Month: September 2012

September 15, 2012

Sleuth

SLICK

Sleuth is SLICK.  Sleuth is stylish.  Sleuth is surprising on many levels.  It is the ultimate game of cat and mouse with stakes that are always fun to explore cinematically.  Adultery.  Revenge.  Murder.  You know, the classics.

The first thing that grabs you when watching Sleuth is the look.  Director Kenneth Branagh does a marvelous job structuring the set ups and set pieces.  He’s more the directer of Hamlet here than the director of Thor.  Haris Zambarloukos’s cinematography is very clever, with specific visual elements that make every shot interesting.  This is a huge treat for the avid cinephile, and a huge help for the antsy.  I say this because Sleuth is based on a play.  And that means that it is a very dialogue heavy film.  However, the dialogue between stars Michael Caine and Jude Law is excellent.  Sorkinesque.  The late great Harold Pinter’s words and conversations form a maze of clues, hints, and misdirections that always lead us to fun places.  

Branagh can be given a pat on the bum for getting great performances from the aforementioned Caine and Law.  Michael Caine has never been better.  Those of you who only know him as Chris Nolan’s Alfred….SHAME ON YOU!  You should have known him first as Alfie….or Carter…or Lawrence.  He gives those that did a reminder of how great an actor he is.  And is there anyone out there who can legitimately question the talents of Jude Law?  Love him or hate him, his ranging body of work and performances in them are undeniably solid.  A fact that doesn’t change here.

I would be remiss in not mentioning a comparison to the original 1972 Sleuth with Sir Laurence Olivier and a younger Michael Caine in the Jude Law role.  The easy answer is that the original is better.  Of course its better.  It has Sir Laurence F*#KING Olivier for Christ sakes!  However, watching Caine swap roles in the newer version and seeing what he does with it gives the newer film value.  Not to mention, seeing modern day filmmaking techniques used to do things the original could not.

I’m sure people were aware when Sleuth came out in theaters, but few went to see it.  That is a real shame because films with style AND substance need to be seen more in Hollywood so they can be made more in Hollywood.  Give it a butcher’s…then tell me I’m wrong.

September 15, 2012

The Raid: Redemption (DJ’s Take)

OUCH

I’ll be brief.  The Raid: Redemption isn’t a movie.  Okay, it’s a movie strictly in the technical sense.  It was shot on a camera, there are actors in it and it was shown in a theater. However, the The Raid really can be best described as an experience.  A hyper violent experience of biblical proportions.  It’s bodies and bullets and blood by the buckets.   Battered bones and broken bulbs used as bayonets.  I’m sure there was a plot in it somewhere, but I didn’t follow it.   Not because I couldn’t.  But because I realized early on that I shouldn’t.  The story is merely a vehicle to legitimize watching an hour and a half long brutal martial arts display.  There are nearly fifty cast members in this film that are credited no higher than AK-47 Gunman #16 or Swat Member #11.  Names aren’t important.  Motivations are made pretty clear.  It’s visceral eye candy at its finest.  And I enjoyed the hell of it.

And I do mean visceral.   I don’t think that I’m going out on a limb here by saying that it may be one of the most violent films ever.   The Matrix? Old Boy? Kill Bill? Ong Bak?  Pikers compared to The Raid.  It is written(HA! HA!), directed, and edited by Gareth Evans.  You don’t care about that.  It features music by Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park.  You won’t care about that.  All you’ll be able to take from The Raid is that Indonesian stunt men need to be paid more.  You’ll cringe.  You’ll grimace.  You’ll gasp.  And then you’ll watch it all over again.   It is a must have for any true action film fan.  Go ahead…watch it…finish blurting out an awe inspired obscenity….then tell me I’m wrong.

September 14, 2012

The Mechanic

The Mechanic: Works
(The 2011 remake)

Cheesy Acting, Cheesy Directing with a few plot holes.

