Archive for the 'Film Reviews' Category

Bad Words

Friday, March 21st, 2014

****

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Talion – the origin is Latin, tallio: (noun) the system or legal principle of making the punishment correspond to the crime; retaliation
T A L I O N, talion

Bad Words

Swift shot: Jason Bateman has directed his first feature film, and it is about a 40 year old man competing in a child’s spelling bee.  In a warped way, Bateman, also the lead character, is the most despicable human to ever string words together to form a sentence.  But, he has a pointed agenda and assumes the role of malevolent mendacious monster as only Bateman can!  What is incredibly odd, is that by the end, you may be rooting for him!

Co-starring the charming diminutive Indian lad, Rohan Chand, as highly-favored competitor, Chaitanya Chopra, Bad Words is a lesson in morality, sportsmanship, and is the most vulgar film I have seen this year!  The vocabulary is juxtaposed in a fashion to help set the significance of each scene.  Guy Trilby (Bateman) is a genius, an execrable prodigy really, and these kids don’t stand a chance as he uses the most heinous methods at his disposal to knock out his tiny adversaries.

With Kathryn Hahn, as maladroit online journalist, Jenny Widgeon, who is given breadcrumbs by Trilby leading to why he would ever enter a contest clearly meant for children.  Each round Trilby wins, as per their agreement, he will answer a new question for her story.  With a strong supporting cast of Philip Baker Hall and Allison Janney, nested in the story, Bateman capitalizes on their talents in each shot.

When you think of someone like Jason Bateman, who has become a master at comedic timing, on the other side of the camera, you might worry that his impeccable dry, hilarious, pacing won’t translate as a director.  You’d be wrong.  If Bateman wants to direct again, I will gladly watch whatever genre he decides to tackle next.

While there are many kids in this film, this is NOT a kid’s movie!  Do NOT bring your child to this film; I can’t stress that enough.  Most of the comedy is adult-oriented, and Bateman (as Trilby) gets down right disgusting with his dishabille dialog.  But, I found the story interesting, the acting superb, the humor kept me engaged, and the hell if I wasn’t laughing at this feculent film!

 

Muppets: Most Wanted

Friday, March 21st, 2014

***

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (1 People gave this 5.00 out of 5)
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Only a paid critic would say this was as good as The Muppets!

MUPPETS MOST WANTED

Swift shot: Where’s the star?  The Muppets exploded a few years ago with avid Muppetphile Jason Segel and Amy Adams attacking the film with as much intensity as Rizzo the Rat going after cheese, but there was no comparable star power in Muppets: Most Wanted.  In fact, the title is ironic, as it left me wanting more.

Starring . . . no one, but with plenty of cameos strewn throughout the 112 minute run time, Muppets: Most Wanted is essentially a stale re-hash of the The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan,  which were much better and had real stars (of the time) behind them.  In those films, Miss Piggy is framed for stealing jewels, and The Muppets travel throughout Europe getting into funny situations and there is a Muppet wedding.

In Muppets: Most Wanted, Ricky Gervais plays pompous Dominic Badguy, #2 to super-spy, mastermind criminal #1 Constantine (a frog identical to Kermit save one large mole).  There is a less than inspiring song about how Badguy is always going to be #2.  It lacks anything comparable to the Academy Award winning Man or Muppet also written by Bret McKenzie.

Constantine frames The Muppets for jewel heists around Europe, as Ty Burrell as some French inspector that is always taking Socialism approved breaks works with Sam Eagle [Swift aside: my favorite muppet] a barely capable CIA agent to find The Lemur (an international jewel thief).  They bumble and stumble and provide probably the only real laughs of the film, as many of the other jokes just didn’t cut it for me, a Muppet connoisseur. My six year old kid was less than thrilled by many of the kid-targeted pratfalls and physical comedy . . . and, he likes just about everything at this age.  And the parent-targeted humor received merely a passing grade.

That was the film’s major flaw, aside from the lack of star power, it wasn’t strong on any level.  The juvenile jokes were sub-par, and the parental targeted jokes were less funny.  I will admit that my favorite scene had to do with Tina Fey as a Siberian prison guard revealing a softer side to her character, but there was no real emotion in any of the film.  Heck, I remember actually feeling for Amy Adams in the last film, and Walter and Gary – but with Muppets: Most Wanted, it was like one big joke that I wasn’t a part of.

