Thursday, December 30, 2010

MICHAEL CLAYTON (2007) - Legal drama? Awesome? You bet.

I was a bit hesitant over whether I should review this movie here or not. I told myself when starting this blog that it would be dedicated to manly (that is to say, mindless) action movies and the like. I decided I would go through with it after all because in the end, Michael Clayton is a pretty slick movie, and although George Clooney doesn't do much womanizing, shooting or throw out one liners, it was an very enjoyable flick that had some great moments.

In one of the best openings for a movie in a while, manic depressive trial laywer Arthur Edens (a fantastic Tom Wilkinson) goes on a wild rant about a case he's been working for. I won't spoil any of it, but let me just say his snarling delivery is great and I felt like putting down my delicious ham and cheese sammich and just giving the guy an ovation. I added a link at the bottom of the review if you want to check it out. Anyways,  Edens is on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and is confessing confidential information about a huge class  action lawsuit that could cost his client and his bosses billions of dollars. He is confessing to Michael Clayton (George Clooney), who works for the same firm as Edens as a "fixer" - the go-to guy when there is a legally dubious problem to be solved as soon as possible and with no questions asked.

Edens (Wilkinson) is crazy. Or is he? Clayton (Clooney) has to figure out what the hell is going on.
The movie then rewinds back to a few days earlier. We learn that Edens is defending U-North, a multinational agricultural company in a controversial case dealing with deadly pesticides. Edens has a crisis of conscience, and strips naked in the middle of a videotaped deposition, and threatens to go public with information that could lose the case for U-North and embarrass his law firm bosses. The law firm sends Clayton to meet with Edens and try to defuse the situation before he does any more damage to their case. At the same time, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), who is general counsel for U-North, realizes it will be her ass on the line if Edens ruins the case, and orders two shady guys to start following Edens.

Tilda Swinton as the desperate big wig out to save her job at all costs.
Things soon spiral out of control, as Clayton battles his gambling debts and his attempts to convince Edens to shut his damn mouth, while Edens escapes from custody, and Karen Crowder becomes increasingly desperate and dangerous with her decisions on how to deal with Edens and Clayton. The high stakes have every person on edge. Tension? Intrigue? Murder? Car bombs? Big companies doing bad things? Yeeeeah, you know it.

Look at that suave bastard. Not the kind of guy you'd want to piss off.
I can't have enough praise for Tom Wilkinson. He has far less time on screen compared to Clooney, but he eats up every minute of it. He is a beast with his material, and it was absolutely no surprise he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar that year. Wilkinson is usually good in anything he does, but he's in top form here. Clooney turns in a good performance as well, and Swinton is great to watch as well, as we see her confidence slowly implode and her desperation leads her to make very dangerous decisions. In a movie that relies so much on dialogue instead of physical action, the cast has to be excellent, and in this case, it is.

Michael Clayton is a dark, grimy legal drama, that despite its serious subject matter is a thrill ride in disguise. There's more to it than you'd expect, especially in the last half hour as all of the loose ends fall into place and the adrenaline starts flowing, leading up to a very cool finale. I'm usually lukewarm when it comes to legal dramas, but this is one of the best of the type ever made. Very satisfying. Give it a chance even if you're not a fan of the genre.

TL;DR - Clooney and Wilkinson deal with shady corporations and do a hell of a job - 8.5/10

Monday, December 20, 2010

UNSTOPPABLE (2010) - The little train that could

Chances are you've heard of a guy named Ridley Scott. The director behind classics like Alien, Gladiator, and Blade Runner. It's likely you don't hear much about his younger brother Tony Scott, who's got a respectable amount of movies under his belt, even though he mostly specializes in big budget action movies and lighter fare compared to his big bro. All is good though, since it's a well known fact that once you've seen a Tony Scott movie, you'll be able to identify any of his other movies without going on Wikipedia and cheating. You'll be a Trivial Pursuit champ. Just remember: loud, fast, action and pace. That's what the guy goes for, and what he usually ends up with.

Captain Kirk and Detective Alonzo Harris... I mean, Chris Pine and Denzel trying to avert disaster.
What could possibly be louder and faster than a big ass train going 70 miles per hour with no one controlling it? Maybe Oprah Winfrey, but she's put on weight lately. Unbreakable begins with a fumbling fat guy working at a rail yard, who in his attempt to be as lazy and fat as possible, does a crap job of moving a train when ordered to. He neglects to fix the disabled air brakes on the train, then gets out of a moving train (with throttle set to 100%) to change a railway switch, and when the train starts to leave him behind, runs after it and falls flat on his face. Train #777 (the big, red shiny one from the trailer... you can't miss it) is now out of control, loaded with thousands of tons of toxic chemicals, and headed for a collision course with Stanton, Pennsylvania. Thanks a lot, fat guy.

Is it bad that I found myself cheering for the train to smash as much stuff as possible?
While the railway company attempts to stop the runaway train (and fails in spectacular fashion), we meet two other workers starting their shifts at another yard. Will Colson (Chris Pine) is a rookie, and is assigned to work with 28-year veteran Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington). Their routine task for the day is to move a few wagons of cargo to a nearby factory. They are soon contacted by the local yardmaster, Connie (Rosario Dawson) who is by now supervising the efforts to rein in the unstoppable red machine of death and destruction known as train #777. Will and Frank's train and 777 are set to collide head on, and they must find a way to avoid dying a grisly death and ending up on the morning news. Oh yeah, almost forgot. Will and Frank will also end up having to try and stop 777 before it and its toxic cargo wreck the shit out of Stanton. Good times ensue, of course.

