Film Review : Non-Stop (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 60%

Directed By – Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring – Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, and Lupita Nyong’o

An air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.

Back when I was working at the theater, I had an employee whose movie opinion I was constantly frustrated with but at the same time respected. He loved films I hated and hated films I loved, but always explained his reasoning with sound logic. When this film came out I was convinced it was going to just be another vehicle for Liam Neeson to be a badass and fuck up bad guys. I knew it wasn’t going to be like “The Grey” which was one of the better winter releases of the last couple years. I expected something along the lines of Taken 2 meets Red Eye. My friend lauded the tense build up and reveal being unexpected. Well, he one of those two things correct and one entirely wrong. The latter ended up ruining the entire film for me.

The synopsis above pretty much sums up the plot. Liam Neeson plays an alcoholic air marshall who has zero people skills unless it involves making little girls happy. Julianne Moore literally plays one of the most useless characters I’ve ever seen on film. He character was not needed in ANYTHING. She served no purpose to the plot other than to shift the suspicion from time to time and to be a person Liam Neeson has to save. Julianne Moore is completely wasted in this movie. In fact, the whole cast is pretty much wasted besides Neeson, who still wasn’t that great. Lupita Nyong’o, who won a fucking Oscar, has maybe three or four speaking lines in the entire film, and the ones she has are lines that could have been given by anybody. It’s just really strange how misused the entire cast was.

Despite the cast, the first half of the movie was actually pretty damn engaging and creative. The use of the text messaging, while annoying to most, actually didn’t bother me that much. I was intrigued by how this person was killing people and still being able to text while doing so. Is it stupid? Hell yeah it is, but I was still sucked into figuring it out. The 180 that both the trailer and the synopsis spoils made for some interesting plot devices and I actually wanted to know how Liam Neeson was going to get out of it.

Then the final third started to happen. We start to learn who the real criminal is and I was lost. It was such a disappointment when the big shocker of a twist happens and all I could think was “Really?”. The action in the last third was completely bonkers and the whole problem with the cast came into full play because I didn’t care about anybody anymore. It ruined the whole film for me.

There were ultimately some good techniques used in the first half of the film. The end and the fact that none of the characters had any depth save for Liam Neeson and you really start to lose your audience. It ended up being an average film with a shit ending. I wouldn’t waste your time unless it’s on cable and you have nothing better to do.

2/5



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Film Review : Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 92%

Directed By – James Gunn
Starring – Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Booker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz, Glenn Close, and Benicio Del Toro

In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.

As of today, I have seen less than five Marvel films, including this one. I was never really into comic books and honestly, the films have not impressed me besides the first Iron Man and The Avengers. Everything changed after seeing this though. A lot of people are claiming this is the best film of the year. They claiming this is the best Marvel film ever. I’ll tel you this. It is NOT the best film of the year. It is arguably the best Marvel film along with The Avengers. This is a film that has one thing going for it, something that it can claim to be unmatched by any other film released in 2014. You will not have more fun in a theater. It’s the funniest movie of the year with pretty great action sequences and special effects. I was shocked by how much I laughed. This is a better comedy than most comedies that have been released in the last five years. Believe the hype. This is the blockbuster of the year.

Like I said earlier, I had no idea what the hell the film was about before I went to the theater. I saw a trailer or two but really only remember what the main cast looked like. I’ve always been a DC person having grown up immersing myself in Batman things besides the comics. Yes I realize I’m not a true nerd by saying that. During the Marvel renaissance I tried to get into the worlds but they never grabbed me. In a way, this film was just like that. The film started and while they did a good job explaining the worlds to me, I just wasn’t grabbed. The antics from Pratt were funny throughout, but it really wasn’t until the last hour of the film where the movie went from decent to fucking awesome. Pratt is a sure fire star in the making. I’ve known this for a while now after seeing him constantly be the funniest part of Parks and Rec but this just iced the cake. Zoe Saldana seems to get cast as the ass kicking alien chick in ever single film so I wasn’t really wowed there. It was just the same routine. Dave Bautista was a scene stealer as DJax, a brute of a man seeking revenge. The ones who made me laugh the most though was the team that made the whole film for me, Rocket and Groot. Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, talked way too much and Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel, talked too little. It was a perfect blend of character and the two of them provided the most belly laughs from me. There are a bunch of scenes involving Groot that had me hunched over. The supporting cast was pretty great, as we get a fantastic performance from Michael Rooker and an evil one from Lee Pace. The cast was just perfect overall.

