I am a true child of the 80’s, given I was actually born in 1980, so I have grown up with some of the best movies ever made but also the most infamous which only fuels my nostalgia. Every so often I find myself spending an afternoon or two re-watching Predator, Alien, The Goonies, E.T. and many, many more. My favorite however, are 80’s action films which I will always have a soft heart for. I spent much of my childhood watching the likes of Bloodsport, Hard to Kill, Delta Force, and Kickboxer only to run out in my yard and practice for hours the different kicks, punches, and blocks I learned from these films.
These films ranged from dumb to awesome depending on the levels of action and fight scenes but they were never something someone could defend should it come to plot or story. They were a product of their time and although I’m not completely against remakes or sequels (the 80’s action scene lived off sequels) sometimes it’s best to just leave things in the past.
I was really interested in Kickeboxer: Vengeance when I saw the trailer. It looked promising, had some cool action scenes, and starred Jean Claude Van Damme as the teacher this time around instead of the protagonist. The story is the same as the first, Eric Sloan (Darren Shahlavi) is the kickboxing champ in the U.S. who gets an invite to fight Tong Po (Dave Bautista) in Thailand for a very large sum of money and bragging rights of being the best. Despite the reservations his brother Kurt (Alain Moussi) has, Kurt flies to Thailand to fight Tong Po and is murdered by the Thai boxing champ. Kurt sets out to train in Muy Thai, under his brothers trainer Durand (Jean Claude-Van Damme) so he can avenge his brothers death.
Kickboxer: Vengeance has my attention right from the start because the story began after Eric had died and Kurt is trying to sneak into Tong Po’s training camp to kill him. This gave some insight on what Tong Po does on his spare time, which is hold training and death matches but then it doesn’t take long before there are a ton of questions and little to no answers and it only gets worse from there. Then you have the very beautiful Sara Malakul Lane who plays Liu, a Thai cop who is investigating Tong Po but doesn’t seem to do much about it even though it appears the entire police force in behind her.
Kickboxer: Vengeance has clearly been hacked to death in the editing room causing continuity errors, an incoherent story, and some of the worst dubbing I’ve ever seen. Characters appear, disappear, then appear again for no reason and the questions start overtaking the answers as the film progresses and it really cuts into the small good things the film has going for it. Dave Bautista looks like the producer of this film kidnapped him and forced him to get as big as he could get and it works. He is menacing, powerful works right along with the original Tong Po played by Michel Qissi.
Core elements of the story were altered just to be different from the original film which leads to huge inaccuracies for characters and the overall plot. It’s revealed that Eric trained under Durand, who is supposed to be the best Muy Thai teacher but he is no match for Tong Po. Originally, Eric went to fight Tong Po with no training because he was arrogant and believed he stayed at his best all the time. This change neuters Durand as a trainer because he’s supposed to be the all knowing last resort who can kick the protagonist butt into gear and push him past him limits so he can be a better fighter.
Also, Eric is killed in an underground fight instead of a normal kickboxing match, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to kill him, but this takes away from the curiosity of the final fight. In the original Kurt was training for a normal Muy Thai match only for Tong Po to change the rules and have them fight in the old way, which had the fighters hand wrapped in rope then crushed glass glued to them. Here we already know the setting so there is nothing to surprise us about the final fight.
Everything about this movie is just wrong. Alain Moussi just doesn’t have Van Damme’s charisma and it boring to watch. The characters and their actions don’t make sense, the fight scenes are so choreographed you can see the stunt men just waiting for their moment to come into the scene and get knocked down by a kick that wouldn’t stop a small child and training sequences are boring do nothing to excite you into training like the original did. The training sequences in the first film, whether you believed them or not, were amazing to watch I’ve quoted and reenacted the “kick the tree” scene over and over again.
There is more emotion in that one scene then there is in the entire 90 minute running time of Kickboxer: Vengeance which leads me to my biggest complaint. I’ve always felt that Van Damme is a much better actor then he’s been given credit for. The man was the epitome of 80’s action for me growing up, he was fun to watch, he still is an amazing martial artist and athlete but he was sleep walking through this role. It’s like he doesn’t want to do these anymore or he’s always tired and if that’s true then he should just stop and focus on other things, because he was the biggest letdown for me. Like this film, his heart just wasn’t into it and broke the heart of this 80’s kid. At least I can try and get over it since this movie introduced me to Sara Malakul Lane.
