Archive for the 'Films by Rank' Category

The Other Woman

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

***½

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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TheOtherWoman

Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz) has a fabulous life. She lives in a posh apartment in New York City, is a successful attorney, and has a new love, Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Unfortunately Mark is married, a fact that he conveniently “forgets” to tell Carly. When Mark cancels plans to meet Carly’s father Frank (Don Johnson), they have their first fight. Frank convinces Carly to go make up with Mark, so Carly goes to his house in Connecticut, where she meets Mark’s wife, Kate (Leslie Mann). Awkward!! Carly thinks quickly, makes up a story, and escapes as quickly as she can.

Too bad Kate plays Nancy Drew and tracks Carly down. She confronts her at her office and accuses her of being her husband’s mistress. However, since Carly doesn’t know Mark was married, she takes offense to being called a mistress and tells Kate to leave. Kate doesn’t give up easily though, and she basically forces herself into Carly’s life. Carly tells Kate she wants nothing to do with Mark anymore, but the girls form a weird kind of friendship.

Soon, Kate overhears Mark on the phone and gets suspicious. Carly swears she’s had nothing to do with Mark lately, so the duo decide to follow Mark when he leaves for his next “business trip.” There they meet Amber (Kate Upton). Amber is everything Kate and Carly aren’t – young, with perfect body, and, let’s call it, gullible. Mark told her that he was in the midst of divorcing Kate, but she knew nothing about Carly. However, once she meets Kate and Carly, it doesn’t take much to convince her to join “The Other Woman” club (see what I did there??)

So, the oddest trio of friends decide to team up and get revenge on Mark. The things they do to this man, oh my!! But Mark is no prince, and he deserves what he gets. Especially what happens at the end!!

Leslie Mann gave a fantastic performance as slightly manic Kate. She really had a lot of funny lines and played really well against Cameron Diaz, who was sparkling, as always. Kate Upton and her two jiggly breasts did their best, but acting doesn’t really seem to be her thing. She did a decent job though. Nicki Minaj played Carly’s admin assistant, and I was shocked to see her looking…well, normal!! She looked pretty, but her acting was, sadly, sub-par. Taylor Kinney as Phil, Kate’s brother, was a nice counter to douchebag Mark’s character. He was sweet and friendly to the girls, especially Carly. And playing the scumbag Mark, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau did a fine job. It was nice to see him with two hands for a change!

I know a lot of people are calling this movie sexist and stupid. Well newsflash – sometimes, it’s just plain fun to get lost in a silly movie. That’s what this was. Not every movie is an Oscar nominee. In fact, there are a lot of Oscar nominated movies that I have no desire to watch, ever. I would rather see The Other Woman again instead of some other “critically acclaimed” films.

Overall, this is a great chick flick movie, and way better than what you would find on Lifetime.

Oculus

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

**

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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Not Alice’s Looking Glass

Oculus

I absolutely love scary movies, but there is nothing worse than a movie I assume will scare the pants off me that has me leaving the theater utterly disappointed. If I’m going to pay $12 to see a scary movie, I want to go home and keep the lights on at night for weeks on end. This wasn’t the case with Oculus. For all of its hype, I was a little underwhelmed and overly confused. And when a supposed horror movie comes out in months like April, and not as a big summer blockbuster or in the more obvious fall season, you have to know that it’s most likely going to be sub-par at best.

The premise seemed interesting: ancient mirror has a history of being in houses where murders occurred. The movie begins with a flashback of two children facing down the barrel of a gun held by their father. Emerging from the flashback, it becomes apparent that the little boy (Tim) in the flashback spent many years in a mental institution dealing with the backlash of this event in which he ended up killing his father to save himself and his sister from the father’s crazed homicidal rampage.

The sister (Kaylie) has also grown up, and has found success in her life (or at least a successful fiancé that takes care of her financially). Just before she goes to pick up her brother from the mental hospital on the day of his release, we see her at an auction, watching over the bidding of an old, foreboding looking mirror. It is purchased, and sent into a back room to be prepared for shipment. She tells the shipping crew she will take the mirror home and clean it up and get it ready to be delivered.

After picking up Tim from the mental hospital, she makes a really smart decision to take this poor kid recovering from severe PTSD and bring him back to the place that severely traumatized him. She is determined to make it known that the mirror is the root cause of all of the strange murders that have occurred at the homes in which the mirror was hung.

There are a few classic scare gags meant to make the viewer jump or shift uncomfortably in their seat: unexpected shadow figures, a door opens and someone is standing right behind it, and even a few Final Destination type gore tactics. And while I’m usually a sucker for those, they didn’t quite add much to the story as a whole.

