Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Classic Trailers: ROSEMARY'S BABY

     Wednesday's classic film trailers is one the finest made psycho-horror films ever made in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. Full of mood, unsettling nature and that uncomfortable feeling of dread, fear and horror that we see Rosemary go through and how she slowly unravels the suspicion and mystery. The acting is in top form with Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes). These two deliver compelling performances along with the married neighbors they meet, Minnie (oscar winner for supporting actress Ruth Gordon) and Roman (Sidney Blackmer). The real credit is the source material, from Ira Lewin's best-selling novel and the director Roman Polanski. This was Polanski's first English language film and what a magnificent piece of filmmaking. Polanski is brilliant with the actors and his screenplay slowly brings the story from a couple moving into a new building, to wanting to have a baby, becoming pregnant and Rosemary believing a Satanic cult is trying to steal her baby. Everything is as close to perfect as a film can be. Enjoy.

Monday, July 29, 2013


Only God Forgives

Directed & Written
Nicolas Winding Refn

     Anyone going to see Nicolas Winding Refn's new film Only God Forgives needs to be aware that this is not like his last film Drive. I am sure he gained a new variety of fans and admirers with that great film and is working with growing star Ryan Gosling, but this is old school Refn through and through. This film hearkens back to his hard Pusher trilogy and the film he made before Drive with the exceptionally gifted Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen called Valhalla Rising. Refn's newest effort is a brooding, violent, neon colored piece of art cinema, that contains few words and much blood. It is chalked full of religious symbolism and is a beautifully, artistically shot film but is a mediocre effort from the Danish filmmaker.
     Julian (Ryan Gosling) runs a boxing club in Bangkok, Thailand, while simultaneously being a drug runner. He has been hiding out in Southeast Asia since murdering a man back in the states. Julian's brother Billy (Tim Burke), violently murders an underage prostitute and the police hire sword-wielding Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) to track him down. Chang has the father of the slain daughter gruesomely murder Billy, with a baseball hat that turns Billy's face into a flattened pancake, and then chops the father's arm off to restore balance and order since the father has allowed his daughter to live a life of prostitution at such a young age. See, Chang is the "Angel of Vengeance" and has little mercy for those that cheat, lie and commit violent acts.
     Julian's mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) comes to Thailand to take the remains of her dead son's body back to the states. She is the head of a large criminal organization and aided her boys in their drug smuggling business. She is wicked, mean and to the point. She wants Julian to avenge his brothers death. She is the "Angel of Death" and wants vengeance at all costs. Julian, which is more of a soldier than anything else, is troubled throughout the film. And, if you thought Gosling was a mute in Drive, he is even more quiet in this film. He does what he is told and appears to have a had tormented life. He brings a female friend to a dinner with his mother and she scolds her and Julian, even commenting on the size of his penis compared to his brother's. She had a closer relationship with Billy then Julian. Too close in that Oedipal complex range. She is one domineering woman and feels that Julian has taken too long to take care of the people responsible for the death of her son. The real story is between Crystal and Chang, with Julian being a troubled fighter for the "good vs evil" battle raging between vengeance and death.
     Refn has soaked this film in neon lights that texture the mood of the characters. Rage and anger is exemplified with bright hues of red and motion is given lustrous green tones. Blue deepens the feeling and sets a tone of remote calmness against the violent stage we are viewing. In a way, it is style over substance, but the style sets the brooding mood of the film. It is very quiet and many shots examine hands or long, slow stares. These looks not only are examining a dream or the state of one's mind, but the inner demons that torment these characters.
     Refn has created this world, set against a Hedonistic Bangkok, that states the violent nature of good versus evil. The main problem is that there is not enough to chew on to give much depth to this film. I know Refn is known for slow pacing, expertly stylized images and characters that are more inward when it comes to speaking and violent when it comes to action. I like most of that. It reminds me and shows an appreciation for the films of the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and the director he salutes this film to Alejandro Jodorowsky, but it was just a flat story. Some of the violence over shadowed the simple story of a man searching for himself and hunting down, and murdering, the killer of his brother.
     The production is perfect as always with a Refn film. The acting is great and the standout is Thomas. She has embodied Crystal with so much hate, revenge and deceit. Thomas does not hold back at all and it was interesting to see her play a role like this with so much sinister dominance. Gosling is good and even though he does not say much, he portrays Julian with much innocence and history. The score my Cliff Martinez, who also worked on Drive, is an electronic fused mix of beats and tones that underline the inner emotions of the state of the characters and the whore houses, boxing arenas and streets these characters inhabit. Also, the stylized framing and neon balanced lighting of cinematographer Larry Smith are one of the best aspects of film. Smooth, graceful and perfectly framed.
     Refn's Only God Forgives is a decent effort from the Danish fillmmaker but does not deliver the impact and storytelling has some of his previous films have. It is beautifully shot, acted and designed, but the story does not add up and some of the gruesome violence overplays what little narrative there  is. Saying that, I still can appreciate the production value here. I like all kind of films and I can appreciate films that are soaked in images without words. This film just needed a little more, another character or storyline to give it more substance. A decent film, but mediocre compared Refn's filmography. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Classic Trailers: POINT BLANK

