THE PITCH: Cocky but aging New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Moscow to investigate a criminal case involving his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand"), a CIA operative caught up in an incomprehensible scheme involving a Russian defense official (Sergei Kolesnikov), an imprisoned billionaire (Sebastian Koch) and some weapons-grade uranium.
MONEY SHOTS: An early car chase features some impressive automotive carnage, including a six-wheeled armored truck smashing smaller cars and flipping an auto into the roof of a tunnel. McClane drives atop other vehicles in gridlocked Moscow traffic, showing hilarious disregard for innocent lives. Jack whips out a fun, window frame-shaped gizmo that blasts escape holes into walls. McClane gets flung from a helicopter through a window in an image that entertains despite its obvious CGI.
WTF SHOT: There's a scene with the Russian government bad guy walking in slow motion, followed by a mob of judges in robes, that's supposed to be badass, but looks more like a "Dancing Itos" number is about to break out.
THE PITCH: Super-sleuth military policeman turned dispossessed drifter Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) aids crusading lawyer Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) investigate conspiracy involving a sniper accused to shooting five random citizens in Pittsburgh.
MONEY SHOTS: A "CSI"-type montage reveals a fingerprint on a quarter in a parking meter. Reacher credibly takes down five assailants in a bar fight. Later, two guys with baseball bats attack Reacher, but in a confined space, do more damage to each other. Reacher beats up one guy with the back of another guy's head. In the film's centerpiece car chase, Reacher pursues the bad guys while policeman pursue him.
MONEY SOUND: The engine of Reacher's borrowed Chevrolet Chevelle SS rumbles like the overture to the chase, and shows a little influence from last year's Drive, in a good way.
SO WHO IS THIS REACHER FELLOW? Apart being a massive badass with Holmesian powers of observation, Jack Reacher lives off the grid and owns basically nothing but the clothes off his back. The film finds low-key humor in Reacher's habit of taking the bus and borrowing cars from people who try to get the best of him. Cruise might be physically miscast as the six-foot-five character, but to his credit, the actor doesn't attempt to seem taller than he is, with Pike looking him eye-to-eye for the whole movie.
In its 2012 "Year in Review," the Georgia Department of Economic Development reports that "FY12 saw record investment in the state by the entertainment industry, with more than $879.8 million in direct spending. The total economic impact of the 333 feature films, TV movies, TV series, commercials, and music videos that filmed in Georgia was $3.1 Billion, a 29 percent increase from FY11."
The report lists an index of all the registered tax-incentive qualifying projects. While many of the FY12 films will be hitting the screen next year, a handful have already opened.
With news that Tyler Perry's Single Mom's Club is now shooting, and as Billy Crystal shamelessly pimps the forthcoming release of Georgia-lensed Parental Guidance, even going so far as to engage in Goyish traditions like lighting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, it occurred to me that despite all the pomp and circumstance, there's something a little bit off.
While the productions create jobs and generate significant economic impact, the films themselves leave something to be desired.
In fact, with a few notable exceptions, the movies being produced in Georgia are not especially good. They are not exactly something we can all be proud of.
There, I said it.
While we celebrate their economic impact, do films like Three Stooges and What to Expect When You're Expecting make an overall negative cultural impact?
To test the theory, I took the GDEcD's list of films shot in Georgia from FY12 and FY11, and cross- referenced those that opened with the critical responses on Rotten Tomatoes.
Of the 14 qualifying films, only 3 scored in the "Fresh" range, with Steven Soderbergh's Contagion leading the pack at 84%, and Shia Labeouf's Lawless getting by with a 68%.
What follows is the index, followed by the score:
THE PITCH: The four "guardians of childhood" - Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Eater Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the voiceless Sandman - recruit mischievous Jack Frost (Chris Pine) to combat the boogeyman Pitch Black (Jude Law) and his scheme to supplant children's faith in the guardians with fear.
BEST LINE: "We're very busy bringing joy to children. We don't have time... for children," Santa protests when Jack suggests they spend more time playing with young ones. Guardians briefly resembles one of those family movies about workaholic parents who neglect their kids.
WORSE LINE: "We'll always be there. And now, we'll always be here," Jack tells his young pal Jamie (Dakota Goyo) while pointing at his heart.
BEST LINE READING: Baldwin gives Santa Claus an extravagant Russian accent, and when the Guardians think Jack was meeting with the boogeyman, it sounds like he asks, "You were with Bitch?"
THE PITCH: In this remake of the 1976 cult film, a Detroit-based Barry Gordy wannabe known as Stix (Derek Luke) pushes bright-eyed teen singer/songwriter Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) and her two sisters — level-headed Dolores (Tika Sumpter) and troubled-yet-charismatic Sister (Carmen Ejogo) — to form a vocal group ... much to the chagrin of their overprotective/ultra-religious mother Emma (the late Whitney Houston). Once the trio earns a measure of fame, trouble rears its ugly head.
BEST LINE: “And that’s why I needed to see them in the light of day,” says record company executive Larry (Curtis Armstrong) when he finds Sparkle and Dolores trying to clean up a bruised and drugged up Sister while hiding in a broom closet.
WORST LINE: Confronted by Sister for years of alleged parental neglect, Emma speaks up to defend herself saying: “You never found me laying in a pool of my own vomit!” It was supposed to be a touching scene, but instead ... it was just gross. Who wants to think about vomit when you’re eating nachos?
