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Rating History

The Lone Ranger
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Desperate to recapture and recapitalise on the magic and money of his rollicking high seas franchise, Director Gore Verbinski has choreographed a film almost identical in style and energy.

Swapping the smell of salty spray and feel of heaving waves for the grittiness of desert dust and ever expanding arid emptiness, The Lone Ranger is a massively expensive adaption with all the elements of a grand adventure but without the box office or viewer acclaim.

Jarringly jumping between frenetic and tedious, modern (without even being set in today) and traditional, plastic and parody, odd couple and action heroes, comedy and drama, this film simply doesn't know what it wants to be and would have benefited greatly overall from a generous dose of editing.

For those of you who do remember the source material, I would advise not to compare, this is definitely a case of different courses for different horses. Stunts are massive and the vistas are stunning, even if they are noticeable geographically incorrect (location scouts take note - 2010's Utah does not equal 1870's wild-west Texas).

Wandering through a carnival in 1933 chewing on fresh peanuts, a young boy stops in front of a display reading "The Noble Savage". When an old man who should be a statue comes to life, the elderly fellow recounts a 60 year old yarn of unbelievable derring-do.

On train route home to Texas, straight laced Prosecutor John Reid (Armie Hammer) meets off-beat native Tonto (Johnny Depp) when they are shackled together by gun-toting hi-jacker's and left for dead on a runaway locomotive. Surviving the accident only to join a band of Rangers and play into a murderous plot, Reid is once again left of dead but can that actually work in his favour?

With the aid of tonto and his trusty white steed, Reid transforms from a man of the law, into The Lone Ranger, a legend of justice.

The epitome of chisel-jawed decency, Hammer has a likeable air but lacks screen presence, especially in contrast to his centre-kick of a side-kick, Johnny Depp. Like his most bankable character Jack Sparrow, Depp inhabits Tonoto in his usual magically eccentric part fruitcake, part genius and all crazy style.

There is glimmer of chemistry between the leads, but Depp seems to get more in reply from Reid's stunning personality ridden horse that his second-fiddle leading man.

Thankfully, the overtly colourful Helena Bonham Carter's role is rather small and her unique brand of odd is somewhat controlled even as a lethal prosthetic legged House of Sin Madam. Much like the aforementioned, the supports are all caricatures of the much-neglected western genre.

With modern influences guiding the project, there are some glaring tonal inconsistences between light-hearted humour and racially sensitive violence.

Besides being somewhat offensive to certain audiences, it highlights just how for the wrong way film making is on the political correctness scale. Backstory, historical and geographical accuracy be dammed.

The verdict: With all the negatives being said, the hi-ho silver speed of this movie is somewhat endearing and with the infectious anticipation of will they -wont they rendition of Rossini's William Tell Overture and other classic elements right there on the brink, the reluctant charm of this film seeps through into an enjoyable cinematic experience.

Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 12/07/2013

Man of Steel
Man of Steel (2013)
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Proving once a b-movie, always a b-movie; director Zack Snyder's 20teens big-budget superman revamp Man of Steel comes with all the CGI bells and whistles that today's digital masterminds can deliver, but like its supposedly indestructible hero, the screenplay's DNA is flawed.

Crumpling under the kryptonite of an ill-conceived self-indulgent story, a cliché ridden script, cartoonish baddies, stereotyped hard-nosed militaria and an overt need for metaphors with not-so-hidden meanings polarising modern society values; no amount of adrenalin riddled murky visual effects can bring this juvenile escapist-fantasy in line with the inflated magnitude of expectations it shatters.

Unless you have been living under a rock since the mid-70's, the basic elements of the superman story is something we all know. A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this world which sets him on an outsider's journey of self-discovery. Compelled by his nature, he risks exposure and persecution to help those in need. Overcoming his demons and allowing the hero within to emerge, superman is tasked with saving the world from annihilation and becoming a symbol of hope for all mankind.

The mythology is intact, with an initial jaunt on the planet krypton, the circumstances leading up to why baby Kal-El is jettisoned off to Earth carrying the hopes and dreams of his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) enraging the traitorous General Zod (Michael Shannon) are rather over explained.

Upon arrival in Kansas (which has no explanation) the child is raised by adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Coster, Diane Lane). Named Clark, he is taught not only to harness his abilities but the value of keeping then quite until exposure is truly necessary - for a woman, Lois Lane (Amy Adams)

Explaining the story any further is rather fruitless as not only is it widely known, but if you have seen even one trailer there is little mystery. As the first money-grabbing instalment of a new franchise, Man of Steel is basically a coming of age story laden with values and emphasis on relationships.

