Tag Archives: kurt russell

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Review

6 May

In 2014, Marvel took a gamble and released Guardians of the Galaxy, which featured a team of heroes that were way more under the radar than any of the Avengers. Since it’s release, everyone can confidently say who Star Lord or Groot are because the film was so much fun. It made a killing at the box office and stands as one of the MCU’s greatest entries. It was inevitable that a sequel would be made featuring the beloved intergalactic crew, and it was up to James Gunn to once again capture everything we love about the first film and make something new. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t quite as excellent as the first film, this is still a worthy sequel that provides a lot of laughs, action, and heart.

Peter Qull (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are known far and wide as the Guardians of the Galaxy. After helping the Sovereign race to protect important batteries from a space monster, and robbing them soon after, the Guardians find themselves stranded on a planet with Gamora’s sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), as their captive. They are soon met by Ego (Kurt Russel) and his assistant Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Ego informs Quill that he is his father and brings the Guardians back to his planet. As the team learns more, they begin to discover that this planet may not be what it seems, so they have to set aside their differences and team up with Yondu (Michael Rooker) to stop a force that threatens the entire galaxy.

There’s plenty to talk about with this movie because this is kind of an odd entry into the MCU. It has all of the energy that the original film did and it’s excellent to see the characters all together again, but the story in this one if very different than the first one, which is actually kind of a good thing. Let’s start with the negatives. For one thing, the pacing of this movie is really off. Things start off with a bang, but the team soon splits up and the story kind of loses track of itself. There’s what’s happening on Ego’s planet, but than there’s also a story involving Yondu, Rocket, Groot, and some Ravagers who hold a mutiny. Both of these stories seem equally important, so I was unsure where the movie was going. Luckily, the narrative finds itself again after some time and really makes up for some of the odd pacing. Another issue I had with this movie is the fact that it got a little mean spirited. Sure, the original movie had a lot of off color humor, but this one makes some of the characters (mostly Drax and Rocket) just come off as obnoxious and overly rude at times. It was a bit of a departure in tone, and I wasn’t really fond of it. Fortunately, this happens in just a few scenes and isn’t really a big deal for most of the movie.

Despite some weird narrative issues, when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 decides to let loose, it gets crazy. This movie has some really wild action that made me smile so hard I thought my head would rip in two. The best part of the movie features Yondu, Rocket, and Baby Groot getting the best of some mutineers. That scene alone was just blockbuster perfection and is the reason why these movies are so beloved by fans. For all of the action and humor, this movie also has a lot of heart to it that gives it the emotional weight these comic book movies really need to be taken seriously. Forget how Captain America: Civil War made you feel. This movie has some real drama that may not leave a dry eye in the theater. It’s one thing to make a major CGI fest that focuses on wowing you with the action and the spectacle, which Guardians does, but it has so much more to it than that.

Speaking of CGI, this movie has some of the best special effects I’ve seen all year. The ships whizzing through space engaging in over the top dogfights made it hard to blink. There’s so much happening in some of these set pieces, it’s hard to believe that actual humans created these scenes. What’s excellent about this movie, and this is no surprise knowing who James Gunn is, there are some really excellent practical effects and make up as well. The Sovereign race is painted gold, but it looks perfect. The same can be said about Gamora and Yondu’s make up. I spent some of the time just trying to find one flaw with the make up, but there were just none to be found.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t quite as good or exciting as the first film. The first one was honestly just perfect. It was such an epic story it would’ve been hard to beat. Still, this is a really good sequel that captured the heart of the first film and reworks it to create something different. The story feels a bit smaller and disconnected from the rest of the workings of the MCU, but it also feels more personal to the Guardians. Any fan of this universe should have a blast with this movie. I know I sure did.

Final Grade: B+

Advertisements

Deepwater Horizon – Review

2 Oct

On April 20, 2010, the offshore Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded which caused the worst oil spill in American history. I remember hearing all about it on the news and in school and watching the aftermath that almost destroyed an entire habitat of life. A lot of people don’t seem to be on board with making a movie about this tragedy so soon after it happened, but I’m on the side that it’s a good way to honor the people who lost their lives while also raising more attention for the people responsible and showing the viewer the terror of what happened on that rig. I wasn’t too thrilled with the trailers for Deepwater Horizon, so I had no intention of really liking this movie, and now after seeing it I have to say that it’s a stand out film of 2016.

deepwater_horizon_film

Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) seems to have it all. He has a loving wife, Felicia (Kate Hudson), a daughter, and a good, respectable job on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig. At the start of one of his 3 week shifts on the rig, there’s some tension between his boss, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), and BP representative Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) over how fast they can get started extracting the oil. What Harrell and the rest of the crew are trying to get Vidrine to understand is the unsafe level of pressure in the tubing that can’t exist when they start excavating. Vidrine finds the tests run to be acceptable and pushes the job to start. This leads to a massive oil eruption which leads to an explosion that engulfs the entire oil rig. With time running out, Williams and the rest of the crew begin fighting for their lives to get to the life boats and help anyone on the rig that they possibly can.