It was more of a psychological thriller, with weird twists and turns that never fully resolve or get explained. My first impression was that it was reminiscent of the Leonardo DiCaprio flick Shutter Island, in which the delusion plays out in his mind that he is an investigator, when the whole time he’s incarcerated on Shutter Island. The effect is kind of the same in Oculus. Without giving too much away, it appears the mirror does have an effect on what is perceived by those in its radius, blurring the line between reality and delusion to the point of madness.

The end was extremely unsatisfying, and knowing how certain things were set up in the room with the mirror, it was kind of predictable that something horrible would happen. The problem is that we aren’t exactly clear “whodunnit,” who was crazy and who was completely sane, or whether or not any of it happened at all. Shutter Island at least gave a definitive resolution, where as I’m not entirely sure what I witnessed in Oculus.

If you like psychological thrillers, check it out when it’s on demand. And if someone else can explain this movie to me, I would be open for another interpretation. Moral of the story: keep your expectations low when seeing a horror movie in non-prime horror film months.

The Raid 2

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

*****

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 5.00 out of 5)
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Bloody Amazing

The Raid 2

The H-Bomb: SWAT officer Rama (Iko Uwais), one of the few who survived the massive raid on an Indonesian drug lord’s apartment block, is recruited into an elite unit of undercover cops. His mission: to infiltrate the largest crime family in Jakarta and expose the dirty cops on its payroll. This syndicate is run by the aging kingpin, Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), and in order get on the inside, Rama is sent to the prison where Bangun’s punk-ass son, Uco (Arifin Putra), is doing time, with the intent of befriending this mafia brat and earning his trust.

After saving Uco’s life during a prison yard riot, Rama gets the “in” that he needs, and upon his release some two years later, Uco takes Rama to introduce him to his father, who hires him on as an enforcer. From here, Rama gets more than he ever could have bargained for, as he dives headfirst into the ruthless, dog eat dog cesspool that is Jakarta’s underworld. While living the life of a gangster, Rama will have to cling onto every bit of his humanity in order to keep himself from being completely engulfed by the muck and madness that surrounds him.

That’s where I’m going to end my plot summary. Naturally, there is far more happening than I described, with all sorts of betrayals and back stabbings and mafia power plays going on, but for the sake of keeping this review spoiler free, and palatable, I’ll end it there. What I can say, having just gotten back from seeing The Raid 2, is… holy shit, I can’t feel my brain!

Sweet freakin’ Jesus… I don’t even remember the last time a movie did this to me. The Raid 2 didn’t simply entertain me with it’s exhilarating action, inventive fight choreography, and epic scope… it knocked me flat on my ass, dragged me outside, and stomped the living shit out of me until I was nothing more than a sniveling little bitch lying broken and bleeding in the gutter. And I was more than happy to pay for the pleasure.

All violent hyperbole aside, there are no words in existence that can do justice to what writer/director Gareth Evans has accomplished with The Raid 2. He hasn’t simply made a sequel to The Raid: Redemption, which is itself a masterpiece of pure carnage cinema, he has taken everything that made that film so great and placed it on a much grander stage. The original Raid was essentially a 90 minute action scene with an ultra-simple story that mainly served to set up the onslaught of fist fights and gun fights that follow.

This sequel could have gotten by on simply being more of the same. It could’ve pulled a Taken 2, essentially rehashing the basic plot of the first film, with maybe a few twists and turns thrown in, and it would’ve worked, giving the audience an entertaining, albeit not-quite-as-fresh experience. But Evans isn’t interested in doing that. Instead, he gives us a movie that is certainly a sequel to The Raid, but that also stands on its own, and tells a far, far more ambitious tale.

The Raid 2 is not an action movie about cops trapped in a building full of killers. It is a gritty, operatic crime saga that rivals The Godfather in terms of its narrative expansiveness. It’s not simply a story about an undercover cop infiltrating the mob, it’s also about the power struggle between rival gangs, the power struggles within a gang, the resentful, love/hate relationships between fathers and sons, and, most crucially, loyalty amongst lowlifes.

The narrative is multi-faceted and ensemble oriented, often leaving Rama’s point of view to focus on other characters and their stories, such as the hobo hit man with the mean machete, who remains loyal to Bengun up until his brutally bitter end (if one thing is for certain, nearly every character who passes through The Raid 2 has an ugly fate in store for them). The fact that Evans was able to balance so many story threads without turning the whole thing into an overly convoluted, incoherent cluster-fuck is a testament to the caliber of filmmaker he could very well become.

There is indeed far more plot and far more characters in The Raid 2, which could put off fans of the first film, who loved it for its bare-bones scenario and non-stop action. But fear not, for even though there is a much larger story being told in this 150 minute long film (not a one of those minutes is wasted), the action itself is jacked up several notches. How can that be possible, given how insane the first Raid was? Well, remember The Crazy 88 scene from Kill Bill? Imagine a movie with about ten of those scenes, in which each successive confrontation upstages the one that came before, and that might give you some idea as to the pulverizing mayhem contained within this movie.

