriel Casseus (Agent Trigstad), Jack Conley (Agent Carter), Niecy Nash (Rosalita) and Justin Mentell (Terrell).


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