ENJOY THE SHOW
As far as the English dictionary goes, all the synonyms we have for the word "brutal" have a difficult time doing justice to the level of violence on display in New Zealand's The Dead Lands. From the visceral and energetic opening scene, the tribal actioner proves its worth in blood spilt and limbs lopped off. It's a virtual candy store for martial arts fanatics and hand-to-hand junkies, but this Maori tale of honor and vengeance slowly wears down under the weight of all that visual carnage. The level of brutality holds up in The Dead Lands. The story, though itself drenched with grand ideas of legends, Gods, and monsters, barely clicks.
It’s been 14 years since The Fast and the Furious was released, and the franchise that followed has taken more crazy, left turns than the adrenaline-craving gear heads in its character roster. Good, bad, and even tragic changes have brought the series to this finish line. Furious 7 continues the insane and wholly entertaining level of action these films have taken on for the last couple of entries, and while the excitement level is clearly on par, it’s in the tribute to its characters where Furious 7 takes that step above and beyond.
It Follows, indie writer/director David Robert Mitchell's follow-up to his acclaimed 2010 debut, The Myth of the American Sleepover, couldn't be further from the coming-of-age-in-suburbia drama. In terms of tone, that is. His latest is similar in that it deals with teens in suburban Detroit, but the comparisons end there. It Follows is a nightmarish tale of one girl and the unstoppable curse that has latched itself onto her, a ghost who's hauntings can only be transferred by some good old hanky-panky. The entity follows her relentlessly until it either catches her or she can pass the curse onto another, unlucky person. Mitchell utilizes these two simple ideas to create one of the scariest, cinematic experiences to come along in awhile.
The first thing we see, the first thing we hear, in Get Hard, the new comedy vehicle for Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, is Ferrell himself crying uncontrollably into the camera, more screams coming from him than actual tears. It’s a good, and early, indication of where the comedy in Get Hard lies. The comedic co-leads combine their greatest hits for the film, Hart’s size and stature coming up a time or two in humorous conversation and Ferrell, well, being Will Ferrell. The schtick may be wearing thin, but the two certainly know how to get the laugh-track going. It may never rise to the heights of Ferrell’s better, earlier efforts, and Hart has definitely accomplished more with less. Though the film never finds its way to full-blown belly laughs, Get Hard definitely knows how to make an audience keep chuckling consistently. More below!
Director Robert Rodriguez has possibly come up with the coolest idea for a TV interview show, especially for fans of cinema. "The Director's Chair," airing on Rodriguez's El Rey Network, shows the Desperado filmmaker sitting down for a casual chat with some of the best filmmakers alive. Previous episodes already showed discussions with John Carpenter, Guillermo del Toro, and a Quentin Tarantino two-parter. For his fifth and latest installment, premiering this week, Rodriguez talks with director Francis Ford Coppola, one of the greatest maverick filmmakers who gave us some of the very best the art form has to offer.
Yes, you're tired of "fresh" takes on the vampire myth, and you're sick to death of the found footage/faux documentary filmmaking style. Both have been driven well into the ground, especially in recent years, but there's a good reason these types of films continue on for so long. The simple reason is that films like What We Do in the Shadows come along once in a while achieving something that is as simple as it is clever, as hilarious as it is atmospheric, and as revitalizing as it is genuine. Not only is it the first must-see movie of 2015, it's sure to have a hand in lengthening the shelf lives of vampire movies and found footage horror.
What could be more ridiculous than a Hot Tub Time Machine? How about a sequel? Gratuitous as it may seem, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 has found its way to theaters five short years after its absurd and hysterical predecessor. Extraneous? Sure. Once you’re familiar with the title of the film all questions of whether or not it’s called for get swept aside. The real question here is, “Is this film funny in the slightest?” Simply, yes, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is hilarious. Bringing three of the four leads back from the first film – the funniest three, by the way – this second film twists the aggressive comedy dial hard to the right and with a brazen attitude. It’s as if the film dares you to be disgusted, and, to an extent, it succeeds. More below!
