28 May 2013

Our Peter Cushing Reviews!

The Full Peter Cushing Love!
By Kristin Battestella

Yes, we are taking horror names and listing all our Peter Cushing reviews, simply because we have so many and there’s no better way to celebrate a centenary!

You can also take in even more Peter Cushing mayhem as part of the 2013 Peter Cushing Blogathon from Frankensteinia here

And now, for all our Cushing critiques!

24 May 2013

Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus Has Fallen an Entertaining Action Yarn
By Kristin Battestella

Even after seeing a resurgence of ‘Butler Did It’ charm in all the press, interviews, and promotions for Olympus Has Fallen, it still took me more than six weeks to catch Gerard Butler’s latest kick ass action release at the cinema. This first of two 2013 ‘Save the White House’ thrillers is waning in theatres now, and only three other people attended my early morning showing.  Don’t you know it; two of them talked most of the time! What are the odds?

Ex-Ranger and Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler) is removed from President Benjamin Asher’s (Aaron Eckhart) detail after a deadly car accident. Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) places Banning in a desk job at the U.S. Treasury where he watches helplessly as Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune) and his North Korean terrorists lay siege upon the White House.  Kang holds President Asher and Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan (Melissa Leo) hostage in an underground bunker while Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) must take control of the Nation. Using his previous knowledge from his time with the President, Banning is able to infiltrate the locked down White House in hopes of rescuing Asher and stopping Kang before valuable codes and nuclear fail-safes are compromised and threaten the globe.

That indeed pretty much sums up Olympus Has Fallen, which has understandably been compared to classic action fair like Die Hard or Under Siege. Honestly, when I first saw the trailers and promotions several months ago, I was reminded not of Die Hard so much as a more obscure, cheesy film called Chain of Command. This White House under attack story from new writers Creighton Rothenberg and Katrin Benedikt is simplistic enough, but director Antoine Fugua (Training Day) unfolds all the places, characters, and situations nicely.  Critical people are in peril – some are brave and heroic while others are stupid and make mistakes. The first hour of the film smartly layers this character angst, and one may even suspect Olympus Has Fallen has something more sinister up its sleeve.  Despite a few surprises and the opportunity for more round table depth and crisis emotion from the excellent ensemble – which might have taken this flick to the next level – there’s no need to make this straightforward action tale too complex. The second half of the film dispenses with any possible subterfuge and sticks to a strictly procedural execution. The clock is ticking and predictable firefights and kicking butt has to happen – and this is where the Die Hard motifs are most apparent. There is some humor, catchy quips, and chuckle moments both intentional and unintentional, but any more wit or sarcasm might have been a total Die Hard rip off.  It’s played serious and may be a little rough around the edges, but Olympus Has Fallen does exactly what it set out to do, no more and no less.

Granted, it’s preposterous that the mass movements and aviation logistics of these North Korean radicals would go unnoticed much less proceed as swiftly as they do to set Olympus Has Fallen in motion.  However, even with a suspension of disbelief and over a decade on since 9/11, it is very difficult to watch such an effective, action packed terrorist attack on the White House. The large-scale but character based intensity may be outlandish and movie cool but it doesn’t resort to bombastic impossibilities every second ala Transformers. Thus, Olympus Has Fallen stays disturbingly real, graphic, and hard hitting. The expected action approach and systematic twists are entertaining in their heavy, if overly serious delivery and it’s pleasing to see a solid R rated film instead of a watered down PG-13 easy.  Olympus Has Fallen stays smart with precious little blood and no over the top glorification of violence, but the editing feels uneven. Some scenes simply happen too fast to see all the action. This frenetic camera style works for the daylight attack action, but it’s tough for dark or nighttime scenes. Despite being a solid two hours, Olympus Has Fallen seems a bit too quick, with a hasty ending lacking in hugs, handshakes, ceremonies, or a literal picking up the pieces. A few more minutes of resolution might have gone a long way in resolving some of the characters left hanging.

