Tag Archives: terrorism

Money Monster – Review

24 May

Last year, Adam McKay’s The Big Short took the financial crisis of 2007 & 2008 and made it into something that is both easy to understand, yet close to impossible to comprehend how something like that could’ve happened. It was a very smart movie that was also sharp with its comedy. We now live in a time where movies based around unfair economic system in America are a great and accessible way to get other people involved and talking. Most recently, we’ve gotten Jodie Foster’s Money Monster. This film isn’t quite as sharp or intelligent as other movies concerning this topic, but it’s still a relevant and entertaining thriller that kept me engaged for most of its run time.

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Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the host of an off the walls finance show called Money Monster where Gates gives investors all the advice they need to know when it comes to buying and selling stocks. On a day like any other, the show begins and for a while seems to be going just fine, up until a disgruntled investor named Kyle (Jack O’Connell) storms the studio and holds Lee at gunpoint while also strapping a vest armed with a bomb to the terrified host. After the show’s director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), evacuates all the staff not needed to continue the broadcast, Patty and Lee do whatever they can to keep the gunman at bay and also hopefully find the answers he’s looking for before the police decide to enter the studio.

Money Monster is a very topical movie that fits in very well with the world we live in today, especially concerning finances and all the different forms of media from journalism to viral videos. I compared certain elements of this movie with The Big Short, but this movie is very far from being The Big Short. This is a popcorn movie through and through, even though it does have some brain power backing it up. You won’t see any new argument in this movie and it still shows how corrupt Wall Street is, but doesn’t really break new ground. For what Money Monster is, however, that’s completely fine. It’s much more fun looking at this movie as a real time hostage movie that reminded me of something between Dog Day Afternoon and The Negotiator.

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The cast in this movie are perfectly casted, and I really wouldn’t have had it any other way. Clooney still seems to be playing a version of Clooney, but he still is a very believable character and plays all of his scenes with precision acting. Julia Roberts, who I normally really don’t care for, was great here, and a lot of that was due to the way the character was written. Dominic West, who is known for The Wire but is known to me as the hilariously over the top Jigsaw in Punisher: War Zone, doesn’t have much screen time but makes the best of what he has. I recently saw Jack O’Connell in ’71, so I was excited to see him in Money Monster. Needless to say, he did not disappoint. O’Connell is the strongest part of this movie and gives a devastatingly real performance that I could never forget.

There’s a lot of really intense stuff in Money Monster and some of the most shocking and well written things all happen in the confines of the studio. Movies that have stories stuck in one location make things feel really closed in and immediate. Save for a pretty cool third act, there’s a lot of stuff in between that is important to the story, but didn’t really make me feel anything. All of these scenes revolve around a character named Diane Lester, who was the chief of communications for the main antagonist. As she works to learn more of the truth that has been covered up and her scenes get longer and more frequent, I felt more compelled to just speed the movie up just so I could get back to the scenes with Clooney, Roberts, and O’Connell.

Money Monster certainly isn’t here to change anyone’s lives, but there’s a chance that it may come across as acting smarter than it really is. What this movie works at being is a very topical hostage thriller that fits in very well with different problems going on in the world today. It’s a movie that we’ll be able to look back on and compare with worldly events that will better help the viewer analyze the film. Money Monster is full of tension, excitement, and great performances with some weak scenes thrown into the mix just to mess with the audience. It isn’t the best movie you’ll see about Wall Street or corruption, but it’s still a good deal of fun.

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American Sniper – Review

17 Feb

When told right, a war movie can really make you think and try desperately to understand what soldiers all over the world have to face everyday when they wake up in hostile territory, but also how they react back home far away from the battlefield. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to see Fury, which worked very well as a thought provoking war film, and now I’ve finally gotten the chance to see Clint Eastwood’s Oscar contender American Sniper. The biggest thought I have in my mind is that if the Academy really needed a war movie for a nomination, why couldn’t it have just been Fury?

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After seeing coverage of the U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) decides that it’s his duty as an American to enlist in the military to do what he can to protect his country. After the 9/11 attacks, he is deployed to the Middle East where his talents as a sniper become quite apparent to the rest of his brothers in arms and also the enemy. Each time he comes home to his wife (Sienna Miller) and his children, it becomes more and more clear to Kyle that he belongs in battle alongside his fellow soldiers, but he also feels the need to be at home with his family. As the these conflicts become more intense, and more of his friends are killed, Kyle’s stability becomes more and more fragile, encouraging him to do something before it reaches the point of no return.