     Walker (Lee Marvin) just wants his money and he is going to do whatever it takes to get it. The classic John Boorman film Point Blank (1967), is the tale of a man who was double crossed and goes after the people who screwed him over. The organization has taken his wife and money, and Walker is pissed.This film is one of the great thrillers of the late 60s and Lee Marvin is full of brute and hostility. The vengeance and rage seeps through his body from beginning to end. It is the crime thriller that puts the single person up against the massive organization. The film has a brilliant opening, that features crisp editing and sounds. The footsteps that over play Walker as he begins to seek out the culprits is haunting and powerful. The existential ending and twist is classic as well. The film also stars Angie Dickinson, Carroll O'Connor and John Vernon. Check it out and realize that Lee Marvin is a true badass! Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


World War Z

Directed by Marc Forster
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, J. Michael Straczynski,
Drew Goddard & Damon Lindelof

   The film World War Z will most likely be known for its many production woes and set backs, but eventually the filmmakers have turned out a decent, engaging film, if albeit a muddled mess at the same time. It is enjoyable that they managed to get what they presented out of the film. Whether through the rewrites, reshoots or escalated post-production, the film eventually becomes an exciting and entertaining film, especially in the final forty minutes. Brad Pitt continues to deliver a sturdy performance but many of the supporting characters are too underdeveloped and not given enough time to breath, much less grow. World War Z, directed by Marc Forster, could, well, should have been about a half hour longer, with more background, history and room for the characters to expand, and the film would have been much better.
     World War Z, based on the best-selling book of the same name by Max Brooks, involves a worldwide breakout that is causing human beings to turn on there own kind and eat them, eventually turning them into diseased creatures. They avoid using the "zombie" word throughout most of film but that is what they are and what I will call them throughout this review. Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a former United Nations investigator called in to help stop the outbreak and find a cure to the pandemic. We first see him with his family in Philadelphia having breakfast. Happy moment. Then they are in a traffic jam in downtown when all hell breaks loose. Lane and his family, wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters Constance (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove), are terrified and luckily enough, through a series of extremely close calls, end up in an apartment complex in Newark, New Jersey, where his U.N. connections get them safely aboard a US Navy ship.
     Lane is persuaded to go on a globe trekking journey to investigate the disease. The persuasion being if he does not help investigate his family cannot stay safely on the ship. The problems begin to arise. He takes a top Harvard doctor of virology with him to South Korea but, and this is a spoiler alert, the doctor is killed as soon as they arrive and Gerry is left to search for the root and cure for the pandemic alone. Killing off a character with little develop that is built up as the top, and somewhat, only person that can find a cure was annoying. Let him grow a bit. There has to be some other doctor at another acclaimed, prestigious university that can also search for a cure.
     Another problem is we never really find, or are given much background to why and how the disease started. Somewhere in the middle of the film would have been a good location to give a history lesson to where it might have started. They hinted at it throughout the film but never gave any concrete evidence. Somebody, somewhere on planet Earth would had to have been locked away in a secure, government building or bunker doing constant research, but this is a Hollywood action film. The other problem was that when Gerry goes to Israel to see how they walled off Jerusalem, the information given is not concise and I could never truly understand why and how they knew to safeguard the people before the outbreak began. This is where the story is muddled and sped up to get a decent running time. Maybe too much time in the editing room. Details do not have to be given so easily where the audience is force fed the answers. I like having to think and search for answers, conclusions and reasons in films, and maybe I missed something that if I see the film again will catch it the second go around. I just felt a film like this should give a little more information and give the characters time to development. Create a relationship with them.
     On that note, we also have the under used Mireille Enos, who I wish would have been given more screen time that did not involve her sniffling or in a state of despair. Enos is a wonderful actress and could have easily been given more writing to chew on. As could have James Badge Dale, who plays a Navy SEAL, but is not in the film that long. The two biggest problems are the rushed story and the underdeveloped characters.
     The part that saved the film was that ending at the World Health Organization in Wales. The one character that is developed, the star Brad Pitt, is put up against the zombies and the filmmakers did create a very intense, suspenseful ending. The tension of having to get from one room to the next, being sinfully quiet to not give the zombies notice of your being there was highly effective, good filmmaking. I will not give away the cure, well, camouflage that will keep the infected away from the living but I was craving more. I wanted more story and probably could have watched another half hour. It was an engaging part of the film and the zombies are fast paced, teeth snapping infected human beings. Most are CG created in big, wide shots but they are more like the 28 Days Later zombies instead of the Night of the Living Dead ones. Not a lot of gruesome scenes or chewing on people's guts, which was a good change of pace. We get enough of that in "The Walking Dead" TV series.
     World War Z could have been so much more. Understandably they leave much out of the book but with summer movies running over two hours in some instances, another 30 to 40 minutes would have given the material more to make the film better. The suspense is there, especially in the final scenes, and Brad Pitt once again turns in a good performance but the film needed more story and character development. All-in-all, I did not dislike the film and felt good after seeing it but it is what was left out that aggravated me the most. Maybe it would have been better as a mini-series on HBO or Showtime.

