Tag Archives: rescue

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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Keanu – Review

24 May

Back in 2012 when Key & Peele premiered, I didn’t think the show was going to go anywhere or last long because of Comedy Central’s track record at the time. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have cleverly weaved their way into a high status of pop culture thanks their subversive sketch comedy that is both funny and often smart. It was disappointing to see that their show was ending, but it seems that they have no intention of slowing down. Instead of a show, we now have a feature length comedy called Keanu. Much like their show, Keanu is a very subversive comedy that’s only made funnier by how over the top and silly it is willing to get.

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After his girlfriend abruptly dumps him, Rell (Jordan Peele) feels like his life is over. No longer does he have any drive or motivation to make something of himself, which worries his cousin/best friend, Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key). Unlike Rell, Clarence is a well adjusted adult with a wife and kids, who finds it a little bit silly when Rell regains his livelihood when a kitten shows up at his door and is named Keanu. All seems right with the world until Keanu is taken from right under Rell’s nose. Rell and Clarence find out the the man who took Keanu is a notorious drug lord named Cheddar (Method Man), a man who loves violence just as much as he loves cute kittens. The only way Rell and Clarence can get their cat back is to go undercover and assume the identities of two mysterious hitmen, earn Cheddar’s trust, and save Keanu.

The plot of this movie is absolutely absurd and that’s where a lot of the joy came from. There’s so much off the walls things that happen in this movie that you really don’t know what kind of joke they’re going to throw at you next. To me, that’s real comedy. Movies that rely on just sex jokes and being loud just aren’t my kind of thing. Keanu has a lot of really ridiculous jokes and situations while also working to turn certain stereotypes on their heads. You also gotta love the slow motion scenes of the little kitten running through gun battles and dodging all sorts of things. What’s also great is that they don’t just rely on the kitten as a funny little distraction. Keanu isn’t really in it all that much, so when he is it’s great, but there’s plenty of original, non-kitten related humor as well.

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One of the main reasons to even see this movie is just to see Key and Peele play off each other so well. One of the reasons their show was so funny was because of the crazy natural chemistry that they have. They also are great at playing the goofy characters. Peele’s Rell is a slacker with a good heart who really just can’t seem to do anything right, and Key’s Clarence is the polar opposite of what a gangster should be, which makes his scenes trying to fit into the gang world all the more hilarious. The way Key and Peele interact and talk with each other feels so natural, and there were a lot of times where it felt like a lot of what they were saying was unscripted. You really can’t have comedy without good chemistry, and the chemistry between these two comedians is off the charts.

While this movie is a comedy, it has plenty of action in it to. The most similar example of a movie like Keanu would have to be Pineapple Express, because of all the comedy mixed with the very well shot and choreographed action. Surprisingly, the action in Keanu is pretty badass. The climactic shoot out at the end is intense but still hilarious. There’s a lot of use of slow motion, but the slow motion is very well shot and framed uniquely. The film’s director, Peter Atencio, who worked on the duo’s show quite a bit, obviously has a skilled eye, and I’d like to see more from him.

It takes a lot for comedies to impress me and Keanu is one that made me laugh to the point of tears…multiple times. I honestly can’t say I’m too surprised by that. I’ve been fan of their comedy for a while now, but seeing it in as grand a spectacle as this was right on the money. Their satire is razor sharp and their delivery is fast and furious, which I think makes them two of the funniest people working in the business. If you like to laugh even a little bit, you have to make Keanu required viewing.

The Martian – Review

7 Oct

Ridley Scott is known for his ability to craft some of the most epic movies in modern film. GladiatorKingdom of Heaven, and even the crime epic American Gangster all fit nicely into this category of huge films. Now we have a movie based off of a novel by Andy Weir, and in my opinion, this is a pretty absurd choice of book to make a movie out of. Not because it’s a bad story, but it’s actually too great of a story with different story lines that not only spans continents, but planets. If I was a major Hollywood film maker, a project like this would intimidate me, but leave it to Ridley Scott to take the source material and make it into one of the stand out movies of 2015.

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In the not too distant future, NASA sends a group of scientists to Mars to learn more about the desolate, red planet. When a violent storm cuts the mission short, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead. NASA releases the news, but are then shocked to learn that Watney is alive and well and has been stranded on Mars. Watney knows that it may be up to four years before the next mission can arrive to rescue him, so he begins working to make the dead soil of Mars into a place that he can live on. Meanwhile, NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and Ares III mission director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) start devising multiple different plans to not only provide food for Watney, but also find a way to rescue him from Mars as soon as possible. This may ultimately fall on Ares III commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and the rest of her crew, forcing them to turn back around and get Watney home.

I can’t stress it enough that the story of The Martian felt absolutely enormous. Not only does it cover over a year of time, but also involves so many different characters that each have very important jobs to do throughout the entire ordeal. There isn’t one character that felt wasted throughout the whole thing. It was also cool to see that even for some of the most minor roles, good actors would still fill their shoes. For example, one of the people that completely changes how NASA approaches the whole problem is astronomer Rich Purnell played by Donald Glover. This character is only in a few scenes for a few minutes, but they still casted a great actor to fill that role. Other than the people I already mentioned, there’s other actors like Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Benedict Wong, and Sean Bean. It’s one of the best casts that’s been assembled in recent memory.

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What seems to be surprising most critics and audiences is how lighthearted this movie actually is. Sure, it’s very dramatic and some of the scenes can get really intense, but I found myself laughing through a lot of the movie. The character of Mark Watney is literally what this story needs. Instead of letting his situation get the better of him, he remains optimistic and cracks jokes throughout the entire movie. If it wasn’t for him keeping his good humor, this would be an unbearably depressing movie. It’s also cool to see how his optimism affects the other characters and keep them from throwing in the towel before something can be done. Pretty much, this movie keeps you feeling great the whole time, and never did I feel like the situation was absolutely hopeless.

I can’t really find anything to complain about with The Martian. Not only is it very well written and acted, but it’s also a beautiful looking movie. In order to get the perfect look for his Martian landscape Scott and the rest of his special effects team filmed in Wadi Rum, Jordan, which has a red desert. That location shooting combined with excellent special effects makes this film visually immersive. Harry Gregson-Williams’ low key score also accentuates the drama very nicely.

While Ridley Scott hasn’t made perfect movies and has recently slipped a little bit, The Martian is proof that he is still able to take huge stories, compress them, and successfully put them on film. This film is an achievement of special effects, but also stands out with it’s quick writing, believable characters, and feeling of hope and good humor that spans the entire two and a half hour run time. Nothing in this movie feels wasted, which means everything feels important and that isn’t easy to do. This is an outstanding movie.