Well listen it was on Showtime and it was late. I thought hey what the hell, lets give it a shot.
It Works, I did enjoyed the film but it is far from perfect.
It’s a film I usually call a throwaway. A film possibly not intended to be discarded after being watched once but in my world it is.

If you like a nice little action film and there is nothing on TV, go for it.
Otherwise that’s it.
Will I buy this film on DVD or Blu-ray, nay Im good.

What I really did like about this film is the hits they do. It kinda felt like the Hitman video game series that I love so dearly. The actors I thought fit perfect in those scenes and the way they killed them I thought was enjoyable.

NOTES:

I’m getting sick of Jason Statham doing the same, “I’m always pissed off, but I’m a Badass”.
It works on Crank yes, It works on the Transporters yes. Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and The Bank Job yes, and it kinda works in this film but I am getting sick of it. I still like the guy, but enough is enough.

Ben Foster on the other hand stole the film. I really enjoyed him in this. The guys acting is really underrated.

How come they left finger prints everywhere? I know its a film, but that got on my nerves. They are Hitmen right? Don’t Hitmen know about finger prints? Man it got on my nerves too much!

When a Hitman uses Ask.com, Really Ask.com. Don’t know how good of a Hitman he really is if he uses Ask.com.

Why can’t Donald Sutherland do more films and not be a throwaway side piece. I love seeing this guy on the screen, need more of that these days.

And a NOTE for all action films these days, STOP with the CG Blood! It looks horrible, its so bad it makes the film less respectful.

September 13, 2012

Simplistic TV: Revolution

UNDERWHELMING

Revolution comes to us from Supernatural creator Eric Kripke.  The new captain of the Star Trek franchise and television veteran J.J. Abrams executive produces.  The father of the Iron Man films, Jon Favreau, even directs the pilot.  The concept, a world thrown into chaos from a technological blackout, isn’t entirely original, but still interesting.  So, how do I feel after watching it?  Completely and utterly UNDERWHELMED.  I am sadly short on whelm.  Totally in need of more whelm.  And the fault of this lies mainly with the cast. 

Besides a brief appearance by the consistently good Giancarlo Esposito, the cast is a laundry list of no named actors.  Now, I know the casts of shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Lost were relative unknowns at the start.  However, those actors put out award winning efforts while tackling very original concepts.  The cast of Revolution seems to be phoning in their performances as though they were aged Hollywood superstars….or direct to DVD Wesley Snipes. 
Tracy Spiridakos, who serves as the show’s lead, (Obvious Hunger Games Cash In Attempt By The Way) is as stock as they come.  She doesn’t have enough acting ability to carry a scene, let alone an entire series.  Graham Rogers, who plays her brother, comes off more like a speaking extra than a costar.  The character with the most potential on the show is Uncle Miles, played by Billy Burke of…ugh…Twilight fame.  He’s a mysterious ex soldier who we know little about, other than he’s good at killing.  An actor with some range and charisma could bring a lot to this type of role.  However, Burke sleepwalks through every line he delivers and even parts of his fight scenes. 
In this attention deficit disorder world we live in now, it is hard to have a show that can captivate and keep viewers.  Especially, if the actors don’t convince us to care about the characters they’re playing.  The performances of Revolution’s cast do little to convince me to care.  Watch it…better yet, DVR it…do your laundry…play with your kids…take up stamp collecting…then if you get bored…really bored…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong. 
September 12, 2012

The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (DJ’s Take)