Rosario Dawson didn't even  have a bikini scene. Tony Scott, please... Step. Up. Your. Game.
Chris Pine does a stand up job as Will, though it's not exactly a demanding role, while Denzel seems to just cruise around the scenes. The guy's got so much charm that he could be reading his lines on the toilet and he'd make a convincing train conductor. It's just difficult to have a bad movie with Denzel in it. The script is neat and basically confines itself to trying to up the tension as far as it will go, and it's the correct choice for this sort of picture. It's a race against time, and a theme that fits Scott's directing style well. My main gripe with the movie is the abuse of the quick cuts and flashing scenes throughout the movie, something Scott is damn near infamous for. Some people love it, some hate it. I'm one of the latter. It's distracting and adds little to the scenes besides pissing me off. Besides that, Unstoppable does its job remarkably well: keep me entertained for its running time. What more can you ask from a popcorn flick? You can't fault a movie that knows exactly what it sets out to do, and then does it with no frills.

777 kicking ass and taking names.
Tony Scott has made his share of crappy movies, but thankfully Unstoppable manages to rise above the level of mediocre and is a good, exciting time on the screen. If there is one thing Scott is good at, is building excitement and keeping a breathless pace. There's no Oscar caliber acting, no fantastic script anywhere to be found, but there is heaps of adrenaline and a fun ride. A popcorn movie to the max.

TL;DR - Denzel and Captain Kirk do their best to try and prove the film's title wrong - 7.5/10

Thursday, December 16, 2010

UNTRACEABLE (2008) - When Internet trolls become murderers.

 Untraceable came out a few years ago and completely flew under my radar. I only remember seeing a brief glimpse of the trailer at the theater thinking that Diane Lane is still pretty damn hot for her age (so sue me). Oh yeah, and Tom Hanks' son was in it, so I figured my sister, who is a huge Tom Hanks fan, would probably end up watching it. In any case, a friend recommended it to me after we had mentioned the movie Se7en in conversation. Truth be told, it is a passable thriller, but nowhere near as good as Silence of the Lambs or Se7en. Not by a long shot...

Diane Lane stars as a cyber nerd working for the FBI. She probably hates ebaumsworld.
Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) and Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks) are FBI agents working assigned to the cyber crimes unit in Portland. By night, they patrol that dastardly place known as the Internet, and take on the evils of the world like peer-to-peer networks, credit card scams, and murdering psychopaths. After an anonymous tip, Jennifer and Griffin begin to investigate "" The site is run by a sadistic bastard who posts a live streaming video of a kitten being tortured. The site starts getting visits, and is apparently very difficult to shut down. Jennifer informs her superiors about the website, but seeing as how the servers hosting the site are located out of their jurisdiction in Russia and only a cat was hurt, she's rebuffed.

Colin Hanks up in this bitch!
A few days later, the sadist moves on to torturing humans. A poor schmuck gets kidnapped at a hockey game, and becomes the next attraction on the site. The site displays a message, claiming that the more visits the site gets, the faster the person will be killed. Within hours, the site starts receiving millions of new visitors. Finally, Jennifer's bosses realize they have a real problem on their hands. Another FBI agent is sent to assist Jennifer in the investigation, as the website's owner starts killing more people in more gruesome ways. The stakes get higher once the killer begins to target Jennifer's family and her colleagues at the Bureau. New site, same old retard YouTube comments.
Overall, Untraceable is a passable thriller. It didn't win any awards, and it sure as hell didn't really deserve any. It follows most horror movie/slasher cliches down to a t, and the only saving grace to it is Diane Lane who does a good job with her role. Colin Hanks is fairly decent as well, but it's hard for anyone to shine when the script is so lame. One of my biggest problems with the movie was the ridiculous amount of stupid mistakes. For one, the FBI and the government, with all its money and resources, can't shut down a single website? Come on now. And Jennifer makes several stupid, stupid mistakes that no cop would ever do. In one scene, she's an experienced, smart cop, and in the next she's a typical horror movie bimbo who can't think to save her life.

Serial killer movies are hard to pull off, it's no surprise. What makes Untraceable score even lower than I'd normally give this type of thriller is the fact that it apparently has some sort of "message" about society's fascination with torture porn and sadism. * Yawn. * Yet, the movie tries to squeeze as much shock potential out of it's own scenes of grisly torture. A dude gets bathed in sulfuric acid, another gets burned alive with heating lamps, etc. Hypocrites.

TL;DR - A serial killer streams his murders online. Still gets less views than Keyboard Cat - 4/10

Sunday, December 12, 2010

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) - Snake Plissken. Need I say more?

The first thing that I'll say about this movie is this: the Escape From New York poster is one of the coolest film posters ever made. It's just out there, and everything about it is just class. It even influenced the movie Cloverfield, in which the monster rips off the Statue of Liberty's head and chucks it across New York at some annoying hipsters. Badass. Anyways, about the movie itself. It's got Kurt Russell in it. It's a product of the 80s. . Oh yeah, and it's also directed by John Carpenter, who made The Thing and Halloween. Put two and two together and you know you're in for one hell of a great cult classic

400%? Hmm... still safer than Fresno, California.
Escape from New York takes place in a dystopian future for the United States. World War III has been going on for a few years, cities have been burned to ashes, millions of people nuked, and both the Americans and Russians are trying to finally end the war. Because of the decay of American society and the crime increase, the entire city of New York has been turned into an enormous prison, surrounded by guys with machine guns, barbed wire fences, and a huge concrete wall. Inside, there are no guards and no authority: the prisoners are free to do whatever the hell they want. The city has basically been left to fend for itself and anyone caught inside is, well... shit out of luck, as they say.