Alright, alright the moment of truth has arrived and after months, maybe years, of bad press, mean tweets, ugly internet rumors we the American public are finally getting to see this reboot of one of the greatest comedies of all-time: Ghostbusters. Well let’s start off with the good news; it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. What saves it you ask? Simple, it’s the very thing that so many have been complaining about for so long…the cast.
Yes that’s right sports fans, the cast of ladies, instead of men, are the only things that gave it some form of life. NOT because they are women but because they seem to be legitimately having a good time doing it, the chemistry of the actors is all there most of all goes to none other than Kate McKinnon. She’s the absolute dynamo that kept the show going and going strong. She plays it up as a cross between a punk-rock girl and a mad scientist, just smiling have more fun than anyone should be allowed to have. She won me over almost too easily, bravo! It’s welcome to see someone just not taking anything too seriously as she obviously is. And all actresses with comedy backgrounds just joshing and giggling just having a grand time. I mean let’s not forget that a male cast delivered just an ehhhh sequel, 1989’s Ghostbusters II.
But with all of that happening you might be asking yourselves, well Jason, sounds like you should like it more right? Hold on, here’s the bad news and it’s this, nothing in this movie is anything impressive and it’s all been done and done before. Have any of you seen the original 1984 classic? I mean it’s one of my all time favs! How many of us when we were kids dressed as a Ghostbuster for Halloween? Well, then folks you, I, we have all seen this one before. The plot couldn’t be anymore recycled than just straight up ripping off the same one by Dan Aykroyd and the late great Harold Ramis.
Basically it’s this three scientists who have been trying to prove for sometime the existence of ghosts, or the paranormal, one really quirky, one really smart, one just trying to get tenured. They find their proof and in turn they loose their jobs in academia and are forced to go into business themselves to investigate the paranormal and…..hey wait a minute! Isn’t that the plot of the original? Yes it is. But then they get just an average person not a scientist to help them and….HEY WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE!!! You’re catching on now.
The jokes that you saw in the original have the same set up, the same setting, the same punch line it’s all there as we’ve seen before. And then you have, enter stage left, a good looking, hunky guy who wears glasses (“who ordered the Clark Kent stripper-gram” one person mutters). And with that we get a lot of jokes from ladies who all just make lame joke after lame joke about that we have a good looking guy working for us…whoopee! That gets old fast. Then we have Melissa McCarthy and Kirsten Wiig doing the same old thing as they did in their last team up Bridesmaids same jokes, same quarks, same “oh hey look at me I’m a girl who keeps falling down” and “oh hey look at me I’m facing a mid-life crisis.” Oh just move on already.
Then you have the nemesis, which involves some guy who’s fed up with people and…well just wait you’ll find out. But all of it leads to a final act, which just goes overboard and over the top with c.g.i. that gives you a headache. It still goes back to the original complaint that it’s still the same as the 1984 classic. Same set up, different decade, different kind of effects.
Now I loved the original, it was a glorious example of campy and comedy, and it even when it tried never took itself seriously. It was a wonderful spoof on horror while bringing in a new style of comedy that benefited from having people behind it who knew exactly what funny is. Here all you have are just a bunch of recycled gags that have been done and done and done and done that don’t do much more than just make you say GET ON WITH IT!!!
But like I said it’s not a bad movie thanks to it’s cast but it’s also not a very good movie because of it’s writers and director Paul Feig who don’t even try to pay any homage to the original. They just get members and icons from the original movie to appear here and there to try and appease those of us, like myself, who grew up with it to say, see, see. And the cameos from famous people, and yes the original surviving cast, but they don’t even play their original characters they just appear, say hi and exit. But if there is a sequel, which without to say too much but the ending does set us up for one, as long as Kate McKinnon returns, gosh I just love her, there is always hope.
2 ½ out of 4 stars
Written by: Jason Greathouse
Directed by David Ayer, Suicide Squad, follows Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) in a post Superman world as a agent so deep within the U.S. government that she has the ability to pull together a team of DC villains (Deadshot, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Killer Croc, & Captain Boomerang, just to name a few) by planting a exploding device in their heads and force them to be the black ops answer to all the potential meta-human threats now that the Man of Steel is currently taking a dirt nap. Waller is forced to activate the Suicide Squad to evacuate an important figurehead from a nearby city that is being overrun by a new magical force intent on destroying the world.