He’s back!  After toiling in the Hollywood banal with these crappy ass rom coms, 300 star Gerard Butler surprisingly fits the role of Mike Banning to a T.  Yes, viewers immediately realize he’s not an American, but it almost doesn’t even matter. We believe Butler to start Olympus Has Fallen when all is cool for Banning just as we believe his disgrace and redeeming progression to kick ass. The character may be mostly superficial and not as sardonic as audiences may have hoped, but there’s nothing wrong with having a straightforward hero in a film like this. Banning’s secret service formalities and protocols are shed as the action gets down, dirty, and deadly, and Butler proves his special forces, one man killing machine presence and all around bad assery with some intense mano y mano fight scenes. There’s no need for a clichéd, over the top camouflage painting, shouting in the mirror muscle flexing, or beefing up weapons montage ala Rambo or Schwarzenegger here. It’s nice to have someone take names and save the day instead of the 21st century trend towards ambiguous, grey, anti-heroes taking things down dark and deep, too.  Banning’s suave in a suit whether he’s stuck at a desk or killing bad guys with his bare hands and saving kids.  What’s not to love? I do wish Butler could have used his natural Scottish accent, but nowadays one is accustomed to his in between American sound anyway. Unfortunately, there should have been more scenes with Banning’s onscreen wife Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black), who is doubly under utilized as a wife in crisis and a nurse on the frontlines of the terrorist trauma. It might be a bit much, but I dare say I’d like to see further Banning, Secret Service Detail sequels or adventures. Butler produced Olympus Had Fallen, after all, so why not? Let him making steady action yarns like this – as opposed to some of those erroneous, desperate comedies. Butler needs to reinvent himself with this action effectiveness, but he has to stop doing most of his own stunts. In addition to whatever health issues and Hollywood vices with which he may struggle, some of this stuff really has to hurt!

Although there isn’t much character development in Olympus Has Fallen, the supporting players deliver as expected.  Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do with It), Morgan Freeman (seriously?), and Melissa Leo (The Fighter) may each seem too big a talent for their respective roles, but they keep things entertaining when the camera is away from Butler. Iffy dialogue aside, Freeman shows his usual cool, with a touch of argument and crisis for good measure. Unfortunately, once each in the ensemble has his or her moment, they seem to disappear from the picture or have their stories easily resolved in a few scenes. Olympus Has Fallen hints to further scandal, intrigue, interactions, and emotion from these players, but as is, we get just enough to move the plot along. Cole Hauser (Ironically also of A Good Day to Die Hard) doesn’t get to do much, and although he’s good, the script fails Dylan McDermott (The Practice). Fortunately, Rick Yune (Die Another Day) as Kang adds some strong twists and suspense to what could easily have been clichéd villainy, but I’m not sure why his plans and most of Ashley Judd’s (Kiss the Girls) element are spoiled in the trailer. Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) also suffers in the suave department, as he is, after all, a president taken hostage. Nonetheless, he delivers the tough lines whilst also keeping the family moments tender. In some ways, it feels like he and Butler make a good buddy team, and I wish there was a bit more back-story on their friendship. How did Banning and POTUS become friends? What if there had been a history between Banning and the First Lady? Why did Banning tell the Trumbull to go F himself? Touching upon these little things more would have added further dimension to Olympus Has Fallen, so here’s hoping there are some deleted scenes on the forthcoming DVD.  

Action may be its primary focus, but Olympus Has Fallen has some surprisingly unfinished effects and CGI. Not only is some photography simply too dark, but the Washington Monument scenes look incomplete, even amateur. Tricks and a reliance on computer imagery to recreate the White House are also apparent, even if the subsequent destruction is eerily well done. Naturally, I imagine the security protocols, call signs, and nuclear specifications aren’t genuine, but the use of intercut news and media footage is awkward. CNN can get closer to the action then the Pentagon and national security decisions are made based upon our crisis center’s watching of this news coverage? Misspellings on the news scrolls and television screens are plain to see, too. Whoops! Thankfully, the helicopter action, plane explosions, and machine gun fire exceed expectations. Perhaps the lengthy shootouts, gunshot wounds, and triage scenes even feel too realistic – but Olympus Has Fallen must show this action realism in order for the audience to accept the eventual rah rah heroics. The man-to-man fight choreography is intense and very well done, if tough to see at times due to claustrophobic, close quarters locations or the aforementioned dark filming. However, these are blessedly not 3D fake, Matrix panoramic, overly lit, and seemingly unrealistic ninja standoffs. I’m so glad Olympus Has Fallen didn’t resort to stereotypical, racist martial arts fights on top of today’s often awe struck, over produced action. Blows are exchanged, shots are fired, kill moves are made, next. The design isn’t super high tech, either – although some of the basic flat screens, standard smart phones, and current computer technology depicted will surely be dated soon. The hash tag reference is also too of the moment and the brief video game appearances have a whiff of product placement. Mercifully, there isn’t as much cool gizmos, fictitious gadgetry, or pop culture crutches as there could be, and Olympus Has Fallen smartly keeps the action more mature, even traditional. Yes, why not have another eighties action hey day this century?