UNFLINCHING

Lets face it.  Despite Nolan’s Batman run, when it comes to bringing their creations to the silver screen, WB/DC Comics sucks.  This is a company that owns the rights to ALL of their creations, unlike Marvel….can cross over WHOEVER they want with WHOEVER they want without legal obstacles….unlike Marvel…has a roster of A-list heroes nearly double the size of Marvel’s.  But the only movie they can manage to make that isn’t a failure lately is Batman.  Singer’s Superman…sucked and underperformed.  Watchmen…though great….underperformed.  Flash movie…in development hell for years.  Wonder Woman movie….in development hell for years.  Wonder Woman TV series….cancelled in the pilot stage.  Jonah Hex…blew chunks.  Catwoman…a joke.  Green Lantern…set up to be WB/DC’s new tent pole but subsequently shoved a tent pole right back up their ass.  Its gotten so bad that their third attempt at Superman seems to be copying the tone of Nolan’s Batman Begins, in the obtuse thinking that it is the ONLY way to do a superhero movie right.  However, the real puzzle of the matter is that the WB/DC direct to dvd animation films seem to always be amazing.  Sometimes even better than their motion picture counter parts.  I’m talking to you Green Lantern.  That brings us to The Dark Knight Returns Part 1.

Before comic book writer Frank Miller went crazy and did The Spirit (Boy, I got to stop bringing this film up), he had a pretty good track record of awesome.  Sin City, 300, Big Guy and Rusty.  But before those was perhaps his crowning achievement, The Dark Knight Returns.  It was the story of an older retired Batman putting on the cape and cowl once more to take back the streets of Gotham.  It was gritty.  It was gruff.  It was great.  Now over a quarter of a century later, DC animation brings it to life.  And the results are amazing.  Director Jay Oliva, who has done previous work on other great DC animated films like Under The Red Hood and Batman: Year One, really gets the feel of Miller’s graphic novel.  The dark tone and the brutal violence in it is so UNFLINCHING and raw, I found myself several times checking the rating on it.  In live action, this film would be rated R without question.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the performances in this as well.  There has always been one quintessential Batman for me.  Its not Bale, or Clooney, or Kilmer, or even Keaton.  It is Kevin Conroy.  His portrail is the first one that pops into my mind when I hear someone mention Batman.  Bruce Greenwood has done a great job recently with a very similar voice.   However, Peter Weller’s grizzled old Batman in The Dark Knight Returns fits the material like a glove.  His use of “Son” will put a smile on your face for sure.  David Selby also turns in a strong performance as Commissioner Gordon.  They both hit all the familiar beats and add some new ones as well.  The credit should go to long time casting and voice director Andrea Romano.  If you ever want to be wowed, take a look at her filmography.

The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 delivers in every way a Batman fan would want and gives WB/DC’s animation department another homerun project.  WB/DC might want to consider using the braintrust over there (Executive Producer Bruce Timm Especially) to help get their meandering motion pictures off the ground.  Turn out the lights…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

September 11, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods – Tribute

*There could be some spoilers in the links, so tread with care*

The 2012 Summer movie season is over and I saw all the big ones; The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Amazing Spider-Man (even though some people wouldn’t agree that Spidey was a “big” Summer movie) and Prometheus.  Sure, you had The Bourne Legacy and a few other hyped movies, but my best experience came before Summer even started when “The Cabin in the Woods” FINALLY was unleashed to unsuspecting audiences in April.

Love letters are always nice when you get them from people that mean it, and people like Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard must really have a crush on me.  I feel like a mobster in “Goodfellas” and this is their Tribute to not only me, but everything they love as well.
 
The premise is simple; five stereotypes (including the nerd, jock, and stoner) are headed for a secluded cabin, are menaced by a “prophet of doom” and are attacked by monsters.  Like I said, simple…….WRONG.  Contrary to what people might think, this is a very self-aware tribute to genre films, and it’s pulled off perfectly.

Due to this movie being delayed, its a tad funny to see Chris Hemsworth, you might have seen him in a few low-budget movies like “Thor” and “The Avengers,” in one of his first roles.  You also get a few Whedon favorites like Amy Acker (Dollhouse) and Tom Lenk (Buffy and Angel)

Sprinkle some Evil Dead, a dash of Lovecraft, a sprinkle of ’50s giant monster movies, and good dose of splatter/slasher films, and you have “The Cabin in the Woods.”  This is definitely a trip you’d like to take, sure, you might end up tied up, gagged, and set on fire by people in white cherub masks, but at least you’ll finally be able to see the “merman

Fun Fact:  Please see “The White Board.”  It’s a magical experience.