For the most part Suicide Squad looks to deliver on what DC promised in it’s rather brilliant marketing plan until you the film starts to unfold. Will Smith, who plays the can’t miss assassin Deadshot, is a return to his prior form of movie star, as he really takes a hold of this character and runs with it. While some people were complaining about the race of the character (Deadshot is actually white) I was more worried if Smith could actually pull off playing a man who murders people for money but he did more then pull his weight and I would be up to a Deadshot movie now.
Everything you thought about Margot Robbie is true, there are times she stumbles with the character, her accent goes in and out, but for the most part Robbie really owns the role of Harley Quinn and it will be interesting to watch her grow with the character in future movies as she was the real heart behind the film. As for the rest of the cast everyone showed up to work. Jay Hernandez is unrecognizable as El Diablo and is one of the cooler characters, Karen Fukuhara as Katana is a real bad ass, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agba makes Killer Croc into a really menacing creature, I believed that Joel Kinnman could really control and lead the worst of the worst as Rick Flag, even Jai Courtney was entertaining.
Cara Delevingne was pretty amazing as Dr. Moon/The Enchantress until they did something with her character and she started to remind me the fairy godmother from Cinderella and gave her best bippity boppity boo impression. The biggest disappointment comes in Jared Leto as The Joker. When the stills and screen shots were released I was confident that Leto would be able to supersede Heath Ledger but as of right now it’s safe to say Ledger is still the reigning champ.
I’m willing to cut some slack since he’s hardly in the movie, now that we know most of his scenes were cut out, but there were some glaring problems in this incarnation which I noticed by the way Leto would growl in every scene and it was clear he was having a hard time talking through the grill he had in his mouth the entire film. I would like to see just how crazy he can get in future installments, mainly in the Ben Affleck directed Batman flick which is coming down the pipeline especially since Batman is one of the best thing about this film and he has less screen time then Leto. The entire film reeks of too many hands trying to make the family dinner and it’s at this point WB/DC really needs to wake up.
It’s at this point you start to zero on the real problem of this film. What started out as a fun ride with some of DC’s classic villains takes a complete and very quick nose dive as it enters it’s final act because it has too much going on and feels very bloated in scope and I found myself wondering whey didn’t they scale it down and have this non-super powered villains go against a terrorist group. Batman is supposed to be out searching for the meta-humans so why not have them have to stop someone like Black Mask from trying to take over a section of Gotham, or maybe stop him from trying to take over Arkham Asylum which would have been a good place to have Leto’s Joker and create the right conflict for Harley.
After watching Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and now Suicide Squad I’ve come to the conclusion, in order to salvage something from these films, is to look at them as a means to study and show exactly what not to do when making a comic book movie. Man of Steel is a lesson on not hiring a director that doesn’t get/like the character you’re making a movie about. BvS would be a perfect example in demonstrating the failures of not keeping your script simple and do not mash too much into your movie to the point that you end up cutting out important scenes that completely alter characters behavior and motivations, only to add them back in to have your film make sense. Finally, we have Suicide Squad, which is a perfect example of how editing can make or break your film.
If you’re dead set on watching this film no matter what like I was, then nothing is going to stop you, go to the theater, see it for yourself, but if you’re on the fence I would recommend to just wait and rent it. It’s not a complete waste of time but this is not film WB/DC needed right now.
Ever since Paranormal Activity became a hit Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon and the found footage genre became a mainstream event and they’ve all varied in quality but for the most part they haven’t been anything I would recommend to anyone to see unless you are just a extreme fan of the genre. The exorcism aspect of these types of films is especially tired because it follows the same formula. Woman is sick, very strong foreshadowing that it is something supernatural that all the characters ignore until it is too late, scary things happen until it very suddenly ends, roll credits.
The Taking of Debra Logan follows a documentary crew as they are filming a doc for Alzheimer and what starts out as your typical possession film turns into something else entirely and it’s all the better for it. Sarah (Anne Ramsay), who is taking care of her mother Debra (Jill Larson) agrees to let a film crew crew follow her mother because the bills are starting to pile and she hopes it will bring awareness to the disease that is eating her mothers brain. Everything seems fine until Debra, who very quickly, falls into the second stage, that Sarah and the film crew begin to learn more about Debra and her past that they start to realize she is suffering from much more then an illness.