Kurt Russell wearing an eye patch. Awesome? Why, yes. Yes it is.
Of course, this becomes a big problem when Air Force One is shot down en-route to some international conference, and the President's escape pod ends up landing somewhere inside the rapist and murderer infested city. It's up to the government to find a way to rescue the president before the deadline to his speech with the Russians, or else something bad might happen. I guess something worse than World War III, if there is such a thing. Oh well. The government turns to a convict, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), who is an ex-commando and generally an all around badass. The thing is, Snake doesn't give a damn about the president, or his country, for that matter.

The police commisioner Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) offers Snake a deal: in return for saving the president and the data he was carrying with him, he'll be given a full pardon and be made a free man. Snake reluctantly agrees, and is about to head out to start the mission when Hauk pulls a fast one on him and informs him the government has injected a small bomb into his artery, which will explode in 24 hours. If he wants to live, he better bring the president back in one piece or they won't dis-activate it. Those bastards...

The best thing about the 80s was the hair. The worst thing? Also the hair.
Snake is sent off to find the president. He sneaks into New York with a glider, landing on the World Trade Center, and thus starts his epic adventure across the shithole that was once a city. Escape from New York relies very heavily on Russell's performance as a somewhat likable anti-hero. It's a good thing though, since Snake is such a cool character. He is just apathetic about everything. He doesn't mind shooting someone in the face, and his only motivation to get out of NY with the president is to get his revenge on that bastard Hauk who back stabbed him. The dystopian New York is as big a character as well. It's a dirty, menacing place overflowing with pyschos and degenerates. John Carpenter keeps things interesting and avoids slowing down the pace in exchange for some great action scenes and suspense. The main theme music is a classic too. I'll hear it sometimes on TV or in the background somewhere and always reminds me of what a great movie this is.

If you love action movies and haven't seen Escape yet, you definitely should. It's a bit grittier than most other 80s movies, and has a distinct feel to it, but it is a fun ride and worth it just to see Kurt Russell at his prime before he did family dramas and Disney crap like Sky High.

TL;DR - An angry, eye-patch wearing Kurt Russell shoots, stabs, and punches his way through New York to rescue the president. Greatness follows. - 9.5/10

Sunday, December 5, 2010

SKYLINE (2010) - Story? We don't need no story. We got LOUD NOISES!

The Skyline trailer came out a few months ago, and I remember thinking it looked somewhat interesting and it caught me by surprise since I hadn't heard any buzz about it. I checked it out on Wikipedia and saw it was directed by the guys behind Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem... "The Brothers Strouse." Besides thinking to myself that would be a good name for a reality show about German bakers, I realized this movie was going to suck hard. Because there's a reason you give directing credit to "The Brothers Strouse" - it's called plausible deniability. See, when the two Strause brothers realized just what an abomination of a movie they were going to release, they knew that in ten years they wouldn't want their name on it. So by having just their last name on the credits, each could blame the other brother for the movie in case they were ever confronted by an angry, knife-wielding schmuck who wanted his $11.50 back after watching Skyline.

Aliens crashed the party and didn't bring booze. What a party foul.
Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) fly to California to spend a few days with his old friend Terry (Donald Faison), who is apparently filthy rich and famous or something. They are celebrating his birthday at his snazzy Los Angeles apartment, and joined by Terry's girlfriend Candice (Brittany Daniel) and his personal assistant Denise (Crystal Reed). The morning after the birthday bash, one of the guys staying in the house is awakened by bright blue lights coming in through the blindsm stares directly at it, and we see his face becomes covered with purple veins and bruises. All of a sudden he is sucked out the window and disappears. The rest of the group wakes up and soon finds out that giant alien space ships are floating over L.A. and are vacuuming up thousands of people for no apparent reason. Jarrod stares at the light as well, but is saved from being vacuumed out himself. The group then has to decide whether to make a run for it and try to leave the city or stay in the apartment and hope for the best.

Save yourself! It's the attack of the giant blue LED lights from space!
The entirety of the movie takes place in the apartment complex. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that you need interesting characters to keep the audience hooked. Misery, which mostly takes place inside a single bedroom, works because Kathy Bates's character is downright amazing as the psychotic bitch nurse from hell. In Skyline, it fails so hard because the characters might as well just die in the first five minutes and nothing of value would be lost. You don't learn anything about them, they don't develop, and you plain just don't give a damn about them. They're boring and have nothing interesting about them. In fact, Terry was the only one that even seemed likable, but since he's the Token Minority Character, you don't have to guess who'll end up dying first.

There could have been hope if at least the aliens were interesting. But no... Skyline had to go and break the cardinal rule of alien invasion movies - no boring aliens. These aliens look like flying metal squid. Well, whoop-de-doo. They're also too stupid to figure out how to grab people inside buildings. The aliens get no back story either. They just show up, start vacuuming up humans, and just chill in L.A. Boring, stupid aliens. Gee, what a thrill.