Now, let me say one thing I really, really enjoyed about Muppets: Most Wanted, it was a direct attack on the 2012 Presidential selection, err, election.  See, Constantine is an impostor, and while the Muppets (on the surface) can’t grasp that, deep in their hearts they know there is something just off with Kermit (who is rotting in that previously mentioned Siberian Gulag).

They even spoon-feed the metaphor at the end, when The Muppets realize that the false-Kermit was going along with everything they wanted to do, no questions asked, the reviews were great, they were getting free stuff and it didn’t matter that they kinda had a hunch Kermit was, well, not Kermit.  See the comparison there?  I sure did!  The way that Constantine was manipulating the reviews and padding the audience was lost on The Muppets, because they were happy living in the fantasy that they were ever that good.

Sadly, and I do mean that because I wanted it to be different, but this Muppets film was just not that great, folks.  There was no star of the show, I have already seen a Piggy/Kermit wedding, and the lack of Amy Adams and Jason Segel just couldn’t be surpassed.  I won’t call this a major disappointment, but it will leave only a minor mark.

Basically, if you are going to bore me OR my kid, I can understand you targeted one of us more than the other, but if you bore us both, what’s the point?  I expected better.

 

 

Adore

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

*

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The year’s most hilarious drama.

Adore

The H-Bomb:  I was thinking to myself just the other day, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a good Art House Fail.  Films the likes of Passion Play or Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control.  Movies that try to be edgy and provocative, that try to convey some kind of deeper meaning or significance, but that just end up falling flat on their pompous, pretentious, highfalutin faces.  After giving Adore a go on Netflix, I can now say that I have indeed found such a film.

The English language debut of Luxembourg-born director, Anne Fontaine, adapting the book The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing, Adore tells the rather lurid tale of Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright), best friends who grew up together in a small Australian coastal town, and have been pretty much inseparable since childhood.  Now in their early forties, Lil is a widow, Roz has a husband (Ben Mendelsohn) who is always away on business, and both women have young adult sons, who are themselves best of friends.  Lil’s lad is Ian (Xavier Samuels), and Roz’s is Tom (James Frecheville).

Lil and Roz spend most of their free time, which they seem to have a lot of, sipping wine and sunbathing on the beach, while their sons go surfing.  More specifically, Lil and Roz like to gaze out at their well cut sons as they surf, with Roz commenting at one point, “They’re almost ethereal… like a couple of gods.”  And if you think that’s creepy, you ain’t heard nothing yet.  One night, after a little too much wine, Ian starts putting the moves to Roz, and the two of them end up spending the night together, dancing the horizontal mambo.

Tom finds out that Ian is boinking his mother, and is none too happy about it.  So, in order to get even… you guessed it, Tom goes to Ian’s mum, Lil, and they themselves start doing the bedroom bang-bang.  When Lil and Roz see each other again, each one knowing about the other’s indiscretion, they both agree, in a moment of temporary sanity, that what they are doing with each other’s sons is just sick and wrong in every conceivable way, and they should probably just stop.

But, before logic can get too strong a foothold, they both say the hell with decency, the heart desires what the heart desires, and they allow this utterly freakish, inter-family fuck fest to go on.  Who else wants to puke?  Anyway, two years go by, and the arrangement hasn’t changed, except that Roz is now divorced from her absentee husband, which means she is free to bang Ian without having to hide it at all.  Tom, meanwhile, is an aspiring theatre director who gets a job offer in Sydney.  That leaves Lil all alone with no boy toy to play with… poor her.

Unfortunately for Lil, things are about to get even worse.  While in Sydney, Tom has met a girl.  A girl he really likes and starts courting, and before anyone knows it, they’re engaged to be married.  How will this effect Tom’s relationship with Lil?  Or Ian’s relationship with Roz?  Will the mothers do what they should have done two years ago and end these twisted affairs once and for all?  Or will they try to undermine Tom’s new relationship?  If you’re really curious as to where it all goes from here, then I must inquire… what is your fucking damage?