Monday, July 22, 2013


The Conjuring

Directed by James Wan
Written by Chad Hayes & Carey Hayes

     Yes, this is another scary, ghost story movie. A movie that contains paranormal beings haunting a family and focusing on the innocent children residing there. A movie that has a family moving into a new house, in the middle of nowhere that has had an unthinkable, dark history behind it and that is haunted by its past residents. Nothing new here right. The thing about The Conjuring, albeit that it is not a perfect or even great film, is that it is steeped in mood, good scares and, what makes a horror movie good, the fear of the unknown. I have problems with the ending but the film is one of the better horror films of the last decade and has a feel of fear and dread that sticks with you throughout the majority of the film. 
     In my opinion, what makes a horror or scary movie good is the fear of the unknown. The fear of the past that one does not fully concern itself with or know about. The fear of not knowing why something is happening and to what degree these events will continue, or not. I am not a horror film aficionado by any means but I love the classics. Films such as The Shining, The Exorcist and The Haunting, the original 1963 Robert Wise version. These are not just great horror films but great films in general. They are great because they do not focus on cheap scares, creepy monsters or gore for gores sake. They are soaked in the fear of what is coming next and what we do not know about. The fear of possessed characters with good makeup on. The fear of a house that moves and scares the shit out of who is ever in it. The fear of not knowing what could be around the corner, especially two twins. The Shining is so scary still to this day and that image is truly haunting. I am not at all comparing Wan's film to these at all, but the appreciation of the older, classic films from 60s and 70s are present in this one. He has created mood, style and fear that resonates with any viewer and has created an enjoyable, if not great horror film.
     The film revolves around the Perron family who have moved to a remote home in Harrisville, Rhode Island in the 70s. The film states that this is based on a true story, which always elevates a sense of skepticism, as well as one of modest reality. The film is loosely based on two books written by one of the daughters, Andera Perron, but is changed dramatically by screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes. Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) are the parents and they have five daughters. Strange occurrences begin after a game of hide and clap where they open a boarded stairwell that leads to a cellar. The families dog Sadie refuses to go into the house and birds crash into the windows breaking their necks. Things are amiss in this new family abode and obvious references to Hitchcock's The Birds and the hide and seek game to J.A. Bayona's brilliant, and the last great horror film, The Orphanage. Appreciate that.
     As the youngest daughter, April, and the most vulnerable, begins speaking to a ghost boy Rory after she finds a music/toy box, more unsettling events occur. It is better to see the film without knowing too much so I will not delve so much into other plot details that occur, but the family seeks out the help of the Warren's. Ed (Patrick Wilson), a Vatican approved Demonologist and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), a renowned clairvoyant. These two have worked numerous cases and, although are no way adverse to the fears of their uncompromising professions, are in not scared of diving right in to help this family. She can feel the hurt that has happened to the previous owners of house and feels the dread that is coming to the current residents. Also, the Warren's have a room in their house that contains possessed artifacts of all the cases they have worked, including a truly creepy, sadistic looking doll. 