I know I’m probably a minority in my opinions about this movie, and excuse me for saying this, but I really can’t get behind this movie or all of the praise it’s getting. Everything from Bradley Cooper’s performance to the way director Clint Eastwood handles the complicated subject material is getting way too much positive attention in my honest opinion. The basic formula of this movie has been done before and done a lot better, especially with Kathryn Bigelow’s exceptional psychological war film The Hurt Locker. This film, on the other hand, follows the formula step by step and fails to bring anything new or particularly thoughtful to the table. I can’t say that American Sniper is a “bad” movie but I can definitely say that it is bland, generic, and boring.

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When I first saw trailers for this movie, I was really all about it. I couldn’t wait to see it. The scenes showed in the trailer looked like some of the most intense shit ever, and that’s what I really wanted to see. Think about it. A whole war film seen through the eyes of a sniper, the man who’s far away from the action but holds the lives of the squad in the palm of his hand. One wrong decision could be fatal. Thank goodness I got at least two intense scenes out of this movie. The rest of the war scenes were really nothing special. The time he spent at home where the effects of the war could be examined were completely underutilized and the editing between the two was so sloppy and jarring I couldn’t really believe they got away with it. I don’t want to keep comparing this movie to The Hurt Locker, but I can’t help it. That movie just did it so much better.

Bradley Cooper has made quite a name for himself in Hollywood recently through his comedic efforts in The Hangover movies but also his more dramatic roles in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Now he’s nominated for Best Actor for the third year in a row for his performance in American Sniper and I just am left to sit here and wonder how. For most of the movie, he just grumbled his dialogue in a typical tough guy manner. It was just annoying to listen to, and the movie didn’t spend enough time developing his relationships to other characters to make their interactions really amount to anything.

All I can really say about American Sniper is that it’s a missed opportunity. I love war movies and respect all of the work that goes into making one, but this was just too formulaic and bland. There were definitely some really great scenes in the movie, but other than those few moments, nothing in this movie ever really amounted to anything much. It pains me to say this, but American Sniper is a big disappointment of 2014 and a Clint Eastwood movie that I’ll do my best to never have to watch again.

Déjà Vu – Review

27 Dec

The film world is a much quieter place without Tony Scott. It was really upsetting to me this past year when I heard of his suicide. He was an action film maker who did more than make derivative movies. He invented a kinetic style that made the world the action was taking place in hyperrealistic.  With camera work that jolted the viewer all over the place to the highly saturated cinematography, you knew you were watching a Tony Scott movie without even needing to look at the credits. With films like True Romance and Man on FireDéjà Vu is certainly not his best, and I doubt if this is the movie that comes to people’s minds when they talk about Scott’s filmography.

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After a ferry explodes in New Orleans on Mardi Gras, ATF Agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) is brought in to investigate. He proves himself as a worthy investigator and is recruited by FBI Agent Paul Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) to join a special task force involved with this investigation. “Special” is an understatement, since this crew has technology that is able to bend time and space and look back into the past on a very specific delay. This ability leads them to look into the life of Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) who was found dead near the area of the ferry explosion. What Carlin and the agents find by looking at Claire’s past is a terrorist (Jim Caviezel), whose targeted her to unwillingly assist him, unless Carlin can somehow travel to the past and save Claire, thereby saving everyone on the ferry.

What separates this from a lot of other more derivative action films is the gimmick of time travel. If this was about Agent Carlin and the investigation about the ferry and the terrorist who committed the crime, this would be a completely forgettable and unremarkable movie. The time travel aspect, and the technology behind it only serve to make the film a little bit more interesting than it could have been. Unfortunately, the movie is almost overblown with dialogue trying to explain the technology, but it isn’t very interesting. When the actually action involving the machine is put to use, it isn’t all that exciting, save for a few moments. Being a film that’s over two hours, the element of seeing through and traveling through time is a missed opportunity.

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There isn’t even a whole lot of action in this movie to keep me occupied. Like I said, there is a lot of talking in this movie, and a good portion of it is technical mumbo jumbo.  There is a pretty cool car chase in the movie that includes the bending of time, which is an example of how the gimmick of the movie can be put to good use. The other scenes of action are brief, but exciting. Still, there isn’t enough excitement to keep me fully entertained or on the edge of my seat, which is odd for a Tony Scott movie. Let me just touch on the element of time one more time, no pun intended. It really bothered me how it’s used here when it could’ve been so much better. Time travel is really cool and fun, despite each movie being totally illogical in its own way, but Déjà Vu takes the cake for being the simplest and most uninteresting.