Mein Gott… does this fart house film fail, or does this fart house film fail!  Equal parts creepy, melodramatic, and downright disgusting, Adore presents such an icky and warped premise that it plays so sincerely, that the only possible outcome is unintentional comedy.  For roughly the first half hour or so, it unfolds like a well photographed, but rather languid indie drama.  Then the “story” starts to set in… and the laughter begins.  For me, the shift occurs when Roz questions Tom about his initial fling with Lil, and he answers, “I did with her what Ian did with you!”  To which she responds by slapping him across the face.

It was at that point, that I burst out laughing.  It was purely an uncontrollable, knee-jerk reaction.  It took me a few moments to even realize that I was doing it.  I know that that wasn’t the filmmaker’s intended reaction.  I know I was supposed to find it oh so compelling and disturbing (and at that, it does sort of succeed), but I found it simply hilarious.  I knew then that what I was in for was perhaps the single most laugh-out-loud funny drama this side of The Room.  Once I realized this, my mood brightened.  Don’t get me wrong, Adore is one stinking, steaming pile of shit… but at times, it’s a highly amusing one… albeit entirely by accident.

Sadly for Adore, it doesn’t keep the laughs coming at a constant pace the way Tommy Wiseau did, and it ultimately turns into a boring, monotonous slog of a film with absolutely no interesting conflict, or effective dramatic tension, or anything else that would normally hold an audience’s attention.  I guess Fontaine and screenwriter Christopher Hampton believed that a couple of MILFs shagging each other’s hunky sons would be enough… they were mistaken.  When this under-cooked soap opera finally does reach its would be climax in the last reel, it has no emotional impact whatsoever.

Watts and Wright are two fine actresses, two of our finest, really, and they do try their very best, but with characters this shallow, in a script this flat, there was really nothing they could do.  You’d think that characters who are this royally fucked in the head would have some substance that they could latch onto, but there isn’t and they can’t.  The fact that neither one of them had a shred of chemistry with their respective lovers only helped in maintaining my complete lack of interest.

Long and short of it, when Adore didn’t have me pissing myself with its laughably overblown earnestness, it had me bored to bloody tears with its sense of repetition and dramatic inertia.  I’m sure everyone who signed on to this project thought that they were making a subversive, provocative piece of cinema that would really push the envelop… yeah, well, the makers of Showgirls thought they were doing the same.  If you’re in the mood for some unintended chuckles, then by all means, give it a look and have a good laugh.  Otherwise, this perverse, avant-garde misfire isn’t worthy of your time nor your attention.

 

300: Rise of an Empire

Friday, March 7th, 2014

****

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 4.50 out of 5)
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“We chose to die on our feet, than live on our knees.”

300 Rise of an Empire

The H-Bomb:  While Leonidas and his 300 Spartans wage war against the God-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his army, Greek General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) gathers his forces to defend Greece from the invading Persian navy, led by Xerxes’ ruthless right hand woman, Artemisia (Eva Green).  The most feared of all the Persian generals, Artemisia has an unquenchable thirst for blood and will slit a man’s throat at the slightest provocation.  God help any subordinate who fails in their task, or who in any way displeases her.

This most unmerciful lass harbors a particular disdain for the Greeks, despite being a born Greek herself, and is all to happy to do her part to burn Athens, and the rest of Greece, to the ground.  However, before she can do that, she’ll have to get past Themistokles and his army of poets, and sculptors, and philosophers.  She figures this should be no problem, since the ships in her fleet do outnumber his ten to one.  But what Artemisia doesn’t understand is that these crazy Greeks do love themselves a good fight, especially when the odds are stacked against them.  Copious amounts of sweaty pecs and severed limbs ensue…

I suppose I should start out by stating that I did enjoy Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300 back in 2007.  I wasn’t some super fan or anything, but I dug the hell out of its then inventive visual aesthetic as well as the highly stylized battle scenes.  Sure, the script was pretty cornball, and at times the flamboyant visuals became a bit much, but overall, I had one hell of a good time with it.  Now, seven years later, Snyder (serving as co-screenwriter and producer) comes at us with 300: Rise of an Empire, a sequel (or perhaps more accurately, a concurrent-quel) that doesn’t feel entirely necessary, but that’s so ridiculously entertaining I can’t really complain.

