Tag Archives: bruce willis

Tears of the Sun – Review

18 Sep

It’s always an exciting feeling to finally get around to watching a movie you’ve been trying to watch for years. I remember seeing the trailer for Tears of the Sun years ago when I was younger and first getting into war movies. I thought it looked excellent and I really wanted to see it, but never actually got a chance to. Now, 14 years after the movie was first released, I’ve gotten around to seeing it. I had high expectations going into it since it’s been a recurring thought to me for years and also the fact that it’s helmed by Antoine Fuqua. Unfortunately, these expectations were nowhere near met. Tears of the Sun does have its surprises and some truly gripping scenes, but it too often falls into the clichés of the genre which really just leaves it as a middle of the road war drama.

After a coup leads to a rebel uprising that results in the murder of the Nigerian president and his family, violence inevitably erupts throughout the entire region. U.S. armed forces are deployed off the coast, including a team led by Lt. A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis). After completing a mission, the lieutenant and his team are sent back into the hot zone Captain Bill Rhodes (Tom Skerritt) to extract Dr. Lean Kendricks (Monica Bellucci), an American citizen running a mission and hospital in the middle of the conflict. Nothing in Waters’ orders does it say for him to also extract the able bodied Nigerians staying at the mission, and at first he isn’t planning on it. After seeing a particularly brutal massacre, however, Waters decides to go against orders and lead both Kendricks and the civilians from the mission to the Cameroon border. With rebels hot on their tails, Waters and his team have to keep everyone moving as fast as they can, but a conflict with the rebels chasing them eventually becomes inevitable.

Tears of the the Sun is an extremely muddy movie and that’s what really holds it down. It starts off interesting enough, but once Waters, Kendricks, and everyone else start their journey through the jungle, it just turns into a mess. There’s scene after scene after scene after scene of just everyone hiking through various locations with an attempt to progress the drama. Unfortunately, the characters are so dull that this drama isn’t anything special and just gets lost in the uninspired performances and gray cinematography. There’s also plenty of lines of dialogue that I said before the character even had a chance to say them because this movie is loaded with your standard war clichés. A change of location might have changed things up after a while, but every scene looks almost exactly the same it felt like everyone was just walking in circles. This could’ve been an interesting element in the movie, how the immense jungle can cause confusion, but no.

Like I said before, the characters in Tears of the Sun are just dull. There’s very little to say about them because most of them lacked individual personalities. The men in Waters’ team were all pretty much the same person. They were all the hardened soldier that still had the wit to crack a joke from time to time. None of them stood out and anyone of them could delivered any line. When things get hectic during the climax and their lives are in danger, I didn’t really care because none of them really made me care about them. The same can be said about Willis’ character. His performance is so one note that it was hard to connect with him in the least. This role could have been played by anyone and he was just a boring protagonist. The only person that really stands out is Monica Bellucci who gives a very heartfelt and honest performance as Dr. Kendricks. She’s one of the only people who actually seems to be trying.

There are a few moments that do stick out in the otherwise muddled plot. The beginning was interesting and did pull me in to the setting easily enough. There’s a gut wrenching scene in the middle of the movie that shows just how truly horrible the situation is during this conflict and the prices that people trying to live their lives are paying because of it. The scene actually got me back with the movie and created a whole new layer of drama and suspense, but once the same old hiking through the woods started up again I began to drift once more. The climax is less than spectacular, but the very end of the movie features a scene of Willis actually acting like he wants to be in this movie. It’s a satisfying ending that wraps everything up well, but it certainly doesn’t make up for the rest of the movie.

Tears of the Sun is a watchable movie, but that’s all I’m really going to say about it. Besides Bellucci, the performances are one note, the cinematography is boring, and the constant walking through the jungle with characters I didn’t care about just became boring after a while. There are a few scenes that stick out, but they really are few and far between. Tears of the Sun is reminiscent of other movies that are just done better, while this one if meant to live in the realm of mediocrity. This isn’t a necessary movie nor is it one that will be remembered. It isn’t exactly bad, but there just isn’t too much to say about it.

Final Grade: C

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Catch .44 – Review

7 Jun

Part of the joy of watching movies is seeing how an influential film maker created something so great that film makers coming after them take their content and utilize it to make something else new and original. For example, The Rambler took parts from Lynch and Cronenberg and made it something new. Catch .44 and its writer/director Aaron Harvey has their sights on Tarantino, however, who is one of the most influential film makers of his time. Now, what’s interesting about this movie is that it provides a wonderful lesson: Homage should never be pure mimicry, because that is just annoying.