Using words to summarize this movie really does no justice to how intense and thrilling Deepwater Horizon actually is. This is an expertly made film in so many different ways. Peter Berg’s directing style gives the film a very personal feeling and the intelligent use of handheld camerawork often gives the illusion that you’re walking with these characters on the Deepwater Horizon. What really puts this movie over the edge and turns it into a technical wonder is the sound design and visual effects. When the rig finally explodes the combination of the special effects and booming sound made my jaw drop. It was a wonder to look at, but never is anything over done. The goal of this movie obviously wasn’t to wow the audience with its technical achievements, but to create a realistic environment of terror and destruction to illustrate the danger these workers faced around ever corner. When Oscar season rolls around, I expect to see this film nominated for special effects and sound because it’s just outstanding work.

horizon

One of the strengths of Deepwater Horizon is the realistic portrayal of the characters and how they succeed at getting the audience to relate to them easily. Mark Wahlberg gives a good performance as Mike Williams, and I’ll go on record saying that these types of roles are basically meant for him at this point. He’s great as playing a sort of everyman family guy that is thrown into situations he may be unprepared for. I also have to give major props to Kurt Russell, who I believe gives the best performance of this movie. I felt like I knew this guy, and that’s exactly what I’m trying to say about the characters being relatable. Finally, John Malkovich steals every scene he’s in as the BP executive that is just so easy to hate. Anyone who’s worked in a corporate company knows how off putting “corporate” folks can be, and seeing him manipulate and and put unreasonable pressure on the workers in this movie was infuriating. It’s hard to call him a villain in this movie, but a lot of his action and motivations can only be described as villainous.

The only possible fault I can give this movie is its pushing of a certain agenda. I understand that movies exist partially so film makers can have a voice and express their thoughts and beliefs, but when a movie has an agenda that is so clear and pushed so hard, it can become annoying. That’s mainly why I can’t really get into the work of Oliver Stone. This film is nowhere near as guilty as something like American Sniper, but it does have its moments where I felt like Berg was preaching to me and laying his beliefs on pretty strong in that obnoxious kind of way. The strange thing is that I agree with a lot of what this movie is trying to say, but some of it didn’t have to be done in such a heavy handed way. These are just a few instances, and overall I think it was handled pretty well.

I really wasn’t to keen on seeing this movie, but I’m so happy I did. Deepwater Horizon is an extremely intense movie that is a technical marvel and bolsters some pretty good performances. While it does push certain ideas pretty hard, it rarely gets bogged down in what it’s trying to say and it works best as a testament to the bravery and strength that can be latent in everyday human beings. This is an exhausting movie that will make you feel that you just got whacked with a sledgehammer, but it’s a film that shouldn’t be missed.

Final Grade: A-

The Hateful Eight – Review

14 Jan

When Quentin Tarantino released Reservoir Dogs in 1992, it was clear that he was to be destined for stardom, but it was Pulp Fiction that made him one of the most recognized and often most abrasive cinematic voices of our time. But that’s part of the fun of watching a new Tarantino movie. You really just never know what to expect. To be quite honest, I’ve been getting a little sick of all the Tarantino hype. This made me feel a little bit less than excited to see The Hateful Eight, but this film turned out to be a breath of fresh air. If Reservoir Dogs meets a spaghetti western, meets Agatha Christie doesn’t sound appealing, then I don’t know what would.

the-hateful-eight-poster_1200_1778_81_s

On a snowy road in Wyoming, a bounty hunter named John “the Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) comes across Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), another bounty hunter with more ruthless tactics. Warren joins Ruth and his bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), in their carriage as they are both making their way to the town of Red Rock. They also pick up the future sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), but have to stop when a major blizzard forces them to take shelter in Minnie’s Haberdashery, which is actually a stagecoach lodge with a more than deceiving name. Things don’t seem right at Minnie’s Haberdashery, and it becomes clear that some of the other inhabitants are planning something sinister. Now it becomes a drawn out fight to stay alive and figure out who has something up their sleeves and why.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first because The Hateful Eight is nowhere near a perfect movie and still doesn’t stack up with Tarantino’s earlier efforts. Is this movie a huge ego project for Tarantino? Yes it is. Pretty much everything has been since Pulp Fiction, but I’m not going to hold that against him because I enjoy a lot of his movies quite a bit. The Hateful Eight drags on and on in the first 45 minutes of its nearly three hour runtime with the kind of dialogue you’ve come to expect since the first scene of Inglourious Basterds, which I still think is his masterpiece. The only problem is that the dialogue is far too expository and nowhere near interesting enough. It’s pretty much just the characters in the stagecoach telling each other about their pasts so the audience knows how quirky they are. 45 minutes of that. My God, it was really killing me. Thankfully, things start getting a lot better when they get to the cabin.