     Everything that works, and what Wan and the screenwriters have done here, is to create a frightening, tense mood. Characters that are only using matches to see what they cannot see and the creepiness of a stench of death that presides in the possessed house. The creaks and noises of that old house, the unspeakable events of pictures falling off the wall when no one is physically present and the possession of the human body and mind by a demonic spirit. Sheets being pulled off the bed and a creepy black shadow, only seen by Lorraine, that gives a chill knowing that it has been haunting the Perron's ever since they have been living in the house. These are some of the fears that work and create a frightening mood that is successful. The only thing that did not work for me was the somewhat phony, uplifting ending, but that is all I will say on that. It just felt out of place and ruined the mood of the film. And, I really enjoyed the yellow coloring of the titles that rolled up from the bottom of the screen. Nice touch.
     In the end, The Conjuring is a scary, enjoyable horror film that has style, mood and creepy scares. The fear is in what we, and the characters, cannot see and we know something is not right. That feeling is created with the simplest techniques and craft that avoids gallons of blood and guts and cheap thrills. The acting and writing are well balanced and do not overshadow the story. The children roles are exceptionally well acted as well. The filmmakers of The Conjuring have created a good little horror film and even though it is not a home run, it is easily one of the better horror films of the last decade. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Classic Trailers: SAFETY LAST!

     Wednesday film trailers continues on and from now on I will only focus, and present trailers of classic, important films. A classic film may be something personal that I feel fond or passionate about it. It may be a film that has importance based on social and/or political reasons or feelings. Classics are not necessarily films from a certain era and could be something form within the last decade. The film has to have a prominent place in the advancement of cinema and film history. These trailers should entice people's interest in film culture and the emphasized films and there directors, writers, cinematographers, musicians, producers and actors.
      The best way to start is to present a trailer from a filmmaker that was collaborative, innovative and  put forth the template for the romantic comedy. The film is Safety Last! (1923), and stars silent, comedic star Harold Lloyd. Directed by Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, the film is the most well-known of Lloyd's films and one of the more daring. Starring Lloyd as his "glasses character," it contains amazing effects, no bullshit here, and the story of a man from the middle of nowhere who moves to the big city and tries to make it big so he can move his girlfriend to the city and they can get married. What we see is an hilarious, thrilling and beautifully romantic film about doing whatever it takes to make it for the one you love. This was my first viewing of a Lloyd film, who made over hundreds of films, and what a treasure it was. The boutique cinema outfit the Criterion Collection has presented the film in a glorious, pristine Blu-Ray and I am so happy I got to see this film. Check it out if you get the opportunity and buy the Criterion Collection's Blu-Ray if you can. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013



