Blackhat is a slickly-produced techno-thriller from co-writer/director Michael Mann. While Mann continually enjoy exploring the relationship between cops and crooks, this film and the last couple efforts from Mann (Miami Vice, Public Enemies) seem to feature same issue: personality vs. interest. The fact is, all of Mann’s films have tons of personality, given his stylish tendencies, but his recent efforts have unfortunately not left us with much to connect with, beyond the visuals, committed (yet somewhat shallow) performances, and visceral quality of the action in his features. Blackhat does nothing to really change that around and while a January release date is harsh sentencing for a director that continues to put what I imagine is tons of effort into his productions, it stands to reason that a film with a couple action-based highlights amidst a world filled with exotic locals, techno-jargon, and the handsomest hacker of them all could only draw up so much excitement. That in mind, I am still a Mann fan and while bloated, I tend to enjoy the visual language Mann puts on the big screen, overweighing my need for a more enjoyable screenplay, which is still unfortunately the issue with these recent Mann projects.
Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category
American Sniper saw a limited release theatrically last year on Christmas Day. So if you are in the know with my usual rants, then you have already guessed it and hit the nail on the head. It wasn’t released or screened anywhere near me last Christmas, hence why there is this late film review and possible exclusion from countless Top 10 lists of last year across the multitude of websites comparable to ours. However, it juts goes to show you that you can’t have your cake and eat all the time too. You either pay the high taxes and live in a shoebox in LA or you stuff your face with fatty BBQ, sip back on sweet tea and watch the world pass you by, but I digress. We really do have a movie to discuss here. So ladies and gentlemen, I formally welcome you to my all-American movie review of American Sniper. Continue reading ‘It’s Your Patriotic Duty to See ‘American Sniper’ This Weekend’
My favorite scene in A Walk Among the Tombstones, the previous Liam Neeson thriller that found the 62-year-old actor facing up against a number of deadly foes, involved Neeson’s character talking a knife-wielding man out of fighting, because they both knew how it would end. It showed how much of an intimidating force Neeson can be just by having a conversation. The same can be said for the first and best Taken. While that film had its share of action, the best scenes involved Neeson intimidating his enemies through just his presence and dialogue. Now we are at Taken 3, which is pretty much a joke. Sloppy storytelling, incoherent direction, horrible action (featuring plenty of close-ups); this is a mess of a film. Sure, Neeson knows how to sell his presence, but as the tagline states, I really hope it does end here.
There is something I find fascinating about a man struggling not to be a criminal. This was something played to near-perfection by Al Pacino in The Godfather films, but it is a character type that we have seen a lot in the crime and gangster films before and since those first two ‘masterpieces.’ In regards to this superb crime drama from writer/director J.C. Chandor, I think my fascination has something to do with the idea of understanding lead character Oscar Isaac’s sense of morals, but seeing how much ‘easier’ it would be for him if he more willingly stepped onto the dark side. Regardless of what the case may be, A Most Violent Year is the kind of slow-burn, tactics-heavy, crime drama that I was easily taken in by, thanks to a level of confidence behind the camera and strong performances matched with cinematic beauty in front of it.
In a film about high stakes gambling and the crushing weight an addiction (or whatever Mark Wahlberg’s character wants to call it), knowing how to balance the tension and frustration of someone constantly risking it all with cinematic skill is very important. Rupert Wyatt’s directorial follow-up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a drastically different type of film in terms of scale, but this remake of 1974’s The Gambler clearly shows that he can balance entertainment with intelligence within the confines of mainstream studio fare. Not that we do not see this from other filmmakers in any given year and it is also not like The Gambler is not without its share of issues, but as much as Wahlberg is the star actor in the film, Rupert Wyatt is really selling himself as the star director.
I am a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch. I even like to refer to him by his full name, Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch, because I enjoy celebrating just how British he is. It is clear to me that I am not alone in my appreciation for BTCC, but I do enjoy that it is coming from not just his work on BBC’s Sherlock, but from seeing him branch out into so many different roles. Now he stars as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, which feels like a role perfectly suitable for him, given the challenge of portraying this complex persona, yet having a familiarity with portraying someone with an idiosyncratic nature, especially when it comes to interaction with others. As for the film as a whole, it is perfectly entertaining in the “important biopic that you probably won’t feel the need to see more than once” kind of way, but the presence of Cumberbatch and his strong performance may certainly defy that kind of logic.