Hey, it's Turk from Scrubs packing a 9 milli. Giant alien space ships don't stand a chance.
Skyline has some nice eye candy at times (not that often, mind you) and well done special effects and CGI. The close ups of the massive alien ships are really detailed and hold up well in high-def. Without a story or any characters that the audience actually cares about, it's all wasted. By the time the credits roll, it feels like you just watched a demo reel of cool effects made by that weird kid that sat in the back of your class in high school and was always playing with AfterEffects on his Macbook. It's hollow, not exactly thrilling, and ultimately can't grow out of the fact that it is a cobbled together mix of scenes and ideas from other, better sci-fi movies.

The military is useless against the aliens? HOW ORIGINAL.
Like Gary Busey's teeth, Skyline is a disaster.

TL;DR - Aliens invade the world, but no one knows why. No one really cares either. Crap. - 1/10

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TAKERS (2010) - Plagiarizing Better Movies 101

I'll be completely honest and just state the truth: I was convinced this movie would be a piece of crap from the minute I saw the trailer a few months back. Everything I read or heard about the premise of John Luessenhop's movie sounded too close for comfort to one of my favorite movies of all time and a true crime film classic, Michael Mann's Heat. I skipped out on watching it in theaters, and figured I'd scope it out later DVD. Well, the day arrived and I decided to approach the movie with an open mind, however hard that would be. I took comfort in the fact that Matt Dillon and Idris Elba, who did such an awesome job as Stringer Bell in The Wire, were in this. It couldn't be all that bad, now could it?

Paul Walker and T.I. in the same movie?!? Quick, get the Oscars ready...
The opening scenes introduce the crew of robbers as they pull off a quick orchestrated bank heist in downtown Los Angeles. Gordon (Idris Elba), John (Paul Walker), Jake (Michael Ealy) and Jesse (Chris Brown) don ski masks, grab assault rifles and make off with a good haul of cash, while A.J. (Hayden Christensen) steals a news helicopter to make their escape. High fives all around and a obligatory slow-motion explosion of the helicopter as the team walks off in different directions. And there is our crew of stylish, suave group of would be criminal masterminds.

While Gordon and his boys are off blowing their cash on girly drinks at a nightclub, detective Jack Wells (Matt Dillon) and his partner Eddie (Jay Hernandez) are busy beating the daylights out of drug dealers somewhere across the city. Jack, as we soon find out, is a no-frills cop with an eye for detail and a troubled family life. Jack and Eddie are assigned to investigate the bank robbery, and are initially stumped. At the same time, we see a guy named Ghost (T.I.) being released from jail and immediately looking to reunite with Gordon and his former crew.

Cool guys don't look at explosions.
Ghost joins the rest of the "takers" at the club, where he proposes a new job that offers a ton of cash, but warns them that they'll be on a tight schedule. His plan is to rob an armored truck loaded with millions of dollars in plain daylight with less than a week to prepare, thanks to inside information given to him by a Russian mob connection. The crew reluctantly agrees to take on the new heist, although some of the guys don't trust Ghost, especially Jake, who has just proposed to Ghost's ex girlfriend.

As the team prepares themselves for the job, the detectives are hard at work trying to solve the first robbery and looking for leads. After a routine bust, Jake and Eddie find evidence linking Ghost to the Russian mob. Jake tails Ghost and eventually sees him meet with Gordon and Jesse. As Jake continues to get closer to solving the case, the day of the heist arrives and ultimately results in a hectic web of betrayal, some obvious twists, and a few genuinely interesting action set pieces.

Matt Dillon's pimp hand is feeling mighty strong these days.
Before I proceed to vent out my frustrations with what could have been a decent heist movie, I'll blurt out the good to be found in this flick. There's a very cool foot chase between the two detectives and Chris Brown's character, which lasts an eternity and has some parkour moves a la Casino Royale's opening credits and is generally exhilarating. Idris Elba did not disappoint and was the highlight of the movie with a good performance limited only by this terrible script. Matt Dillon held his own as well, but that's about as far as it gets. On to the problematic...
Let's all chill together at da club after committing some felonies, yo.
Chris Brown and T.I. cannot act to save their life. Brown is atrocious. This should come as no surprise seeing as how Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen, who are also terrible, are part of this cast. The editing is dizzying and the action suffers from the schizophrenic camera. One promising shoot out scene is ruined by some excessive slow-motion and an even worse soundtrack choice. Speaking of choices, someone ought to bitch slap the guy behind this script. It's as if he decided to one day gather every possible action movie cliche and write a needlessly complex and uninspired plot around them. What's worse, there are almost whole sections of dialogue, characters, and even action scenes lifted from other movies.

The armored car robbery plays out like a straight rip off of the much more exciting finale in The Italian Job. Matt Dillon's detective investigating the robbery is divorced and having trouble being a good father to his daughter, just like Al Pacino's character in Heat. At the scene of the initial robbery, Jake comments on the technical proficiency of the robbers and their use of shaped charges and C4... wait for it... just as Pacino does in Heat. The lines sound almost exactly the same. The opening bank robbery is eerily similar to the Heat's famous bank robbery, even down to the guns the characters use, their outfits and the stuff they say.

I mean, even the blueish hue to the scenes is blatantly lifted from Mann's movie. Except that in Heat, it fit the minimalist, loner characterization of De Niro's role and the bleak portrayal of a decadent Los Angeles, while the guys in Takers hit up a nightclub after their heist and hook up with chicks, smoke cigars and sip scotch like a scene out of Jersey Shore. The only thing missing was for DJ Pauly D to make a cameo appearance and start bumping some beats. All flash and absolutely no dash.