I did’t really expect the film to be this charming either. The film opens with an emotional punch that leaves the audience reeling and then we have Chris Pratt dancing to 80’s tunes in the scene after. The back and forth between intense and powerful set pieces and goofy fun never felt exhausting. It blended together effortlessly which was to be expected from James Gunn. He was able to do the same in his previous films such as Super and Slither. He crafts serious genre films but in a style and humor that goes back and forth without losing the viewer. He was a perfect choice for this film. It’s going to be very interesting seeing what he does with the sequel, one of which I’m already waiting for.

It’s honestly hard for me to talk about this film. I don’t know the universe well and there were SO MANY scenes that had me cracking up that I just can’t talk about on opening weekend for spoiler reasons. All I can say that is the hype is real. This is one of the better blockbuster films of the last couple years and certainly the most fun you can have in a theater right now. Planet of the Apes may be a better piece of art, but Guardians of the Galaxy is just way too much fun to pass up. See it.

4.5/5




Film Review : Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Directed By – Matt Reeves
Starring – Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Toby Kebbell, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer, and Gary Oldman

In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.

ALL HAIL CAESAR!!!

Gah! I just want to see it again!A couple years ago I was shocked by how much I liked the reboot of The Planet of the Apes. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking that they must have just ran out of idea because Tim Burton already ruined a great franchise, but to my surprise Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a fantastic attempt to reboot the whole series. Well, it is almost certain that this is going to last a while because “Dawn” is cleaning house at the box office and just so happens to be one of the best action movies I’ve seen since District 9. I mention that film because it was the last time, other than Inception, that I was blown away by an effects driven action film. I was on the edge of my seat. I was slacked jawed at the entire middle act. I walked away from the theater immediately thinking of when the next time I could go back to see it. I needed a little pick me up this week.

The film starts out with a stage setting sequence that actually doesn’t suck for once as it tells us about the fall of the human race due to our dance with science and the need to help old people with Alzheimer’s. There are few who were genetically immune to the epidemic and survived but are now forced to live in mad max style colony with gas generators and filth running in the streets. This isn’t a human world anymore, at least not near San Francisco. The outer forests of California, which look like the Amazon in this film, are now colonized by a much more advanced society of apes led by the one, the only, fucking Caesar. Seriously, he may be one of my favorite movie characters after this film. The writing staff who worked on this film just nailed the character and all his moral glory. Caesar is still living with familiar faces such as Maurice the giant Orangutan and Koba the scar faced lab ape. Caesar also has a new family comprised of a son and wife, both of whom play a big role in the film. It’s funny but the film picked a great time to be released with all the tension in Israel and Pakistan, but also stuck to serious moral issues of family and friendship. I won’t go to far into the plot because it’s a ride you want to take on your own but the trailer gave most of that away anyway.

I was surprised by how much the story of the film payed homage to Shakespeare, Julius Caesar to be specific, which is a funny joke if you ask me. It seems like it would be at least. A subtle retelling of Julius Caesar about an ape…NAMED CAESAR? It sounds crazy, but it actually worked quite well as we see tension and fighting within the ape colony. This is their film by the way. Do not go into this film thinking that you’re going to get a whole lot of Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke. They are there only to progress the storyline as the natural enemy, meaning being human, of the apes. The real meat and potatoes is all ape baby and the actors behind these apes should be heaped with praise. HEAPED. Andy Serkis continues to be an absolute treasure in a motion capture suit. “Rise” was impressive enough, but this film takes motion capture to a whole new level. There were more close up shots of all the apes doing ape things that made me believe I was watching the real thing. The only ape that looked CGI was Caesar’s son Blue Eyes, who for some reason just could not shake the fact that he wasn’t real. Every other ape, mostly the villainous Koba, looked completely genuine and was helped greatly by their motion actors. Speaking of Koba, Toby Kebbell may have outshined Serkis with his performance. If I was present in front of Koba I would be shitting my pants. His scarred body and menacing jaws would have had me running in the other direction as I was actually pretty frightened in the theater, which doesn’t happen much. The on screen humans, led by a great actor in Jason Clarke, all did a fantastic job hooking me emotionally into the story. There were some moments that just weren’t needed much, mostly having to do with the kid and girlfriend of Clarke, but it didn’t distract too much. Gary Oldman was fantastic as always and had two really great scenes in where he both gave a speech and made me teary eyed. The cast was a home run.