CAMEO CRAZY: In the tradition of films like New Jack City, Sparkle manages to squeeze in a boatload of music-industry cameos. Keep your eyes peeled for entertainers like Goapele, Kem, Terrence J (from BET’s “106 & Park”) and Atlanta’s own Cee Lo. The film’s executive producer — spiritual luminary Bishop T.D. Jakes — even shows his face in a few scenes.
THE MANE ATTRACTION: With Sparkle being a period piece, you expect to see a few actors wearing wigs. But this film takes fake tresses to another level — showing the cast change hairstyles more than K. Michelle on “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta.” One memorable montage scene featured more than 12 total wigs. Even Cee Lo rocked a greasy, conked-out piece for his brief walk-on.
THE PITCH: In this stop-motion animated horror-comedy, Lonely, outcast Norman (voiced by The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee) discovers that his ability to see dead people might rescue his hometown from a witch’s curse that causes the dead to rise.
BEST LINE: “Welcome to Blithe Hallow: A great place to HANG!” announces a billboard, accompanied by an illustration of a grinning witch wearing a noose. The tasteless way the Salem-like town celebrates its dark history provides a great running joke.
NICEST LINE: “He’s not afraid of you, he’s afraid for you,” says Norman’s mother (Leslie Mann), explaining the seemingly hostile behavior of his Dad (Jeff Garlin).
BEST BAD PUN: Norman’s crazy uncle, who keeps the witch’s curse at bay, visits Norman in a school restroom stall and announces, “The ghost isn’t going anywhere until I pass on my duty to another!”
MONEY SHOTS: Norman greets his ghostly friends, many from different historical eras, on the way to school. Norman’s new friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) teaches him how to throw a stick, with disastrous results. Norman experiences visions that turn a school play into a haunted forest. Puritan-era zombies rise from their graves, only to recoil with horror at the excesses of 21st century culture.
THE PITCH: Washington insiders The Motch Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) throws their clout and cash behind small-town ninny Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) to oust scandal-plagued incumbent congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) and take control of a small North Carolina district.
BEST LINE: “You looked like Richard Simmons crapped out a goddamn hobbit!” Marty’s macho, politically savvy father (Brian Cox) rails at his effete son. A scene with Marty’s family sharing their darkest secrets has too many great one-liners to count.
WORST LINE: “This is the first time I’ve worn a Yamaha!” Marty exclaims at a Jewish temple campaign event. The Campaign’s cast sells many wonderfully stupid lines, but that’s not one of them.
MONEY SHOTS: As a political satire, The Campaign features hilarious negative ads, including a photoshopped version of mustached Marty in Muslim garb, wearing a bomber vest and giving the finger. Cam’s highly public mishap when attempting to kiss a baby becomes a viral gaffe (and the obvious CGI tweaks keep the man-on-baby injury from looking horribly realistic). Cam suffers oversized side effects from a venomous bite at a snake-handling congregation. Cam takes an ill-advised joyride, captured on a patrol car’s video recorder.
THE PITCH: When an earthquake sends Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth and Diego the sabre-tooth (Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary) afloat on the ocean, they must contend with vicious ape pirate Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and his crew to get home. Meanwhile, Manny’s daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) learns teenage life lessons about friendship and stuff, like the Disney Channel in the Pleistocene Epoch.
MONEY SHOTS: Scrat the squirrel (voiced by Chris Wedge) provides reliably funny sight gags, including a trip to Earth’s magnetic core. Shifting tectonic plates open up scary-cool crevasses. An ice floe bristling with tree-trunks and bones serves as Captain Gutt’s “ship.” Sid’s elderly granny (Wandy Sykes) takes her first bath in years and leaves an oil slick. The heroes have a hilarious encounter with a group of sirens, which might scare very young kids.
BEST LINE: When Diego moons over a comely smilodon (Jennifer Lopez), Manny teases him by saying, “I know what you’ve got! The 'L’ word!” and Sid adds, “Yeah! Leprosy!”
THE PITCH: Elena, the head of a Mexican drug cartel (Salma Hayek) kidnaps Ophelia (Blake Lively), the shared girlfriend of botany genius Ben (Aaron Johnson) and hard-boiled war vet Chon (Taylor Kitsch) in a bid to seize control of Ben and Chon’s boutique California marijuana business.
MONEY SHOTS: Bong hits signal the beginning of a languorous ménage a trois between Ben, Chon and Ophelia (who prefers to go by "O"). Hayek’s lipstick-emblazoned mouth fills the screen when she issues sinister orders. Ben and Chon rob a desert cash-drop as part of an undeclared war against the cartel. When a woman spits in his face of brutal enforcer Lado (a swaggering Benecio del Toro), he calmly wipes the saliva with his finger, licks it and uses her hair to dry his face.
BEST LINE: Elena observes to O. that the only way her relationship with Ben and Chon can work is “if they love each other more than they love you.”
BEST BAD LINE: “He’s always trying to fuck the war out of his himself. I have orgasms. He has wargasms,” O. says in voice-over while having sex with Chon. Lively’s sunbaked delivery can’t sell the sleazy attitude in Savages’ dialogue.
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