     The filmmakers of V/H/S/2, the sequel to last years anthology horror film V/H/S, have created another series of unsettling and humorous horror shorts that basically exhibits a group of young filmmakers expressing their tastes in horror cinema. They have put together five different short films that range from a tech-ghost story to a bloody cult that will make any viewer a bit queasy. My expectations were not too high being that, as with the first film, this was just a cheap film that is a good midnight piece of escapist entertainment. Nothing really groundbreaking here, but a fun romp in style, humor and gore.
     The film revolves around two investigators who have been hired to search for a missing student. When they break into his house, they find a collection of VHS tapes and begin watching them. They are unaware that by watching these graphic videos, unsettling situations and unhealthy reactions will begin to occur to them and they are truly in for a surprise. The main segment "Tape 49" is directed by Simon Barrett and is the central point in the story. It's where the two investigators begin watching this stash of videotapes and search for the missing student.
     The next segment, and the first tape they watch, is "Phase I Clinical Trials" by Adam Wingard. A man (Adam Wingard) has been in an accident and lost his eye. It has been replaced with an artificial eye that is a test sample and it records everything he sees and does. As he goes about one afternoon he begins to see ghastly ghosts that begin to haunt and terrify him throughout the night. The story is the least graphic of all and the real shock is with the viewpoint being directly from his eye. That scare of turning around and something being right there. You see it as he sees it.
     The second and final segments are "A Ride in the Park" directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale, and "Slumber Party Alien Abduction" directed by Jason Eisener. The first one is zombie story where a man goes for bike ride and gets attacked by zombies. The interesting part is he has a camera attached to his helmet to record his trip. I do not know why but we see his viewpoint throughout the whole segment as a zombie. The final segment was my favorite, being an old school alien attack. Kids are pranking there sister who is having sex with her boyfriend, they spray water guns filled with urine at them while at the lake and attach a camera to a dog when pranking one of the boys masturbating. The aliens begin attacking with huge flashes and loud noises from the lake and no one is safe. The coolest part of this segment was that the aliens looked like stretched out aliens from Roswell. Long fingers, round, raindrop shaped heads and huge almond eyes. I appreciated that old school look of the aliens. Silly and fun.
     There is one more segment, the third one which is called "Safe Haven," directed by Gareth Huw Evans, who also directed The Raid and Timo Tjahjanto. This one is the centerpiece of the film and the most gruesome segment of this film and the first one. It is highly graphic, eerie and completely unsettling. I actually felt queasy after this segment and they went all out with this one. In Indonesia, a documentary film crew gains access to interview and film a leader of a cult. They go to the compound and while an interview gets paused because the cameraman needs a new battery, all hell breaks lose. I want go into too much detail so I do not ruin the segment for anyone but suffice it to say this satanic cult is bonkers as hell. Blood, death, walking dead and, oh yeah, lots of blood. The leader is whacked out beyond comprehension.
     V/H/S/2 is what it is. A fun little romp of horror cinema. A compilation of a bunch of directors having fun, making movies. It is nothing too special but I have a soft spot for horror films and like them for that rush of fear and escapist cinema. Good horror films are hard to find and they do not make them like The Shining, The Exorcist and the original The Haunting anymore. Those films had good, story related thrills that were not done for just blood and graphic scares. But I did mildly enjoy this film and found it to be a non-important fun little journey. Good midnight movie and that's all.

Film Trailers: 12 YEARS A SLAVE

     First off, WOW! This film might end up being the best of all the film coming out this Fall. The story of a free black man in New York, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is sold into slavery. The film is going to be harsh and show a side of America that should have never happened. A destructive, disgusting side that will always be a terrible, hardened disease in American history. Ejiofor is going to be amazing in this role and Michael Fassbender appears to be at his most devilish. Directed by the stylish, controversial Steve McQueen, who directed the visually astute and intense Hunger and Shame. What a cast too! Ejiofor, Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodward, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Michael K. Williams, Scoot McNairy, Garret Dillahunt, Taran Killam and Quvenzhane Wallis. This is definitely one to watch out for this fall.