The fact that Snyder did not return to the director’s chair initially gave me reservations; however, incoming helmer Noam Murro (Smart People) does a commendable job of nailing down the distinct visual style that Snyder established in the earlier film.  I could give Murro shit for doing nothing more than aping Snyder’s look, but given how well he pulled off the many battle scenes in the picture, I’ll let his copycat approach slide.  The intense sword and arrow battle sequences pack a particularly mean punch in 3D (that I had the very best seat right smack in the middle of the IMAX theater didn’t hurt), with the gallons of CGI blood splashing me right in the face.  Normally I say fuck 3D, but in this case, it’s very much worth shelling out the few extra bucks to catch the carnage in all three dimensions.

On the downside, that CGI blood does look as hokey as ever, making the violence quasi cartoonish at times, and therefore not as effective as it should have been.  Again, I like the overall stylized look of the film, but I would’ve preferred the guts and gore to have looked a tad more realistic.  The video game look of the violence aside, I also had issues with the film’s script, mainly that for much of the first half, the film piles on layer after layer of tiring exposition, delivered mainly via voiceover by the recently widowed Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey).  I exaggerate not, roughly the first 20-30 minutes of the movie is nothing but narration, narration, and more narration, giving us backstory on Themistokles, Xerxes, Artemisia, and the political bullshit leading into the war.

Once all the background blah-blah is out the way, the epic hack n’ slashing starts, and the film turns gruesome good, but the first third is kind of a clunky slog.  And while I’m bitching about that which did not work, I’ll go ahead and say that leading man Stapleton is no Gerard Butler.  He tries his damnedest, and he does get his big, inspirational speech to the troops right before the final battle, but… no, I just don’t buy that he could inspire a nation to unite against a common enemy.  He just doesn’t have the weight or the presence.  Sorry.

On the other hand, Green absolutely kills it as the vile and villainous Artemisia.  She’s vampy, campy, sexy, and sadistic, and she just steals the whole fucking show.  Chewing up the scenery all over this bitch, it’s obvious she’s having a blast in the role, and I had a blast watching her.  Towards the end, she gets to deliver the best line in the movie (you’ll know it when you hear it), and she has an utterly absurd sex scene that I’m fairly sure is intentionally hilarious.  Her off-the-wall, bat shit performance is alone worth the price of admission, and I can’t wait to see what she does in that other Frank Miller sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

I suppose I would be stating the obvious by saying I thought 300: Rise of an Empire was one bloody fun ride, but 300: Rise of an Empire was one bloody fun fucking ride.  It’s certainly not the ground-breaker that its predecessor was, and for God’s sake, don’t mistake it for a history lesson, but as a balls out brutal popcorn flick, it gets the job done.  The severed heads fly fast and furious, the fights are viscerally thrilling, and best of all, the film closes with a sweet lead-in to the inevitable third chapter.  I say bring it!

 

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

***½

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Old friends, new tricks!

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Swift shot: A fantastic trip through time with some old friends . . . with some new contemporary twists!  I grew up watching The Bullwinkle Show, and while I enjoyed all the different parts and characters, the “Peabody’s Improbable History” segments were my favorite.  It’s probably why I became a history major, well, that and my math skills weren’t the best.  So, I was expecting to not like this film, for fear it would (to use modern movie-critic parlance) “ruin my childhood,” like a movie could possibly do that! I was pleasantly surprised, and it should be noted Jay Ward’s daughter, Tiffany was instrumental in keeping everything in line with her father’s legacy.  I think he’d be proud.

Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is the smartest dog in the world, he wields his genius like a weapon.  His son, (yes I said son) Sherman (Max Charles) loves his father, but he can’t ever seem to do the right thing, especially once school starts and he meets his first bully, Penny (Ariel Winter).  Things go from bad to worse as an incident very similar to Carnage leads Mr.Peabody to invite Penny’s folks over to dinner to smooth things over.  Of course Sherman and Penny steal the WABAC machine and get lost in time.