For those interested in the trailers along with Olympus Has Fallen, there wasn’t much for which I’d return to the theater to see. Monsters University had a fun, college commercial angle to it, but The Internship feels like the same old Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson retread. How many times are these middle-aged guys going to hang around with the same twenty something college plot elements? After Earth does look very good, but Will and Jaden Smith’s paging Dr. Nepotism takes over its charm. Thankfully, Man of Steel looks promising.  Of course, there was no trailer for that other Die Hard in the White House flick White House Down, hehe. Olympus Has Fallen is already available for pre order on blu-ray from Amazon – probably to keep it fresh in audiences’ minds as the R rated, badass, cheaper home video alternative now that White House Down is indeed afoot for the summer.  Though it’s not uncommon to have annoyingly similar but different dual approaches in Hollywood – Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Hunstman for example, or the musical Sweeney Todd compared to Ray Winstone’s straight adaptation – it is ridiculously bizarre to have two so similarly plotted films out at nearly the same time. Could Olympus Has Fallen have shaken itself up by making Banning an intriguingly traumatized secret service agent who messes up and bleakly doesn’t save the day? Haven’t we seen enough of that cynicism or forced political propaganda and self-referential heavy already? I really enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen’s win the day John Wayne modern hero and modestly mature if sometimes mindless action.  

Terrorist violence, possible political controversies, and unevenly fleshed out but mostly straightforward telling notwithstanding, Olympus Has Fallen has been a box office success and a return to form for Gerard Butler. Audiences will shout at the screen during the White House takeover or call out other plot holes, but there were times when I was holding my breath at the intensity and smiling at the kick ass. This is either a film you love and can watch over and over or something you immediately hate and will not finish much less ever see again. Non-action fans or viewers expecting a complex political thriller will probably dislike Olympus Has Fallen, but old school action audiences and fans of the cast can delight here. Is Olympus Has Fallen a bad movie? No. Could it have been a heavy, emotional, political thriller? Sure, but this isn’t meant to be a statement making movie – even if the cast is here for such meaty. Take Olympus Has Fallen for what it is, a fictional, entertaining depiction of us kicking some butt. 

17 May 2013

Enterprise Season 3

Enterprise Season 3 A Pleasant Season Long Arc 
By Kristin Battestella

After the stinky that is Enterprise Season 2, the Star Trek spinoff took a new, darker direction with a yearlong storyline arc for Season 3.  While some of this lengthy puzzle and its over-reaching development are uneven, overall, this involved attempt is a strong, pleasing turn for the series.

After Earth is attacked by a mysterious alien race known as the Xindi, Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) takes Starfleet’s first Warp 5 vessel the NX-01 Enterprise into a perilous region of space known as The Expanse. Despite warnings from Science Officer T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) and the Vulcan High Command, the vengeful Archer and Chief Engineer Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer) intend to find the Xindi home world and destroy their next deadly weapon before it reaches Earth. Lieutenant Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating), however, struggles with the new MACO military contingent aboard Enterprise as the crew makes ready to face an enemy out to destroy all of humanity. 

The continuing arc and onscreen mission gets off to a great start with “The Xindi,” and “Anomaly” establishes the dangers of The Expanse piece by piece with stepped up effects and weird but good-looking visuals. Subtle filming changes, upside down camera work, and flipped photography angles add to the intense music, faster angst, and all around intensity of episodes like “Twilight.” Yes, this one is a stand-alone reset amid a yearlong telling, but it is a quite awesomely acted, paced, and executed tale. “Similitude” is also heavy for Connor Trinneer as Trip Tucker, and Enterprise should have continued further on this drastic possibility rather than squeeze in more undercooking for Anthony Montgomery as Travis Mayweather and ho hum for Linda Park as Hoshi Sato. The serious science fiction and morally iffy Xindi torture in “Stratagem” is something we haven’t seen on Star Trek in some time – if at all – and this ambiguity is an excellent change onscreen and off. I wish more attention was given to all the MACOs beyond semi regular Steven Culp (Desperate Housewives, JAG) as Major Hayes, but “Harbinger” packs in three multi layered plots – and most of it is very, very good thanks to new writer Manny Coto (24, Dexter). I could do without the T’Pol TnA spectacle and forced neuro-pressure kinky taking over, but the Trip/T’Pol relationship speculations are integral to the fun, what if paradox of “E2.”  “North Star” – an excellent looking western – and the time traveling “Carpenter Street” also depart on the Xindi arc with some lightheartedness whilst still giving critical, well done hints. 