Fifty Shades of Grey is not the disgusting trainwreck of awful filmmaking and horrendous acting some of you were expecting. It’s not even the steamy, sexually enlightening handbook for which some of you were hoping. The adaptation to E.L. James’ nationwide bestseller – itself based from Twilight fan fiction – was inevitably going to stir up controversy of all manner before its release, but the film, itself, is both tamer and, surprisingly, more accomplished than the preemptive lack of credit being given. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, it’s is a freshly-shot film telling a weakly-crafted story, the latter criticism of which seems to be built in to today’s Hollywood release structure. It’s the first of a three act story, but Fifty Shades of Grey brings enough visual style – and one solid lead performer – to keep you on board for the eventual trilogy.
Good or bad, the films of the writing/directing sibling duo, The Wachowskis, have always struck a chord of interest. Even their less respected works either present noteworthy, sci-fi questions or deliver cool, sci-fi extravaganzas for the senses. Jupiter Ascending is their film most deserving of deep deconstruction. It’s a messy film, one that seems to have been sadly cut to shreds by post-production meddling. Its frantic structure and goofy accents keep it on the fringe of landing as highly as many of their previous works, perhaps all of them. For all of its hokey details though, Jupiter Ascending is a true Wachowski sci-fi action adventure that fully delivers the heart-stopping excitement for which we’ve all grown to love them. Read on!
What a time for Blackhat to come out! A procedural thriller about capturing a nefarious cyberhacker seems like feast for the masses after Sony Pictures being hacked by North Korea - or one of their own employees depending on who you believe. The tension should be built into what is already a promising return from director Michael Mann. That's not exactly what we get, though. For all its potential, Blackhat ends up being a run-of-the-mill paper chase with little solid action and even less in form of Mann-heavy cool. Chris Hemsworth, always good for some charm, doesn't even seem to be playing along in what amounts to an unfortunate and mostly dull misfire, a sad affair given Mann's mostly flawless film history.
If you're wondering whether or not Clint Eastwood has any new tricks under his hat, you may be disappointed with his latest outing, American Sniper. Not so much a war movie as it is war-movie cliches holding hands, the biopic on Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, based on his autobiography, is doing a disservice to the very real accomplishments the man achieved. Perhaps the simplest, most straight-forward, no-nuance technique was a way of honoring the American hero. Unfortunately it results in the opposite, giving us the hammy and obtuse Eastwood with which watchers of his work have become all too familiar. Contrary to the obvious pun, the film actually hits its mark. It's just Eastwood's mark we're watching.
"This has been such a bad year for movies." That odd statement inevitably rears its head throughout social media pretty much every year. The easy response, the right response, to such a statement is, "You haven't seen enough movies." There are always great films out there just waiting to be found, incredible pieces of cinema mixed in with all the weekly, standard garbage lovers of film have to sift through. It's always worth sifting through to find the diamonds in the rough, those quality treasures of exceptional filmmaking and storytelling. So now I present to you my own Top 10 Films of 2014 that I am thankful to have discovered.
Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way. The Interview is the latest comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the filmmaking duo who previously brought us the screamingly hilarious This Is the End. For that reason, along with Rogen and James Franco starring, The Interview was anticipated. Then the troubles began. They've been well-documented, and the debate on who's responsible, who's to blame, and who's benefiting from it all has quickly become tiring. The very scary point is there was a brief moment where we weren't sure if we would see this movie. The fear that The Interview would be erased from existence, spend film history on a shelf as a mere legend, was a reality. But then Christmas came early.
Another year of great movies, another year of great music within those movies. I love soundtracks and always have. At one point in college my shelves were lined with dozens of CDs, soundtracks whose music allowed me to relive those movies. Music can bring so much power to a scene, and after seeing the film, you put that music on anywhere and let it fill your mind with best moments that movie had to offer. There were great collections of movie music in this year, so many that it was difficult coming up with my Top 10 Best Soundtracks/Scores of 2014. But here are the tunes that I will be enjoying for years to come. Read on!