What I liked most about Debra is how the film starts out you in believing it’s your typical possession film until it quickly takes a left turn and pulls you into a mystery about what is trying to take Debra and why. By taking this approach, it adds a new layer to an already tired format in a part of the film it would start to get boring. The scares are fresh and it largely avoids the characters from doubting what is actually happening to Debra, save for one character. The weakness of these type of films is the characters doing mostly dumb things, like not checking the footage, trying to make excuses for the things they saw, etc and the film has these characters but it also calls them out on it.
It’s hard to review this movie because I don’t want to give much away because the fun of it is that mystery and watching it unfold. The Taking of Debra Logan is streaming on Netflix and if you are a fan of the possession films I do recommend checking it out.
Caleb is a computer programmer working for Bluebook, the apparent Google of the Not-Too-Distant-Future. He wins a company contest to meet with Nathan, the company’s Howard Hughes-esque genius founder, on a top-secret project at his secluded home. When he arrives, he discovers that he has been selected to help Nathan test a new form of artificial intelligence in the form of an advanced robot named Ava. As the story goes on, Caleb begins to have feelings for Ava, who may or may not have feelings of her own for Caleb and against Nathan.
Domhall Gleeson is the everyman-esque main character, Caleb, and as such, he gives the film its humanity; the quiet, reserved guy who is intrigued by what he sees, but gradually starts to question and challenge what the circumstances present themselves. He provides the thoughtful eagerness that properly feeds against Oscar Isaac’s douche-extraordinaire Nathan. Isaac plays Nathan as the guy you knew in college who was approachable, who knows from the get-go that he was smarter and more talented than you, but still tried to be a friendly rival all the same. He nearly steals the show while helping provide a Luke-and-Han dynamic between the two, which may come into play when they co-star together in Star Wars: The Force Awakens this Christmas. The standout is Alicia Vikander, who gives Ava the type of effective but reserved wonderment toward humanity, and Caleb in particular, that Brent Spiner gave to Star Trek: TNG’s Data, but hers is with a greater sense of either genuine fear or cunning manipulation. Sonoya Mizuno plays Kyoko, Nathan’s assistant, as a practically mute slave, unable to speak of the horrors she’s seen in Nathan’s hidden fortress, though she finds the strength to stand tall when the final act comes into play.
Garland, who also wrote the original 28 Days Later and the criminally-underrated Dredd, populates his directorial debut with scenes comprised mostly of long, takes between one or two of the characters with cutting only when seemingly necessary. These scenes are in environments consisting of either bright, Kubrickian hallways and sitting rooms or in the serene, almost magical forests that surround Nathan’s tiny structure outside. Nearly every shot in the film, courtesy of cinematographer Rob Hardy, is a wide-angle photograph unto itself.
In addition to the finely-tuned acting, I really appreciated Garland’s approach to 2001 and Solaris visuals. He opts for bright-but-claustrophobic rooms and hallways shot with long, wide-angle takes to give Nathan’s small forest dwelling with a big, techy basement a sense of dangerous intrigue. It effectively and beautifully plays on the nature-versus-nurture state of Ava and Caleb’s budding relationship as well as the conflict that arises between the trio. Ava’s design itself is equally sparse but effective, with just her arms, torso and the back of her head showing any visual signs of inhumanity. She even manages to hide those with some girly outfits and wigs to make herself look and potentially feel real.
If there is anything to complain about the film, it’s that there a only a precious few surprises. Nathan’s story is a variation of Frankenstein’s Mad Scientist/Playing God motivation, and as said before, Caleb is pretty much a smarter, more cynical version of Luke Skywalker. But when your biggest complaints are retreads on well-established formulas, at least ones that have been done over and over again for decades, you can easily forgive the filmmakers for going the unbroken routes that they did.
Yes, there is precious few fresh ideas about this tried-and-true cautionary tale, but film still thrives on the wide-open sparseness of the environments and cinematography as well as the completely believable performances of the three main actors. In the modern era of Sci-Fi, littered with the flashy fun of superheroes and giant robots (which I also love), it’s nice to see the kind of smart, bleak and thought-provoking tales of the future that only seem to come along every few years. And Garland has taken this simple idea and created a fantastic, little film that’s the best of its kind since Moon and District 9 that may not be a fully recognized now, but in hindsight will only become a benchmark for Sci-Fi films of this decade. Maybe the future won’t be so bad after all.