Think of any sick way in which you could violently take a person’s life, and odds are there’s some depiction of it in here. Shooting, stabbing, slicing, dicing, hacking, chopping, beating, bludgeoning, burning, strangling… these are not just random verbs I’m throwing at you, these are all the various methods in which the lovely people in this film are dispatched. Life is fucking cheap in The Raid 2. Human beings are basically pigs waiting to be slaughtered, and man, do they get slaughtered. It’s not just the extreme violence that makes the movie what it is, it’s how it’s depicted.

The fight sequences are among the most visceral and imaginatively staged that I have ever seen. In fact, there are no fights in this movie, there are battles. And none of these battles are treated as throwaway skirmishes. Every single one is a major set piece. Be it the beat down in the bathroom stall, or the royal rumble in the prison yard, or the Hammer Girl knocking skulls on the subway train, they are all so ferocious, I could practically feel the punches, and the kicks, and the bones snapping. Take the insane choreography by Yayan Ruhian and star Uwais, and combine it with the stunning cinematography by Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono, and what we get is ultra-violence turned into an art form. A beautiful, crimson tinted art form.

Hot damn, this flick is fan-fucking-tastic! It whooped my fat ass up, down, and sideways, and when it was all done, I was utterly and completely exhausted… in the best way possible. This is hands down one of the very best action movies I have seen in years. Probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in my life… and I do not say that lightly. As a martial arts/gangster film, it is a masterpiece and a game changer. I don’t like to oversell a movie unless I think the film can measure up, and in the case of The Raid 2, it measures the fuck up. It is bloody amazing, bloody brilliant, and just plain bloody.

~@TheHManTweeteth

 

Oldboy

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

**½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (1 People gave this 2.00 out of 5)
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Old Hat

Oldboy

The H-Bomb: Yuppie, alcoholic douche bag Joe Doucette (Josh Brolin) gets royally hammered after blowing a big business deal on the night of his daughter’s third birthday. He awakens from his drunken stupor to find himself inside a strange hotel room. After discovering that there is no phone, no window, and the only door is locked up tight, Joe realizes that he’s being held prisoner in this room. Day in and day out, Joe remains locked in the room, with only the television and a creepy portrait of a grinning bellhop to keep him company. His meals, usually dumplings from a Chinese restaurant and a bottle of liquor, are shoved through the slot in the door three times a day, but his attempts to speak with whoever is delivering the food are fruitless.

He finds out, via the television, that his ex-wife has been murdered, and that he has been framed for the crime. It’s then that he figures out, as if it wasn’t obvious before, that there’s some kind of plot against him. But who would do this to him, and why? After writing down a list of all the people he may have pissed off in the past, he realizes that there are countless possibilities. He’s wronged more than a few people in his life, and any one of them could be the one behind all this.

Sadly, Joe can’t do any more to narrow down the list of suspects from inside the room, and he’s not going anywhere for a long, long time. 20 years to be exact. For 20 goddamn years Joe is locked in that room. In that time, he manages to give up drinking and get himself into fighting shape, in case the day that he’s able to take revenge ever comes. Then, after all that time, he’s finally set free. But, whoever held him prisoner is hardly done with him, as he soon receives a call from his former captor, some bloke with a British accent, telling him that he has kidnapped his now adult daughter, and if he ever wants to see her again, he has only a few days to come and find them.

It’s not as if Joe needed the extra motivation, but nevertheless, the clock is ticking, and he’ll need to go digging deeply into his own past to try and figure out who the hell his sadistic tormentor is, and what he might have done to this person to make them go to such extreme lengths to exact their revenge.

I can’t really go on a tirade against Hollywood remakes of foreign films, as there have been some that I’ve genuinely enjoyed. Sure, there’s been shit like The Vanishing, or Swept Away, or any Asian horror remake that isn’t The Ring, but there have been some honest to God good ones, like The Departed and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Spike Lee’s “re-imagining” of Oldboy, based on Park Chan-Wook’s brutally awesome South Korean thriller of the same name, falls somewhere in the middle. It’s not good, nor is it bad, it just… is.

In a way, this is a tremendous letdown, as any movie with a premise as brilliantly bizarre as Oldboy’s, shouldn’t be merely okay. It either should be really fucking good, or really fucking bad. But to be so utterly forgettable, and to leave me the viewer feeling so completely indifferent to it, is much worse. Even if it had been terrible, I at least wouldn’t be shrugging it off without so much as a second thought. But as it stands, the only reason I’m paying it any thought at all, is so that I may review it for you, dear readers.

