March 29, 2013, - 5:42 pm

Wknd Box Office: G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The Host, Tyler Perry’s Temptation

By Debbie Schlussel

Can’t say much for any of the Easter/Passover Weekend selections debuting at movie theaters today. I didn’t really like any of these, and I was somewhat charitable in my ratings. I wouldn’t spend $10 on any of ’em.



* “G.I. Joe: Retaliation“: Some readers have accused me of giving favorable or more favorable reviews to movies for which the studios give me cool stuff a/k/a “swag.” But, while the studio sent me a really cool mask (a “G.I. Joe Special Ops Mask”) to promote this movie, I still didn’t think this was a great movie. It had a ridiculous, hard-to-follow story, and almost no plot to speak of. It makes the first G.I. Joe movie–read my review–(which wasn’t screened for critics–this was, surprisingly) look like a masterpiece.

While this movie is filled with action, cool stunts, and lots of fighting and chases (including a cool chase using ropes and harnesses high in the mountains of Asia), it was confusing and non-sensical at times, and just absurd at others. The story, from what I could piece together is this: the President of the United States has been kidnapped and replaced by an evil villain who has morphed into the President’s image (could be the real life Barack Obama story). He sets up the G.I. Joes to look like villains and assassins and has them killed off . . . or so he thinks. But a few survive (including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). If you are watching this movie for Channing Tatum (as some women probably are), you’ll be disappointed, as he is killed off in the first five minutes. The G.I. Joes who survive return to foil the fake President and stop his plot of mutually assured destruction of the world in a mad nuclear plot.

I didn’t get how or why, Storm Shadow, a villain the Joes don’t trust or who is normally against them, is now on their side and does martial arts to help them win–and there are scenes with him and some other Asian martial artist and their respective gurus in which I couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on. But this isn’t a movie of “gettting” anything.

Weaved into the plot, Hollywood plays politics, with the surviving female G.I. Joe (Adrianne Palicki) whining about how her father didn’t want her to serve in the military because he said a woman couldn’t protect the country. She joined anyway and spent her life trying to outrank her father so he’d have to salute her (talk about bitter), but he died before she could achieve that goal. At the end of the movie, her twisted goal is “achieved,” when an original G.I. Joe, Bruce Willis, tells her that he served with her father and he would be proud of her. Strange that this movie comes out just after the Obama administration shoves women in combat down our throats. Now, the movies are shoving it down our throats, too.

Like I said, the mask they sent me was very cool. Sadly, the movie, not so much. There’s nothing objectionable about it, other than the women in combat BS. It’s just a silly flick and a waste of time. I originally gave this movie HALF A REAGAN, changed it to A WASH (ZERO REAGANS OR MARXES), and now, on third thought, I’m changing it back.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “The Host“: As science fiction movies go, this was one of the more ridiculous and uninteresting. But that doesn’t matter because it’s based on a novel written by Stephenie Rumpeltstiltskin Meyer, the “Twilight” author who turns utter dung into publishing and box office gold. I found this movie long, slow, and boring, and I struggled to stay awake. Much of it either doesn’t make sense, and there are giant plot holes. Still, young women and teens who read Meyer’s stuff and go in droves to see movies based on them will make this the biggest movie of the holiday weekend. I missed the critics screening of this and tried to see it last night when it debuted, but it was sold out, even at the movie theater in my very “hood” neighborhood (I saw it this morning, so I could review it for you).

The story: the earth has been invaded by aliens (who are mad at us humans for “destroying each other and the planet”–please Stephenie Meyer, come up with something other than the usual Hollywood meme about us destroying the planet; yaaaaawn). The aliens are tiny spindly things that look like the koosh balls I used to throw against my wall. They are inserted into the necks of the bodies of dead humans they are fighting to overtake. Then, those bodies come back to life as “hosts” of the aliens. But some of the host bodies still have the minds and memories of the humans who once occupied them, and they are at war with the aliens being hosted.

One of the host bodies is that of Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), a dead human rebel who has been fighting against the aliens. The alien who occupies her body is called “Wanderer” or “Wanda” for short. As the other aliens (“Seekers”) try to get her to find memories within her host so they can find out where the other remaining rebels are hiding, Wanda is fighting off Melanie’s inner thoughts of resisting the interrogation efforts. But, eventually, Melanie wins out and gets Wanda to escape from the Seekers to locate and rejoin her fellow rebels. Melanie was in love with one of the rebels, but Wanda is in love with a different rebel, and there is a fight within/between the host and the alien over that.

Things that don’t make sense: Melanie doesn’t want Wanda to tell the rebels that Melanie is still living within her body, despite the fact that the rebels want to kill the host because they believe only the alien is living within the body. Also, Melanie doesn’t want Wanda to kiss the rebel Melanie loves even though Melanie still loves him. Confused? So was I? But I just didn’t care enough to need this or anything else clarified. Also, non-sensical: why all the hosts occupied by aliens look like supermodels, wear post-modernist white suits, and drive in silver, ultra-modern Buicks and fly silver helicopters. The movie seemed like European Vogue models versus shabby Americans.