With a wonderfully painted tapestry of enthusiasm, the historical worlds are unique and bring together characters both famous and infamous from history.  There are too many to list in this brief review, but the history nerd in me was delighted to see Robespierre, Agamemnon, Leonardo da Vinci, and even a cameo by Einstein (see if you recognize the voice)!

The more mature nature of the conflict may be lost on younger audiences, and when the real threat of death is upon our heroes, I am not sure how very young children will react.  Still, there are plenty of classic laughs for audiences of all ages to enjoy.  This is a film about love, challenging yourself and growing, and about a dog and his boy.

 

 

 

Prisoners

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

****½

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“Pray for the best, prepare for the worst.”

Prisoners

The H-Bomb:  What would you do if your child went missing?  Would you not do anything and everything in your power to get them back?  Even if it meant going to any extreme, and doing things you never would have thought yourself capable of?  That is the very question that Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) faces when his young daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), and her friend vanish on Thanksgiving Day.  After a search of the neighborhood turns up nothing, Keller starts to fear that the girls have been abducted.  The only lead that he can give the police is that they were seen playing near an RV parked in the street.

Later that night, the police find the RV and take its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), into custody.  Alex, as it happens, is a man-child with the mind of a ten-year-old (kind of like the real life Alex Jones), and after hours of being grilled by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), gives up no information as to the whereabouts of the missing girls.  More or less ruling this simpleton out as a suspect, Loki starts to look into other possible leads.

Keller, however, is not at all convinced of Alex’s innocence.  His suspicion turns into certainty when Alex mutters something to him, something about his daughter, while leaving the police station.  Keller tries to tell Loki about this,  but Loki dismisses it, advising Keller to just go home and let him do his job.  But there’s no way Keller can do that.  Every moment that passes, it becomes less and less likely that the girls will be found alive.  Convinced that Alex had something to do with their disappearance, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands…

I passed on Prisoners when it was out in theaters last fall because it looked like nothing more than your typical kidnapping thriller.  The kind of disposable potboiler that everyone did for a quick and easy paycheck.  Fuck me, was I wrong!  A cross between Zodiac and Mystic River, Prisoners is an engrossing, layered, smarter-than-average thriller that taps into every parent’s worst fear, then poses that most important question, “What would you do?”  Director Denis Villeneuve takes a low key, nuanced approach to Aaron Guzikowski’s twist-laden screenplay and builds an unnerving sense of dread that amplifies as the picture progresses.

Remaining fairly subdued and un-intrusive with the camera, Villeneuve effectively shows how two families are shattered by the disappearance of their daughters, and how they are pushed to the limit both emotionally and psychologically.  Keller’s wife, Grace (Maria Bello), bombs herself with pills and stays in bed all day.  The parents of the other missing child, Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis), seem to cope by simply shutting off emotionally.  As for Keller, the survivalist that he is (wait till you see the inside of his basement), he decides, as stated, to do something about it himself.

This is where Prisoners stops being a run of the mill thriller, and turns into a thought provoking, and somewhat disturbing, morality play.  Without giving away any specifics, Keller forces himself to do things that betray every sense of who he is as a decent, God fearing man, in order to get his daughter back.  He is horrified when he realizes the level of brutality that he’s capable of, and Jackman, who gives it everything he’s got, is simply fantastic.  Here, as a desperate man hanging on to his humanity by a thread, he taps in to something deep and dark, and delivers a truly great performance.  His best, I’d say.  He made me feel for Keller, but he also made me afraid of him.  Jackman’s turn is truly award worthy, and naturally, the Academy didn’t nominate it.

Also putting in an excellent showing is Gyllenhaal, as the dogged Detective Loki, who cooly and methodically investigates every possible lead and angle of the case, all the while dealing with a ticking clock, an incompetent chief, and an increasingly unhinged Keller.  I would’ve expected Prisoners to lose a step any time it took focus off of Keller and the other parents, but in actuality, the police procedural aspect of the film, while less emotional, is every bit as engaging.  The deeper Loki delves into the case, the more compelling it becomes, as we discover, along with him, that there’s a lot more to it than a simple kidnapping.

