Tag Archives: entertainment

Drive Angry – Review

21 May

Guns, sex, explosions, violence, gore, and loads of dirty language. Sounds like your typical 1970s grind house flick to me. But here we are in the second decade of the new millennium, but Drive Angry certainly is grind house. No one wanted to see this in the theaters with me, so I had to wait until now to see it, and to be honest, I was not at all disappointed.

Milton (Nicolas Cage) is angry. Milton is dead. Milton has also escaped from hell and is looking for blood, and lots of it. With the help of  Piper (Amber Heard), and out of work and angry waitress, they must track down and kill Jonah King (Billy Burke), and insane cult leader who killed Milton’s daughter and kidnapped his infant grand daughter to use as a human sacrifice. While all of this is happening, Satan’s right hand man, The Accountant (William Fichtner), is hot on Milton’s trail with a mission to bring him back to hell.

Does the plot of this sound absolutely ridiculous? Well it is, and so is the movie. From the opening scene, Drive Angry is a non stop roller coaster that makes you feel like your riding the bullet that is shot out of hell’s most sacred weapon, the Godkiller. I’m sure that some of the people reading this review will think I’m full of shit, but I really did enjoy this movie. It has a perfect blend of grind house style action and comedy.

Drive Angry is certainly not a showcase of acting talent. Nicolas Cage is ok, but can cross the line and deliver some really cheesy dialogue that wasn’t natural in the least. Amber Heard looks nice and does a pretty good job. Billy Burke brings a lot of character to Jonah King and would have been the best character in the movie, if not for William Fichtner. Fichter’s Accountant is hysterical, menacing, and hands down my favorite character of the movie. Every time he came on screen, I knew I was in for a treat.

The story was full of imagination that I really appreciate. While this may not be the most original movie in the world, it definitely has more creative talent than a lot of Hollywood films being cranked out solely for money. That was part of the joy of watching Drive Angry. I felt like the film makers were in control and were doing whatever they had to do to make the movie exactly what they wanted it to be. It’s refreshing to see something that was made out of creativity and love of the genre, rather than a stereotypical action flick that follows a certain set of guidelines.

It’s important to be in the right mind set before watching this film. This isn’t a big budget Transformers – like blockbuster. The special effects aren’t always great, but they joy comes from the absurdity of the action. There are so many times when I was laughing at what I was seeing or shaking my head in pure disbelief. Being too critical of this movie would be missing the point. This isn’t so much a movie to dissect, than to just turn your brain off and have fun for 2 hours.

I understand that a lot of people are going to pick Drive Angry apart. I’m content with saying it’s one hell of a fun ride. It’s not the most intense or ridiculous over-the-top action film I’ve ever seen, but it is a really good time. If you want to watch a movie with interesting character development that explores deep themes, then watch something else. If you want to have fun with a movie that knows it’s crazy and doesn’t care, than Drive Angry should definitely be an option.

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The Crazies – Review

11 May

To me, modern American horror is not the strongest of genres. It seems that most of these movies that call themselves “horror” resort to using jump scares that are accentuated with loud musical cords. That isn’t horror; merely a startling scene. The Crazies is definitely guilty of this and other horror movie clichés, but with the help of adequate performances and some genuinely scary scenes this movie pushes itself up above the typical American horror film without ever achieving greatness.

In the small town of Ogden Marsh, Sheriff David (Timothy Olyphant) and his deputy, Russell Clank (Joe Anderson), are enjoying the new spring weather at the first town baseball game of the season when one of the townspeople walks onto the field with a shotgun. David handles the situation appropriately, but soon discovers along with his wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell), that many of the residents aren’t just acting strangely, but also savagely violent. The military soon intervenes to contain this mysterious “infection” in their own twisted way leaving David, Judy, Russell, and local teenager, Becca (Danielle Panabaker) to escape the town.

The faults of this film are glaring when they are exposed. There were multiple times during The Crazies where a scene got strangely quiet, and I knew exactly what was going to happen and when. This could be just from years of watching horror films, or it could be that they have gotten so generic recently that it’s just easy to catch on to what the film makers are going to do next. This is unfortunate for this film, because in other respects it strived to break through the realm of mediocrity.