Sadly, this would only have improved this disaster of a movie.
I vainly held hope that it would turn out to be decent, and it crashed and burned.Takers is shamelessly derivative to a fault and has very little going for it. It's a dumbed down, MTV version of better films that deserves to be shown on basic cable and nothing else. Wooden cast (save for Elba and Dillon), wooden story, and only one or two passable action scenes to keep you interested. If you're in the mood for a good heist/crime drama, watch The Town, or even better, rent or stream Heat. Give this piece of crap a wide berth.

TL;DR - A rip off of better crime movies, but with a bad cast, bad writing and no shame whatsoever. Yes, I mad. - 2/10

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

FOUR BROTHERS (2005) - Marky Mark.... in the hood.

Mark Wahlberg is one of those guys that you either love or hate. He has made a few good movies, a few terrible ones, and generally gets along rather well on his charisma. His role as the foul mouthed Sgt. Dignam in The Departed was pure gold, and of course everyone remembers his Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights. I generally find him to be good fun whenever he's in a movie, and most of his action flicks are pretty decent. Four Brothers is a solid revenge movie with a capable cast and an interesting plot, although in the end it's not exactly memorable. It's like that one girlfriend you had ten years ago, who was pretty cute and she might have even been funny or good at Super Smash Bros, but you're hard pressed to remember her name. Yeah, like that.

Why don't they brainstorm indoors? It's cold outside yo!
The movie opens with Evelyn Mercer, an older woman who has adopted several hoodlum kids in the past, doing some shopping at a Detroit convenience store. Two masked robbers run in and force the cashier to empty the register, and on their way out, kill Evelyn and the employee. A few days later, we find out that Evelyn's adopted children, now grown up, are back in town for the funeral. Bobby (Wahlberg), Angel (Tyrese Gibson), Jeremiah (André Benjamin) and Jack (Garrett Hedlund) are confused and wondering why Evelyn was shot in such a random manner. The brothers are warned by a local cop, Lt. Green (Terrance Howard) to let the police do their job and keep clear of any trouble, which of course, Mark Wahlberg being Mark Wahlberg and a general badass, wholly ignores the advice and goes on the prowl to find the killers.

Mark Wahlberg's hairline has seen better days.
The brothers eventually find the guys responsible for their mother's death, and execute both of them, but not before finding out that there might be more than meets the eye with regards to the shooting. Angel finds out that Jeremiah was the sole beneficiary of their mother's $400,000 life insurance policy, and that his construction company has not been doing too well - things that Jeremiah has forgotten to inform his brothers about. It's up to Bobby, Angel and Jack to find out just what exactly went down the day their mother was shot, what the deal is with their brother Jeremiah, and why rumor has it that local crime boss Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor) had something to do with Evelyn's murder.

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Victor Sweet, the villian. Serious dude is serious.
The movie is essentially just what you'd expect from the basic premise of a revenge story. The mostly good cast does a decent job with their roles, although the only performance that really stands out is Chiwetel Ejiofor's turn as Victor Sweet. He was the highlight of every scene he was in, and had some genuinely hilarious moments, like when he forced one of his thugs the guy's poor wife to eat spaghetti off the floor. I'm sure the director was going for the dangerous and sadistic vibe for Sweet, but the scene was unintentionally funny, seeing the normally refined and well-spoken Ejiofor saying stuff like, "bitch, git yo ass up." The rest of the cast plods along, with Wahlberg trying to pull off dark and unstable as Bobby Mercer, but it's nothing to write home about.

Four Brothers holds up relatively well compared to most other revenge movies. The plot is intricate enough to keep the viewer guessing, and there is plenty of action to keep things interesting, including a cool chase scene on icy roads that ends in a lot of mayhem. Also, this being a Marky Mark movie, there is the obligatory fist fight in which some poor idiot gets his face bashed in. It's gritty, entertaining, and ultimately satisfying.

TL;DR - Decent revenge story with Mark Wahlberg acting like Mark Wahlberg and fighting dudes - 6/10

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

28 DAYS LATER (2002) - Fast zombies?!? Game over, man.

I apologize for the lack of posts recently, seeing as how I've been fairly busy with job interviews and the addictive drug that are Black Ops and CoH: Online. However, I have been watching a few good movies so I have a bit of a back log to make up for. Recently, I've been watching The Walking Dead on AMC and if you haven't seen it, give it a shot. It's a damn good show that's been picking up pace since the pilot episode and there's only a few episodes left before the season ends. Anyways, seeing all that zombie mayhem got me in the mood for some zombie post-apocalyptic horror, and I decided I'd give one of my personal favorites of the genre another watch.

28 Days Later is directed by Danny Boyle, of Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire fame, and suffice to say, it's a bit different from most zombie movies. The flick kicks off with some animal liberation nutjobs breaking into a British medical laboratory and releasing monkeys infected with the highly contagious "Rage virus." Despite the frantic pleas of the scientist they capture, who warns them that a single drop of blood can infect anyone, the activists release the animals, and the chimps go batshit crazy and attack everyone. It turns out that Rage is a virus that turns anyone infected into, well... a raging maniac with a taste for murder and human flesh. And as opposed to the generic slow, clumsy zombies we're used to seeing in movies, the infected in Boyle's film are fast as Kenyan sprinters and absolutely tireless - jumping, climbing and avoiding obstacles.