Gyllenhaal is as convincing as he is commanding, and he more than holds his own when he has to butt heads with Jackman, I just would’ve liked to have known the story behind his character’s freaky tattoos, which were a bit distracting.  As for the supporting performances, Dano strikes just the right balance between innocent and creepy as the prime suspect, Alex, a character who we don’t know if we should fear or pity.  Howard and Davis are solid as the other couple, the Birches, though I really would have liked to have gotten a better sense of their relationship and who they are.  Bello, as the constantly crying mother who just can’t deal with her daughter’s disappearance, seemed a bit one note, though I suppose her reaction is a perfectly realistic one.

As for the film’s other imperfections, at two and a half hours, it is definitely on the long side.  Never is it at any point boring, but it certainly could have been tightened.  Is no one capable of making a movie under two and a half hours, anymore?  Another issue, and this is hard to explain without crapping spoilers, but I found the way in which everything tied together at the end to be simply unbelievable.  Again, I can’t go into details, but pretty much every single thing Loki discovers peripheral to the kidnapping, ends up being relevant to it in some way.  Eventually, the coincidences just became too much to swallow.

Those rather minor faults aside, Prisoners is an almost unbearably intense, and surprisingly thoughtful thriller that packs one hell of an emotional punch.  I am completely beside myself at how riveted I was by it, and I can say with all honesty that it is one of the best films of 2013, falling behind only 12 Years a Slave and Gravity.  It’s a crying shame that it’s been almost completely overlooked this awards season, as it is a genuinely gripping motion picture that I won’t soon forget.

 

Non-Stop

Friday, February 28th, 2014

***½

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“I’m not hijacking the plane, I’m trying to save it!”

Non-Stop

The H-Bomb:  Air Marshall Bill Marks (Liam Neeson), an edgy alcoholic with a tragic back-story, is barely keeping his shit together on an overnight flight to London when he receives text messages from an unknown sender.  After the typical “who the hell are you” question and answering is done with, the mysterious texts cut right to the chase, stating that every twenty minutes, someone on the plane will die, unless $150 million is wired into a certain account.

With over 100 people on the plane, Marks doesn’t even know where to start looking.  He notifies the pilots of what’s happening, and enlists the help of the only two people he knows he can trust, one of the flight attendants, Nancy (Michelle Dockery), and a fellow nervous flier, Jen (Julianne Moore), who was sitting next to Marks on the flight, to help him find the passenger sending the texts.  Before long, Marks realizes that it’s no hoax, as the bodies start to pile up.

Growing more frantic in his search, Marks begins to lose the trust and cooperation of the passengers, who he has been searching and questioning, while keeping them in the dark about the situation.  What’s worse, Marks learns that whoever is behind this hijacking of sorts is framing him for it.  Now, not only does Marks have to stop this invisible hijacker, he has to clear his own name, as well.

Non-Stop is the latest in the now annual line of late winter action movies to star Liam Neeson, who has reinvented himself as a kind of Steven Seagal-like ass kicker… the key difference between the two being that Neeson can actually act.  The movies Neeson has made as a late-in-life action star have ranged from pretty good (Taken) to oh-so-shitty (Taken 2).  Non-Stop, thankfully, is much closer to the former than the latter (seriously, fuck Taken 2).

Going into Non-Stop, I was expecting a kind of Die Hard on a plane type flick, like Air Force One or Executive Decision.  In actuality, it really isn’t that at all.  As directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who helmed a previous Neeson actioner, Unknown, as well as the mucho underrated Orphan, Non-Stop is really much more of a cat-and-mouse thriller than a straight up action film, with elements of mystery and a ticking clock thrown in for good measure.

Collet-Serra keeps the pacing tight as the plot’s numerous twists and turns keep coming, constantly shifting Marks’ (and our) suspicion from one passenger to another.  He also does a nice job of cranking up the sense of paranoia, as he frequently shows Neeson’s eyes, with growing urgency and frustration, scanning the crowd of passengers.  Though, I must be honest, when he tried to shift our suspicion onto the one Arab passenger, I thought to myself, “No, too obvious.”, and spoiler alert… I was right.