John Billingsley as Doctor Phlox adds to the pleasant scares and paranoia in “Doctors Orders” as well. Although we’ve seen this type of isolation on Voyager before, the fine acting and visual trickery layer among the pieces of the Xindi puzzle, as the Sphere Builders and spatial anomalies are slowly and carefully explained throughout the season.  Parts of “Extinction” and “Rajiin” are clunky, uneven, and spread too thin at the beginning of the season. However, pieces of the overall arc are hinted upon in seemingly stand-alone episodes like “Impulse” and “Exile” before the solid pain, death, and loss for Archer, Trip, T’Pol, and oft-Trek guest Randy Oglesby as the Xindi leader Degra in “Azati Prime,” “Damage,” and “The Forgotten.” The Xindi plots come together nicely despite the usual space faring zealots in “Chosen Realm” and gone nutty of “The Hatchery,” and heavy topics like Archer’s stealing, alien deceptions, and T’Pol’s addictions linger thru the season.  These unTrek ideals might be a grasp at ratings just as much as character development, but “The Council,” “Countdown,” and “Zero Hour” do damn fining in pulling out all the stops for a great Third Season finale.Unfortunately, Year 3’s cliffhanger to Season 4 somehow ends up as a Nazi cliché and pulls the rug out from under this mostly darn good season.  Show runners Rick Berman and Brannon Braga should have left the reins to Manny Coto much sooner, indeed.

It feels like this has been a short Enterprise review, but I don’t want to give away all the Xindi secrets! Already reduced to 24 episodes, this season might have been tauter and trouble free if there had been even less shows, as the uneven pacing and seemingly unimportant episodes are still needed to fill the episode order with cheaper bottle shows. Yes, some traditional Star Trek fans may dislike this atypical, continuous plot, but truly, Enterprise should have been this way all along. This is thee dark, 21st century way to do Star Trek on TV, serialized and with something massive at stake. Had there been ongoing plots and can’t miss suspense since day one, Enterprise might have retained audiences from week to week and saved itself from the abysmal tune outs of Year 2. Lengthy storylines and scenarios were the height of Deep Space Nine, but Enterprise wasted too much time continuing the reverse exploration of the reverse ho hum of Voyager and fell flat and unfulfilled in its predecessor’s wake. After 14 years of lowered expectations thanks to DS9 and Voyager, why should anyone give another 4 years of Enterprise a chance?   

Despite ups and downs in Season 1 and the stinky of Season 2, the Voyager burn out was too fresh in audiences’ minds to put up with Enterprise – even when it got darn good here. I’ve praised Enterprise’s final season before, but new Trek viewers or returning SF fans can begin with Season 3, move on to the solid mini arcs of Year 4, and then return to the first two seasons. Now in retrospect, new audiences are discovering the two seasons plus of solid good on Enterprise actually weren’t that bad at all. Who knew?

15 May 2013

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing Birthday Mayhem!

Early Birthday Creepers from Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing!
By Kristin Battestella

We’ve raided the horror video vaults yet again in search of more frights and mayhem from that irrepressible, diabolic duo: Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing! Their upcoming May birthdays are the perfect excuse for a quick list of creepy, oft-scary combinations, and warm weather horror.