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Tes (Malin Akerman) is a waitress in a sleazy strip club who is completely fed up with her job. Luckily for her, her skillful pickpocketing is recognized by a drug lord, Mel (Bruce Willis), who owns the bar. After working with him for a number of years and messing up a big job, Mel tasks Tes and her two friends with finding a rival drug transporter in a remote diner in the middle of the night. The friends make their way to the bar, but bullets soon begin to fly and blood is quickly spilled. After the violence dies down, Mel’s associate Ronny (Forest Whitaker) arrives on the scene and explains to Tes that not everything about this job is what it seems, and it is very likely that everyone left standing may not live to see the end of the night.

It’s crazy to realize that a movie has a completely ludicrous plot when I actually have to sit down and write a summary. That is just one of many things that are wrong with Catch .44. Like I said before, this movie is a Tarantino knock off in the most obvious and obnoxious of ways. I can only compare it to the cereal that you would find on the bottom shelf in a plastic bag that is an obvious knock off of Lucky Charms. The plot unfolds in a non linear fashion, very similar to Pulp Fiction, but certainly nowhere near as good. The actors also try to engage in this quirky kind of small talk that is reminiscent of the opening scene in Reservoir Dogs. Again, it’s nowhere near as good, and it’s clear that Harvey doesn’t operate on the same playing field as Tarantino.

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One look at the cast will leave you completely baffled, as it did me. Bruce Willis and Forest Whitaker? Don’t they have better things they can be doing? Well, maybe they saw something in the script. I don’t know. What I do know is that they are the only reasons this movie is almost watchable. It seemed like they were both just having a really good time with their roles while everyone else were just sort of there. Brad Dourif is also in this movie for like two minutes, making him one of the most wasted characters I’ve seen. Dourif is a great actor and I wanted to see more of him in this movie, but instead I just scratched my head and wondered why the character was even there in the first place.

The reason that Dourif’s character is even in the movie is just one example of how messy it is. There’s absolutely no reason for him or really for Forest Whitaker’s character either. The only important part of the movie is what happens in the diner, but only a short amount of time is spent there with all of the flashbacks that try to add depth to the characters or explain how they got there in the first place. The only problem with that is that the characters don’t have any depth and the reasons they are there are anything but interesting. Nothing in Catch .44 really adds up to anything except for a few scenes that were kind of cool.

Catch .44 really wants to be something it isn’t, and that just makes it hard to watch. The wit is dry, the characters are shallow, and the actors are miscast. There are even characters who are absolutely useless. There is potential somewhere hidden in here, but it only shows itself during one quick scene and the rest is just wasted material. There’s really no one that I can think of that can watch this movie and fully enjoy it, so I recommend to just stay away from it completely.

A Good Day to Die Hard – Review

20 Feb

Since 1988, John McClane has saved what must be hundreds of thousands of lives. He stopped Hans Gruber at Nakatomi Plaza, saved the lives of Col. Stuart’s airborne hostages, hunted Simon all over New York, and successfully put a stop to Thomas Gabriel’s fire sale. All four of these movies have excellent qualities, yet of course not all of them are perfect. Now we have A Good Day to Die Hard, a film that brings the series back into the R-rating. Where do I begin?

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After hearing that his son is in some sort of trouble in Russia, John McClane (Bruce Willis) takes to the skies for yet another adventure, this time in Moscow. It doesn’t take long to find his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who is an agent for the CIA working with a government whistleblower, Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), to find a file that would incriminate high ranking Russian officials. Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov), an official who risks exposure, hires Alik (Radivoje Bukvić) and his team of mercenaries, to find and kill Jack and Yuri. They didn’t count on John, however, who turns Moscow into a war zone and will do anything and kill anyone to protect his son.

This is most certainly one of the weakest entries in the Die Hard franchise. There are so many weaknesses that jump off the screen and do their best to make the viewer disappointed. A Good Day to Die Hard has been receiving terrible reviews from both critics and audiences alike. Me? I didn’t hate the movie, in fact, I was entertained for most of it. Is it an action classic? Does it make the character of John McClane even more of a hero than he already is? Not particularly. But, it still does feel like a Die Hard film, despite all of its glaring weaknesses.