The pedigree of this Oldboy remake certainly isn’t the kind one would associate with mediocrity. I’m not exactly a fan of Spike Lee, however, I often do find his films provocative, if nothing else. Not so much the case with this one. Curiously branded “A Spike Lee Film” instead of the usual “A Spike Lee Joint,” this is a telling sign that Lee simply had no passion for this project. The vibrancy typically found in one of his “joints” is almost entirely absent, and despite some slick cinematography and a handful of interesting shots, there is next to no energy in the picture. Nothing in the story, not the ticking clock element, or even the stomach churning final twist, has any sense of urgency, and Lee’s rather limp recreation of the famous hallway hammer fight is but a shadow of the one from the original film.

It really is apparent that Lee’s heart just wasn’t in this at all, that it was merely a payday for him, and nothing more. Which is a crying shame, because it seemed to me like his leading man, Brolin, actually gave a shit. At first coming off as a hilariously buffoonish drunk, then transforming into a half-crazed, vengeance minded badass, he is tough, tense, and simply terrific here. His tussle with some punk ass football players has that oomph that the rest of the movie’s violence lacks, and the wince inducing scene where he takes a box cutter to Samuel L. Jackson’s throat would be a classic, if only it were in a better, and even halfway memorable, film. Brolin is definitely a forceful presence on screen, and he could’ve carried this movie, it’s just that Mark Protosevich’s screenplay never gave us a reason to care about his slime ball character.

Oh, but did I mention that Samuel L. Jackson is in this? Well, he is, but it’s of little consequence, because despite sporting a goofy ass mohawk, his role as a heavy is ultimately ineffectual… and I didn’t think it was possible for SLJ to be ineffectual, but the movie found a way. Another disappointing turn comes from Sharlto Copley, who was so tremendously nasty as the bad guy in Elysium, but as the underwritten villain of this flick, he doesn’t even rise to the level of mildly creepy. Elizabeth Olsen, as a sympathetic nurse, has a few nice moments with Brolin, and a rather showy sex scene, but ultimately, she doesn’t register much, either. Damn, that’s three excellent actors that Lee managed to completely waste… how does he do it?

In a way, this whole movie is a complete waste. A waste of time, money, and effort, for both the filmmakers and the audience. Again, not because it’s a bad movie, but because it’s such a painfully average one. It really does boggle the mind how Spike Lee was able to take something as gruesomely audacious as the original Oldboy, drain away all the potency, and leave us with a film this shockingly bland. He has remained largely faithful to the original’s story, and he didn’t neuter it in order to make it PG-13 friendly, but it completely lacks the outlandish punch that made its Korean counterpart so memorable. As far as remakes go, it’s perfectly watchable, thanks mainly to Josh Brolin doing his damnedest, but given the source material, this could’ve, and should’ve, been so much more.

~@TheHManTweeteth

 

Rob the Mob

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

***

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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You steal from them, they never stop looking for you.

Rob the Mob

The H-Bomb: Small time hood Tommy (Michael Pitt) is released from the joint after doing an 18 month stretch for armed robbery and returns to the Bronx with his girlfriend, Rosie (Nina Arianda), who finds him a job working the phones at a collection agency. Tommy soon grows bored with his straight gig and starts playing hooky from work to go sit in on the trial of famed gangster, John Gotti. While listening to some stoolie testify about their social clubs, particularly the part where he mentions that no one carries a gun in a social club, Tommy gets an idea.

See, Tommy has always had a chip on his shoulder when it comes to mobsters, mainly for the way they used to bully and harass his father, and since this collection agency job just isn’t cutting it, money-wise, he comes up with an insane scheme to stick up a mafia social club. After figuring out how to work an Uzi, he somehow procured, Tommy recruits an understandably reluctant Rosie as his getaway driver, and he’s off to stick it to the mob…by sticking up the mob.

His first heist goes off without a hitch, aside from his Uzi constantly going off accidentally, and Tommy is completely taken aback by how much money he brought in, and by how freaking easy it was. Rightly emboldened, he decides to do it again, and again, growing more confident, and less cautious, with each score. Not only is Tommy royally embarrassing the mob with these scores, he has, by chance, come into possession of a list, a list that could shake up the mobsters’ power structure and land many of them in the slammer.

While all this is fun and games for Tommy and Rosie, who have been branded a modern Bonnie and Clyde in the press, this young and relatively dumb couple has unwittingly given the mob a reason far more serious than retribution to take them out…survival.

Based on the real life exploits of Thomas and Rosemarie Uva, who conducted their robbing spree back in ’92, Rob the Mob approaches its potentially dark subject matter in a somewhat lighthearted fashion. I wouldn’t call it a mob comedy, a’la Get Shorty or Analyze This, however, director Raymond De Felitta does bring a naturalistic sense of humor to the proceedings, particularly when Tommy, who has to be the clumsiest stick up man ever, bumbles his way through the robberies. The mobsters’ incredulous, deer-in-headlights reaction to being held up, and the humiliating act that Tommy forces them to perform at the end of one of the heists, are genuinely laugh out loud funny.