Written by: Christopher Dees
It’s really hard to believe that about eight years ago we were sitting on the outside of what Marvel was building and thinking to ourselves, ‘this will never work’. I remembered hearing that Marvel has taken out a very large loan to start up their own studio to make their own movies. I never believed it was possible to have the cinematic universe fruitful and growing right before my eyes and yet here we are, on the ending of their second phase. Each of the characters who has had their own movies brought us through their stories until they collided into Joss Whedon’s second film in The Avengers films.
Now that S.H.I.E.L.D. has fallen (at least in the movie world) it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to take on the arms dealers, mad scientist, and anyone else who would carry the torch of violence and destruction and look to enslave humanity. During a raid of a Hydra facility looking for Loki’s scepter from the first film. Tony takes the scepter and with the help of Bruce Banner begin to create an artificial intelligence that takes the form of Ultron, a program designed to be a “suit of armor around the world” that Tony feels is the first and last line of defense against another alien attack. Ultron very quickly realizes that the extinction of the human race is the best way to save the planet and begins to put his plan into effect. Ultron recruits the Maximoff twins, Pietro and Wanda played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen who gained their powers of super speed and “being wierd” by being experimented on by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) who aid Ultron systematically pick apart The Avengers.
There is so much in this movie, it’s packed with new characters, amazing actions scenes, and huge set up for the upcoming sequels and the massive two part The Avengers: Infinity War. Everything about this movie is bigger, as you’d expect from a sequel of the magnitude, but Whedon did stayed true with his promise to make the sequel painful and more personal. He doesn’t waste any time showing you how the they all operate as a team and why they are so feared by anyone who stands in their way, something that is excellent set-up for the Civil War plot line that will be unwinding in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War.
One of my favorite moments wasn’t just the Hulk vs Hulkbuster, which was pretty amazing and allowed me to share a tender moment with my step-son as he turned to me with the biggest smile as the two began to square off. It also wasn’t Captain America taking on Ultron by himself, which was pretty amazing, or how Whedon showed the team working together as a tight unit in several actions scenes that I can’t wait to watch over and over again when it comes out on Blu-ray. No, my favorite bit out of the entire film is was Hawkeye’s back story, (which I won’t spoil) which comes out of nowhere but doesn’t feel forced or out of place. In fact out of everything in the film, this is the bit that fits perfectly. It’s beautiful and completely unexpected but provides a nice insight to some of the other characters who are internally battling where they fit in the normal world.
Despite all my praise, I do have some issues and this movie is far from perfect. While I did enjoy the action and loved how they managed to step everything up but make it fun, you can tell the movie was shredded all to hell in the editing room, which had me worried when Joss’s original cut came in around 3 1/2 hours and he bragged about how one of his main goals was to make Avengers 2 shorter then the first one. There are scenes and lines that have been cut from the trailer (which is something I hate) and the movie has to move extremely fast to hit it’s plot points so everything feels a bit forced as far as the plot in concerned.
There was also a lot of setup for other characters in other films coming out and there were moments where it felt that scenes were missing that lead up to where the heroes and villains colliding. There is a few scenes where Thor has a vision and decides to look into what he had seen in Asgard, which if anyone remembers Thor: The Dark World (SPOILERS) Loki has taken over as King of Asgard, under the guise of Odin. It’s not fully explained how Thor is able revisit his dream, he just tells us he has to jump into some pool of water in a cave, he jumps in, and suddenly see’s what we’ve all known is that someone *cough Thanos cough* is after the Infinity Stones.
I’ve heard many complain on how quickly Ultron actually became Ultron and why I don’t have a problem with this considering he’s a program that doesn’t have to eat or sleep, I do feel that there were a few scenes missing to really flesh him out as well, but James Spader kills it as the murderous android and has managed to put himself up there with Loki and Wilson Fisk, as one of the great villains, something Marvel severely lacks in otherwise.
I really, really enjoyed the film and I highly recommend going to see it but I am warning you, if you are new to this series, this isn’t the movie to start, much like WB did with the later Harry Potter films, if you haven’t been on board since the beginning, don’t look for the movie to take the time to catch you up and while this doesn’t have the awe the first film had of the team getting together nor the emotional punch many were expecting, it is outstanding achievement in the blockbuster scene and fun film.