Asylum – A totally fun, spooky score anchors this 1972 anthology film from Amicus Productions, not to mention the great gothic locales, mental institution horrors, and an intriguing frame story puzzle from writer Robert Bloch (Psycho).  Director Roy Ward Baker (Scars of Dracula) keeps the filmmaking swift, with proper cuts and zooms for full effectiveness. Although the first story “Frozen Fear” is slow to start its voodoo angles, the murderous twists and turns arrive with increasing suspense and shocker moments. Perhaps it’s hokey, but eerily efficient nonetheless.  “The Weird Tailor” features Our Man Cush as a seemingly straightforward gentleman asking for a very interesting custom garment. Again, some may spot the plot, but this tale is still likeably bizarre and macabre. Each of the stories are very fun in getting to their kickers, and “Lucy Comes to Stay” adds some crazy woman hysterias for Charlotte Rampling (Swimming Pool) and Britt Ekland (The Wicker Man) – or so it seems. “Mannikins of Horror” ties into the framing story finale with a perfect, deeply entwined spin, and it’s great to see bookends that are just as long and involved as the featured tales are. Maybe this one isn’t as frightful or as gory and pure horror as other similar anthologies, but the demented mood and atmosphere are excellent. Unlike more elusive seventies horror films, this one also has a great DVD release complete with commentary, Amicus behind the scenes features, and subtitles. Oh my! 

Crypt of the Vampire – I’m not sure about his hair, but golly Christopher Lee looks young in this black and white 1963 foreign creepy also titled Terror in the Crypt. While all sexy screaming ladies are dubbed, Lee’s commanding voice adds to his suave count/pimp style – complete with monogrammed smoking jacket, blonde mistress, and spooky castle.  Cool carriages, fearful forests, good gothic sets, candles, and mood lighting help to forgive the weird narrations and fast and cheap production. The time period is also some kind of 19th century – the looks are effective but a little nondescript in establishing a year – but fortunately, nightmarish innuendo, shades of skin, and saucy rituals make up the difference. Billowing winds, creaking doors, and ghostly tolling bells also up some very scary moments in the final half hour despite the relative lack of vamps or blood. Interestingly, the family name here is Karnstein, and the female implications are similar to the so-called Karnstein trilogy of vampire movies from Hammer. Of course, some of this back-story might get confusing onscreen, and the poor sound, cheap DVD quality, and foreign filmmaking hiccups might make this tough for some. However, this relatively solid 90 minutes will be fun for gothic audiences and Lee fans. 

I, Monster – The DVD presentation for this 1971 twisted take on Robert Louis Stevenson from Amicus is cheap with a bad print, varying color saturation, and poor sound.  Nevertheless, the experimentation and psychoanalysis spins on the Jekyll and Hyde theme are intriguing thanks to great debates at the apathetic Victorian gentleman’s club on good and evil or nature versus nurture and the Freudian analysis on horror by the disturbed Doctor Christopher Lee and the suave solicitor Peter Cushing.  Though perhaps slow to start and the gruesome mad scientist laboratory is not for feline friends; there is a lot of red and colorful set decoration in the faux Hammer spirit.  Scenes with slick Dr. Lee and his lady patients are also wonderfully ambiguous, racy, and fun to watch. Is he evil or just taking the amoral of his medicine too far? The quiet transition scenes, silent-esque performances, and orchestrated score ala the 1920 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde show the viewer the suffering personality changes and freaky progression of depravity with just enough horror make up and violence to accentuate a scary death or two.  Some longtime fans may find this one a Lee and Cushing retread with the real frights and gore elsewhere, but the impressive take on the oft-told Jekyll and Hyde make this somewhat hidden gem worthwhile.

Tale of the Mummy – Director Russell Mulcahy (Highlander) assembled a pretty impressive cast for this 1998 creepy – including Jason Scott Lee, Sean Pertwee, Lysette Anthony, Honor Blackman, Shelly Duvall, and brief appearances by Gerard Butler, and of course, Christopher Lee. Though not a big appearance, the commanding and authentic Sir Christopher helps the period archaeology, dangerous digs, and ancient astronomical threats build, and we know the high tech follow ups and Egyptian mysticism designs will lead to some scary supernatural elements and creative kill scenes. The then modern club scenes and hip music, however, are very dated, and today’s CGI accustomed viewers may find the mummy wrapping effects corny. The Egyptian flashbacks also should have started the tale at its beginning, rather than letting several tomb discoveries and false starts slowly set up events. Though much more fearful in tone then the action fun of Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy, it might have been interesting to see the action here remain exclusively in Egypt with ancient curses and desert madness horrors instead of the London escape and investigation. Nonetheless, the pace moves nicely, and I know I would have much rather seen sequels to this than the Fraser continuations we did receive. Of course, we can’t even give this a proper, restored director’s cut video release stateside. Typical.