There’s no new ground in this movie. It’s not a good science fiction thriller, not even close. There was no suspense, and nothing keeping you sitting through this, except a lot of caffeine. A dull movie with lots of window dressing, nearly zero substance.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Tyler Perry’s Temptation“: This wasn’t screened for critics, but I went to see it on my own, since it’s the most heavily marketed Tyler Perry movie I can remember. I hate reviewing a movie that has the director’s name pompously placed at the beginning of the title. That said, this is better than any other Tyler Perry movie I’ve seen, though all things are relative because every Tyler Perry movie I’ve seen is absolutely horrid and this isn’t that great. And in every single one, the men are all cretins, creeps, and thugs. In this one, though, there is a good message and a good man, a husband who is dumped for a bad guy. Add to that, however, that this movie features Kim Kardashian (who cannot act, except when playing herself in porn videos) in a minor role. And she is as annoying as ever. Yuck.

The story: a small town Southern girl and her sweetheart from childhood get married and move to Washington, D.C. The the wife works for a matchmaking service for rich men as the company’s in-house therapist. At that company, she meets an internet billionaire who aggressively courts and teases her, even though he knows she is married. But, soon, she gives in to temptation and limitless ambition and dumps her terrific, hard-working, devoted husband for the glamorous life with the billionaire. But it’s a mistake that ruins the rest of her life.

As I noted, the message is good, but the movie is like a glorified Lifetime Channel movie of the week. Nothing new here, except Vanessa Williams’ really awful French accent. And the movie is depressing.


Watch the trailer . . .

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16 Responses

Hmm… what’s on Netflix.

That’s my verdict for this weekend. Ka-ching.

The Reverend Jacques on March 30, 2013 at 2:24 am

Tyler perry is the one who dresses up in drag as “Madea”, which is a somewhat serious takoff on the “Big Momma” drag franchise, right?

Does Oprah still have a TV show? She would make any “Madea” movie do well on her recco.

DS_ROCKS! on March 30, 2013 at 4:17 am

    Essentially that is the case, but the character Madea was actually created in the mid/late 90s before the release of the Big Momma trainwrecks, which came out in 2000, 2006, and 2011.

    Robert on March 30, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I agree with Debbie: the new “G.I. Joe” movie is “silly,” with an enormous amount of over-the-top foolishness, shallowness, busy subplots, cartoonish action and confusing characters. Despite these qualities, I liked it pretty well—-probably more than “Olympus has Fallen” from last week– simply because it didn’t take itself seriously and in a very straightforward way presented likable good guys against unlikable bad guys.

There wasn’t a minute that went by when some novel bit of sci fi gadgetry, new plot wrinkle (usually absurd), martial arts encounter, or CGI explosion wasn’t there on the screen begging for attention. This was an ingratiating film, but at least it wasn’t a dull one.

Sometimes the film seemed to approach self-parody, as when Bruce Willis comments that his cholesterol is too high (how many times have we recently witnessed geriatric warriors from the eighties mouth similar lines?).

The producers must have read Debbie’s uncomplimentary review of the first “G.I. Joe” movie, because instead of being members of a global organization, the main characters now appear 100% American (that’s what all the “ooh-rah” grunts in the film were about—-to tie this group to the U.S. marines). In the end, Willis turns out to be an American general handing out American medals of honor, in case there was any doubt on this score.

Burke on March 30, 2013 at 5:55 am

I realize your critics aren’t about to win any intelligence awards, but really — writing favorable reviews so you can get a cool mask?

Little Al on March 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Debbie I like your reviews since they’re approximately what I’d write (like the rest of our blog) but since you hate most movies I’m surprised they even let you in the theater at this point. You remind me of my favorite line from ‘About Last Night’: If you didn’t have a you-know-what there’d be a bounty on your head.

A1 on March 31, 2013 at 1:41 am

Taylor Perry movie. Sorry to hear you had to sit through it.

samurai on March 31, 2013 at 10:33 am

More trash as usual from Hollywood. I watched Breaking Point with John Garfield last night. What a great movie. Great actors, great dialog, attractive actors, no car chases. Wow has Hollywood gone downhill.

Fred on March 31, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Debbie, really??!!!??! What I mean is, how do you do it? My own answer for that question is that you’re a cultural observer, and you subject yourself to this crap so you can bring certain good points to the web site to illustrate the downfall of American culture. I personally stopped “going to the movies” 30 years ago, and thankfully, I’ve been able to escape literally almost 100% of what’s been put out since then. Once in a while at a friend’s house, I might have to sit through one if that’s what’s going on in that household at that time.

