Saturday, January 3, 2009

MOVIES- Eagle Eye and "on doing reviews"

In this review I break by two cardinal rules, one permanently. I never do a synopsis and I consider all my movie articles to be discussions of a movie rather than reviews to recommend a film so I assume spoiler warnings. But in this article I’m doing a synopsis and I’m going to mark passages with SPOILER alerts. So in case you don’t want to know how the movie ends, I’m going to give you the first and last sentences of the last paragraph and that is my spoiler free verdict.

“So I’m giving this movie a hearty recommendation. It’s almost a must-see.”

Past here there be SPOILERS but not for a while so continue, brave one…


Whoever said Eagle Eye was a movie about the first 20 minutes of THE MATRIX said everything you need to know about it. Except it’s a mediocre copy of the first 20 minutes of THE MATRIX. It’s not even the whole first twenty minutes. They didn’t even include the cool part with Trinity kicking everybody’s ass, just from where Neo goes to work, to after the interview with Agent Smith. You know, all the running between cubicles with a cell phone stuck in his ear. They even do a shot-by-shot homage during the interrogation between LeBeouf and Thornton (I’m sorry, there was never any need to learn the characters names.) The tagline for this movie should have been: The INTERNET! The most diabolical Frankenstein monster ever spawned from the mind of man… It can see anything… Do anything… Be everywhere!!! There is no escape… from… THE INTERNET!

THE DIRECTOR isn’t bad, aside from his inept stealing from the staging and composition of other movies. The camera is in focus and eye-lines are steady for the most part. This artistry makes the director a standout compared to…

THE WRITERS proved that one person could not create such a dreadful script- it took a committee. If you’re expecting a new Borne movie with Shia playing Borne then you need to be thinking more SPY KIDS. In addition to THE MATRIX, the script borrows from a number of other sources, most notably 2001, MXC, and every other movie like this ever made. I’ve seen Bruce Willis use a tollgate as a ramp to launch a car into a helicopter, so nothing in this movie is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen, but it tries real hard. But it’s not the writing that’s bad. The bad dialogue is the product of…

THE PLOT is the classic “idiot” plot. Every time the plot needs to move forward, someone does something idiotic. The best thing you can say about the writers was that at least one of them was able to follow Conrad’s law and make sure that the gun used in the third act was introduced in the first act. (SPOILER- it’s not actually a gun.) The script is an example of sub-mediocrity that is equaled by…

THE ACTORS apparently had a meeting and decided to play themselves rather than do any, you know, ACTING. Shia LeBeouf seems the only one to have put any thought into his performance. (I guess he thought he was the leading man or something.) He SPOILER plays two identical twins and seems to have decided that two expressions would be all that were needed- talking as loud and fast as you can or trembling in fear like a junky sweating it out. Luckily one of the characters was dead so he was able to lavish the other one with both mannerisms. Here again, the script doesn’t help. Here’s a hint, Shia. When your character starts hearing a magical voice that knows everything and can do anything, and your character disagrees with in at every turn and is always wrong, that’s probably not the leading man vehicle for you.

Michelle Monaghan plays a super-competent MILF who’s a little ditzy. Our introduction to her is watching her backtrack 20 complex steps to remember that she left her car keys in the fridge. As previously mentioned, Michelle plays her character as if she was Michelle Monaghan.

Billy Bob Thornton also appears as himself but does have the advantage that Billy Bob Thornton standing around and delivering stupid dialog is still more interesting than the other two combined. To give you the idea, his best line is, “If you’re looking at me I’d better be the suspect.” (I didn’t say it was good, I said it was his best line.) But then the writer(s) ruins even this dimly bright spot by having him go on for two minutes spewing lame ass threats to his subordinates. If it didn’t become a caricature the audience might miss the cliché, I guess.

Roxanne Dawson is also in the movie, so is Michael Chiklis. Which leaves us with…

THE MAGUFFIN is the central conceit of the whole thing, the big plot twist that the whole thing swings on. I wasn’t going to do a SPOILER of this- even though it was incredibly predictable and even though it was the second biggest rip-off after THE MATRIX. But then they made it into a monster movie and killed the monster in the dumbest most obvious way and took 40 minutes doing it. Oh, by the way the SPOILERS are- the monster is a giant military computer that has become independent, the rip-off is WARGAMES, and the way they kill it is to jab a big stick in it’s giant red eye. You see, the main computer core is inside a giant mechanical eyeball on a big mechanical stalk that moves around a ginormus* circular room looking at little convex mirrors all over the walls. (If you’re even thinking of asking why, you have missed the whole point of what I’ve been saying about this movie.) When they find out the computer has gone rogue, instead of taking out a handgun and blowing it away, they fret and run around and pull out “memory cores” (which are a dead ringer for the memory units in HAL 9000 except without the cool zero gee) to “slow it down a little” (I swear that I am not shitting you) and only wind up killing it by jamming a stick into the big red eye by accident finally. While all this happens, LeBeouf and Monaghan bounce from event to event like pinballs with him being alternately terrified or loud. It’s all just a mess.

Now I hate to give away the ending to a movie (Burt Reynolds makes it back with the beer and wins the bet), and I hate to do a plot synopsis (their only purpose is to fill column space for professional reviewers) and I’ve gone and done both. And I feel bad about it. Especially when I consider that I could have dropped the needle anywhere in the movie and found something equally inane (I’m running out of synonyms for shitty). A large hunk of the movie is devoted to something that could have been done by rerouting a CIA plane.

So I’m giving this movie a hearty recommendation. There are movies that aren’t good, and there are movies that are bad. This movie is bad enough in a good enough way to be worth watching. In fact, you should get a bunch of your friends together and go at it MST3K style. It’s almost a must see.


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