The Crazies is at its scariest and most memorable when it deviates from this pattern. There are brutally satisfying scenes that gore freaks will go crazy for, but there are also very subtle moments of terror when we catch a glimpse of something in the background that the character does not see. These scenes sent chills down my spine and some even made me uncomfortable, which is good for a horror movie.

The story itself is pretty generic. This is a remake of a 1973 film of the same name by horror master George Romero, and for the time when the original was released, the story wasn’t so over told. Pretty much, there’s a virus in a small, nice town that demands evil military intervention. We’ve seen this before. It was even satirized in Slither, which I would actually choose over this movie.

By this point in my review, it probably appears that I didn’t like this movie. That’s not true. For what it was, it was enjoyable, and definitely  better than a lot of horror films. The characters all had depth and I cared for each one in their own unique ways, especially Deputy Russell, who had a great character arc. The acting was all good without ever going into anything above what was needed, and a lot of the scenes (especially one concerning a Crazy and a pitchfork) were actually scary.

The main issue that I have with this movie is that it falls into generic territory way too much.  If I saw another scene of a character arriving just in time to save the day, I would….well I don’t know what I would do, but I saw a lot of that. The film makers really tried with this one, and for the most part, The Crazies is a successful horror film. It’s not something I would strongly recommend, but for the people whole love films like 28 Days Later, than I would say this might be a worthwhile escape for just a couple of hours.

The Mechanic – Review

2 May

Just to be clear, this is the review of the 2011 remake of The Mechanic and not of the 1972 original version. This film appears to have everything that would appeal to an action movie fan, like myself. There was lots of action, great explosions, loud gunplay, and Jason Statham kicking ass for an hour and a half. That definitely sounds like a movie I’d want to watch, and sadly I don’t think I ever need to see it again.

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is what you call a Mechanic. He is tasked with assignments to assassinate various individuals, but make it appear like an accident, a message, or as if someone else is to blame. When Bishop gets a contract to assassinate his mentor and friend, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), he is hesitant but still carries out the mission as normal. Complications arise when McKenna’s dead beat son, Steve (Ben Foster), approaches Bishop to begin his training to become a Mechanic, Arthur is put in the position to take him under his wing and get revenge on the man who ordered the hit on Harry, Dean (Tom Goldwyn).

The disappointing thing is, this movie started out really cool. The introduction really set the stage for what the feel and pace of this film was going to be like. It was quick, loud, and exciting, so naturally I was ready for more and couldn’t wait for what other great action set pieces were ahead of me and how the story would play out.

The Mechanic had absolutely no idea what kind of movie it wanted to be or what storyline it wanted to follow. It was like the film makers had a set plot which can be visually seen as a road. As long as they stayed on this road, they would have a plot that was appropriate for the movie. All they had to do was follow it. But they soon went off a very shady exit and started an uphill climb that was taking them in the wrong direction, but at this point they totally forgot about the road they were on. When they reached the top of the hill they finally remembered that they were riding on a totally different road and had to drive really fast back to the original road to get to their destination. I guess that’s kind of how the movie felt.

I was really enjoying the original story involving the conspiracy around McKenna’s death, and the addition of Steve was great, but the movie just strayed way too far. Ben Foster and Jason Statham played their characters very well, but everything else was so cliché and generic, it was almost pathetic. There is a scene where McKenna is telling Arthur how much of a “damned disappointment” Steve is. I’ve heard this speech so many times in so many different ways, but this is the blandest and most unoriginal. Dead is also a generic, boring villain who doesn’t really do anything at all. The villain is one of the best parts of an action movie, so if they area boring, then it’s a big detraction. Another thing I’m sick of is digital blood effects. They don’t look good! STOP USING THEM!

This movie certainly isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. The action sequences towards the end were just what I was looking for in the rest of the film. The rest were pretty forgettable. Ultimately, that’s what The Mechanic is: forgettable. Look at The Transporter series, The Expendables, or Chaos. Statham obviously has talent for action films, and the director, Simon West, did Con Air, which is one of my favorite action films. With all of these credentials, this was a really disappointing movie.