At first, the mildly humorous tone set against a gritty, gloomy NYC backdrop struck me as odd, but as the picture wore on, I was won over by the so-absurd-it-has-to-be-true story as well as by the likable, engaging performances of the two leads. Pitt is an actor I’ve liked ever since I first saw him in The Dreamers some ten years ago, and even though I didn’t initially buy him as a street tough kid from the Bronx, he did grow on me. As Tommy’s better half, Rosie, Arianda is a revelation. She is irresistibly feisty and ballsy, and her chemistry with Pitt is organic and genuine. They do make quite the larcenistic couple. Is larcenistic even a word? Fuck it, it is now.

As good as Pitt and Arianda are, they are backed up by a colorful supporting cast that is, for the most part, first rate. The standouts for me include Griffin Dunne as Tommy and Rosie’s unnaturally cheerful boss at the collection agency, Frank Whaley as a shifty federal agent who sells information to the press, and Michael Rispoli as the utterly bewildered mob enforcer pursuing our Bonnie and Clyde wannabes. Best of all is Andy Garcia, who brings a grace and a grandfatherly charm, along with a subtle sense of menace, to the role of underworld kingpin, Big Al. Yeah, I know the character is responsible for many off camera deeds that would make him a monster, but the gentle, understated touch Garcia gives him makes the guy strangely sympathetic.

Out of all the supporting players, the only one who didn’t work for me was Ray Romano, who just sticks out like a sore thumb as the journalist covering Tommy and Rosie’s misadventures. I don’t know if it’s his TV persona, or just that the script didn’t give him much of a character to work with, but I found his presence here distracting. Another problem the film has is the ending, which I’ll try not to spoil. It’s an extremely over-the-top, romanticized, bullshit ending that the movie really did not earn. That’s all I can say about that, though if you know how things ended for Tommy and Rosie in real life (God bless Google), then you might know what I’m getting at.

All things considered, Rob the Mob is a modestly entertaining flick based on a peculiar true life incident. It’s far from life changing, and in six months time I’ll barely remember anything about it, but it is worthwhile for anyone interested in a crime caper that’s most definitely off the beaten path.

 

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

*****

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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“The price of freedom is high . . . and it’s a price I’m willing to pay!” – Captain America

Winter Soldier

Swift shot: Cleveland born veritas pioneers, the Russo brothers, direct a stunningly grounded super hero film that is really an homage to the 70’s thriller. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been referred to as Avengers 1.5, and it’s a fair assessment. Teaming up with Falcon and Black Widow, Captain America has to cope with an evolving threat from within SHIELD Headquarters, the Triskelion. For a man who is rooted in honor, Cap has a hard time dealing with the betrayal, while his partner Black Widow, has no grasp on her truth anymore. An enemy from Cap’s past appears and presents a chilling reminder that suppressing freedom because of fear is really just a new form of enslavement. Take away free will, and what do you have?  A machine.

Chris Evans returns as Captain America, two years after “New York,” Cap has become a full-fledged agent of SHIELD.  It’s appropriate, because he is known for carrying an iconic shield. I was happy to see he employed it throughout the movie, as an offensive weapon, as a defensive barrier, and he isn’t afraid to let that baby fly when it is needed. In one scene, he takes down a Quinjet in a fashion right out of the “Ultimate Alliance 2” video game, bouncing the thing off the tail-fins to cause it to crash.

Scarlett Johansson is more than just a sexy spider woman this time.  She has a bit more depth.  It is explained that she and Cap have been teaming up for awhile now on SHIELD strike missions, and their banter before, and during, missions gives us a little insight into the dynamic between them. She is constantly trying to get him laid, and he is evading all attempts . . . being unable to connect with modern women.  There is a bit of an age gap, with him being 95 and all!

Cap crosses running paths with Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a former Air Force para-rescuer who now runs a PTSD support group for returning combat veterans. I was glad they showed this, and I was glad they didn’t hem and haw on it forever trying to make Cap seem like someone who couldn’t deal with his past. It is evident Cap is having a hard time fitting in, but in true Steve Rogers fashion, he has a plan to deal with those gaps. In one scene he produces a little notebook that lists all the things people keep bringing up that he has yet to see or experience . . . Star Wars being one!

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) heads SHIELD and reports directly to the World Security Council, which is helmed by Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). Interesting fact, Redford played the protagonist in Three Days of the Condor (which Winter Soldier is loosely based upon). Getting Redford involved in this film was what really makes it less a super hero flick and more a genuine thriller. What was more interesting, to me, was the fact that he agreed to be in a movie that promotes freedom over security; I thought he was a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, and their mantra stems from big government . . . not less intrusive measures. Still, for whatever reason he joined this non-indie film, it made all the difference! Every scene he is in, the actors pick up their game, you can feel the atmosphere in the theater change when he’s on screen. It’s palpable; he is an incredible actor.