13 May 2013

The Bounty Hunter

The Bounty Hunter Kind of Sort of, well, Sucks.
By Kristin Battestella

Against my better judgment, I finally sat down to watch the 2010 romantic comedy The Bounty Hunter one sickly afternoon. Honestly, I’m a bit embarrassed I watched this stinker in the daytime. Egats!

Cop turned bounty hunter Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler) must bring in his ex-wife Nicole (Jennifer Aniston) after a warrant is issued when she misses a court hearing.  Nicole follows a scoop on a murder/suicide story instead, but her source disappears, and she’s trying to find him whilst also trying to avoid Milo’s handcuffs or being locked in his car trunk en route to jail. Toss in bookies, casinos, love struck co-workers, and one zany golf cart, and romance may just blossom again for the former couple.

Onscreen quips, quirky freeze frames, and a chase on stilts begin The Bounty Hunter interestingly enough. However, director Andy Tennant (Ever After) loses this potential charm once the pace slows and we meet our converging exes at their less than fulfilling jobs. One must build the situation, naturally, but this delay on the chase at hand should have been swift, edgy, and unique rather than formulaic. Almost immediately, The Bounty Hunter also suffers from its PG-13 rating. Writer Sarah Thorp (See Jane Run) could have filled a special audience void by keeping this an eclectic little comedy – not an over saturated gross out college romp, but not full on predictable romantic tripe, either. Add some sexy, do some foul creativity – don’t hold back the gags for a demographic you can’t possibly attract – just make something bemusing for the adult audiences who might actually relate to a comedy about divorced folks hating their lives. I mean, really, what teenagers are going to go see a romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler? Trapped by these fail safe rom com parameters, The Bounty Hunter further falls with poor editing and a pursuit that feels like it never really happens. Is this tale about uncovering the initial crimes or a wild uncomfortable road trip for leads? No one seems to decide. The uneven, nonessential camera shots and random photography are not hip or edgy – the camera should never leave the leads if this is supposed to be about them on the lamb. Instead, the all over the place storyline goes from sentimental to heavy on a murder/suicide and somehow lone sharks get involved, too. There’s some adult innuendo, but with no clear tone or direction, The Bounty Hunter simply tries every cliché. They hate each other, they drive each other crazy, they get jealous, they check up on each other – yeah, it gets old fast. She runs from him five times and yet they just stop off for a fun bet at the casino? The locations and chain of events make no sense, and The Bounty Hunter should have been much, much shorter with one simple, linear plot. Ironically, I’m not sure one can call this a rom com either, as it is neither romantic nor that funny. The leads and a camera on a car should have been enough to make this picture. I can’t believe this cost upwards of $40 million dollars!

Gerry, Gerry. Gerry, Gerry, Gerry! I really sort of stopped following Gerard Butler ahead of all the magazine covers and jet setting PR for The Bounty Hunter. It was obviously a comparable attempt with you know who – cough Mr. and Mrs. Smith cough – and it seemed just a bit too absurd when reminded of his off screen dedication for 300.  I saw all the tabloids and read the real life romance rumors and thought, “Well he’s made it, and now it’s all downhill.”  Sadly, the last few years have indeed been rocky for Butler. Whether he was willingly into the scene or led astray by the rumor mill, Hollywood has chewed him up and spit him out – as evident by this very film. Now when Butler does make something of note, nobody sees it thanks to his rightly or wrongly garnered notoriety. Is he that bad of an actor? No. Does he have onscreen presence and charisma? Definitely. Even here, despite the bad script and forced hyperbole, his Milo is charming in the straight humorous antics, tracking mud on the carpet and eating Doritos on a white bedspread. I kind of like Butler more brawny than super skinny, and he looks great in The Bounty Hunter – with enough scruff, action casual style, and some wet and obligatory towel scenes. However, I’m not sure about his American accent here. It’s not super bad, but there’s really no reason for him to not let his Scottish brogue run free. Unfortunately, despite Gerry eye candy, I couldn’t wait for The Bounty Hunter to end. Not only did this film not do him any A-list favors, but ultimately, The Bounty Hunter may have sent his career into a nosedive – from which, Butler may have only recently recovered. I’m looking forward to seeing the acclaimed but too little noticed Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher, but Butler’s public return to glory (hehe, “Spartans! Prepare for glory!”) depends on the box office success of his new flick Olympus Has Fallen. Although I must say, I did really, really like that one!