There have been films that have succeeded in cramming in a lot of plot twists, points, and characters. One Jason Statham film that does this is Killer Elite. There is a massive web of different characters and situations that make the movie pretty confusing at times, but the impressive and memorable action, the three dimensional characters, and internal struggle along with the external makes this film highly enjoyable. The Mechanic has a bland story and generic characters, which makes it hard to really enjoy the film.

I’d say that if you’re a fan of Jason Statham and you really want to watch this, go ahead, but it really isn’t what you’re expecting. This movie has a lot of potential with both the plot and the emotions, but it goes the absolute wrong way and becomes really boring. This is a a black spot on the career of Statham and something I’m probably not going to watch again.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – Review

25 Apr

Unfortunately, there really is no way for me to say this next statement without sounding like a pretentious douche bag, but I’m going to give it a shot because it has to be said to preface the review for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. I’m absolutely sick and tired of the predictable, humdrum, and fearful styles that film makers implement nowadays, especially the Hollywood types. These familiar structures that are seen in many different mainstream movies are boring if not completely unoriginal. It takes a truly bold and talented film maker to take these conventions and manipulate them into something totally different. Shane Black does this with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and at the same time, mocks the overused mainstream formula.

As far as petty thievery goes, the world has seen better than Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.). When one of his attempts ends up with the police hot on his tail, he finds his escape through an audition to be in a Hollywood movie, and is actually considered for the role. He is flown to Los Angeles and put under the wing of Private Investigator Perry van Shrike, nicknamed “Gay Perry” (for reasons you can probably guess, in order to prepare for the upcoming role. He is soon mixed up in a bizarre web of crime involving a millionaire producer and his daughter, and the lovely girl from back home, Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan).

Shane Black is most known for writing the Lethal Weapon movies and is arguably one of the forerunners in the modern day action scene, although he went awhile without making a film. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is his directorial debut, and it is clear that he has talent in both the writing and directing areas of film. The dialogue in this film is quick, witty, and sarcastic from beginning to end. Some of the humor is easy to pick up on, and some requires the viewer to be paying attention to get the joke.

As I said before, this film exists to entertain the audience, but also to call out modern film conventions and formulas, and make a mockery out of them in a clearly tongue-in-cheek way. From the get go, Harry Lockhart establishes himself as a terrible and completely unreliable narrator by forgetting something important to the story and needing to go back or simply by saying that a certain scene seems unnecessary. This film is also very self-aware in the way that a few characters talk to the audience and give them advice. It’s a really funny tool used by Black, but these are just a few ways this movie plays with certain formulas. This film also succeeds in calling out the Hollywood/Beverly Hills culture and making a joke out the way these people live, and the ruthlessness behind the film industry.

In certain sections, the film tries its best to be really cool, in the sort of Ocean’s 11 or Snatch kind of way. Unfortunately, this is the area where the movie is pretty weak. This film tries really hard to belong in that subsection of crime films, and it doesn’t really work very well. I went into the movie expecting something like the aforementioned movies, but got something totally different. Luckily for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, what I got instead was just as good, if not a little better, than what I was expecting, even though it had the potential to fall flat on its face.

The chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer is fantastic and makes for some exceptionally hysterical bickering. This helps the audience sort of keep their head on straight and laugh while trying to make their way through the way too convoluted plot. I really enjoyed all of the scenes in the movie, but I don’t feel like I completely can wrap my head around everything that happened in the movie. There are so many twists and additional plot points that happen and the pace of the movie is so quick, you have to be paying very close attention to the characters and situations in order to firmly grasp the plot.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang may be convoluted and tries to hard to be cool, but the comedy, dialogue, and characters hit a home run and make this film a fantastic piece of self-aware entertainment. For anyone who is sick of the repetitive formula of most Hollywood films or if you just enjoy snappy wordplay, then Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is right up your alley. It’s are really good movie that I can’t wait to watch again!

Mars Attacks! – Review

20 Apr

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Tim Burton fan. Most of his movies, besides maybe his version of Planet of the Apes, have an awesome style that combines the macabre with dark humor, which really strikes a cord with me. Mars Attacks! isn’t quite as dark as his other films, but the dark humor is absolutely overpowering, which both helps and hinders Burton’s personal ode to a series of vintage trading cards and the style of classic 1950s sic-fi B-movies.

