Monday, June 22, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

I have to admit that going into this movie I was not expecting anything great. The reviews were mixed, and I saw it the second weekend, having already listened to several podcasts discussing the film. However, I tend to really enjoy Tony Scott's hyper stylized film making, especially his films from the nineties, including True Romance, Crimson Tide, and Enemy of the State. Lately I've been a little more tepid about his films, while still enjoying Domino and Man on Fire. The fact that The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is a remake probably had something to do with my reluctance to see this film, since quality Hollywood remakes are a rare breed.

The story is a simple train hijacking, with a cat and mouse game between the negotiator and the head criminal, in this case played elegantly and elaborately by Denzel Washington and John Travolta, respectively. As much as I like certain films by each of the actors involved, this collaboration, which includes John Turturro, Luis Guzman, and James Gandolfini, was the ultimate generic, big name Hollywood cast. Denzel was good, but no one stole the show. Travolta definitely tried, and while over the top, his performance evoked flashes of Face/Off (one of my favorite action movies).

In the end, this was a moderately entertaining, but thoroughly mediocre popcorn flick. Tony Scott's style is all over this movie, but much of the action is either borderline ridiculous (the driving scenes) or underwhelming. If you're a tony Scott fan, or just an action movie buff, you should see this movie, just keep your expectations low. It worked for me.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Killshot is a movie that for some reason its creators tried to kill early on. Anytime a film is pushed back a year or two, chances are the reason is that it isn't any good. However, this film's release was not only pushed back for years, but when it did finally see the big screen, it was for literally one week in Arizona. Not New York or L.A., Arizona! This movie has the pedigree of a champion, with stars like Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Diane Lane, Rosario Dawson and Thomas Jane. It's based on a novel by Elmore Leonard and directed by Guy Madden. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, and it's produced by the Weisteins... These guys always seem to defy logic when dealing with their films, although in this case, it turns out that they might have been right.

Mickey Rourke is the focus of the film for the most part, playing a native American hit man on the run from his criminal bosses after a botched job. He has plenty of back story and motive for most of his actions, but when he and his newly found sidekick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are seen attempting an armed robbery/extortion, the lengths they go to to try to kill the witnesses seem absurd to me. The witnesses (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane) didn't see them actually commit a murder, yet they have to enter witness protection, only to move back home inexplicably after a short period of time, even though the criminals were still at large.

Overall the acting was pretty good, although Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character was a bit over the top, reminding me of his wigger, hip gangster wanna-be role in 2005's Havoc (famous for its Anne Hathaway sex/nude scenes). The thing that brings down this movie is the story, or the execution thereof. Having not read the book it's based on, I can only assume that Leonard's version was a bit more cohesive and interesting, but it just did not translate well to the screen. I didn't hate it by any means, but this was a highly anticipated film for a while and to see it come in well short of expectations is a bit disappointing. Killshot definitely looks better on paper (or on its IDMB page, if you prefer), with all of the before mentioned talent involved, but in the end it turns out to be a mediocre thriller, with most of its talent wasted.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Hangover

I think I'm still in shock over what I just saw. The closing credits are simply... Well, nevermind. This is a funny movie, easily the funniest I've seen this year so far, although that isn't necessarily saying much. The Hangover is the latest film from director Todd Phillips who brought us comedy gems like Road Trip and one of my personal favorites, Old School.

This is a story about four guys who go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, only to wake up the next morning not remembering a thing about what happened the night before, and having no idea where the groom is. The only evidence that remains is a chicken, a tiger, a missing tooth, and a completely destroyed hotel room. The mystery element adds a layer of intrigue not usually found in R rated comedies, and the ending is neither preposterous nor something that you see coming a mile away. Also worthy of note, Zach Galifianakis is great in his role as the weird, mentally troubled brother-in-law. I wouldn't be surprised if this launches him into many more roles in the near future that would take advantage of his special brand of off-beat comedy.

This film is doing gangbusters at the box office, and I believe it's on its way to being one of the biggest R rated comedy of all time. That's all well and good, but in my eye this is not as deserving of the praise and high box office as Wedding Crashers was, or either of the Judd Appatow directed films, 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Wedding Crashers was simply funnier, with amazing comedic performances from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson (even Rachel McAdams), while Apatow's films are equally hilarious, but also contain genuine, heart-felt moments that really transcend the genre.

I only say all of that because The Hangover has been so highly praised by film critics, bloggers, and podcasters that I only want to provide a small dose of perspective. This is not the be-all-end-all of R rated comedies, but it is a worthy entry into the running for best comedy of the year so far, along with Drag Me To Hell (I also loved the comedic elements in Up). If raunchy comedies are your thing, this will most likely appease your appetite, which was left raging from the somewhat skimpy comedic snacks found in I Love You, Man and Observe and Report. As far as the closing credit sequence... check it out if you dare, but don't say I didn't warn you!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Drag Me to Hell

As I'm sure you've figured out if you've read two or three of my reviews, I rely heavily on Rotten Tomatoes to help me decide what movies to go see. Also, if you know anything about my taste in movies, I generally can't stand horror movies. The last good horror flick I saw was The Decent back in 2005, and before that who knows when. So with Drag Me to Hell, I wanted to see it for its 95% (at the time, now 93%) Tomatometer rating, but I was weary of the horror aspect. I had never seen the Evil Dead movies in their entirety, and am definitely not a fan of Sam Raimi's Spiderman movies. My love for going to the movies in general pushed me over the edge and I ended up seeing this late in the weekend with some friends.

The plot is appropriately simple: a girl is cursed by a pissed off gypsy and has three days to break it. Raimi threw in the home foreclosure element to be current, but it really could have been anything.

As expected this movie is a lot of fun and very tongue-in-cheek. The effects are under-elaborate, but Raimi manages to pull off some genuinely creepy moments using shadows, wind and normal creaky house noises. This movie was also very repetitive. Each day, the girl would be fine, then get paranoid, and then attacked by a demon. The fun of it was seeing to what lengths this girl would go to save her own skin. This film is rated PG-13, and it really pushes it to the limit, not with gore, but just some really gross stuff. Usually that stuff is what got the most laughs, and it added to the personality of the film.

In no way is this film for everyone, but it is well done for what it is. I had a lot of fun with it, and recommend it to any horror fan or general movie buff.

Terminator Salvation

I went into this film with very low expectations based on seeing the negative reviews roll in, as well as listening to several movie podcasts bash it for a few hours. However, this was one of those films that I was looking forward to so much, that I decided I needed to check it out in theaters, you know, for the special effects and the action sequences...

Well, the effects might be the only good/decent part of this film. The rest of it was a mess, from the terrible writing and storytelling, to the bad acting, to the over-seriousness of the plot, which it seems we've seen before. It just doesn't work. Christian Bale, who I believe is a very talented actor, is overacting terribly, and the one potentially interesting aspect of the plot, involving Sam Worthington's character, is neither a surprise nor executed with any level of skill. Frankly, after seeing this film, I never want to watch another film directed by McG (what a stupid name).

I don't feel like writing about this movie anymore. See it at your own peril (and feel free to offer a rebuttal in the form of a comment on my blog, so everyone can see it).