In addition to The Bounty Hunter’s unbelievable, all over the place pretentiousness, it’s tough to see Jennifer Aniston as a serious career woman and investigative reporter facing down criminal charges for a story. Is Nicole full of quirky comedy charm ala Aniston in Office Space or a badass confident woman on the case? A character can be both indeed, but either the script, the offbeat presentation, or Aniston doesn’t hold up. Do reporters really do this these days? It’s only been a few years, yet Nicole’s entire character crutch seems flat and out of date – not to mention she’s a bad reporter and a poor liar who can’t seem to get the scoop.  Despite nice legs and running perfectly in high heels, Aniston doesn’t look good with this messy hair in her face. Her voice and delivery also feel off, forced into being hip or casual perhaps. As a pair, Nicole and Milo seem awkward as well; one can’t really believe these two people were ever married. He’s supposedly the lovable oaf while she’s the put together not so put together bitch. It should be rom com gold, but it’s as if The Bounty Hunter’s leads are in two different films. Their arguments are embarrassing, not box office hotness, and things gets worse when the not so coupled couple ‘work’ together. A honeymoon revisit, seriously? Now having seen The Bounty Hunter, I can’t believe anyone thought that Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler’s supposed off screen romance was anything more than spin. Their chemistry here is individual, for their fans only. How did this make so much money?

Likewise, the supporting cast is all over the place in The Bounty Hunter. Christine Baranski (Cybil, Chicago), as always, is awesome as Nicole’s mother. However, she feels too young and cool herself despite being the right age for this maternal role. Her Kitty has fun in her brief scenes with Butler, but Baranski is unfortunately gone from the picture too soon. Why have a hair brained mother at all if you aren’t going to do anything with her? Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses) further miffs me as Nicole’s absolutely annoying co-worker Stewart. He follows her into the bathroom in the first five minutes – talk about falling flat and being too creepy to enjoy! I’m glad he also disappears from The Bounty Hunter. Fortunately, Siobhan Fallon (Men in Black) is cute as the frumpy bondsman secretary Theresa. She trades gum with Milo and serves up some much needed sassy! I really wish The Bounty Hunter had focused on pure comedy from this elder bunch rather than trying to compete with these sexy, twenty something, nu rom com frat things.  Did I mention Carol Kane is here, too? The entire cast feels left behind in favor of cliché pursuits and anonymous action.

Yes, even stereotypical action tripes come to play here, and The Bounty Hunter overuses one too many driving jokes. A rickshaw chase full of sight seeing, wild potential ends up totally lame, but the subsequent shoot out and car chase seems completely out of place when it’s played for the action intensity. All that’s followed by a golf cart gag, too. Truly, the best part of The Bounty Hunter is when Nicole is handcuffed to the car door, so she takes it off and with her while making an endearing Kojak reference. The musical cues, however, stink, and the desperate pop soundtrack overtakes the dialogue far too much. One can’t even enjoy the Atlantic City locales, either, as we don’t actually see them very much. The New Jersey jokes are bad, too – and I’m not just saying that because I’m from South Jersey and quite familiar with AC. I mean, Milo pumps his own gas! Could they not fact check these sorts of things? Was The Bounty Hunter meant to be a gambling or casino picture as well? It might have been better that way, if The Hangover–ish. I would liked to have seen a gritty action drama bookie heist with a handcuffed ex wife, too – or Milo as a fallen cop and the breakdown of their marriage in either humor or corruption. Why couldn’t they both have been sexy bounty hunters begrudgingly on the case together? Oh wait, that would have really been too Mr. and Mrs. Smith, wouldn’t it?

I feel quite mean in my assessment of The Bounty Hunter, but it is just so damn indicative of everything that’s wrong with Hollywood – miscast stars selling out onscreen and off, formulaic scripts and film making, massive marketing campaigns ad nauseum, ridiculous amounts of money coming and going when a movie is complete crap, rinse, wash, repeat. The funniest parts of The Bounty Hunter really are all in the trailer, and fans of the cast are better served with individual clips – if one can take any guilty pleasure merits here. Dammit, bad films like this might even anger fans. How does Gerry make such cool stuff like 300 and now Olympus Has Fallen with drivel like this in between? It boggles the mind if you think too much, and The Bounty Hunter is definitely two hours I’d like back for my peace of mind.