The action was just top notch. There was one scene involving a tank that seriously almost made me stand up and clap. It reminded me of shots that Alfonso Cauron would construct in Children of Men. It’s easily my favorite shot of the year and may be my favorite shot since Gravity came out. The gigantic ending set piece which climaxed the film was pretty awesome but seemed to mirror the final set piece in “The Amazing Spiderman” too much. I was into it, but it just seemed to similar. The whole est of the film was so unique that the ending that the ending battle just let me down a tiny bit. Oh, and finally, we arrive and end with Caesar. The opening and final shots of his face are just perfect. Perfect!

As you can see, I loved the film. I want to see it again. Hopefully I’ll see it again because it was a blast to watch and a serious contender for my top films of the year. I’m so glad it’s making money because Matt Reeves is a talent behind the camera and really seems to have a grasp on this franchise. Hell, Nolan couldn’t even make two outstanding Batman films back to back. He made a Dark Knight sandwich with two stale pieces of bread. This is the making of a serious sandwich fit for a king. An ape king. FUCKING CAESAR!

4.5/5




Classic Film Review : The Killer (1989)

IMDB Score – 8.10
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%

Directed By – John Woo
Starring – Yun-Fat Chow, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh, Kong Chu, Kenneth Tsang, and Fui-On Shing

A disillusioned assassin accepts one last hit in hopes of using his earnings to restore vision to a singer he accidentally blinded, only to be double-crossed by his boss.

Am I an asshole? Am I an asshole for not liking this film? Look at those ratings. 8.0? 100%? I’m going to just assume that I’m a horrible person for thinking this film was one of the cheesiest things I’ve ever watched. I’m a bad person and you should stop reading. Seriously John Woo? SHRIMP HEAD?

I’ll be honest off the bat, I haven’t seen many Woo films. Growing up I had a steady dosage of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, but anything related to John Woo fell by the wayside. I’ve seen his American films but this was my first dive into his films with Chow Yun Fat. It started poorly.

First let me state that the police in this film are horrible. They may possibly be the most insanely inept squad of men I’ve seen in film. They let people get assassinated easier than whoever ran the parade in Dallas. Chow Yu Fat was sitting on a boat with a gun pointed at a very important man whom the police force KNEW could be assassinated and nobody spotted him. They were at a goddamn rowing race. There was literally a thousand people watching the water and they couldn’t see Chow Yun Fat with a bad mustache and a rifle. Then when a bullet blasted through his head, they covered him up and said he fainted. I could have spread that cheese on toast.

The whole film was cheese. The WHOLE film. Woo tried to portray serious emotion but when one of the characters is screaming over the loss of his buddy Shrimp Head, yeah you lost me. The movie also suffered from cliche action movie tropes such as endless ammo, endless villains, and endless times you get shot in the chest before you die. I guess I should be appreciating the action scenes and taking an 80s film for what it’s worth but I’m not going to do that. I hope Hard Boiled is better than this or I’m not even going to touch John Woo again.

Wait, Red Cliff was fucking awesome. This must have just been a mistake. Also, I know get the John Woo dove jokes now. I have arrived to that level of movie reference.

1.5/5



Film Review : The Rover (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 66%

Directed By – David Michôd
Starring – Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, David Field, Tawanda Manyimo, Susan Prior, and Anthony Hayes

10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened, ruthless ex-soldier tracks down the men who stole his only possession. As he travels through the lawless Australian outback, he takes a damaged young man as his unwitting accomplice.