The issue with putting a serious slant on a comic book superhero is they tend to look somewhat ridiculous. Screenwriter David Goyer (attempting to follow the genetic sequence of Christopher Nolan's Batman series) uses a hap-hazard flow of flashbacks in an attempt to establish empathy with our lead. Forced and disingenuous it fails to the point where even the naturally earnest decency oozing out of Cavill's chiselled stare can't overcome.

Although I personally didn't see Adams as Lois, the leads had great chemistry and she brought a wonderfully calculated strength to the determined and far less naive character. Surprised to say, Crowe is actually appealing in one of his best recent roles while his human paternal counterpart Kevin Costner tries far too hard for gravitas. Shannon chillingly evil edge is overacted but his angular features hide it relatively well.

The verdict: Wishing during the screening that I could just propel myself up, up and away, I settled for a little nap during the seemingly eternal final battle sequence. I admit I wasn't exactly sure what was happening but it was something along the lines of superman vs. skyscrapers, superman vs. helicopters, superman vs. spaceships, superman vs. intergalactic mercenaries, superman vs.... well you get the idea. One thing did vex me however during all this carnage, like his nemesis, superman had no regard for the safety of by standing humans.

Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 05/07/2013

The Internship
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

When it comes to shameless product placement in filmmaking, I never thought anything would be more blatant than Tom Hank's feature length commercials of 1998's You've Got Mail for AOL and 2001's Castaway for Fed Ex, however somehow Google now seems to have taken the campaign throne, I do hope there product share doesn't disintegrate after the film's release as quickly as the aforementioned.

Cleverly marketed to target facebook addicted Y-gens who are attracted to the films plot and technological foundations as well as life savvy X-gens with its casting choice and comic sensibilities, The Internship attempts to capitalise on the sum of its disjointed parts as non-demanding escapist entertainment.

Deriving humour not only from its goofy yet infectiously witty leading men; Vince Vaughn (also one of the writers) and Owen Wilson, with their palpable camaraderie and out-dated 80's film references but the juxtaposition of modern societies disassociation with the 'real world' and 'old fashioned skills', things such as basic human interaction and communication come under a the proverbial microscope in a the cyber world where Googliness is holier than Godliness.

Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) are gift-of-the-gab salesmen in the truest sense, employed to sell high end watches, their life experiences of wheeling and dealing bring new meaning to the term selling-ice-to-the-eskimos.
But when one of their favourite clients (not their boss) informs them that the digital revolution has seen their jobs go the way of the dinosaur, they are determined to prove their skills are not extinct just yet.

Getting "on-the-line" in a library, the duo exemplify old school but still manage to fast-talk their way into a coveted internship at San Francisco's fun park-cum-HQ Google, but gaining entrance into the child-like utopia is only the beginning.

Proving that necessity really is the mother of re-invention and their skills are worth just as much as book smarts, Billy and Nick mingle among a battalion of half-their-age ivy-league educated tech-savvy geniuses in hopes of securing two of five full-time positions that may offer a new career.

Their self-perception shattered from the get-go when relegated to the rejected 'left-overs' team; comprising of mama's boy Yo-Yo (Tobit Raphael), socially disinterested Stuart (Dylan O'Brien), life-experience lacking Neha (Tiya Sircar) and wanttabe cool dude instructor Lyle (Josh Brener), old dogs Billy and Nick learn new tricks whilst teaching team mates some old ones they would have simply missed in a life lived in cyberspace.

As in a lot of Vaughn's bromances, the themes of championing hope and self-belief is a driving plot force, add to that generation based culture clash and the idea of retribution for cocky brownnosers and you would assume a winning mix, but sadly it doesn't come together all that well. Padded thin and feeling all too much like hard comedic work, the trailer really does use up all the films best pieces to get you in leaving the full product lacking any extra texture, imagination or layers to really satisfy.

The verdict: There are some funny ideas and the concept is nothing short of perfect, but if people are looking down at smart technology no amount of pole dancers and red suspenders will grab their attention (perhaps one of the most apt scenes in describing the widening generation gap).

Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 28/06/2013

World War Z
World War Z (2013)
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

When seemingly normal Philadelphia traffic turns into an avalanche of chaos from exploding vehicles to trampling zombies, former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) must find a way to get his wife (Mirelle Enos) and two daughters (Sterling Jerins and Abigail Hargrove) to safety.