The Gambler is just what Hollywood needs, another remake. The American crime drama, directed by Rupert Wyatt, is simply that, a remake of the 1974 film of the same name (nothing to do with Kenny Rogers). This time out, it stars Mark Wahlberg as the gambler with contributions by big name stars such as John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson and more. So I guess you can tell from my less than colorful opening monologue here, the story of a literature professor addicted to gambling who’s in deep with gangsters just doesn’t have me doing excited cartwheels over it, but I digress. That’s what the review below is all about. Continue reading ‘‘The Gambler’ Gambled With My Time (Movie Review)’
[Note: I had no real desire to dig too far into the controversy surrounding this film, as I have been fascinated, but exhausted with keeping up with what has gone on in this surreal situation leading up to the eventual release of this film. That said, my friend Scott Mendeslon, over at Forbes, has written a number of pieces that go into it, including This. As it stands, I just wanted to write about the film.]
A small part of the world cried foul, threats were made from various sources, but here we are with the movie that presents an insane premise and matches it with the same sense of humor and themes that have made successes out of the filmmaking team that is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. While the real-life fallout from producing The Interview was likely something the duo could not have imagined, the actual film is merely silly fun, with only hints of truly biting social commentary. That said, I know what to expect, for the most part, from Team Rogberg at this point, and while this may not be their greatest effort, it is certainly an entertaining one.
I have been told I have something of a knack for impressions. Not particularly in how I look or even sound, but in finding the cadence in whatever humorous display I may be attempting to put on. David Oyelowo does not really look like Martin Luther King, Jr., but he does more than just get the cadence of the man down in Selma. Oyelowo is able to bring to life the presence and soul of Dr. King in a way that is completely worthwhile in a film that features him as both the man and the influential leader that inspired so many. That is no easy task for an actor or a film that would want to feature such a character in the dominant role, but Selma has found a way to bring Martin Luther King, Jr. into a film, without having to do the heavy-lifting of telling the man’s whole story and trying to truncate all of what he accomplished into a two-hour motion picture. Instead, fitted with a commanding lead performance, as well as several very strong supporting performances, and plenty of other great filmmaking-related aspects, Selma is a film that addresses a particular time in a wonderfully impressive way that is both cinematic and quite relevant to our current time.
On the surface, Unbroken has everything needed to not only be a surefire hit for audiences and critics of a certain generation, but also one that could seemingly have awards just handed over to it. This is a film adaptation of a best-selling and well-reviewed novel based around the true story of a former Olympic athlete, who went to war, survived a plane crash, spent time lost at sea, and then lived a tortured life in a prisoner of war camp, only to prove how strong the human spirit can be. This film is directed by a major Hollywood player, who happens to be female, and was co-scripted by the two of the most celebrated filmmakers working today. What is not to like about that? Certainly not a lot, as Unbroken is a good film, with its heart in the right place and plenty of other positive elements going for it. With that in mind, the film does have an issue with finding a way to connect in a stronger sense, given what we are seeing. Unbroken misunderstands that seeing so much happen to someone is not the same as really getting us to understand how much some of these things may matter.
Given how much they talked/sang about it, I was glad that everyone definitely went into the woods. Two things: I was not at all hip to knowing anything about the original Into the Woods stage musical before this film was announced and I enjoy the musical style of Stephen Sondheim. With that in mind, I can say that, for the most part, I was wrapped up in this story that essentially combines many of the most popular fairy tale characters through a common thread that finds each character heading into the woods at some point. Add to that the style of Sondheim’s musicals, which is a big part of why I love Tim Burton’s Sweeny Tood, and you have a film that is at least great to listen to, let alone watch, as we see a number of gifted performers really delivering in the singing department, within a variety of elaborate sets. Given the heavy emphasis on practical effects, it only leads to more praise I would be happy to give the film, if only I was not let down by the film’s final act.