When it is brought to the attention of President Jimmy Dale (Jack Nicholson) that Martian ships have surrounded Earth, he leaps at the chance to make contact with these beings and begin to work together. During the first meeting that is held with the aliens, a huge firefight breaks out between the Martians and the military. Soon, the world is engulfed in an all out war with the Martians, who with their sick senses of humor and love of violence attempt to take over our planet.

Mars Attacks! is loaded with celebrities. Jack Nicholson plays both the president and Art Land, a money hungry casino manager. Glenn Close plays the first lady and Martin Short is the horny Press Secretary Jerry Ross. Anette Bening plays Land’s peace loving alcoholic wife. Michael J. Fox and Sarah Jessica Parker are sleazy news reporters, the latter having a strong attraction to Pierce Brosnan, who plays Professor Donald Kessler. Danny DeVito has a small part as a greedy gambler and Tom Jones is hysterical as himself.

These characters all made me laugh in their own way, but the really stars are the Martians themselves, who have really funny dialogue, even though all they say is “ack.” Even though we don’t speak their language, we as an audience know exactly what they are saying. These Martians try to conquer Earth in the most obnoxious way possible. They don’t only kill anything they see, but it is clearly evident they want to have as much fun as they can with the destruction of a planet.

Something I found really shocking about this movie was how violent it was, but don’t mistake me, I’m not condemning the violence in it. I’m merely saying it was a bit unexpected. Once the Martians arrive on Earth, the sic-fi shoot outs and destruction are pretty much non-stop. When a human gets hit with one of the lasers from the Martian’s, all the flesh disintegrates, leaving only a bright green or red skeleton. The effect is really cool and it was fun to watch. It was also fun seeing the Martian’s heads explode inside their helmets. Roger Ebert says that this particular gag was only funny the first couple of times, but I never got tired of it.

The only detraction I can really give this movie is that the storyline is INCREDIBLY weak. There really almost is no storyline besides “Martians attacks Earth and funny stuff happens.” None of the characters really go through any sort of change or discovery, and a couple characters in particular aren’t implemented enough. The characters themselves are pretty funny, but the real humor lies with the twisted Martians and how the human characters react.

While Mars Attacks! is far from being Tim Burton’s best movie, it’s still a really fun escape into a silly world where all of the important people of the world are ridiculous caricatures here for our amusement. The writing is average and the plot is pretty stupid, but I laughed at almost every scene. It may be silly, over the top, and juvenile at times, but it’s a fun ode to movies of the past.

Build-Up to The Avengers – Captain America

19 Apr

Well, this is it until The Avengers comes out in a couple weeks. I really could not be more excited, and it’s worth saying that this is a movie I’ve been dying to see since i was 7 years old. I’ve always been a Marvel guy who has been in love with the characters my whole life, and now comes the review for one of my favorite super heroes of all time, Captain America: The First Avenger. Did it live up to my expectations?

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a tiny, sickly, and extremely patriotic citizen of New York in the early 1940s. He dreams of being able to go to Europe and fight for his country in WWII, but his size and health permits him from doing so. Fortunately for Steve, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) recruits him, much to the disappointment of the cynical Col. Chester Philips (Tommy Lee Jones) and to the joy of British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Altwell) to be a part of a new experiment that will be used to create super soldiers to fight for America (which was hinted at in The Incredible Hulk). So Steve Rogers is transformed into the super soldier that is Captain America. At first, he is only used for American propaganda purposes, but soon joins the fight in Italy against the evil Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), better known as the Red Skull.

After seeing this, I am totally ready for The Avengers. This movie really had everything that a great super hero origin story needs. There was terrific build-up leading to both the experiment that gives Steve Rogers his super abilities and to the unmasking of the Red Skull. I was really looking forward to how these two things were going to be handled in Captain America, and I was not disappointed in the least.