I want you to take a moment and look either to your left or right, find a point ten…maybe even twenty feet away from where you are right. Now I want you to imagine someone is walking towards you, slowly and you know without any doubt that when that person is within reach they are going to kill you…violently. So naturally you run, drive, even fly, but one day you’re lucky and you see someone walking towards you, slowly. with that same look on their face. It can look like a complete stranger, a best friend, your mother, sister, brother, daughter, son anyone, it is still coming, no matter how far you run, and it’s going to kill you.
This is the plot behind the latest horror film It Follows, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell which stars Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, and Lili Sepe, find Jay (Maika Monroe) who is just recently out of high attending college and starting to date more. She goes out with a handsome young man named Hugh, on which one night she sleeps with him. Hugh drugs her and Jay wakes up in a wheelchair where Hugh begins to explain that since they slept together he’s passed something to her. It will follow her, where ever she goes with the soul intent of killing her and she can pass it to anyone else, all she has to do is have sex. If she doesn’t, It will kill her then move backwards down the line of recipients of this “curse”.
Here lies my problem with this movie, the idea is pretty solid, something following you, walking very slowly can kill you and no matter how hard you try to run it will keep following you, even if you “give” it to someone else (and no the STD metaphor isn’t lost on me) it could still come back for you if the person you gave it to dies, so you spend the rest of your life, looking over your shoulder, wondering if It has finally come for you. This in itself is pretty terrifying but it does raise many questions and things that just don’t make much sense. In the beginning you see a pretty brutal ending to someone who gave up and allowed It to get her, but later on in the movie when you actually see it take someone it’s way to comical to be taken seriously.
Despite that, the movie does have some pretty freaky moments, and the movie is just dripping with love for late 70’s and 80’s horror films. The cars, the houses, the costumes, and the lack of parents all scream 80’s horror which I really enjoyed since David Robert Mitchell managed to show his love for the time frame without being gimmicky about it. We didn’t see any of the kids playing with a rubik’s cube, Star Wars t-shirts, etc.
I enjoyed It Follows, for it’s pretty freaky atmosphere and the overall layout of the plot, but it’s really hard to recommend this to anyone other then straight horror fans or the art house crowd. This isn’t your typical mainstream horror movie and so I feel a warning should be in place. If you’re a horror movie fan and you love movies, you pay attention to editing, how shots are set up then this film is for you, if you’re just your casual movie goer then I would tell you to wait until you can rent this, but my feelings, despite this and the fact that it doesn’t appear that the lore of this monster and how this all works wasn’t thought out that well I would still give this 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
Wow, I had to be honest, when I saw the ads for this film and hearing that the Wachowski’s were back to making big grandiose film making with the possibility of a new trilogy. Well, that’s why I think it hurts so much to know the movie is just, well, maybe, ok. I mean visually it’s impressive as their camera zips and zooms, just check out an action/chase scene over the skyline of Chicago with huge c.g.i. visuals destined to jaw drop and impress. Everything else is just a mess. Basically the plot Mila Kunis is the genetic heir to a galactic fortune, I think, why I don’t know? But she get’s protected by a genetically enhanced solider, sort of, in the form of Channing Tatum, who finds her by, sense of smell, no joke. The rest, I don’t know? I’m still trying to figure that out?
The plot, the story, I have no idea I got lost myself. Poor Wachowski’s they really, really, really try to entertain us so badly. I mean they can do it, we’ve seen it, check out the underrated “Bound” and, of course, “The Matrix” a sci-fi action/thriller that raised the bar for all. And the political satire with a message thriller/drama “V for Vendetta,” which ok they’re not credited as director, but it was still their baby. These two can deliver when they want but I guess they want to just over impress us so much that it’s just overdone. I mean “The Matrix” sequels (“Matrix Reloaded” & “Matrix Revolutions”) were just eye rolling, blah, “Speed Racer” was an attempted kiddie flick that just made its target audience go, huh? Then let’s not forget their attempt at “indie” filmmaking, and I use that term loosely to describe “Cloud Atlas,” which I can respect the ambition but should have come with cliff notes because I got lost in just 10 minutes and needed a pause and rewind button just to follow who was who.
All in all the movie is like I said, visually stunning but that doesn’t excuse, boring characters and a plot/story that NOBODY can follow. Again, poor Wachowski siblings. And to think they needed a 175 million dollar budget to make people roll their eyes yet again in disbelief. The two of them better go back to the drawing board and try, oh please, please, please try to make something normal before it’s too late. Believe me, I still haven’t lost faith.