As the zombie pandemic consumes the world; toppling armies, disbanding governments and threatening to decimate humanity in its entirety, Gerry is called on to leave his family and traverses the globe with doctors of the World Health Authority in search of information on the source of the outbreak.

Like 28 days later and Contagion, World War Z is not your usual mindless zombie flick. Delving into the nature of human response to epidemic threat, this deftly tackled post-apocalyptic horror-thriller from director Marc Foster based on Max Brooks' 2006 novel of the same name, establishes the story's magnitude and relevance from the outset through a unique angle.

Delayed for release on numerous occasions due to re-writes, test receptions and scene retakes, WWZ boasts a surprisingly good script that resonates with reliability though its hero's journey with scale, style and bite, props to the writers for an imaginative manipulation of the genre.

Although they combine to accentuate the films sense of panic, it is easy to separate the best and worst elements of this film. A testament to the advances in its arena the CGI work is simply exceptional, whilst a physical assault on the eyes and gag reflex, the tediously frenetic hand-held camera work would have been shot clearer from the inside or a blender on puree and its knock-on effect to editing and sound effects is just as apparent.

Grounding the film as the calm in a crisis heroic protagonist, Pitt reminds us exactly why he is one of the world's biggest stars, conveying every anguished detail with the slightest movement of his skilled features. The stellar supporting cast are brilliant in so many ways, from creative choices to dramatic candour, they genuinely add value.

As horror's are to want, the cardboard cut-out looking zombies are rarely seen close up until a plot crucial face to desiccated face confrontation where thing just get sticky. The constant fall of countries and changing locations add to the film overarching scale of destruction, while scenes in confined quarters (without giving it away, like Snakes on a plane this film would never qualify for in-flight viewing) add to a palpable sense of panic.

The Verdict: From The Walking Dead to Warm Bodies, zombie based storylines are obviously the in-thing for 20teen's and are rapidly approaching saturation point. Honestly, how much empathy can an audience be expected to have with the least cuddly undead? even if tasty-treat Brad Pitt is on offer.

Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 21/06/2013

Fast & Furious 6
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

From its 2001 original undercover cop point-break style offering, the hot and heavy Fast & Furious franchise is one of those rare beasts that seems to get better each time around - if you excuse the explosion of disaster that was subpar sequels 2 & 3.

Holding onto the idea that even an action movie needs heart, with director Justin Lin at the wheel of the last two instalments, F&F has come into its own. Respecting the need for character-building, the actors Ocean's 11 style camaraderie jumps as far out of the screen as the cars do across.

Scattered around the globe and living the high life off the spoils of their ill-gotten gains accrued during Fast & Furious 5's Rio heist, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew of exiled criminals (Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) have but one regret, that they can't return home to the US.

Meanwhile, Diplomatic Security Service Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) tracks - across 12 countries - the latest throne in his overtly muscled side. An organization of lethally skilled mercenary drivers are mounting an arsenal of weapons to commit various nefarious acts, mastermind by ex-Special Forces soldier turned military hardware hijacker, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and aided by a ruthless but somewhat unaware Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) - Dom's presumed-dead true love.

The only way to stop the criminal outfit is to outmatch them at street level, so operating under the theory 'to catch wolves, you need wolves' Hobbs and his new partner Agent Riley (Gina Carano) ask Dom to assemble his elite team in London to present the assignment and incentive of full pardons all around, if they can get to Shaw.

Craving that 'ride or die' feeling of adrenaline that only speed and risk can induce, the team go to work, but will their skills and belief in family actually hinder their success?

The well-warn-in characters have become but a second skin to the actors, Johnson flexes his muscle, Walker exploits his boyish charms and Kang sly smiles his way through every situation. Diesel's voice carries weight as it reaches the epitome of sultry Rodriguez, who may have lost her memory, but knows her mind. The major pull for this instalment watching these two 'reunite', a couple made in Furious Heaven their on-screen chemistry makes you glad to go along for the often overdone ride.

As always the stunts are bigger and brasher and all choreographed for maximum testosterone output - carparks explode, bridges crumble, buildings shatter, cars flip like playing cards and a tank roams the streets and it all business as usual.

The verdict: F&F has its priorities right, making this video game speed escapist entertainment at its best. No doubt 2014's F&F7 with its sneaky new addition (teaser at end of credits) will be even better.

Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 07/06/2013