Tag Archives: mayhem

Unstoppable – Review

20 Oct

 

I can’t really say I’m the biggest fan of the late film maker Tony Scott. His filmography is a bit of a mixed bag for me. I can’t get into movies like Top Gun or Déjà Vu no matter how hard I try, but on the other hand Domino is a highly underrated action film and True Romance might even be one of my favorites. Like I said, it’s a mixed bag. Scott released his last film in 2010 titled Unstoppable, and it kind of serves as an exclamation point for the run on sentence that is Scott’s body of work. It has that signature frenetic style that everyone will recognize, but it also has a really interesting plot based on true events and some good characters to keep that story going. I was kind of surprised by it.

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Will Colson (Chris Pine) is a new train conductor  assigned to veteran engineer Frank Barnes’ (Denzel Washington) train scheduled to make stops in a number of small Pennsylvania towns. All in all, it sounds like a pretty mundane day for the two railroad workers. What they don’t know is that further up north, a completely inept hostler has lost control of a half mile long train that has cars containing a highly toxic substance called phenol. Now this train is barreling through towns without any control and is a risk of derailing at any moment and releasing this substance that could poison an entire town. Yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) rounds up her usual employees to stop the train, but corporate interference is making the task almost impossible. With time running out, Colson and Barnes decide to catch up to the train and slow it down themselves. With Hooper giving directions back at the train yard, the two railroaders push their train to the limit to stop a massive potential disaster.

Going into this movie, I wasn’t really expecting too much. Every time I asked someone about Unstoppable or it was brought up in conversation, no one ever seemed to excited about it. I’m really glad that these unremarkable responses didn’t deter me from actually watching it and formulating my own opinion. This is a well paced, well directed, and well acted film that, along with Domino, is a highly underrated Tony Scott movie. The plot takes its time in many places and that’s a smart choice because a movie like this could easily be rushed and contain non stop action. The first half hour or so sets up the characters and the setting while also giving the audience enough information to be able to follow the story. I really don’t know much about trains or how they work, so without this set up, I would have been completely lost during some of the more technical discussions. So, just because the action doesn’t start right away doesn’t mean it’s boring. Scott’s visual style and direction always keeps things interesting until the real meat and bones of the story begin.

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When the action does get started, it rarely ever lets up. This is an incredibly fast paced movie that, like I said, doesn’t feel rushed. This is where Tony Scott’s direction really shines. For one thing, most of the crazy stuff that happens was all shot with very little CGI. Instead, Scott opted to go with stuntmen, real trains, and lots of disposable things for the trains to crash into. This is a great looking movie for reasons like that, and also Scott’s kinetic and highly saturated visuals. The way the action is laid out also gives the tension and thrills time to build up. When the train is first lost and out of control, it isn’t moving too fast. By the time the climax of the movie happens, however, it’s traveling nearly 80 miles per hour with all of those other train cars, some of which contain a highly toxic and combustible chemical. This is one of those movies where you’ll find yourself slowly inching to the edge of your seat and letting out those wonderful sighs of relief.

Amidst all the mayhem with the trains, there’s also a story of corporate interference and disrespect for all of the people working in the field and not operating out of a boardroom on the fiftieth floor. This isn’t a subject that’s often shied away from, because a lot of working people can relate to it, but Unstoppable handles it in a way that resonated with me well. A lot of it has to do with the surprisingly three dimensional characters. Washington’s character is the veteran who’s getting screwed over by the company, Pine’s character is just getting into the company that’s obviously flawed, and Dawson’s character is the person who has made somewhat of a name for herself, but still isn’t respected by the higher ups. It really all of the bits and pieces of a company from the completely inept employees to the veterans just trying to finish their time on the job.

Unstoppable isn’t going to go down as an action classic in the years to come, but not every movie has to have that kind of status. This is a very well put together action thriller with fully realized character and plenty of mayhem and destruction to keep your eyes glued to the screen. I wouldn’t call this movie great, but it’s certainly really good and epitomizes most of what made Tony Scott’s vision so unique. This one’s worth checking out.

Final Grade: B+

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Shin Godzilla – Review

17 Oct

It’s a very exciting day, and the reason is because I finally get to talk about a new Godzilla movie. Shin Godzilla is Toho’s first movie featuring the King of the Monsters in 12 years, which makes this all the more exciting. I’m a huge fan of this franchise, from the goofiness of Godzilla jumping around on the moon in Destroy all Monsters to the much darker entries like Godzilla vs. Destoroyah and even the 2014 America remake. Shin Godzilla does something very interesting and moves the tone into a much more realistic direction. This makes for a very interesting and surprisingly intelligent entry into the series that also happens to have some of the best scenes of destruction and mayhem in the entire franchise.