The second cinematic Middle-Earth trilogy has ended and now we are back where we started in 2002. I am happy for those who are excited to rewatch The Lord of the Rings trilogy, following this ‘defining chapter,’ but I am left with other curiosities. Having never read J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I am curious about whether or not audiences who enjoyed what I am aware is a reasonably amusing book for a younger crowd were hoping to see a blood-thirsty final film to close this three-film adaptation. My impression, after first learning of the films that we would be getting was that of an understanding that we’d be dealing with more light-hearted Middle-Earth adventures. I did not get much of that in the previous Hobbit films and certainly not with The Battle of the Five Armies, but that would be less of an issue, if the movie was still good, regardless. Well, it’s not bad, but as much as I like seeing lots of action on display, there is a point where enough is enough, and with this film…well I’m just happy “One Last Time” is part of its mantra.
I had fun with this film. There is more to read, but how much do I really need to say about the third film in a series about Ben Stiller interacting with museum exhibits that come to life at night, thanks to the power of a magic tablet? Okay, so maybe that sentence alone can be deconstructed plenty, given how absurd it may sound, but with that in mind, I cannot say the Night at the Museum franchise has been one I have been overly enthusiastic about, but I can say I’ve enjoyed the sequels more than the original film. They are simple enough family comedies, featuring enough supporting performances going over-the-top in ways that make me smile to recommend them for what they are: harmless fun. Given the sense of finality in this installment, a little extra something is added, but for the most part, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb may not be the sequel everyone has been pining for, but it is an easy watch for the intended audience.
The chance to see a director switch gears and focus on something far separated from their previous work can be exciting. As a Tim Burton fan, I do not fault him for making a lot of films that seem right up his alley. That the recent output has not been as compelling as the films in his past is unfortunate, but now we have Big Eyes, which reteams Burton with the writers of Ed Wood, arguably Tim Burton’s best feature film. The resulting product is a smaller scale, more personal story than anything Burton has been involved with in quite some time, featuring two strong, lead performances. It is not an over-the-top fantasy, but a drama that delves into the worth of one’s identity.
The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies is the film both fans of The Hobbit franchise have been anxiously waiting for and the moviegoers that do not care too much about the saga and just want it to finally come to an end. However, to me it’s so much more. Whether you read the books or not, I haven’t, The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies is nothing more than the Revenge of the Sith of the Lord of the Rings series. I think y’all know what I mean when I say that. No matter how you slice it the events of this film we’re here to discuss today had to fit together like bookends to the trilogy that came before it. When it comes to movies like this that can be both a blessing and a curse. While this one is nothing more than a two-hour action romp, and when you are talking these films that’s nothing but a good thing, there’s also inherent problems within this one too. Read on… Continue reading ‘The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies Finally All Sign A Peace Treaty (Movie Review)’
I am a fan of seeing live standup comedy. Something I have observed in that setting is what people can get away with. Something about the standup environment allows comedians and audiences (within reason) to joke and laugh about things they would otherwise consider too much of a taboo. With Top Five, Chris Rock has written, directed, and starred in a really funny movie that works within that sort of standup environment. It has the sense of a talented comedian and filmmaker working to make an act that would fit in that standup setting blown up into a motion picture production, without losing the edge. Rock has crafted a witty, satirical script that blends showbiz living, various comedic topics, some romance, and drama together quite effectively. It shows how Chris Rock has not only maintained his edge, but continues to grow as an actor and filmmaker, which I feel great about saying.
Former flames, big time real estate moguls, something called the Golden Fang, and of course, lots of drugs; it looks like Doc might be getting in over his head. Following There Will Be Blood and The Master it is nice to see writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson lighten up with Inherent Vice, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s comedic detective novel of the same name, which places Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role of a private investigator looking into a missing person’s case. While there certainly is a lot of plotting that develops, the film puts itself in the intriguing position of not really using that as a focus. True to Anderson’s style, the film is much happier to explore the world and characters deposited into it, making for a bizarre, yet very entertaining feature.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is an epic. There is no way around that. Regardless of my thoughts on the film as a whole, director Ridley Scott has made a film that is grand in scale, fully realized in its depiction of an ancient time, and littered with extras, sets, props, and obvious visual effects in an effort to tell the story of Moses in ancient Egypt. Unfortunately, despite clear effort being put forth, the film is lacking in much emotional heft and, despite its runtime, the film feels rushed in execution, based on the straightforward telling of the narrative. It did not end up feeling like a drag, given the way the grand theatricality matched up with the fairly rote storytelling, but at the same time, Exodus does not capture the weight of this story in the way I am sure many would have hoped.