Pacific Rim

Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro

     Prehistoric, gigantic monsters fighting against human operated robot-like machines is the main concept in Guillermo del Toro's new blockbuster Pacific Rim. Unlike other summer escapist films, although this film does contain some ridiculous feats of stupefying action, this one is more creative and enhanced with a strong performance from a wonderful actor in Idris Elba. That is not to say that all the acting is great by any means at all, but I felt less annoyed and bored with this summer film than I have with the likes of Iron Man 3 and the abysmal The Lone Ranger. Del Toro's imagination and his truly appreciative historical knowledge of film and film history, mainly those Japanese monster movies,  allows Pacific Rim to be an enjoyable, fun blockbuster that shows he can direct big and smaller budget films with style and wonder.
     Pacific Rim really feels like a kids action film. Even though its more than this, it is basically robots, although they are operated inside these enormous machines by humans, versus giant, Godzilla-like monsters. Del Toro creativity comes through so beautifully and imaginatively with the different ways in which the numerous monsters look like and the different ways in which the machines are constructed. The monsters, being known as Kaiju, and the human created machines are called Jaegers. Both are insanely huge. They are as big as skyscrapers, if not bigger. These dinosaur looking creatures, who have been stuck in an interdimesional fissure underneath the Pacific Ocean, have finally been awakened and have forced there way back to the surface to take over Earth. Basically environmental, and here is a little eco-political point in the story, and human interference with the climate has allowed these Kaiju the ability to survive on the planet and they have come out of hiding. The Jaegers have to fight and defeat these sea-dwelling monsters to save the planet from total annihilation.
     The film exhibits some truly breathtaking images that are not all just explosions and destruction, although there is plenty of that as well. In the opening, where a Kaiju rises from the Pacific and destructs the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, del Toro exhibits quite an amazing piece of visual splendor. The problem, and I love del Toro as a filmmaker and film historian, is the absurd action that has come common place in all big budgeted, blockbuster CG-films. The action at times, especially when the Jaegers are fighting two Kaiju's at once, is too long. It takes away from the momentum of the story and is just exhausting after awhile. End it already. I know movie goers these days want to see that exciting, CG-driven action but not for twenty minutes in a row. The part that really was too much was when a Jaeger was 20 to 30 miles in the air and descends back to Earth and lands right on its feet. I didn't buy it and believed it would have been destroyed on impact or at least more damaged than it appeared. Another somewhat unbelievable aspect was the combining of two Jaeger operators thoughts and minds to operate the machines. Hmmm, OK, but it seems there would be more problems then accomplishments with this process. That's summer films for you though. 
     Those annoying set backs aside, the creativity brought forth by del Toro and fellow screenwriter and story creator Travis Beacham brought something new to the screen that was not an unnecessary remake or a boring sequel made for dollar signs. I enjoyed seeing the creative mind and imagination of del Toro come through in the designs of the Kaiju and Jaegers. I prefer the del Toro that crafted amazing films such as, Cronos, The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth to this one, but I believe his mind is so full of images and stories that he has the ability to make small and large scaled films that frankly are not boring and that do not feel like rehashes of something we have seen before. Yes, there is an obvious reference to the classic Japanese monster films like Godzilla and Mothra here, but it feels like an appreciation of those films. 
     Major props to Idris Elba also. An actor that is definitely on the rise and brought some gravitas and sophistication as a former Jaeger operator, now Commander of the pushed aside Jaeger force. He embraces the role with intensity and the importance we have seen from him all the way back to his wonderful role in the BBC crime series Luther. In other del Toro films the acting usually never falters but in this one, with so much focus on the CG and action, the main actor, a washed up former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is the main problem. He is one note, out of place and really did not make me believe a word that was coming out of his mouth. The cockiness is way too forced and his performance dragged the film down for me. The doctors, played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman, are over-the-top but add a comedic tone to balance the action, as well as del Toro's mainstay Ron Pearlman, who is always great and is wonderful as the devious, Kaiju black marketer Hannibal Chau. Guillermo Navarro's cinematography is on point as always and the visual transitions are beautiful as with all of del Toro's films.
     In the end, Pacific Rim is a creative, but slightly problematic film. The visual splendor and imagination of Guillermo del Toro is amazing as always and shows that a summer blockbuster can be an enjoyable and new experience at the movies. I still prefer the more independent driven side of this director but I would rather give a chance on a big budget film with del Toro behind the script and camera then the piles of junk that Hollywood continues to fork out to the masses on a yearly basis. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Film Trailers: OLDBOY (2013)

     Wednesday film trailers is back with Spike Lee's new remake of Chan-wook Park's cult favorite Oldboy. The film stars Josh Brolin as the kidnapped father who, once is released, must uncover the reasons why he was held against his will, while still being trapped in a series of unsettling circumstances and deceit. The trailer looks faithful to the original, which is pretty much a classic in mood, style and intensity in my mind, but can Spike Lee pull it off by putting his own stamp on the material. Some of the visuals look so similar but Brolin looks to be on point with his performance while Samuel L. Jackson might bring to much cheesiness to the film. Hopefully not. This film will divide the die hard fans of Park's 2003 classic since some wonder why is it being remade at all but I am willing to give it a shot. The material and look of the trailer is showing that Lee and the writers have not shied away from a hard R-rating which is good news. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