London is empty. Cillian is all alone. Except not. There's zombies. Fast ones.
After the lab scene, the screen fades to black and we're presented with the words "28 days later," and see as Jim (Cillian Murphy), a former bicycle courier, lies completely naked on a hospital bed. He awakens and makes his way through the deserted hospital. As he stumbles outside, he realizes that London is completely devoid of people, leading to some very impressive shots of Jim in his hospital robe walking down an empty Westminster Bridge in amazement and horror. Jim quickly learns that he is in fact not alone. He is chased out of a church by a mob of deranged zombies intent on eating his face, when he is saved by two survivors, Mark and Selena (Naomie Harris).

The group takes shelter in an abandoned shop and Jim is told about the spreading of the virus, the chaos that followed and the evacuation and breakdown of the British government. Jim insists on visiting his parents to see if they are alive, and the other two survivors reluctantly agree. They arrive at the house the next day to see Jim's parents lying dead in their bed. Their forced to spend the night there, and in the middle of the night they're attacked by the infected. Mark is bitten and Selena kills him at once with a huge machete, knowing that he'd turn into one of the zombies near instantly. Selena and Jim eventually meet Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah, who are holed up in their apartment, and as a group decide to follow instructions Frank has heard on the radio announcing a survivor's center near Manchester.

The zombie apocalypse? I still needs my Cocoa Pebbles dawg.
28 Days Later has a relentless pace that never lets up, and Danny Boyle has a great talent for creating excruciating tension with his scenes. Walking into an abandoned gas station or going around a corner, you're constantly expecting something brutal to happen. Strangely enough, there's not a lot of gore compared to some other flicks of the genre, but the effect is the same and doesn't subtract from the horror aspect. The infected are genuinely badass - they're vicious, very fast, agile and have a habit of exploding out of the screen when you least expect them. The performances are generally good as well, with Cillian Murphy having a great starring role in his first major well known gig. He's believable and does a good job of portraying the fear and terror he goes through in the scenes.

It took me a while to finally watch this movie again, but I'm glad I finally did. Boyle's movie is an instant classic in the zombie genre, no doubt. It's a fresh take and one that is worthy of watching with some friends to maximize the scares and thrills. Very recommended.

TL;DR - Scarecrow from Batman Begins hides from zombies in England. Profit? - 8/10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

PASSENGER 57 (1992) - "Always bet on black."

In the early 1990s, action movies were close to the pinnacle of perfection. They had everything a man movie needs: absurd plots, half-hour long gunfights, ultra-cool synth soundtracks, etc. There was one thing missing though. The decade that gave us Rambo, John McClane, every Arnold role, and all those generic Van Damme movies had few notable black dudes starring in their own action flicks. In stepped Wesley Snipes to save the day for Hollywood, and for a few years, he almost A-list material. Today, poor old Wesley might be locked up in prison for not paying taxes, but in 1992 he was legit. And it was this movie right here that kicked off an eventful career of ass-kicking, drop-kicking,  face-punching and tax evasion  - Passenger 57.

Only Wesley Snipes can rock this outfit. Don't even try it, man.
Passenger 57 starts off with Charles Rane (Bruce Payne), a master terrorist (is there any other kind?) about to get some plastic surgery to avoid capture by the FBI. Right before the surgeon makes the first cut, Rane realizes he's being set up by the feds and slices the good doc's throat with a scalpel and tries to make a run for it. I said try, because he ends up getting run over by a cop car and taken into custody.

While Rane's ass is sent to jail, we see ex-cop John Cutter (Snipes) working at an airline, teaching security lessons. After a rough day at the job, his executive big shot friend Sly Delvecchio (Tom Sizemore, before he started doing loads of coke)  offers him a job at his company, which Cutter eventually accepts. In the meantime, we see that the FBI, in all its infinite wisdom, has decided to transport Rane, the world's most dangerous man, aboard  a regular commercial flight, with only two cops to escort him. Terrorists: 1, Government Planners, 0.
Sitting next to a murderer is only slightly worse than sitting next to that kid that keeps kicking your seat.
Of course, it wouldn't be much of an action movie if Rane just killed both guards and flew off to Tahiti to drink tequila shots on the beach with supermodels for the rest off his life. No sir. By a stroke of luck, John Cutter happens to be on the very same flight.

Rane is such an evil, criminal mastermind of great skill that he has managed to put his own people aboard the plane. In a matter of minutes once the plane takes off, his guys kill both FBI agents and take over the plane. It's then up to Cutter to take back the plane and capture Rane, with only a stewardess to help him out. In the course of the movie, Cutter will jump out of a moving plane, punch a French guy in the throat, hit that French ponytail wearing bastard with a golf club in the balls, ride a motorcycle dangerously (why of course), beat up some redneck cops, and deliver some classic one-liners.

Tax problems already, Wesley?

I watched Passenger 57 with my dad as a kid, and at the time we thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Since I was about 8 or 9, anything rated R was just about as close to heaven on earth as it got. My dad and I watched the movie again this week for nostalgia's sake, and fun was had by all. The movie has aged pretty well, except for the soundtrack, which is just as cheesy and lame as it was back in the 90s. To be fair though, most movies from this decade suffer from the same thing, so it's not really that much of a drawback. Snipes does a believable job, and though he won't win any Oscars for his work, he's entertaining and he's easy to root for. Bruce Payne tries a bit too hard as the English-accented terrorist, and he isn't a particularly memorable villain.