 

September 10, 2012

The Wire, Wrap-Up

*Spoilers Ahead*

The case is closed on “The Wire.”  Some of the good guys won, some of the bad guys won, and there were plenty of people caught in the cross-fire, but it was a ride that everyone should be willing to take if you enjoy story and character-driven dramas.

While this is not so much a review, as a wrap-up, I will be detailing characters, plot lines, and a few top ten lists, including; Top 10 Characters, Top 10 Tragic/Offing Moments. (Just to clarify, an offing is a death or murder of a character)  Now allow me to drop you back into”The Wire.”
————————————————————————————————————————————–
Cheese: “This is some shameless shit!”
Omar Little: “Oh, ain’t no shame in my game, doe.  I’m here about my business, ain’t dat right Joe!”
– Season Four
————————————————————————————————————————————–
It’s a little difficult to pick just ten characters that I would classify as the best from the entire series.  In such a character-driven show all your characters should be great, and trust me they’re all great.  So here goes nothing as I unveil MY Top 10 characters on “The Wire.”

10.  Det. Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski:  The funny thing about Prez is that he went from an asshole detective who was messing up left and right to someone who I truly respected come the end of the show.  Once he started his new career as a middle school teacher, the character became a tragic reminder of someone who continues to have hope in a hopeless situation.

9.  Dennis “Cutty” Wise:  Cutty, a former Barksdale enforcer, has been recently paroled when we first meet him.  He tries to get back into the drug game when he leaves prison but realizes that the life isn’t meant for him anymore and decides to open a boxing gym for the troubled youth of West Baltimore.  He is one of the lone bright spots in the show as he not only saves his own life, but indirectly saves the life of Namon Brice, the son of incarcerated Barksdale enforcer, Roland “Wee-Bey” Brice.

8.  Brother Mouzone:  While he only appeared in a few episodes, the suit, glasses and bow-tie of Brother Mouzone left a lasting impression.  Essentially Mouzone was a mirror image of Omar Little, only Brother wore a smart suit and sported a pistol while Omar preferred a brown duster and a shotgun.  The duo also supplied one of the more surprising deaths in the series when they gunned down Stringer Bell at the end of Season Three.
—————————————————————————————————————
Omar Little: “I knew you’d come back.”
Brother Mouzone:  “I trust you didn’t lose much sleep over it?”
Omar Little:  “Worryin’ about you would be like worryin’ if the sun gonna come up.”
-Season Three
—————————————————————————————————————
7.  Michael Lee:  During Season Four we were introduced to the youth of West Baltimore and the one character that really stood out from the rest of the pack was Michael.  From a broken home, Michael tried his best to walk the line between right and wrong while trying to protect his friends and his younger brother, Bug.  In the most poignant moment of Season Five, Michael, now on the run from Marlow, Chris, and Snoop, has to say goodbye to both his friend Duquan and Bug and disappear from Baltimore.

6.  Chris and Snoop:  I consider both Chris Partlow and Snoop pretty much the same character, just one male and one female.  They are both extremely loyal, and similar to Omar and Brother Mouzone, they both have a “code.”  Chris is the more calculating of the two, and while it’s not said directly, seems to be a victim of childhood abuse.  Snoop is the colder of the two and would do anything to protect the reputation of Marlo Stanfield.

5.  Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins:  With a show so grim, it was great to see how one character in particular went from a hopeless drug addict to a reformed member of society.  That character was Bubbles, a police informant, heroin addict, and just maybe, the lone bright spot on “The Wire.”  In the series finale, Bubbles finally opens up at an NA Meeting about losing a friend, and it always brings a tear to my eye.  It’s truly a beautiful moment in the series.
————————————————————————————————————–
Bubbles: “Ain’t no shame in holdin’ on to grief.  As long as you make room for other things too.”
-Season Five
————————————————————————————————————————————
 4.  Russell “Stringer” Bell:  If anyone knows anything about “The Wire” you know Stringer Bell, portrayed by Idris Elba.  Stringer was the brains, while Avon was the brawn of the Barksdale Crew, and when Avon went away to prison he took over the crew and tried to steer them in a different direction.  Unfortunately, Stringer thought that drug dealers could be rationalized with and “trained” but the one thing he forgot about was the fact that he was still a drug dealer trying to move past his station in life, and that is pretty much what finished him off in the game.