That one bit of obviousness aside, however, Collet-Serra did a fine job of keeping me guessing who the culprit was, and, I might as well confess, I was surprised when the bad guy was finally revealed.  That said, I found the villain’s motives not entirely convincing.  Also, I can’t get very specific for spoiler reasons, but there’s a plot detail towards the end involving the plane’s altitude that really makes no sense when one stops to think about it.  Then again, if there’s one thing Non-Stop has going against it, it’s that a number of aspects about the story don’t make much sense, if one takes the time and effort to really (nit)pick it over.

But, for the most part, these issues come up thinking back on the movie, after it’s over.  While it’s going, we’re with it one hundred percent, and the main reason for that is Liam Neeson.  As always, he plays it with conviction, and he makes us believe, even when the things happening on screen are less than believable, which, again, in this movie’s case, is quite often.  Even though we get a big confessional monologue about halfway through the film in which Marks explains to us why he’s so screwed up, we don’t really need it, because Neeson conveys so clearly throughout the film, without dialogue, that his character is damaged goods.

Just from his facial expressions and the way he’s carries himself, we can tell he’s a broken man.  That’s a level of performance that few can muster, but Neeson just makes it look so fuckin’ easy.  As for the physical stuff, he pulls that off pretty well, too, especially for a guy over sixty.  That life or death fist fight he gets into in the lavatory… awesomely brutal.  Hollywood’s greatest mouth breather, Julianne Moore, manages to be less annoying than usual, and Corey Stoll has some fine moments as an off-duty New York cop who butts heads with Marks, but really, Neeson is the main attraction here, and for good reason, he carries the flick flawlessly.

In fact, I would say that Neeson is better than the film itself.  While Non-Stop is certainly a solidly entertaining thriller, it’s not terribly significant, nor is it really going to stick with you after it’s over.  At best, it’s a decent way to kill a couple of hours.  No more, no less.

 

 

Mitt

Friday, February 28th, 2014

****

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mitt

Put aside your political views, your religious beliefs, and for a moment, see the inner workings of a campaign for the presidency.

Mitt Romney, with his soulful eyes and greying hair that vaguely allude to his age, is a gentleman, witty and articulate, and above all else, a wholesome family man. Before even making the decision to run for president, he consults his family for their opinions. Their concerns? That the position of president will be too stressful and will weigh heavily on him. But they know he is passionate about serving the people, that it is his calling.

It’s hard to say a bad word about Mitt Romney. I have my own beliefs about the Mormon religion, but you can’t argue that a lot of modern Latter Day Saints are some of the kindest people with the best intentions. It’s almost infuriating to hear some of the abuse he takes along the campaign trail.

He admits to putting personal finances into his campaign brand, and sullenly admits that in his first run for the presidency, people will know him as the “Flipping Mormon,” the “one who will say anything to get elected.” On the eve of one of his final debates before the primary elections in 2008, his sons agree they don’t want to do this again. His wife, Anne, leads a tearful, honest prayer for her husband and for his campaign.

Can we really criticize Mitt Romney for changing his mind? For saying things that he think will get him elected? Tactics like that are rampant in elections. Of course people will say anything to get elected. Of course people will lie to us so we hear what we want to hear. Have we forgotten “You can keep your insurance plan. Period.”

You can’t help but feel bad for the guy who seems so genuine in his efforts, and is torn down at every corner. And after losing the primary elections in 2008 to John McCain, it’s heartbreaking to know that he felt like he disappointed not only his supporters, but his family.

Mitt goes inside the heart of a man who is dedicated, passionate, and truly wants to see real change for the good of America. In a time when it’s hard to believe anything politicians say, when saying you are a part of the Republican party nearly discredits everything about you, this man of faith, humility, and good character is the type of man we should be rallying behind.

Fast forward to 2012, and he is accepting the nomination for the Republican Party at the RNC. He gets caught on camera spilling some brutal honesty about some of the people in America, and of course, he is thrown under the bus and criticized. We are willing to turn away from the truth, that there ARE people in this country who abuse the systems set in place by our government, who don’t pay taxes, who expect to be taken care of without taking any of their own personal responsibility. But of course, it’s offensive to say that out loud.