Overall, not a bad movie - just what you'd expect from the typical 90s action/thriller mix. Good for a watch if you've never seen it, or if you have a massive, unexplained celebrity crush on Wesley Snipes and his questionable clothing choices during this decade.

TL;DR - It's like Die Hard. On an airplane. And the good guy is black. - 6/10

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

COMMANDO (1985) - Arnold at his glorious best

In the 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the top of his game. His accent was nearly undecipherable, he killed at least 50 guys per movie, had the best one liners, and he probably ate steroids with every meal. Commando is probably the best movie ever made about a retired soldier who destroys a small Latin American country and kills a gay Australian villain in order to rescue his kidnapped daughter. In fact, I'm amazed that Out of Africa won Best Picture in 1985, since there's no way that borefest could have ever legitimately beat Arnold's magnum opus. Even the movie poster was badass. Just Arnold giving you a stone cold death stare. And the title is just one word: Commando - it assures you that the body count will be ridiculous.

Arnold showing his daughter how to feed dynamite to a deer.
Retired Special Forces soldier John Matrix (Arnold, obviously) lives in the mountains, far away from civilization. His daily routine consists of a healthy breakfast, followed by a few hours of deforestation, carrying tree trunks and a chainsaw back home, and later eating delicious sandwiches made by his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). His idyllic life is interrupted when an Army helicopter carrying his former boss and two soldiers shows up. John is told that his old war buddies are being killed off, and no one knows who's doing it or why. The soldiers are stationed at the Matrix house to protect John and his girl, and the general flies off. In true guy movie fashion, there is no time wasted - as soon as the helicopter disappears over the hills, John smells the bad guys about to appear. They do, and they quickly shoot both soldiers dead and kidnap poor Jenny and make good their escape.

My daughter was kidnapped? BRB, shopping.
In one of the movie's most hilarious and over the top scenes, John pushes his sabotaged Chevy truck down mountain and chases after the villains, smashing through the forest with no brakes. Eventually, he crashes and is captured by the kidnappers, the leader of which is revealed to be a former protege of John's, a chain-mail vest wearing guy named Bennett (Vernon Wells). It turns out that Bennett and friends want John Matrix to overthrow some Latin American president in Val Verde (gotta love those fictional countries), and they make it abundantly clear he will never see his daughter again if he refuses. He'll have to escape from his captors and find a way to get her back before his time limit runs out.

Bennett wears a chain-mail vest. Hey, it's the 80s...
In the traditional sense, Commando is an average action movie. The dialogue is mostly stupid, the plot was thought up by 4th graders, and Arnold's acting is comparable to a tree rehearsing Hamlet. But it's so good as a celebration of the lost art of mindless action movies. The point of the movie is to see how much stuff Arnold can destroy and how many guys he can shoot in the film's 90 minute running time. I've compiled a short list of some of the crazy stuff Matrix does throughout the film:
  • jumps off an airliner in mid take off and falls hundreds of feet through the air into a pond... and walks away
  • throws a guy off a cliff
  • rips out a car seat with his bare hands
  • picks up a phone booth and throws it at some cops
  • impales a bad guy on a steam pipe, and suggests he "let off some steam."
  • throws saw blades at a dude's face
  • shoots about 200 bullets from a single rifle without reloading
Many manly tears of joy were shed during this scene.
The bad dialogue is hilarious, and there's a gold mine of quotable scenes. The score is typical 80s action music, but I swear, you hear the Commando theme once, and you'll recognize it years later. Most of the humor in the movie is very tongue in cheek and no one seems to be taking themselves too serious. It's mindless, it's crude, and it's great. I love this movie.

TL;DR - Arnold destroys a small country and fights a gay Australian to get his kidnapped daughter back - 9/10

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    UNBREAKABLE (2000) - M. Night Shyamamalalalan takes on superheroes

    Unbreakable was something of a rarity for me. I had never seen this movie before reviewing it tonight. The reason for the 10 year delay in watching Unbreakable is M. Night Shyamalan's latest series of terrible, eye-gouging-inducing movies. I couldn't bring myself to watch more crap movies with a gimmick twist ending, but a friend recommended this one, so I couldn't say no. Thankfully, this flick is one of his best (not that many to choose from, I know) and it was an interesting movie with a few decent, well-done twists. The fact that it's got Samuel L. Jackson already made it a million times better than the average movie. Sam Jackson could be in a laundry detergent commercial and that shit would be the best laundry detergent commercial you'd ever see.

    Samuel L. Jackson's hair... on a good day.
    Unbreakable begins with a black woman giving birth in a department store. A doctor comes to assist her since her baby won't stop screaming, obviously in pain. The doctor is astonished to find that the baby has suffered several fractures, much to everyone's surprise and horror. Flash forward a few years, and we see a young kid with his arm in a sling, refusing to go outside and play for fear of getting hurt. His mom gives him a comic book in order to get him out in the fresh air, on the condition that he cross the street to get it. Another jump in time, and it's revealed that the boy, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) has grown up into owning a fancy comic book art store and seems to hobble around. He explains that since childhood, he's been called "Mr. Glass" for the ease with which his bones are broken.