3.  Marlo Stanfield:  Marlo was a different breed of drug dealer then what we had seen from Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell, or Proposition Joe.  He was ruthless, had enforcers that would do all of his bidding, and he got to the kids early, looking for the next generation of hopper even in middle school.  But not even money mattered in the grand scheme for him, it was knowing that people feared him.

2.  Preston “Bodie” Broadus:  Bodie was one of those characters that I didn’t think much of when I first started watching “The Wire.”  I personally just thought he was some low-level drug dealing prick that would get killed early in the series, but as time went on, Bodie really fleshed out and became my 2nd favorite character on the show.  After Avon’s arrest, and Stringer’s death in Season Three, Bodie pretty much became all the Barksdale Crew had left and was the only dealer on the street that wasn’t scared of Marlo, and eventually, it cost him.
 ————————————————————————————————————–
Omar: “You got the briefcase……I got the shotgun…..It’s all in the game tho’.”
-Season Two
————————————————————————————————————————————-
1.  Omar Little:  I can pretty much sum Omar up in a few words.  “Omar don’t scare.” 

It is difficult to pick just ten characters as the best of the bunch on “The Wire” because they are all so damn good.  Moving on to the tragic/offing moments.

*Warning, there will be spoilers ahead*

10.Chris and Snoop torturing and killing Butchie for information on Omar.
9.  Seeing Duquan succumb to drugs.
8.  Bodie being gunned down by the Stanfield Crew while defending his corner.
7.  The death of Wallace by Bodie and Poot.
6.  Cheese being shot and killed by “Slim” Charles.  Probably the most “satisfying” death in the entire series.
5.  Frank Sobotka murdered by “The Greek”
4.  Stringer Bell gunned down by Brother Mouzone and Omar in his own building.
3.  Michael saying goodbye to Duquan and Bug
2.  Seeing Bubbles’ revenge plan backfire and kill Sherrod.
1.  Omar being gunned down by Kenard.

September 10, 2012

Underworld: Awakening

Underworld: Awakening: BORING

bor·ing
adj.
Uninteresting and tiresome; dull.

Sums it up!

Well…

Yep I finally got around to watching this damn film.

This was the 5th time I started the film and finished it…It will be the last time too.

First the story sucked.

Acting was stale.

Ending was soooo bad.

What a boring film. It was nothing but boring.

When it ended I said, “That’s it? That was the film?”

Not a good thing when someone says that toward a film.

Apparently since the movie went nowhere, there will be a sequel. Thanks guys for wasting my time that got nothing accomplished!

Funny thing: When the 3rd film came out everyone said it sucked because Kate Beckinsale wasn’t in it. Well she’s in this one and it’s clearly worse then the 3rd one!

Kate Beckinsale is the only reason to watch!

and if I can be honest for a sec…

It was the only reason I watched it!

September 8, 2012

Simplistic TV: Longmire

GENERIC

Do you want to see a terrific cable television show that is a modern day western starring a cowboy hat wearing, no nonsense lawman who is based on a character from a best selling novel?  Yeah?  Then watch Justified on FX.  Do you want to see a cable television show that has all those same attributes, but only manages to come off as a cheaper alternative?  Yeah?  Really??  Then watch Longmire.  Longmire, a freshman show on A&E, just exudes that feeling you had when you were 10 years old and your parents bought you the GENERIC Apple Dapples instead of the name brand Apple Jacks.  And while I admit to having a personal bias of favoritism toward Justified, there is no question that Longmire, as a whole, is simply just plain.

