Jonah Hex

John Malkovich phoning it in is about the same as Megan Fox putting her all into her acting. By that I mean their respective southern accents aren’t annoying. That’s really the main lesson I learned from Jonah Hex. Well, that and how to ruin a movie with thirty seconds of animation.

The crux of the story is Quinton Turnbull (Malkovich) killing Jonah Hex’s (Josh Brolin) family then branding him and leaving him for dead.Then we have that annoying animation the renders half the plot points in the first hour of the movie redundant, draining all the tension out of the story effectively ruining the narrative.

It's probably the simplest, most cost effective way to completely ruin a movie I’ve ever seen.

The plot is pretty much from  the Will Smith Wild Wild West . Angry southerner doesn’t want United States to survive, gets his hands on a Super Weapon, powered by the dark magicks of Eli Whitney (looking like it belongs in an episode of Disney’s The Gummi Bears), and away we go.

Hex gets wind of these nefarious doings and, at the behest of an oddly sober President Grant (Aiden Quinn), he goes to stop Turnbull and his band of henchmen, including an Irish psycho (Michael Fassbender) with a Maori tattoo on his chin. There’s a few fight sequences between this Looney Potato Eater and Hex, though they’re more confusing than anything else, and of course Hex eventually gets the better of him.

Megan Fox is in this movie too, but like a vast majority of her roles, she isn’t given much to do and isn’t really relevant to the plot. People appear to cast Megan Fox to distract from their inability to write women. There are worse ways to do it, like Brian DePalma or Frank "WhoresWhoresWhores" Miller will just have them raped and/or murdered. This is what progress looks like, unfortunately. Her character, whose name escapes me, is not in anyway interesting but does have a very tiny waist.

Hex, on the other hand, is the most interesting character in this movie which is good since his name is on the title. He is kind to animals, generally polite to women and at best crass to other men when he’s not shooting them dead. Brolin gives a dogged performance as Hex, playing more or less the character he played in No Country For Old Men, but with magic powers.

The opening animation is more is less the first grievous error that brings the rest of the films flaws into glaring relief. The portrayal of Ulysess S. Grant as the President was, again, a little more sober than history would suggest, but that pales in comparison to casting Lance Reddick in something that only gives him about five minutes of screen time. I could watch two hours of him giving the "Shining up shit and calling it gold" speech from The Wire. To only have him play the Whistler to Hex’s Blade is a crime.

This movie works easily with Wild Wild West, in fact. But I warn you, you’ll come away thinking you’ve watched the same movie twice...and that it wasn't very good.

Book of Eli

Back in 2001, comic writer Garth Ennis wrote an interesting mini-series called Just a Pilgrim. In it, the earth is a wasteland after an event called The Burn, where the sun expanded and literally scorched the earth. An unspecified time later came The Pilgrim, a mysterious man walking across the great plains of the Atlantic ocean, driven by his faith, and pursuing a personal holy mission. Along the way, he comes across a wagon train besieged by pirates, and joins on as their protector.  The story was one-part comedy, two-parts western and post-apocalyptic adventure, and finally-a disturbing look at the power of faith.

I couldn't help but be reminded by this as I sat down in the theater to watch The Book of Eli, the latest film from the Hughes Brothers and starring Denzel Washington as the titular Eli, a man of immense faith walking across the post-apocalyptic American wasteland 30 years after a world-war followed by a massive solar event killed off most of humanity, leaving the survivors scrambling for leftover scraps. In the 30 years since the solar event, civilization has regressed into a perfect post-apocalyptic version of Hollywood western society, with the horses replaced by motorcycles, and the good sippin' whiskey replaced by pure water.

In this world filled with bandits, cannibals, and general hopelessness, Eli walks-following in the footsteps of Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name and Alan Ladd's Shane. Filling out the western conventions are Gary Oldman as the "Robber Baron", returning to the deliciously tasty side of Evil after playing heroic sidekicks the last few years, Jennifer Beals as the "Kept Madam", and Mila Kunis as the "Wide-eyed Innocent". It's to Kunis' credit that she hold her own in the face of Washington and Oldman-it's almost enough to forget that she's Jackie from That 70's Show.

In classic form, Eli only wants to travel in peace and live by The Word, but keeps getting harassed, leaving him no choice but to rather reluctantly kick the living sin out of everybody in the room. By reluctantly, I mean of course with "great speed and flourish", with limbs flying akimbo after meeting with his machete. Eventually people stop trying to stab Eli, and go the way of the Gun-where he proves to be the kind of marksman that can make guns have 2 times their effective range and stopping power. Eastwood would be proud.

Between these wicked fun bits of violence, there's well-acted scenes where people discuss some incredibly silly things with utmost gravitas and emotion. The movie has the story it wants to tell, and by God it's going to tell it. If you haven't seen the trailers. Eli's got a book to deliver, Oldman wants the book for himself, wackiness ensues until the big twist at the end, and the credits roll. High concept nonsense, but done with such panache you won't mind at all. The movie is beautifully shot, great score, and as stated already-solid performances, even if Oldman's Carnegie is not nearly as menacing or fun as Norman "Stan" Stansfield, or The Count

This is not a Cavalcade movie. It's too well executed and takes itself far too seriously for a proper bit o' the mockery. It's definitely worth a look however, and I'd fully recommend a double feature with Eastwood's seminal Pale Rider.