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After a boat is attacked in Tokyo Bay and the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is collapsed, both by some mysterious aquatic creature, the Japanese government assures everyone that this monster will not come on land. Of course, they couldn’t have been more wrong as a bipedal, gilled fish creature begins making its way through the city and destroying everything in its path. Things are made worse after the JSDF attacks the creature, which causes it to stop its war path and begin growing and evolving into a giant reptilian monster that is named Godzilla. With Godzilla moving further into Tokyo and causing rampant destruction with countless casualties, the government scrambles to rebuild itself from the initial attack and work together with foreign powers from around the world in helping them take down this behemoth before it’s too late.

Where do I even begin? There’s so much that I want to say. I guess let’s start with the monster of the hour. Godzilla looks outstanding in this movie. The first time you see him he looks like this weird salamander with legs, which is a great introduction believe it or not. You then get the pleasure of watching him evolve into the creature that we all know and love. It’s also a treat to see that this Godzilla is the biggest ever to be put on screen, even beating out the Godzilla in the 2014 American film. This is a ferocious Godzilla and certainly not the one you may remember from the earlier films where he often time played the hero. Shin Godzilla is, in many ways, a reboot of the original film from 1954, which works really well. While it’s similar to that movie, Godzilla has a lot more to do and, without spoiling anything, has received a lot of badass enhancements that you’ve never seen in a Godzilla movie before.

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One thing that the newest American remake has over any of the other Toho versions is the special effects. Save for the shock of seeing a monster destroying a city in the original movie, the effects in this franchise haven’t really been too spectacular. This made me have no real expectations for how Shin Godzilla would look. I’m shocked at how great the effects were. There’s a few kinda strange looking scenes, but as a whole it looks great. Godzilla looks massive against the backdrop of the cities and his atomic breath has never been better. The effect work for the military is also really good. The tanks and helicopters hot on Godzilla’s trail move and sound great. I also have to give a lot of credit to directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi for their creative abilities in shooting this movie. The camera always seems to be in motion and there are some really interesting shots that heighten the action more than I’ve ever seen in a Godzilla movie. You can tell these film makers had a vision and they executed that vision very well.

A big part of any Godzilla movie, or even any kaiju movie in general, are the people who are either trying to stop or help the monsters. Normally, those are the most boring parts of the movie, and it’s rare that there are ever any really interesting characters. Shin Godzilla follows a group of government officials and scientists who are constantly brainstorming ways to stop Godzilla from completely destroying everything. While there still really aren’t many characters in this movie that I cared for too much, I cared about their mission and it was interesting watching the process they went through. It’s a very modern take on this story that has a lot of allusions to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that still has an affect on Japan to this day. This brought the politics and the economic fallout of a disaster as fantastical as Godzilla seem real and grounded. The most exciting parts of this movie of course revolved around Godzilla and the military strikes, but the scenes that take place in offices and labs still hold up well and brought a lot to the story when all of that information could have simply been lost in the action.

I had some doubts going into Shin Godzilla despite all of my excitement. Luckily, I’m in no way disappointed. This is a great entry into the franchise and possibly one of the best one since the 1954 original. There’s great special effects, outstanding action, and a story that feels very current and smart. This is a Godzilla movie that is made for the people who know and love the franchise, but is also a great place to start for people with no experience with these movies at all. This is how a monster movie is done and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Final Grade: A

Hardcore Henry – Review

16 Apr

There are many people out there who stick their noses way up in the air because quite clearly they are too good for action movies. Often times, however, I may agree with them, no matter how forgiving I like to think I am towards certain cinematic circumstances. Recently, action movies seem to have gotten an extra dosage of adrenaline and a couple needed brain cells to fuel the imagination. Last year we got Mad Max: Fury Road, which redefined what it meant to make a movie in the action genre. Now, in 2016, we have another knockout in the form of Hardcore Henry. Did you ever want to watch Crank through the eyes of protagonist Chev Chelios? Well, this is the closest thing you’ll get to that, but even more surprisingly, you might just find yourself marveling at some of the raw imagination that went into this modern action masterpiece.

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After waking up in a highly advanced laboratory with no memory, Henry is pieced back together after some sort of unexplained accident. The surgeon operating on him is his wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett), who tells Henry he has a lot of his life to remember. Before any of the can happen, the laboratory is raided by criminal mastermind Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) and his men who kidnap Henry’s wife and try to kidnap him as well. After barely escaping their grasp, Henry soon meets a mysterious man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who seems to have as many personalities as he does lives. With the help of Jimmy, Henry begins a violent and vengeful mission to save his wife from Akan, and also uncover the truth about Akan’s company and his own complicated past.

Let’s get right into it. The main draw to see this movie is to experience a highly frenetic action movie in the first person perspective. This technique has been explored to some degree before by Gaspar Noé in his film Enter the Void, but it’s not utilized to such a degree as it is in Hardcore Henry. I was really nervous at first that this movie was going to be absolutely nauseating, but I was pleasently surprised that minor dizziness was the only side effect. It’s such a neat idea to make an action movie this off the walls insane be shown in this perspective,and I thought back to the game Mirror’s Edge quite a bit as I was watching it. This film really succeeds at bringing the viewer into the wild and weird world of Hardcore Henry.