Chris Evans gives a fine and sincere performance, and I can’t think of anyone else that would fit the role of Captain America better, but Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones are the real scene stealers here. It seems that the character of Johann Schmidt/Red Skull were made for Hugo Weaving. He acts here with such glaring malice that it’s impossible not to take your eyes off him whenever he’s on screen, and I could argue that he is the best Marvel villain portrayed in a movie yet. Then again, the Red Skull has been one of my favorite villains since I was a kid, so my opinion might be a little biased. Besides his performance, the make up for this character looks absolutely fantastic. Tommy Lee Jones hams up his grumpy persona yet again, but he made me laugh a lot, so mission accomplished there.

Captain America: The First Avenger has a really old timey, pulp look to it that I really love to see in movies. Another example with a style that is seen here is in the fantastic and under appreciated film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The CGI background with its different tints of brown, gray, and blue give this film a great atmosphere.

As much as I love this film, it is not perfect. The pacing in the beginning started out great, and I really enjoyed the work they put in the character’s backstory, but once Steve Rogers became Captain America, the film slows down for a little bit before the action gets picked up again. The parts I’m talking about are when he is being used as a piece of American propaganda. I understand that they put this in the film because that’s what Captain America originally was: a piece of propaganda in the early 1940s.

The history, the characters, the effects, and the action makes Captain America: The First Avenger an above average superhero flick. It’s popcorn entertainment with more heart than most summer movies. Captain America has been one of my favorite heroes for years, and it was really exciting to see him in a movie. There was another Captain America film made in the early ’90s, but it was pretty atrocious and didn’t capture what Captain America is all about, which this one did. I definitely recommend this film.

Now I have to wait until May 4th for The Avengers. Expect a review for it right after I get back from the theaters.

Build-Up to The Avengers – Thor

16 Apr

Out of all of the members of The Avengers, Thor is the one that I know the least about, so while I was putting on the movie I didn’t really know what to expect. What I got was a spectacular experience color, set design, action, Shakespearean plot elements, and fantastic sound design. After watching Thor, I was ready to go to my local comic book shop and pick up some Thor comic books.

Thor tells the origin story of the Norse God of Thunder of the same name. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a great warrior, but just as arrogant, which is dangerous because he is to be the next king of Asgard. After a breach is made in Asgard by the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, the Asgardians oldest enemies, Thor,his jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Sif and the Warriors Three (Jaimie Alexander, Ray Stevenson, Joshua Dallas, and Tadanobu Asano) travel to their realm and engage in a forbidden battle. Because Thor has broken the truce between Asgard and Jotunheim, Thor’s father and king of Asgard, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him to Earth, leaving Loki to take the throne. On Earth, Thor must learn to survive and find the hero within him, all while helping astrophysicist, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) understand the different realms and defend her work from S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Meanwhile, Loki begins to conspire with the Frost Giants in order to take the throne from Odin and fix the problems of Asgard using all the wrong methods.

When Thor was over, the image that stayed in my head was the Bifröst Bridge. Honestly, this is probably one of the coolest, if not the coolest, set pieces I have ever seen in a movie. This can be said with all of Asgard. The computer graphics look fantastic and aren’t distracting. Instead, they create a surreal world with a gorgeous atmospheric design with buildings and enhanced colors that looked absolutely gorgeous.

Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki, Thor’s jealous brother. He does a great job at playing a villain who is evil, but at the same time tragic and sympathetic. His backstory is fascinating and helped me feel for the character. Hemsworth brings great depth to Thor’s character along with a couple really humorous scenes. Natalie Portman is good, as well, but is probably the weakest and most stereotypical character.

As I said before, the plot of Thor is almost like something you would see in a Shakespeare play; that is, without the special agents, Norse Gods, and the Destroyer. But the theme of a dangerous jealousy among siblings rings true throughout the film, which really gives a nice layer to what would otherwise be a summer action film that is packed to the brim with action and special effects. This movie is special because the characters are very relatable, even though some of them are gods from another realm.

Thor is also full of references that will be appreciated by Marvel fans. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are briefly mentioned, which I found great because I’m so excited for The Avengers, and I just love seeing all of these characters get tied together. It’s really a lot of fun.

So my consensus of Thor is that it’s a must see. Rarely does Marvel release a subpar comic book film, those being the two Fantastic 4 films, Hulk, and Daredevil (which many argue really stinks, but I think it’s alright.) Thor on the other hand is great, and an exceptional tie-in to The Avengers.