I attended this film ignorant of everything about G.I. Joe, though I recall that in his 10-inch form, he sometimes would accompany Barbie on dates when Ken was unavailable. So whether this nonstop action-o-rama bears any relation to Joe's decades-long struggle to mete out global justice with the imprimatur of the military is lost to me. Not, I think, that it matters.
Stephen Sommer's film isn't about plot nuances. Essentially, a bunch of good guys (i.e. "alpha dogs") with cool names like Ripcord, Heavy Duty and Gen. Hawk, take on a bunch of bad guys, including such perennial faves as a megalomaniacal arms merchant, a mad scientist and a deeply disturbed ninja. Most everybody gets cool costumes, and is really fit: The men go shirtless and the ladies wear skin-tight cat suits.
The film impressively spans huge swaths of space and time, beginning in 1641 France and ending up in the future under the polar ice cap. (At least it's still there!) Sommer clearly blew the budget buying every single possible accessory: The film is a parade of machines, weapons and headquarters that if they aren't already Hasbro toys, they soon will be. (Perhaps in an unintended commentary on over-consumption, the primary menace in this film are micro-bots that eat everything -- from a tank to the Eiffel Tower to man's center of reason.)
Your capacity for lines like "When all else fails, we don't," loads of bloodless violence and nonstop hurtling computer-generated action -- Pulsating lasers! Super-duper-sonic jets! Men running really fast! -- will determine your ultimate enjoyment. (AH) [2 out of 4 stars]
Fresh from two years in the Russian navy, young Askhat (Askhat Kuchencherekov) returns to his native land, the steppes of Kazakhstan. In this remote, desolate spot, he hopes to marry the only girl around, the titular Tulpan, and settle down to a life of sheep-herding. But, in documentarian Sergei Dvortsevoy's dramedy, the courtship goes poorly, despite Askhat's remarkable knowledge of how to defeat a man-eating octopus.
So, it's back to the cramped quarters of his sister's yurt, where Askhat endures his brother-in-law's refusal to let him have his own herd. Adding to the family tension is a string of still-born lambs -- and, though it's never clearly articulated -- the pull of the modern city some hundreds of miles distant.
The film is a coming-of-age story folded into the grand sweep of a nature documentary, complete with sweeping vistas, adventures in sheep husbandry and snapshots of daily life for the traditional Kazakh shepherd. But Dvortsevoy also succumbs to the incongruous, if legitimate visual, whether it's Askhat's formal naval uniform, replete with gold braid, or the sight of an injured camel crammed into a motorcycle sidecar.
It's a hard life on the steppes, but not without beauty and joy. Folks who were charmed by the 2004 Mongolian docu-feature The Story of the Weeping Camel should find this similarly engaging. In Kazakh, with subtitles. Starts Fri., Aug. 14. Regent Square (AH) [3 out of 4 stars]