HYDRA agents within SHIELD have infiltrated the organization, for decades, and have hatched a master plan to identify and eliminate all people throughout the world that fit into an “undesirable” algorithm. Nick Fury gets close to exposing the truth, but perhaps too close, as it becomes apparent that Captain America and Black Widow are on their own. They manage to enlist (I use that word for specific allusion) Falcon in putting a stop to the extermination plan. If they only had to fight SHIELD, that would be one thing, but HYDRA has their own “asset” – The Winter Soldier. He is like a phantom, an urban legend that only few operators have actually lived to see. While Cap was put on ice for decades, this killing machine was awake, doing HYDRA’s bidding. When Captain America faces him, everything changes.

This film had all the components I love in a great movie. The fight sequences were intense, close-quarters, rough, painful, and difficult to watch . . . for all the right reasons. The opening action sequence on the Lemurian Star is going to be imitated by little kids for months as they imagine running from stern to bow dispatching bad guys without hesitation, like Cap does.

The Markus/McFeely screenplay was decent, and the aspect of the “who can you trust” thriller was handled well and not overbearing. The characters were developed enough for me to care about them, and since this wasn’t an origin film, we really didn’t need tons of exposition.

The special effects, as you would expect, were state-of-the-art, and the gun play . . . oh man, the gun play was OFS! In one shoot-out with a talking car (with a voice that I dare say you might recognize) the whole sequence is reminiscent of the epic Heat bank robbery shootout. There are several “yummy” moments as Amadarwin and I refer to them, with Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) and Black Widow giving us, let’s say, titillating camera angles. Hey, I am a red-blooded American male, so sue me – we can’t all be saints like Cap!

As the film concluded, I was running through an imaginary checklist in my head of all the things I love in a movie, and I couldn’t think of one that missed the mark. To quote Scarlett Johansson, “Movies are about being able to escape your life or connect pieces of your life and enjoy the experience. I love the movie-going experience from the popcorn to the previews to the film itself. I like having it stay with me afterwards and thinking about it days later.” That is exactly what Captain America: The Winter Soldier did for me.  It provided an escape; I was able to connect with it, and I can’t stop pestering my friends about how they must see it! I will even make this bold statement, if you don’t like this film, we can’t be friends.

~@rickswift

 

 

 

Noah

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

***

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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Noah

Knowing an apocalyptic event is coming, and all will be destroyed, could you still follow the word of God and do as he asks? In March 2014, we watched as Noah faced that very situation, and follow he did.

Directing this 138 minute action/adventure/drama is Darren Aronofsky.

Trying to keep their heads above water are: Russell Crowe as Noah, Jennifer Connelly as Nammeh, Logan Lerman as Ham, Douglas Booth as Shem, Leo McHugh Carroll as Japheth, Emma Wtson as Ila, Ray Winstone as Tubal-Cain and Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah.

God saw the earth was corrupt and violent, so God decided to cleanse the world with a great flood. Not wanting to wash everything away, God speaks to a man named Noah in a dream, showing him what will be and what he wants done. Noah is to build a boat, big enough to save the animals that God shall send to him. Following God’s wishes, Noah and his family start to prepare for the coming flood.

I have to say this is probably the hardest review I’ve had to write. Since I first saw the trailer I was stoked to see the movie. It was so big and powerful looking on the big screen, I was captivated by everything I saw. When the trailer was over, I no longer cared what I was originally in the theater to see, I wanted it to be Noah. Then, finally, all that time waiting… was over. I eagerly found my seat and wished for a fast forward button to magically appear to shuffle the trailers out of my way so I could finally witness the awe of Noah. Darkness engulfed me as I sat there in the theater, then… there was light. Pretty epic opening to the review huh? It only seemed fitting considering the subject matter, seeing as how Noah is a pretty epic story to be heard.

The first part of this review is for anyone that doesn’t care how accurate their biblical films are. With that being said, this film was so freaking good! The storyline starts off grabbing your attention and doesn’t let go. Before you know it, chaos fills the screen and you can’t look away. Yeah, I was entertained, not only did Crowe and Connely do amazing work here but Watson has shown she has the skills to make it past her Potter films and flourish in the industry.

The special effects were really cool and flowed smoothly, except out of nowhere amongst all this eye popping coolness you’re slapped in the face with crappy… stock footage? Really? Yeah but luckily it’s only a few spots, which made it stand out even worse. For me it was more of a “what the?” kind of spot in the film, but don’t fret because then the coolness is given back to your optical nerves. I really liked the play-through at first, because once it started it had a good pace and kept moving. Then it hits a lag that dragged it’s feet a little longer than it should and hurt the flow of the movie.

For those that are a little sensitive, there are times where you may have to look away, because it gets a little gritty. Giving the film a dark aspect, which come on, the earth is being flooded and lives are being lost. Kind of fitting for what it is. Also, Clint Mansell who did the music made something that was a perfect fit for the film.