The visuals still have that cool Tony Scott style that I’ve come to really enjoy about his movies. Everything is wonderfully over saturated and the camera work is so frenetic at times that it feels almost like a video game. That still doesn’t make the movie as good as it could be. Style over substance, in my opinion, can be passable as long as the movie knows that it isn’t shooting to be anything other than a stylistic roller coaster. This movie is not one of those. We are supposed to be completely involved with the weak characters and believe the dull plot device of time travel, all while enjoying the cool style. It just doesn’t work like that.

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Déjà Vu is one of Tony Scott’s weakest entries to his filmography. While it seems like there is certain potential for this to be a legit sci-fi action thriller, it really doesn’t live up to the standards that it creates. Instead, this movie is going to be forgettable and never make it onto anyone’s future list of action classics. I can’t even say it’s a fun way to spend two hours, since the plot is so thick with dialogue that only twists for brain for no reason. Too much talking and not enough action makes Déjà Vu a bland attempt at a genre blending action film.

Zero Dark Thirty – Review

21 Jan

9/11 and the hunt for Osama bin Laden will go down as major events in American history for future generations. While the news media fed the population both facts and lies, we never really knew exactly what was going on. All that we could assume was that we were the good guys and they were the bad guys. When news of torture and mistreatment of prisoners began surfacing, we didn’t want to hear it. Now, Zero Dark Thirty shows us what may be the closest version of reality that we are ever going to get on this subject.

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The story begins two years after the events of 9/11. Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a new member of the CIA stationed at the American embassy in Pakistan to aid in the excursion to find bin Laden. While there she meets Dan (Jason Clarke) who gives her the first taste of what she is going to have to deal with over the years. As time goes on and the CIA begins getting more desperate, Maya finds a lead that she believes will lead straight to the man himself. In order to prove this theory, she has to first track this lead down and convince her own government that her hypothesis will bring an end to “the greatest manhunt in history.”

In my previous review, I talked about how Contagion spanned many different story lines and characters. Zero Dark Thirty similarly spans years. This is a very challenging movie that requires absolute attention even though we all know what the ending is going to be. Being a two and a half hour long movie, the viewer knows that there’s going to be a lot in this movie, but let me tell you, there is more than I thought. If you end up not understanding or catching everything your first time through, don’t be concerned. If you did, you’re lying.

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As one might obviously suspect, this movie was met with as much controversy as it was accolades. First off, the film and its makers are accused of being pro-torture. Well, I can’t say that I felt that way at all. It was shown in a very brutal and realistic way, but never was it glamorized or endorsed. When a character spoke of enjoying torture, I felt like the film was being ironic. There was also accusations that information was leaked for the film. In that case, awesome. I sure hope it was. Finally, the original October release date cause some politicians to say that it was pro-Obama and being used to support his campaign. Obama is shown once in the movie on tv, and I wasn’t too impressed with the hypocrisy of his statements. Maya is the hero here, not Obama.

Anyway, back to the movie itself. If you’ve seen The Hurt Locker, you’re absolutely aware that Kathryn Bigelow has the ability to work with the scenario of Middle East conflict, and she shows masterful work with Zero Dark Thirty. The scenes of terrorism are shocking and she utilizes the surrounding environments really well to put the viewer right in the middle of the action. Even when the characters are in board meeting and just chatting as friends, I felt like I was there and part of it. If anything, this is one of the most real “war” movies that I have seen.

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The hunt for Osama bin Laden and the War on Terror have been some of the most important American events since its beginning. Zero Dark Thirty does justice to the whole situation. I believe that Bigelow and her fellow cast and crew did a very good job in showing just how it all happened from the violence to the meetings to the emotions of everyone involved. Politicians and spies are people too, not just government machines and I really got that feeling with this movie. I haven’t seen all of the nominees for Best Picture this year, but if Zero Dark Thirty were to win, I would be perfectly content. It is exceptional.

Air Force One – Review

10 Oct

Air Force One, aka Sky Hard, is the story of Officer John McClane after he became president. I’m kidding of course, but it seems every time I watch this movie I find more similarities between it and the original Die Hard. Still, even though these can be distracting, Air Force One is still a pretty good action movie that kept me entertained for its running time.

President Marshall (Harrison Ford) is in Moscow at a dinner celebrating the capture of a warlord from Kazakhstan, General Ivan Radek (Jürgen Prochnow). In his speech, Marshall declares America’s zero tolerance policy on terrorism and negotiation with said terrorists. After his departure with his family, employees, and secret service on Air Force One, the plane is promptly hijacked by ultranationalist terrorists led by Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman). He and his team are dedicated to General Radek and will execute a hostage every half hour until Radek is freed. What these terrorists never bet on was President Marshall reverting back to his days of the military and making the terrorists get a taste of their own medicine.