hateful_eight_twc_1.0.0

What made Inglourious Basterds such a cool movie was that it took the feel of classic war films and a comic book style of rules and mushed them to become one of my all time favorite movies. The main reason I like The Hateful Eight as much as I do is because of those same reasons. This movie takes a spaghetti western format and injects a classic murder mystery with the style that Tarantino is known for. Speaking of things this guy is known for, it’s really cool that the majority of this movie takes place in Minnie’s Haberdashery. Someone said before I saw this movie that it would work great as a stage play, and I couldn’t agree more. I love when movies feel like this, and it only makes me compare it more to Tarantino’s exceptional debut, Reservoir Dogs.

There’s also plenty of things in The Hateful Eight that I was not expecting, and that’s a good thing. Tarantino has made it quite clear that the shock value in his movies are there on purpose, and that’s part of the fun of watching his movies. While this movie does feel very self indulgent when it comes to the violence and shocking scenes, I still can’t deny that they weren’t effective. Also the cast of actors in this movie is one of the best of the year. Jennifer Jason Leigh was fantastic as Daisy Domergue and has earned herself an Academy Award nomination for her performance. I was also thrilled to see Walton Goggins, who is one of the most underrated actors out there, get a lot of time to shine at the forefront of the movie. Finally, this film has the best original score you’ll hear all year. It’s already won the Golden Globe, and if it doesn’t take home an Oscar for it, I’ll eat my elbow.

I’ve been really on the fence with Quentin Tarantino recently, and I still have my reservations about what’s to come. While that is said, I enjoyed The Hateful Eight far more than I thought I was. I still say that Tarantino just has to tone it down a little bit and not work to make another movie simply to show how awesome he is. A lot of people are saying that this is his worst movie, but they must have all forgotten Jackie Brown. While this isn’t as satisfying as some of his other work, I still can’t deny the fun that I had with it.

Escape from New York & Escape from L.A. – Review

27 Sep

To me, John Carpenter is an amazing film maker. He’s made some of my favorite horror movies, like Halloween and The Thing amongst others. He’s also known for more action oriented movies like Assault on Precinct 13 and the comedic Big Trouble in Little China. One of his most respected action movies, and in fact one of the most respected movies of his career, is the 1981 film Escape from New York. This was a dark, dystopian thrill ride that was a major hit with audiences and critics alike, which is surprising that it took 15 years for the sequel, Escape from L.A., to finally be produced and released. While both of these movies have something good to offer, Escape from New York is a far superior film than its sequel… depending on what you’re looking for.

Let’s start with Escape from New York.

escapefromnewyork

In 1988, crime in America rises by almost 400% (remember this was made in 1981) forcing the government to create the United States Police Force and also convert Manhattan into a giant maximum security prison surrounded by giant walls. When terrorists force Air Force One to crash land inside the prison walls, the president (Donald Pleascence) finds himself stranded. Luckily for him, there’s a new prisoner about to be admitted, the notorious soldier and gunslinger Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell). Before all of the formalities can even be completed, Snake is tasked by New York Police Commissioner Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) to infiltrate Manhattan and save the president and in return all of Snake’s crimes on record will be cleared. As an added incentive, Snake is injected with a small explosive device that will detonate in 22 hours. Now with no other choice, Snake wages a one man war with the inmates of Manhattan.

What really grabbed my attention first was how Escape from New York looked. It is a minor visual masterpiece that perfectly sets the tone. From beginning to end, this movie is enveloped in darkness and fog and destruction. It’s exactly how a dystopian film should look. Of course, this was also done in a time before CGI, so this destroyed version of Manhattan is all just brilliant set design, miniatures, and matte painting. Speaking of design, I can’t go through this review without mentioning the iconic anti-hero, Snake Plissken. Kurt Russell growls his way through the movie and succeeds at playing one of cinema’s cult badasses. Not to mention that he was Konami’s main inspiration for Solid Snake in the Metal Gear video game series.

escape-new-york-0

There’s a simplicity to the story that has also grown on me. While there is something of a message behind the story of the film, the main focus is always Snake rescuing the president. There is a pacing issue that happens about 20 minutes into the movie where it sort of grinds to a halt, but it picks up speed soon enough and I was right back into the action. The movie is a little bit dated, but there are plenty of reasons not to forget it. The cast that I’ve mentioned before, along with Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau, and Harry Dean Stanton are all great as always. The film is also just an achievement visuals, character, and the fact that you don’t need a huge budget to make an influential movie. Escape from New York truly deserves its recognition as a cult classic.