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Let’s start with what bothered me. First of all, the plot was pretty hard to follow, and not because it was a complicated web of intrigue. It was hard to follow because it was so muddled with the need for action that it just seemed out of place. A plot that has to do with exposing foreign government secrets that have to do with major historical events is great for a political thriller, not for something where John McClane has to run around killing bad guys. Along with the plot, there are characters. The characters are so uninteresting, save for John. Jack is stoic and boring and the villains are the worst that this series has to offer. Remember Hans Gruber? He was awesome, if not, the best villain ever. These guys are just boring. There’s also a weird revelation towards the end that has to do with the bad guys that threw me off and made me with they were more characterized.

Second of all, the dialogue at times made me cringe. If I had to hear one more snarky remark from Jack about how much John sucked as a father, I was going to somehow transport myself into the movie and shoot him myself. Having the theme of family issues is fine, especially when the idea of law enforcement and service is thrown in, but it got way too overbearing. We get it, Jack. Thanks.

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But come on. There has to have some good stuff. Of course there was! The action in this movie is awesome. Cars go flying, buildings are torn to shreds, helicopters explode, guns, fists, knives, the works. This is where I felt best. It had the same over the top insanity that Live Free or Die Hard had. The sky’s the limit with this movie. I already talked about the bad dialogue, but there was also some really good dialogue in that cheesy, sarcastic Die Hard way. In fact, there’s one scene involving a particular hand gesture that I consider to be one of the funniest moments of the whole series. I feel like John McClane is back and better than ever, character wise. The last film made him seem like a fish out of water and nothing else. In A Good Day to Die Hard, he’s back in his element.

So yeah, A Good Day to Die Hard is definitely one of the weakest entries in the series, but I don’t consider it the weakest. That award goes to Die Hard 2: Die Harder. I’m sure there are many, many people who would disagree, and they can if they want to. I was a little disappointed with this movie, but not enough to make me hate it altogether. Don’t go into this expecting a fantastic entry into the series. Instead, just be happy to be part of another one of John McClane’s adventures.

Moonrise Kingdom – Review

30 Oct

Wes Anderson is one of those film makers that I trust will always make a good movie. His style inspires my own style of writing. I didn’t get a chance to see Moonrise Kingdom in theaters, but I have to say that it was worth the wait. This is the best movie he has made since The Royal Tenenbaums, and one that will stay with you for a long time.

 

In the summer of 1965, the small New England island of New Penzance is thrown through a loop when two young children in love Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), run away together. Now it’s up to the eccentric townsfolk to find them before the worst storm to ever hit New Penzance hits. Sam and Suzy give them a run for their money showing the adults that love, no matter how young, is still strong.

This is kind of a bad summary because this isn’t a very easy move to explain in just a few sentences. There’s the main plot with the two children running away, but the story of everyone on the island is just as interesting. Each and every character has their own sets of personal problems that make them eccentric and unforgettable. For a Wes Anderson movie, I had very little trouble connecting with these characters and feeling the dysfunction.

 

Part of me being able to connect with the characters has a lot to do with the performances. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand have the exact brand of awkward chemistry that is needed for a couple growing further and further apart. Bruce Willis and Edward Norton are the scene stealers as the two authority figures who just don’t have the ability to keep everything under control. Finally, in a small but worthwhile role, Jason Schwartzman rounds up the laughs as a Khaki Scout who knows exactly how the system works. It’s a motley of characters that mesh very well. Even Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward do a fine job, if not a bit too deadpan.

And of course, there’s no way I can talk about any Wes Anderson movie and not talk about the impeccable composition of the shots. Every shot is so symmetrical. Even if a character is placed at the left side of the screen, the use of empty space is experimented with so well that nothing seems uneven. Along with the composition are the colors and costume design. This all fits into the idiosyncratic style of Wes Anderson that makes all of his movies special.

 

I’m not quite sure if I can call Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson’s best movie, but it definitely ranks in the top tier. It’s a surprisingly hopeful movie amongst all the melancholy, which is a bit of a change for this director. It’s a great conglomeration of characters, stories, and messages that are both funny and tragic. I don’t just like Moonrise Kingdom, I love Moonrise Kingdom.

Looper – Review

11 Oct

Have you ever watched a movie that made your brain feel like its been twisted and by the end it has to quickly unravel? That’s a pretty weird description, but that’s exactly how I felt at the end of Looper. I’m a hug fan of writer/director Rian Johnson, who’s done the excellent films Brick and The Brother’s Bloom. Now, Looper is added to the list and just might be his masterpiece.