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While the name Henry may be in the title and we see all of the action through Henry’s eyes, the most memorable person in this movie is Sharlto Copley who once again proves that he’s one of the most underrated actors working in film. Without spoiling anything about his character, Copley gets to show off a huge variety of personalities in the short run time of the movie. He really steals the show here. I’d also like to mention Danila Kozlovsky as the villain Akan. I don’t know who this guy is but he really seems to be loving playing the role of the over the top antagonist. He’s a memorable villain and works perfectly for this movie.

I think the main reason someone should watch an action movie is to be completely taken back and entertained by the action that is happening. Now, an action movie with a great story is an added bonus, but sometimes an archetypical revenge tale is all I need. Hardcore Henry falls into the revenge tale story arc pretty well, but there are a lot of unique things about the story that make it surprisingly more imaginative than I thought it was going to be. In fact, it made me curious about the other aspects of the world that these characters lived in. I wanted to know more about the technology and the military and all that stuff and wouldn’t be against seeing more from this director and the world he’s created.

Hardcore Henry is a wonderful blend of frenetic violence, mayhem, stunt work, and imagination. While the story isn’t the strongest you’ll ever see, it has a lot of eccentric elements that make it memorable, and Sharlto Copley and Danila Kozlovsky are more than entertaining enough to keep my attention. The action and perspective are still the main reasons to see this movie, and I refuse to call it gimmicky. Hardcore Henry is an experimental action film that deserves all of the attention it receives. I highly recommend any action junkie to get to theater for Hardcore Henry ASAP.

Mad Max: Fury Road

17 May

It’s going to be very hard writing this review considering my brain has just been blown through the back of my head and splattered all over the back wall of the theater. Anyone who is familiar with the Mad Max movies knows that the series doesn’t shy away from complete insanity. George Miller has created a dystopian world where gangs rule the wastelands of what used to be planet Earth. Now, what Miller has done with Mad Max: Fury Road is not only redefine the term “survival of the fittest,” but has also raised the bar for any action movie to be released in the future.

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Still haunted by the death of his family, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) continues to wander the wasteland and simply survive. Of course, it’s never that simple for Max and he soon finds himself in the hands of the War Boys, who are led by the maniacal and vicious King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). During what should have been a routine pick up for gas, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) makes a quick detour into the wasteland. The truth of the matter is that she has all of the king’s wives in the back of her tanker and is taking them to the safety of her old home. As always, Max is inadvertently thrown into the mix, and with the memories of the family he failed to save haunting him, he decides to help the wives and Furiosa get to their destination, which may prove difficult with an army of War Boys and factions chasing them through the vast nothingness.

It’s almost like I can’t even process everything that I witnessed in Mad Max: Fury Road.  To be honest, it’s kind of refreshing. It’s as if George Miller took the book of directions on how to make a movie and tossed it out the window in favor of sheer insanity. There is so much spectacle that I actually felt exhausted when the movie was over. At the very beginning, there’s a little bit of set up to get the viewer into the world once again, but don’t get too comfortable. Before you can even say “Rockatansky,” you’re being thrown into one of the most unreal car chases you may ever see at the movies. When it was over, I was actually kind of worried because I didn’t want to have seen all of the coolest stuff at the beginning of the movie. I really had nothing to worry about.

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The action just kept getting better and better, and the movie only slows down a few times. If it didn’t, I’d probably be dead. But the action isn’t the only spectacle on display. Believe it or not, this is a beautiful movie in pretty much every way. The way the blue of the sky contrasts with the yellow and orange of the sand looks amazing and there’s something mesmerizing watching the slow motion destruction. It’s all calculated so well that I can only describe it as synchronized mayhem. What only adds to how great it looks is that most of it was done through stunts and practical effects. Sure, there’s CGI in this movie and it looks great, but most of what you see is actually happening, and that’s pretty mind blowing.

I’ve heard complaints that Max doesn’t do enough in this movie and that Furiosa is actually the main character. My response to that is that, yes it feels different in the sense that Max isn’t the only hero. In all of the movies, Max is thrown into a situation that he doesn’t want to be in, and in really no way is he an interesting character. His role is to save the day, sure, but also be our eyes and ears to the anarchic world of the future. The most interesting things in this movie and the other movies is the world around him and the villainous scavengers that inhabit it. The fact that Furiosa is the main focus is cool because she’s a badass, but it’s still clear that Max is crucial to her success in the movie.

Mad Max: Fury Road feels a little different from the other entries in this series, but it is actually a superior movie to The Road Warrior, which I didn’t think could be topped. Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Hugh Keays-Byrne are all completely in character and the action is some of the best you’ll ever see. To anyone who is a fan of the Mad Max movies, it’s necessary to check this movie out, and really it’s necessary for anyone who likes to have fun. It’s one of the best movies of the year so far, and may end up being my favorite movie of the summer.