But I can’t believe you actually go to the movies on the supposition that you MIGHT run in to something that was worth seeing. I’ll just go with my original notion, that you’re a cultural observer bringing this crap to your web site in order to point out what crap American culture is in general. I’m not saying that NOTHING has come out in the past 30 years that’s any good, but it hasn’t been worth my time and trouble trying to figure out if anything worthwhile really has been produced.

I know that whatever I’m missing is easily replaced by my interaction with the real world, interpersonal relationships, etc. I feel the same way about TV, as I have been almost done with that for the past several years. Outside of track and field, the NFL, and certain cop shows, I find reason only to vomit most of the time. And as for the NFL, speaking of chickification, . . .

I may soon be done with that, too. Not to mention what a hypocrite I am for watching track and field and football to begin with. Name two sports more performance enhancing drug infested. You can’t.

Go to the movies if you must, Debbie. You’re a better person than I am in many ways, and your gut is certainly a lot stronger than mine. God bless you forever.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on March 31, 2013 at 5:36 pm

There’s a lot in common between the new Tyler Perry movie (“Temptation”) and the new Stephenie Meyer movie (“The Host”). Perry and Meyer have carved out niches for themselves by targeting two separate damaged cultures: black culture (in the case of Perry) and teen culture (in the case of Meyers).

African-American culture is not helped by films like “Django,” “Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” “Cloud Atlas” and too many others to count that indirectly blame current black poverty and suffering on historical racism. These types of films, often extravagantly praised by liberal critics, not only divide our country, but in addition give blacks an easy out in excusing their own self-damaging behavior patterns as being caused by “others”—-namely, The White Man, conservatives, rednecks, Southerners, backwards Republicans, and so on.

Perry plays a positive role, I think, by creating stories and films which don’t reflexively blame “The Other.” When blacks in his stories suffer, it’s almost always due to defects in their character. Perry’s morals are straightforward, sensible and tough. In general, he tells his audience: “Grow up. Don’t blame others for your personal misfortunes. Control your kids. Do the right thing with your family, spouse and friends.”

That’s why I like Perry movies. They’ve been criticized for being soap operas, but I look at them as character-growth dramas mixed with some light comedy that tends to reinforce the larger wholesome morals of the story. I’ll take one of these Tyler films to ten more highly praised “Djangos.” “Temptation” continues in the same vein, promoting values of faithfulness, good character and honesty. I saw it today and liked it.

Meyer deals with an entirely separate damaged subculture of our society, namely teen culture. I have a little more criticism of her stories than those of Perry’s because she tends to create worlds which are dominated by teens without including effective, authoritative adults, but at least her stories are a healthy distance from trashy films like “21 and Over” and “Spring Breakers” which in contrast appear to promote pure hedonism and angry rebellion. The kids in Meyer’s stories don’t use drugs, don’t engage in promiscuous sex, don’t constantly swear, don’t vandalize for fun, don’t cheat in school, and don’t hurt adults simply because it feels good. In the corrupt world in which we live, this makes Meyer’s teen-targeted films easier to swallow than most of the others.

Burke on March 31, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Excellent points, Burke. Enjoyed your post very much!

    Skunky on April 1, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      Thanks, Skunky.

      Burke on April 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Just like the oldies stations play the enduring songs, re-runs at least possess some redeeming qualities…some.

P. Aaron on March 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Well, I’m glad that the movie about a woman committing adultery and dumping her good husband is depressing. So many times, the same story would be told with an upbeat ending.

Mind you, there are times when divorce really is the best option for everyone, but it should be the last recourse. Also, it’s terribly unethical to sleep with a client, let alone leave your husband for him, and yet I’ve seen that shown in a “positive” light before, in movies.

So, kudos for not actually saying that adultery is good.

Michelle C. Young on March 31, 2013 at 11:45 pm

I just thought I would add a comment about “G.I.Joe: Retaliation” even though no one will probably read it because I’m writing so late in the week.

There are two ways of interpreting this film. One is that it panders to little boys and adolescent minds who like to see lots of explosions and people getting shot up. Also, the film is silly and stupid as well as confusing. The other way of interpreting the film is that a lot of this over-the-top nonsense is intentional light mockery of the action and comic book genres and that the tone is intentionally playful; all the absurdities are meant to be amusingly self-ironic. Critics agreeing with this approach have called the film “almost innocent” and “the closest thing to reading a comic book ever made.” Richard Corliss at Time magazine in particular loves this film (he has a soft spot for cartoonish exaggeration as I’ve noticed from his top-ten film lists each year).

One important piece of evidence for how to interpret the film is noting that the pair of screenwriters who wrote this film earlier wrote “Zombieland” (a film Debbie liked a lot; so did I). That film possessed, I think, a combination of respectful regard for the zombie genre mixed with gentle parody. Without being meanly derisive, “Zombieland” lightly played with some of the more ridiculous conventions (such as the tendency of zombies to return to life and eat someone simply because no one took the time to “tap twice” [shoot twice in the head] the apparently beaten monster).

I’m looking forward to what these screenwriters do next time with maybe a different genre altogether.

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