The cast and their performances are pretty plain as well.  Katee Sackhoff, most known from Fox’s 24 and SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica, is the lone bright spot on the show.  Sackhoff seems to always bring to her characters something captivating and real.  However, she is only a costar here.  The titular role of Longmire is played by Robert Taylor.  You know, the guy from that thing with the other guy…no?  Okay, yeah, I don’t know him from anything other than his role as Agent Jones in The Matrix.  And his personality is about the same here.  To be a star of a western your main character has to be a little fun.  He can be dry and badass but still wink at the camera a bit with his coolness.  Eastwood got this.  Timothy Olyphant gets this.  Taylor doesn’t.

What makes a western feel like a western is not just that it takes place out west.  As I’ve said before, westerns are mythical.  They are fairy tales about rich characters stuck in extraordinary situations facing off with one another.  They possess style and fun and don’t ever take themselves completely seriously.  That’s why Inglourious Basterds feels like a western.  Why The Way Of The Gun feels like a western.  Serenity, No Country For Old Men, Justified…they all give off that air of western.  But Longmire lacks style, rich characters, and the friction of a great face off.  Its just a very dry police procedural based in a western town.  It tries to copy the atmosphere and the gimmick of Justified, but forgets it’s most important quality.  The magic.  Kick your boots up, watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

September 5, 2012

Simplistic TV: The Wire, Season Five

The Wire, Season Five – Bravo

*Spoilers Ahead*

After watching four seasons of “The Wire” in about the span of three weeks not only was I heavily invested with what would happen to the Barksdale Crew, Jimmy McNulty, Bunk Moreland, the New Day Co-Op, and Omar Little, but I was getting mentally exhausted.  All the shows run a full hour (more on the season openers and finales) and the show-runners pack so much in each episode that I hit information overload at certain points.  However, regardless of how much is is crammed into each show, I couldn’t get enough and needed closure, and I really wanted some good to come out of the whole shitty mess that is West Baltimore (I got some, but I mostly got kicked in the nuts).  This brings me to Season Five of “The Wire,” the final season, and an excellent conclusion to a series that you could call “The Standard for all crime dramas.”

Released in 2008, (season four finished up in 2006, so for those who were watching season-to-season, there was almost a 14 month waiting period between the end of four and the start of five) we shift to the magical land of journalism and the offices of the Baltimore Sun.  As in real life, the written word is on the ropes and newspapers are slowly becoming obsolete so writers are becoming more desperate and trying anything to cling onto their jobs, similar to the drug trade in Baltimore, which is shrinking as crews are falling and the Stanfield Crew has monopolized the market.  Desperation is a major theme for this fifth season as McNulty starts a new “crusade” to finally put an end to Marlo Stanfield’s crew, newly-elected Mayor, Tommy Carcetti, wants a “serial killer” who is targeting the homeless caught, and the clock is ticking as job cuts at the Baltimore Sun are starting to affecting employee morale.  If people weren’t desperate in Baltimore before, they certainly are now.

The one gripe I could find with this season are how the plot lines are tied up. You could tell that HBO was ready for the show to end (not because the show was bad, but when it comes to business, its all about ratings, and during the original run of the show the ratings were lacking), and the plot lines had to be cleaned up as best they could.  Season Five was also the shortest season (ten episodes).  However, I will say everything came to a satisfying end and watching the ending montage made me feel happy, mad, frustrated, hopeful, but most of all, in awe.

Watching “The Wire” made me realize that TV isn’t dead.  To be honest with you, it took me watching this show to really get back into watching TV and wanting to see if I could find something that could really top “The Wire.”  There are a few shows (funny enough, most of them are on HBO) that can really hang, but I will include “Justified” and “The Shield” in that grouping (funny enough, both on FX), but I think I’ll be hard-pressed to find another show on TV that really gave me everything I wanted (and ironically, didn’t want) from a TV show.  “The Wire”……bravo……

Fun Fact:  Dominic West, who plays Det. Jimmy McNulty, directed the 8th episode of Season Five, “Took.”

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