    "And in the evening, I relax by lifting weights in excess of 300 pounds with no spotter."
    The film then focuses on security guard David Dunn (Bruce Willis), who is traveling by train and is involved in a massive accident when the trail is derailed. Everyone aboard the train is killed, except for David, who miraculously escapes without a single bruise. Elijah notices the news and gets in contact with David, asking him if he ever remembers being sick or injured. A confused David, who has pretty messed up relationship with his estranged wife, can't remember a single time he was hurt. While visiting Elijah's store with his son, David is told by Elijah that his survival in the train wasn't an accident, and implies that he might have superhuman abilities as told in comic books. David obviously has a hard time believing creep with funky hair and purple overcoat, but his son starts to think it's no coincidence. Over time, David also suspects that something is fishy about the whole situation, especially after he's able to bench press something like 500 pounds without breaking a sweat.

    This is why you should spank your children.
    The rest of the movie then covers Elijah's creeper attempts to get closer to David's family and David's realization that he might in fact be a superhero. Unbreakable is a pretty interesting story, and of course, being an M. Night Shyamalan movie, you know it's going to have some sort of kooky tweests and turns. The acting is mostly good, with Bruce Willis having a pretty subdued performance as the troubled family man, and Sam Jackson doing his usual good job with whatever the script wants from him. My main problem with this movie, and in fact, every Shyamalan movie, is the fact that everyone seems to whisper. WHISPERING all the time. It gets annoying. It doesn't add substance to the movie - it just gets tired after a while and irritated me to no end.

    Overall, it's not a bad film by any stretch. It's got some memorable scenes, especially the parts in which David starts discovering his abilities, and it is surprisingly watchable despite the stupid whispered dialogue in some scenes and the moody lighting. Compared to the director's last craptastic movies, Unbreakable almost seems like his masterpiece. It's an above average thriller, with a good turn by Sam Jackson, and without giving any spoilers, I'll just say the ending was a bit of a letdown.

    TL;DR - Bruce Willis might be a superhero but he doesn't know it and Samuel L. Jackson has funny hair - 6/10

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Battle: Los Angeles trailer released

    ... and it looks straight up badass. Ever since we got a really short and vague teaser trailer a few months back, I'd been waiting to see the full length trailer for Battle: Los Angeles, which is coming next year. Check out the trailer. It basically looks like District 9, Black Hawk Down and Independence Day had an unholy child and bathed it in glorious 1080p Marines vs. aliens sci fi goodness.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    THE ITALIAN JOB (2003) - Marky Mark and the Thieving Bunch

    Everyone loves a good heist flick. If someone ever tells you they don't, they are liars or they hate life in general. In any case, stay away from them and find normal friends. Anyways, the 1960s and 70s were a great time for old fashioned caper movies, and one of the best of the bunch was The Italian Job, which starred Michael Caine and involved a pretty awesome series of chases through Venice. The 2003 movie is inspired by it, but has a new plot and characters, and is a stand up action movie in its own right. Also, it's got Charlize Theron in it and she's looks pretty hot throughout the whole thing. It didn't take much else to convince me to choose this as my next review.

    Why do I love this movie? Here's a clue: it starts with Charlize and ends with Theron
    The movie opens with a shout out to the original flick, with a scene in Venice, as veteran thief and safe-cracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) calls his daughter back in the U.S., telling her he's in Italy for one last job. John meets up with his crew of thieves, led by Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) and they prepare for a heist involving a huge amount of gold bricks. The team includes getaway driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), computer nerd Lyle (Seth Green), explosives pyromaniac Left Ear (Mos Def) and con man Steve (Edward Norton). They get their hands on the gold and they make their way out of the city on speedboats and meet up later to celebrate. The celebrating doesn't last long however, when they're betrayed by a jealous and greedy Steve, who pops a cap in John and makes off with the gold stash, leaving the others for dead in a frozen lake.

    Every good heist movie needs its share of witty banter.
    Charlie and his gang obviously start planning their revenge on that asshole Steve. To get back their stolen gold, which Steve is sure to keep in a safe, Charlie goes to recruit John's daughter Stella (Charlize Theron), who is a master safe-cracker herself. She agrees to take on the job to avenge her dead father, and the crew gets back to work, scoping out Steve's new mansion and planning to break into his security system. Steve being the bastard that he is, is still very much convinced Charlie and his buddies are dead and is trying hard to sell off his gold.
    Yes, I did just add another picture of Charlize into the review. Haters gon' hate.
    The gang's first attempt to break into Steve's house and crack his safe goes wrong after Steve wises up and recognizes Stella as the late John's daughter. Charlie is forced to go back to step one and a get a new plan, which will eventually end up including a 400-pound obese Samoan dude, an awesome car chase throughout Los Angeles in tricked out Mini Coopers, explosions, a lot of Jason Statham's scowling, the Russian mafia, etc.

    Mini Coopers. Mini Coopers EVERYWHERE.
    The original 1969 movie had a lot of comedy alongside its caper story, and was a damn good watch. This Italian Job follows the same formula. It never takes itself too seriously and instead keeps the action moving breezily and uses its cast to good effect. Wahlberg is decent, Charlize is hot, Mos Def's annoying level is at an all-time low, Seth Green has some funny lines, and Statham, as usual, is damn hilarious. Edward Norton always does a great villain too, even if Steve is not exactly one of his best roles. He's more of a tremendous douchebag than a criminal mastermind, but in keeping with the tone of the flick it works well.

    It's my blog, and I'll post as much Charlize as I want.
    I doubt there's many people that haven't already seen it, but if you're out there, and you've been living under a rock with no cable or Netflix, it's worth a watch.

    TL;DR - Marky Mark makes robbing people look so easy, you'll want to do it too - 7.5/10