After a sequel was written in 1985 and quickly dismissed as being “to campy” by John Carpenter, the official sequel was finally released 15 years later in 1996.

ESCAPE_FROM_LA_1996_SS_C8_lg

After an earthquake in 2000 pretty much levels all of Los Angeles. The island that is created as a result is turned into a prison when a strict theocratic president (Cliff Robertson) is elected and implements a moral code that is enforced throughout America. When the president’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), is influenced by a terrorist in the L.A. prison, Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface), she steals a device that can be used to control satellites orbiting the entire earth with the capability to shut down all forms of power sources on the planet. After once again being arrested and facing a life sentence in L.A., Snake is recruited to go into the prison, retrieve the device, and eliminate Utopia and Cuervo in exchange for his freedom and an antidote to a virus that has been injected into his bloodstream.

Think of this movie as the Joel Schumacher Batman movies compared to Tim Burton’s, except not as disastrous as Batman and RobinEscape from New York had a dark and brooding atmosphere, whereas Escape from L.A. is brighter, louder, and much more excessive. That being said, there’s some really fun action sequences, but there’s a lot missing from this movie. For one thing, Snake is pretty much turned into an indestructible hero, which pretty much takes away all sorts of suspense. The special effects in this movie are also… pretty awful. I mean, Independence Day also came out in 1996, so there’s really no excuse the effects in Escape from L.A. should be so weird. I can’t even say it’s because it had a low budget because it was a $50 million production.

tumblr_inline_mndqcmidLN1qz4rgp

There’s still a lot of imagination behind a lot of the different prisoners and sets. Also, besides Kurt Russell and Cliff Robertson, there’s also cameos and supporting roles for Bruce Campbell, Pam Grier, Peter Fonda, and Steve Buscemi. It’s just really unfortunate that all of this imagination and great actors is sort of drowned out in excessive special effects, a lack of suspense, and noise. While the story does move a lot faster than its predecessor, I really missed the style, suspense, and tone of the first film. It’s also worth mentioning that the whole story is almost a perfectly recycled version of Escape from New York.  Escape from L.A. isn’t an awful film, but it’s far from being any real form of good.

John Carpenter’s Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. are two very different movies. His first film is a cult classic, and rightfully so, while the second one bombed when it was released and it’s still considered a bomb today.

The Thing (1982) – Review

9 Oct

John Carpenter is a big name in the horror genre, and can easily be considered one of the masters. Halloween changed the way people viewed slasher films, and I feel that his 1982 masterpiece, The Thing, was a landmark in special effects technology. Not only does it look great, but the horror and paranoia behind it will leave a mark on you, no matter if you’re new to horror or consider yourself a buff.

The Antarctic is not a place where you want to be trapped, but unfortunately a group of American researchers are stuck on their base after a mishap concerning a couple of Norwegians. To make matters worse, there seems to be an extraterrestrial that is infecting the scientists and mimicking their personalities. Under the command of helicopter pilot, R.J. Macready (Kurt Russell), the team of scientists must find out who the alien is and fight their own paranoia.

This film can be seen in the same light as the first Alien film. It’s claustrophobic, filled with paranoia, and shocking special effects that are marvels in puppetry and animatronics. The whole time, the viewer is filled with dread at what truly seems to be a hopeless situation, especially since the creature that is so terrifying can’t be seen and works on the cellular level.

 

There are some gnarly scenes in this movie. Just look at the picture right above this. If you haven’t seen this movie then there is really no way you can understand just how weird and over the top that scene is. And this is just one of many. All of the frightening moments in this film will stick with you for a very, very long time. Just picking one scene as my favorite is so hard to do, because each one offers something so original and different. While a lot of the credit goes to John Carpenter, you can’t forget the creator of these special effects, Rob Bottin, who was only 22 at the time he was designing these.

While The Thing is certainly not for the squeamish or the feint of heart, the film doesn’t just rely on these totally overt scares. The themes of paranoia and isolation is just as disconcerting as all of the creatures. Going back to Alien, the main theme was that of isolation. The tagline was even, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Pretty effective. The Thing adds the layer of distrust and fear of what can’t be seen on top of that. Distrust and violence erupts at the worst times, as this microscopic organism works to tear the researchers apart, sometimes quite literally.

 

Both as a horror film and as a science fiction film, The Thing exceeds all expectations and is truly a masterpiece. John Carpenter has even stated that this is his favorite film that he has ever made. Is it better than Halloween? Well, they’re two totally different movies, but if I had a choice I would rather watch The Thing. It’s a gory tale of suspense, distrust, and a microorganism from outer space. What more could you want? If and when I make a list of my favorite horror films of all time, you can be certain that this one will make the list.