2 out of 5 stars
Written by Jason Greathouse
Super-computer hacking, about as exciting as watching paint dry, right? Maybe. Rouge agents, sabotaging for personal and financial gains, could work? Possibly. Well leave it to Michael Mann to make all of that as exciting and innovative as anything you’ll see. From a dazzling R.A.T. program that brings down a power plant, to cat and mouse chase through the streets of Hong Kong, clichés right? Not to Mann the man, no pun intended, who invented the stylized thriller with both the movie and TV series “Miami Vice,” to epic modern-day westerns, “Heat,” nail-biting roller coaster’s into darkness “Collateral,” this is a film maker who knows how reinvent a genre reduced to clichés every time he gets behind a camera.
Basically an unknown figure manipulates the stock market by hacking into the mainframes of the NY stock exchange and how do they cover up the hack, by destroying the servers, at a Chinese nuclear power plant. Which begins a high-tech cat and mouse chase across the globe where the only one that can help is a convict, Chris Hemsworth. Some would argue the casting is just playing for looks/sex-appeal but Mann, with screenwriter Morgan Davis Foehl, helps craft a character that’s both tough and intelligent. Just check out a scene where he goes one on one with hackers on his keyboard telling power and emotion without saying a word, obviously Mann has done his homework.
As with every filmmaker who’s been around the block they usually fall into the gimmicks of the trade and sadly Mann has done that a little bit. There’s the same over stylization, do we need to have super blue light and skylines behind the actors every time they walk into a building? Same digital cinematography, same electronic/techno, ambient music, same saturated colorization and of course a chase in a subway. Apparently that’s a pre-requisite of any one of Mann’s films. And then there are these meditative moments that seem like he turned the movie over to Terrance Malick. Scenes where he just leaves his camera on while the actors just do what they will while his Moby-like score just plays over the moment. It’s an obvious attempt at art, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing it’s just with Mann we want him to stop feeding us veggie burgers and get back to the steak that is the action of the story.
But Mann still has crafted a thriller that goes beyond the conventions of a action-thriller. He has intelligence and style to his films that so many modern thriller/action directors forgot to include in their stories. So those looking to escape the dumping ground that is the winter movie schedule “Black Hat” is a gift.
By: Jason Greathouse
3 out of 4 Stars
Ok here’s the good news, all the actors are just fine, they all look like they are just having a blast making this. Here’s the bad news, the movie is just ok. And poor Johnny Depp, he tries so hard for us to like him and he succeeds here all debonair and charm having a wonderful time overacting and over doing his fake British accent. Along for the ride is amazingly sexy wife, Johanna, (Gwyneth Paltrow) womanizing man-servant/bodyguard, Jock, (Paul Bettany) while being pursed by a voluptuous nymphomaniac (Oliva Munn) who’s hot for a stolen painting and a cunning MI-5 agent (Ewan McGregor) who’s hot for his wife.
All sounds good and fun right, well it does but the execution of this confusing and bland plot just isn’t as fun as its talent seems to be having. It’s all sort of been there done that and then you have the jokes. They’re a bunch of bad old British-stereotypes and phrases that have been done so many times you’d swear the screenwriters must have stolen some of Benny Hill’s scripts. And of course what’s any British comedy without a poke or two at America or L.A. to be exact. Of course every woman in L.A. has to come right out of Playboy right? SIGH
And then you have Johnny Depp’s mustache. Ok, ok, for the love of it all ok, we get it that’s funny, the first time, the second time it’s cute, the third time it’s……PLEASE MOVE ON!!! And of course the lovely Mrs. Paltrow, who I won’t lie I love, but here is reduced to making a vomit joke because of the mustache. How the mighty have fallen, Mrs. Paltrow has gone from “Sliding Doors,” “Seven,” & “Shakespeare in Love” to making vomit jokes. She better get Mr. Downey back for another “Ironman” before it’s too late!
But again it’s not the talent, Depp, Paltrow, Bettany, McGregor and Munn are all appearing to have a wonderful time adlibbing and goofing off as they go along. Just too bad they can’t do it in a better film. To think Mr. Depp after this has down three bad movies in a row! Poor guy.
By: Jason Greathouse
2 out of 5 stars