I must admit, the most endearing part of the entire movie was when he put on a brand new black suit for an evening event, and realized he probably should have ironed it before he put it on. But, like most of us would probably try, he attempted to iron the sleeves while they were on his arms. It shows a lighter, totally hilarious and real side of Mitt Romney that was completely unexpected.

We revisit the second presidential debate with Barack Obama, in which the two go head to head over the attacks in Benghazi – an event which, to this day, is still shrouded in mystery. What did the administration know? What have they yet not revealed to us? However, Mitt was the more strongly criticized for that moment, seeming to fumble through his argument, while the incumbent reclines in his chair and almost pokes fun at Romney. Again, it’s hard to watch.

The doc ends as it began, Mitt and his family and closest aides in a hotel room waiting the results of the election, and when to announce his concession. “What do you say in a concession speech?” Mitt doesn’t want to accept defeat lightly, and reassure Americans that everything is going to be okay – because that’s not what he believes. He doesn’t think the current, and newly re-elected president is taking America on a prosperous path. But he says that Obama and his administration will be in his prayers.

Say what you will about the religion, and even about the Mormon faith in general. To some, his beliefs are outlandish, bordering on ridiculous. But through the whole 90 minutes, not once do you hear so much as a “damn,” “hell,” or even “oh my God” emitted from the mouth of Romney or his family. If that isn’t a testament of true character, I’m not sure what is.

I don’t think any current politician would have the balls to have their lives documented so closely, because I don’t think any current politician would have so little to hide. Mitt is ashamed of nothing, from his Mormon beliefs to his appearance as a flip-flopper. He addresses it all, and takes his criticisms in stride. There should be more politicians like him; honest, transparent, and so obviously passionate about the greater good of America. It is so incredibly rare these days.

Mitt was an inspiring documentary, albeit frustrating to relive the 2012 election and wonder what state our nation might have been in today had the outcome been different almost 2 years ago. It was tastefully done, although it’s hard to imagine a way for it to have lacked taste. There is no agenda, like in most documentaries, only that the viewer sees Mitt Romney as a real human being, with real emotions and feelings. I ended up wanting so badly for the outcome to be different, but alas, it remained the same, today as in 2012. It has, however, inspired me to be more aware of what is really going on in the political spectrum, and do my research  of the candidates and the issues before upcoming elections.

 

Son of God

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

****

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 4.00 out of 5)
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“He’ll be forgotten in a week.” – Pontius Pilate.

Son of God

Swift shot: Last year, The History Channel released a ten episode miniseries titled The Bible.  It was the most popular miniseries of the year and led to countless copies of the series sold on Blu-ray and DVD.  The final five episodes depict the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  With Son of God, Twentieth Century Fox has given audiences a rare treat to witness the most dramatic story in theaters.  If you didn’t see the series, now is your chance to see it, and if you did see the series at home, now is your chance to EXPERIENCE it as never before!

Whether or not you believe in Christ as The Messiah is irrelevant, Son of God doesn’t rely on that to tell a great politically-charged story.  It relies on the strength of character, and on wonderful actors, to embody the savior, the villain, the disciples, the faithful and the tragically forlorn.

All of Jesus’ miracles, and most of his famous teachings, are depicted in Son of God, but somehow it didn’t come across as preachy.  Credit to Portuguese actor, Diogo Morgado who truly was the lion and lamb and was brilliantly cast.

There are no spoilers, there are no twists, this is the tragic story of a man, or a God, or the one true God . . . all depending on your beliefs . . . that inspired a religion that did not fade away into obscurity.  And, to me, the message of Christianity is of forgiveness and compassion for your fellow man.  All of Jesus’ words served to remind me that we could all use a little more of that in our lives today.

While many have corrupted his message, there are few who still hold onto it and share it.  Clearly, Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett felt compelled to make something special.  With the help of tremendous performances, a Hans Zimmer score worthy of his name, and a very emotional crucifixion sequence where whether you believe in him or not, watching a mother lose her son with such vitriol will leave you wounded.

Now, perhaps someone will give me a lesson in theology.  Why did Jesus utter, “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?”  It’s something that has always bothered me . . .