A while back I wrote about the work of David Michôd. The man is responsible for one of my favorite films in the last ten years, Animal Kingdom, and after delving into his short film work and the movie “Hesher”, which he scripted, it’s safe to say he’s one of my favorite directors working today. Once I found out that The Landmark Sunshine theater in NYC was going to be getting the film a week before it’s widely released, I had to shoot down and see it. The auditorium wasn’t packed, but had a substantial amount of people in it. I made a joke to one of my friends that there were going to be women in there that were only present to see them some Robby Patt (Yes, I just made that up) and fuck me were there actually a group of girls in there that were very keen on making that fact known. I couldn’t believe it. That’s dedication guys. It’s also quite sad. Those girls did not like the movie I’m sure. I however, loved it. All my waiting and anticipation paid off because the film ended up being exactly what I wanted, a challenging and laboring work that will be both loved and hated by audiences. That is my kind of party.

The story is set in the future but there are no flying cars or androids. Without being told what happened, Australia’s economy has collapsed and spun the country into a state of free for all lawlessness with the only form of “police” coming from either rogue military groups or paid mercenaries. It’s a baron wasteland even worse than what the country was before…a baron wasteland (Please don’t hate me Jordan/Eddie). We meet a man who is given no name throughout the film, played by the outright vicious and brutal Guy Pearce. His car is stolen and he is going to get it back. Along his chase of his vehicle he runs across Ray, the brother of one of the men who stole his vehicle, played by an almost unrecognizable Robert Pattinson. Those ladies must have shit a brick when they saw his face because the heartthrob vampire was transformed into a simple, dangerous, broken, and outright ugly kid. What follows next can really only be experienced in the cinema so I’ll leave that to you.

Disregarding my joke before, I have the utmost respect and fascination with the country of Australia when it comes to film. The work coming out of there in the last few years has just been outstanding. David Michôd has stood out among the crowd and with the completion of this film, totally formed a fresh pair of eyes on the way we watch movies. He sculpts his films with meticulous care and attention while also having the skill to leave the audience in a state of utter confusion. I’ll be honest, I fought with this film. I went from loving it, to questioning it, to being shocked, to being underwhelmed, to being overwhelmed, and finally floored by the ending. The crowd I was with seemed to be going through this battle with me. As the credits rolled, groans were heard, sarcasm was spoken, but some butts, including mine, were glued to their seats. The ending was a bow on top of a mystery box that I’m sure was on the laps and minds of everyone in the theater. Why was this man doing this…for a car? Why would he go through such hardship to get his shitty four door sedan back. To be honest, I had given up hope that we would find out but the haunting final shot clued us in to what motivated a man with little to no motivation left in his life. It was a beautiful way to end a film that was so bleak and disturbing.

The film did have some flaws though. For one, the narrative was a bit clumsy in parts. That is, tense moments of horror and violence were often followed up with transition scenes that kind of killed the emotion of what just happened. There is also a terrible, terrible, use of a song in this film that just distracted and confused the entire theater. It may have been used to illustrate the mental capacity of Pattinson’s character, but it just seemed way too out of place.

Speaking of Pattinson, holy shit can that kid act. I have never seen a single Twilight film nor do I have any interest i ever seeing, but this kid is special. I remember seeing Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” and being teased in what Pattinson could possible achieve later in his career. This film should be his break. If he was given a supporting actor nomination, I wouldn’t bat an eye. He perfected the thousand yard stare. He nailed an almost unintelligible accent. He stole every scene he was in and that was hard when realizing mostly every scene he was in was with Guy Pearce, who in my opinion gave the performance of his career. The both were powerhouses in a film with both power and unrelenting dread. They should be applauded for their work.

David Michôd crafted a beauty of a film. Each shot is crafted so well with full detail that it’s hard to not find the hell that the film was set in beautiful. The rolling hills played like a second character as we are reminded in nearly every shot that there is something bigger than us and that if we are not careful, we will fall. The score, when not being played on the radio by Pattinson, was eerie and dark as the violence carried out. It kept me glued to the screen waiting for what was going to happen next even though I was sure nothing was around the corner. It was an immersing and unflinching watch in where even if you don’t buy into the film, you can still be entertained.

Overall it was a slightly flawed, but nearly brilliant film by David Michôd. The last twenty minutes or so, including that ending, was some of the best film making I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a film that will be talked about and debated on whether it is too pretentious and whether or not it takes itself too seriously. Much like Animal Kingdom, which is slightly the superior film as of now, The Rover requires multiple viewings to fully digest but it’s a wonderful thing when something can get so much use.

4.5/5