This is a very pro-American action movie that reeks with patriotism. This is an easy way for a movie to become intolerable. I don’t mind a pro-national stance for a film, but not when it’s shoved down the viewer’s throat. With the sweeping music and American flags everywhere to some of the dialogue, this movie just couldn’t get enough. But, and this is a big but, there were obvious criticisms of American policy that speak some truth. When Oldman’s character begins talking about our foreign policies and how the government works, he doesn’t sound like a crazy person. This was obviously intentional both for character purposes and thematically. If he came off as a lunatic, then it would be difficult to believe the sincerity in the writing.

While we’re on the topic of Gary Oldman, he is the strongest part of this movie both in form and performance. Let’s face it, the story here is pretty weak, the bulk of the characters (including the president) are uninspired, but Oldman’s performance is something to be taken completely seriously. While all the other actors do their jobs just fine, he goes above and beyond what is called for. I don’t want to keep comparing this to Die Hard, but think of how great Alan Rickman was as Hans Gruber. This is the level of intensity that Gary Oldman gives Ivan Korshunov. He is an A+ actor.

The special effects are pretty dated in Air Force One, but I still really enjoyed the action. There are excellent gun battles that have surprisingly fine cinematography and jet planes engaging in dog fights that will put you on the edge of your seat. I wouldn’t say the action is nonstop, but a lingering feeling of suspense plays throughout the movie. Unfortunately, the film is just a bit too long and should have ended 15 minutes earlier. The effects and action couldn’t keep me interested by the end.

Air Force One is a fun movie if you are willing to check your brain at the door. It has obvious flaws in its story that makes you wish you were actually watching Die Hard at times, but the action and Gary Oldman’s performance is enough to keep you watching. It’s better than a lot of action movie, but it can’t be place in the upper-eschelons of the genre neither. Still, it’s a fun movie to watch, especially if you’re with other people.

The Dark Knight Rises – Review

26 Jul

First off, I apologize for this being late. I should’ve wrote this a couple of days ago, but better late than never I guess. I think it’s fair to say that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are not only above average comic book films, but also two of the best films ever made, especially The Dark Knight. Therefore, The Dark Knight Rises had big shoes to fill, being not only the successor of The Dark Knight, but also the closing of a trilogy.

 

Eight years after the Joker brought Gotham City to its knees, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) spends his days locked in Wayne Manor, ignoring the people he once protected. When Bane (Tom Hardy), a behemoth of a man, both in intellect and stature, invades Gotham with ideas of terrorism and revolution, Wayne must don the cape once again. His help comes from his oldest friend and butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), Commissioner  Gordon (Gary Oldman), detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and jewel thief Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway).

Even with all the hype and promising trailers and clips that I saw, I was worried that this film wouldn’t be able to stand tall next to the masterpiece that was The Dark Knight. I feel confident in saying that this doesn’t surpass that film, but is on the same level. The Dark Knight Rises is a long, intense, and dramatic film filled with complex characters, tough decisions, and surprises that will have the audience wowed.

 

As with its predecessor, the villain is the scene stealer for me. Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane is spot on. His fluctuating and confident voice is both a perfect match and contrast to his physical appearance. The only problem is that I sometimes had a hard time hearing and understanding what he was saying. Christian Bale gives his best performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman yet. He is more tortured than he ever was before. Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are also fantastic. I do wish that Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman were in this movie more, just because I love their characters.

The intensity of the situation is earth shattering. Imagine if the city that you live in or is closest to you is taken over by a maniacal genius and there is nothing your police, army, or government can do about it. America has seen its fair share of revolution and rioting, and this movie also goes to show that if the economy or politics get shaky enough, any person with strong ideals can be put into power. Just look at Adolf Hitler.

 

I don’t really want to talk about the ending because I don’t want any spoilers in this review. All I can really say about it is that it is one of the most effective and emotional ending that I have seen. There’s victory, loss, celebration, and sadness. Christopher Nolan has proved before that he is a master story teller and film maker, but the last 10 minutes of this movie alone only drive that point home more.

This is it everyone. It’s tough to say it, but The Dark Knight Trilogy is over. The Dark Knight Rises is what I like to call a perfect movie. For an almost three hour long movie, I feel like it went by really fast because I was so lost in Gotham. If you haven’t seen this film yet, go out and see it immediately. It isn’t just a great super hero movie, it is a great story that is expertly constructed and concluded.