The Lone Ranger

Directed by Gore Verbinski
Written by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio

     Disney's big budget blockbuster The Lone Ranger is a failed, formulaic film that is void of any depth in storytelling and a Johnny Depp performance that has just about run its course. The film is a mess. It is textbook in the making of a film that has little appreciation for the value of a good narrative and dialogue and focuses on supposed crowd pleasing explosions and ridiculous, fantastical feats of action and lame humor. The film does not work as a western or an action-comedy and thoroughly annoys as the two and a half hour run time seems to take forever to reach.
     Directed by Gore Verbinski, who also directed the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, has fallen off course with this bloated, $200 million plus budgeted summer blockbuster. The main issue, besides the long running time, is the fiscal way of attempting to balance the western genre and appreciation for the original television program of the same name, with the audience friendly comedy and over-the-top action. There are scenes in the big climatic train chase that are just funny in the absurd way. The idea that any of these outlandish sequences would actually happen, the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) jumping his horse onto a moving train and Tonto (Johnny Depp) crossing trains with a wooden ladder are too stupid and boring for me to appreciate. It is definitely not John Ford's Stagecoach or Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. The film is not meant to be though and it is suppose to please the masses and bring in the money.
     The problem is also that there is no appreciation for quality filmmaking but just silly attempts at humor and massive set piece driven action sequences to appease a movie going audience that is void of anything that has importance in cinema. It is not cinema, it is blockbuster mania where we do not have to think or draw your own conclusions. Film in America is getting to low place where dollar signs are more important than quality and Disney's The Lone Ranger is a prime example of this steady machine that does not seem to slowing down.
     The film has themes of revenge and justice, which ring true in any classic western. Armie Hammer plays John Reid, who becomes the Lone Ranger, an educated man of the law who is seeking justice for the murder of his Texas Ranger brother Dan Reid (James Badge Dale). He encounters is estranged ex-girlfriend Rebecca Reid (Ruth Wilson), who is married to Dan and her young son Danny (Bryant Prince). The ruthless, cannibalistic killer Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) is the man they are in pursuit of and is the murderer of Dan. The search for justice is aided with the help of a Native American Tonto (Johnny Depp) who creates the buddy duo with John and also has his own personal reasons for hunting down Cavendish. The story goes from there with weak twists and horrible flashbacks where an over 100 year-old Tonto retells the story of himself and The Lone Ranger's adventures in San Francisco as part of a carnival. This retelling of the story adds little to the film in that it just makes the film much longer then it needed to be.
     Leading into the performances in the film, casting Johnny Depp as Tonto gave the sense that Disney was already putting him front and center ahead of the Lone Ranger. He evidently is in a good financial relationship with Disney. Armie Hammer, who was excellent in David Fincher's The Social Network, is a bit boring and way to clean cut to be a character in the Old West. He just does not bring the comedic balance that the film was going for with Johnny Depp and he just felt out of place and unbelievable throughout the whole film. Johnny Depp's stick of quirky, off-beat likable heroes has run out of fun and desire. He plays Tonto with the same wit and humor as his Jack Sparrow in the Pirates films but something else needs to be in there. It is very much as I had seen this too many times before. I miss the Depp of Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, not a great film but visually amazing and a guilty pleasure film, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The range is still there but this blockbuster, Disney binge he is on has taken him away from quality films that matter. Money speaks.
     In the end, The Lone Ranger is another in a long line of action packed, Joe Popcorn escapist filmmaking. The characters are not written with any depth or concern, but instead the focus is on silly plot twists that are completely redone over and over and explosions and ridiculous action set pieces. The film is a boring mess and contains Johnny Depp in a performance that is at times funny but has just been seen too many times since he first went to mega blockbuster status as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Disney, Depp and Verbinski seem more concerned with dollar signs then anything else.