 

The year is 2044, and in thirty years time travel will be invented and quickly outlawed. People are sent back through time by criminals to 2044 where they are executed by loopers, who are pretty much assassins working in the present for future employers. Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of these loopers, who up until now has had no problems. His most recent assignment is to kill an especially interesting target: his future self (Bruce Willis). His future self escapes with a plan of his own to protect the future, with his present self hot on his heels, all while being chased by his own organization.

From the opening scene to the very last, Looper is filled with outstanding dialogue, action, and though provoking concepts that guarantee much discussion hours after the movie is over. Morality and science clash in a fantastic mesh of thematic material that makes this film more than just an average science fiction film.

 

Rian Johnson has this incredible eye when it comes to setting up a scene. There was a point in this movie where I turned to my friend and told him that it was some of the best camera work I have ever seen, and that’s no exaggeration. The camera tilts, tracks, and pans in the most interesting of ways, giving each scene its own style that is appropriate for the story and the mood. There is one great shot (that can actually be quickly seen in the trailer) where Joseph Gordon-Levitt falls from a balcony and the camera tilts with his falling body. It gives the scene a very disorienting feel. This is just one of many examples.

Leaving the aesthetics of the movie, I must take time to recognize and show my appreciation to Johnson’s imagination. This is a incredibly well written movie with snappy dialogue that is both serious and sarcastic, and an entire story that sounds hard to believe until it is seen. The narrative also has a very unconventional route. I can’t really explain this, but I will say I had no idea what was going to happen next. It may be one of the most unpredictable movies I’ve seen outside of David Lynch.

There is really only one very minor detail that I wasn’t even going to bother mentioning because it is so small. There is a scene in this movie that really did not need to be there. I don’t want to say what it is, but I will say that it would have been much better to have let the idea go by a little more subtly.

Looper may very well be the best movie of the year, but I can’t say for sure since it’s only October. It goes to show the Rian Johnson is only getting better as a film maker, so hopefully he keeps on going. This film isn’t just mind bending, it’s mind twisting, warping, and blowing. Whatever you do, do not miss out on Looper. You will not be disappointed.

 

The Expendables 2 – Review

18 Aug

I’ve gone to see more movies at their midnight openings this year more than I have any year of my life. I’m proud to say that I can include The Expendables 2 to this list of movies. I loved the first Expendables, but I’m excited to say that the sequel has surpassed the original in every way, making it not only one of my favorite movies of the year (after The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises), but also one of my favorite action movies of all time.

 

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of mercenaries are still out in the field doing some of the dirtiest mercenary work around. After a not so friendly meeting with Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), Ross takes a job to retrieve a package from a downed plane. This simple job quickly goes awry with the arrival of another team of mercenaries led by Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) who steal the package to unlock a powerful source of plutonium and hold the world hostage.

Something the original Expendables lacked was a strong plot line, but I felt like the movie took its weak plot seriously and tried to make it believable. In their second outing, the plot is still rather weak, but no attempt is made to take itself too seriously. Instead, we get a hardcore action movie that hearkens back to the eighties with quick one liners and plenty of over the top gunplay and fighting.

 

The Expendables 2 also has a lot less down time than the first installment. Thankfully there is also no Mickey Rourke monologue to get lost and confused in. I would go so far as to say that after a certain point in the movie, the action becomes a relentless barrage of guns, explosions, and satisfying blood spray (although some of it is still digital).

The sound design in this movie is really impressive. More than once I would stop and think to myself, “Wow, this movie is really loud.” The punning sound of Crews’ AA12 that is fired at the beginning of the movie is enough to make any action junky’s heart skip. In fact, the whole beginning of the movie has top of the line foley work and a adrenaline pumping sound track that made me more than ready for the rest of the movie.

 

What else made this movie really cool, you ask? Hmm, well, Chuck Norris gets to kick a fair share of ass along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. Not only these legendary action stars, but Terry Crews, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture get a lot more to do than they did in the first film. They felt more like a team than in the original, which only made me root for them more. That, and Jean-Claude Van Damme is a real asshole and plays a villain that you love to hate.

The Expendables 2 exceeded my expectations in every way. I knew that it was going to be cool and exciting, but no where near as great as it was. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen out of fear of missing a split second of the action. This is a film that I can’t wait to see again, and will be seeing again before it is out of theaters. If you love action movies, or even ever seen an action movie, check out The Expendables 2.