Now as for the script, it’s a little preachy, but I’m sure you guested that it would be right? Which brings me to the part of my review for those viewers that want some biblical accuracy in their movies, or as much as can be done. I myself have enough bible study in me to be able to find a bible on the bookshelf. So, curiosity got the best of me and I sat down to read the story of Noah. When compared, well, the film did have a man named Noah that had a wife and three sons. He did build a huge boat that was filled with animals and there was a flood. Beyond that, I felt there was a lot of personal interpretation going on in the movie. Then again, when don’t you see personal interpretation in films. Isn’t that what movies are all about? While this is going on you have the push that vegetarians are good and meat eaters are bad. Mix it with the Humanism view it took, and the film might not settle well with some individuals.

So how do you grade something that as a film was really good, but as far as the subject matter goes… was questionable? Well I think Aronofsky said it best when he said “It’s a very very different movie. Anything you’re expecting, you’re wrong.” He was spot on with that comment because I expected… and I was wrong. Overall, amazing special effects and a great job by the cast. If accuracy isn’t a problem for you then it’s well worth the money, otherwise don’t worry about rushing right out to see it.

 

 

Sabotage

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

**½

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“Who dropped ass?”

Sabotage

The H-Bomb:  Arnold Schwarzenegger is Breacher, the cigar chomping, Austrian accented leader of an elite, paramilitary squad of DEA agents, the members of which boast such charming monikers as Pyro, Monster, and Tripod.  After a successful raid on a cartel safe house, Breacher and his team stash away ten million dollars in drug money that they intend to keep for themselves.  Trouble is, when they come back to retrieve the cash, it’s gone.

The DEA, wanting to know what happened to that money, vigorously investigates the squad for six months to no avail, because the team is just so tight (like a family, we’re told), that they would never, ever rat each other out.  So, the investigation is dropped, and the team is placed back on active duty.  But, before Breacher and his boys (and one girl) can go kicking down doors again, they face a much bigger problem:  Members of the squad are being picked off one by one, in ways that are very gory, gruesome, and grotesque.

Female homicide detective Caroline (Olivia Williams) is assigned to the case, and at first she and Breacher both think that it’s the cartel looking for their money.  However, as they continue to dig, and members of Breacher’s squad continue to drop like flies, they find that it might not be the cartel looking for their loot, after all, that the real killers might be a little closer to home.  In the interest of not dropping spoilers, I shall end the synopsis there.

In recent years, director David Ayer has proven himself to be a filmmaker worth paying attention to.  He wrote the screenplay for Training Day, which in my humble estimation is a modern classic, and of the films he’s directed, I consider Street Kings sadly under-rated and End of Watch one of the best films of 2012.  The typical David Ayer police protagonist exists in that murky, morally grey area, where one is neither entirely good or entirely bad, and in that regard, the cops who populate Sabotage are no different.

Here, as in Ayer’s past films, the characters face situations in which there are no good, or right, decisions available to them, and everyone is susceptible to corruption.  The grittiness, and the graphic, no-holds-barred violence of his prior movies are very much on hand, as there’s a character in one scene who is literally turned inside out.  On the surface, Sabotage seems to get everything right, yet somehow, it ultimately turns out to be a strangely unsatisfying film.

It’s not bad, per se, as there is plenty of bloody, hard hitting action and strong performances from the talented ensemble (yes, even from Schwarzenegger), but the movie itself just isn’t particularly entertaining.  I was never bored at any point, nor was I particularly interested.  The problem is that the characters, all of them, were so utterly off putting, that once they’re being brutally dispatched, I just never really cared.

In Training Day, we had Ethan Hawke as the one cop who was able to keep his head above the shit, so we the audience could latch onto him and identify with him.  Sabotage never gives us such a character.  Every single cop from Arnold’s team, including Arnold, is a thuggish slime ball, and I couldn’t invest in them, or give the slightest shit what happened to them.  I assume we were supposed to identify with Williams’ no nonsense detective, who is the audience surrogate, but she herself isn’t particularly interesting, or sympathetic, or anyone I would willingly spend time with.

The lack of a true “hero” in Sabotage ties into the film’s other main problem, its identity crisis.  It strives to be a gritty cop drama, as well as an Arnold Schwarzenegger action fest, and it comes off as an uneasy blend of the two.  It aims to be both credible and incredible, realistic and larger-than-life, and it simply doesn’t work.  It has all of the bangs and booms of an Arnie flick, but none of the fun.  Adding even more to the movie’s laundry list of issues, are Ayer’s attempts to experiment with cross-cutting, in-scene flashbacks, which were just downright discombobulating.

All things considered, Sabotage is quite the disappointment.  It’s not a terrible film, as some critics have asserted, as the violent gunplay is effective (fans of blood spatter will get their money’s worth), and the chase sequence towards the end is one wickedly destructive spectacle.  Also, as mentioned earlier, Arnold is good in this movie.  Unlike in The Last Stand, where he lumbered about like an aging, arthritic Frankenstein, here he looked very credible running and gunning, and he actually came off as a little scary at times.  He’s not going to bag an Oscar the way Denzel Washington did for Training Day, but his performance is commendably solid.

Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger’s stellar turn is not enough to recommend Sabotage, at least not enough to recommend going to see it in theaters.  This rather grim and surprisingly unpleasant shoot ’em up might make a decent rental for a rainy weekend, but for right now, I’d strongly suggest checking out End of Watch on Netflix, instead.

 

Bethlehem

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

****

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The never-ending cycle…

Bethlehem

The H-Bomb:  17-year-old Sanfur (Shadi Mar’i) is a Palestinian living in the ancient city of Bethlehem whose older brother, Ibrahim (Slmnham), is a wanted terrorist responsible for a deadly bombing in Jerusalem.  Sanfur has been living in his brother’s shadow his entire life, and he’s been constantly trying to prove his manhood by pulling such stunts as wearing a flak vest and having his friends shoot him with an AK-47.  As Sanfur grows older, he gets the attention of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades leader, Badawi (Hitham Omari), who is currently in a power struggle with the Palestinian Authority, and who sees real potential in the young man.

However, there is something about Sanfur that neither Badawi, or Ibrahim, or anyone else in his family or circle of friends know… that he is an informant for the Israelis.  Recruited at the age of fifteen, he regularly feeds information to Israeli Intelligence Agent, Razi (Tsahi Halevi), who has bonded with him, earned his trust, and has become more of a big brother to him than his actual brother.  What Razi hasn’t told Sanfur, is that the man he is currently hunting is Ibrahim, and that he is closing in on him very quickly.

If Ibrahim is eliminated, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, as well as Sanfur, will surely want retribution.  What if Sanfur discovers that Razi is indeed tracking his brother, and what if Badawi, or some other member of Al-Aqsa, finds out that Sanfur is collaborating with the Israelis?  It seems inevitable that the poor lad will be forced into a lose-lose position as his double life starts to catch up to him.

Israel-Palestine, Palestine-Israel… what a lovely little cluster-fuck.  The fact that this conflict has been going on for the better part of seven decades now, and shows no signs of stopping at any point in the foreseeable future, makes pretty much any movie brave enough to tackle this topic timely.  But what makes a film like Bethlehem relevant is that, unlike Steven Spielberg’s excellent Munich, it was made by people who have actually lived this conflict.  Making his feature film debut, Israeli director Yuval Adler, and his co-screenwriter, Arab reporter Ali Waked, imbue the film with the kind of authenticity that can only come from first hand experience.

While merely a political thriller on the surface, Bethlehem ultimately tells an all-too-human tale about a young man born into a situation where the prospects for his future are rather bleak, and who is constantly being manipulated by everyone around him.  By his father, who constantly reminds him what a disappointment he is next to his brother, by Badawi, who aims to make Sanfur a protege and, ultimately, a martyr, and by Razi, who does genuinely care for Sanfur, but demands that he betray his people.

Adler seamlessly weaves these humanistic elements in with the intrigue, giving the events that unfold a real emotional impact.  We’re made to care about Sanfur, we’re made to care about Razi.  Not as Israelis or Palestinians, but as people.  Even the terrorist leader, Badawi, while never coming off as sympathetic (at least not to me), does come off as a man who truly believes in his cause, and that what he is doing is right and necessary, instead of simply being a dastardly evil doer who does evil things because that’s what dastardly evil doers do.

The actors, all of whom are amateurs, also bring a strong sense of realism to their characters.  That these are first time actors is surprising, particularly in the case of Halevi and Mar’i, who deliver layered performances conveying the inner struggles of the two protagonists; Halevi is commanding as the man who has to balance the duties of defending his country with the father-like responsibility he feels for Sanfur, with whom he has clearly grown more attached to than he should have, and the young Mar’i, who does an exceptional job of showing the torn loyalties he feels.

Amateur actors displaying such a level of complexity is quite impressive.  Although, perhaps their level of complexity shouldn’t be so surprising, since, again, these are people who have lived in this unenviable situation their entire lives, on both sides of the divide.  Perhaps it all comes naturally to them, as that old saying goes, they aren’t acting so much as they’re simply being.  Either way, color me impressed.

With a gritty, rough-around-the-edges look to the cinematography that adds to its overall believability, Bethlehem sets its two protagonists down a destructive path of no return that can only end tragically for both of them.  It’s with this intimate human tragedy that the film, with sober-eyed clarity, encapsulates the larger tragedy of the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Exciting and moving in equal parts, Bethlehem is an exceedingly smart, riveting thriller that doesn’t possess all the answers, but that does ask all the right questions.