Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

StarWars: The Force Awakens -  136min - PG13

After many years of waiting, we finally get more stories from this series. If done right they will have stories to tell for years, and tears to come.  I really liked so much of this film it's hard to say just one thing. I will say that I look forward to more.  Read my review here.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hell House LLC

Hell House LLC - 93min - NR

Here is my review of one of the features shown at The Telluride Horror Show.  Hell house LLC was one of my favorites. Taking the next step in found footage films gives a fresh feel to this kind of movie. Read the review here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Telluride Horror Show

Telluride Horror Show

This is one of the best movie festivals in the country.  Read it on Web Wombat here.  Every horror movie fan should attend this show at least once in your life.  A wonderful venue for a wonderful and scary festival. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs - 122 min - R

Here is my review of Steve Jobs. Its posted to I covered a friend who could not attend the screening (I need to get back on the press list).  Read My Review here . This was a good move that was completely made up.  Instead of being the subject of a bio picture he is used as a common denominator to tell a touching father and daughter story. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Martian

The Martian – 141min – PG13

Matt Damon is back in space and this time he has to find a way to survive on Mars for as long as it’s going to take to get a rescue mission to him. This movie is a great example of how an engaging story can let the time slip by unnoticed. It is also a great examination of the human spirit and the ingenuity of a person who makes a choice to survive. This is such a great movie, I am taking my son to go see it today. A green light film should have production value, spectacular performances and be engaging. This move has all of that.

The manned mission to Mars is interrupted by a storm and the crew gets the evacuation orders. During the evacuation, Mark Watney (MattDamon) is struck by debris his communication and vitals monitoring systems are destroyed. Believing that he has died the crew go on with the evacuation and start their four month journey back to earth. He wakes up alone, on Mars with limited resources he now has to find a way to survive.

Some standout performances were Jeff Daniels who spectacularly played the Director of NASA. Chiwetel Ejiofor was again unfairly outperforming everyone on screen with him. Sean Bean does not die in this movie and it’s nice to see him finish a film without a death scene. Jessica Chastain shines as the captain of the mars mission. Really the entire cast all had strong performances but these were the ones that I truly enjoyed. There wasn’t a weak or miscast player in this production.

Not being an astronaut or a botanist I have to say from the laymen’s view, the science works out just fine. I enjoyed watching the science unfold and how math and engineering and a team effort helped Mark survive. The choice he made to survive and how he did it was also a great life lesson. You are going to die unless you solve this problem, solve it and move to the next problem. The specter of death was always present but the ingenuity and drive of a man’s will to survive can overcome many obstacles.

Neal deGrasse Tyson gave his blessing on keeping the science accurate in a series of tweets. I think his approval of the film validates that a movie can be entertaining and accurate. What it gives me as a viewer is the thought of I could do that. Nothing Watney does  is fantasy or fudged to make it a better story. Science is entertaining as it is.

Not seeing the 3D version I am unable to comment if if it added to the experience. I know that for some films 3D is more of a distraction and takes away from the story. When it is applied as a gimmick it almost never ends well. I may have to go and check it out to see if my hypothesis is correct. I’ll let you know if the 3D is better than a regular showing.

I saw the 3D version and it added a little depth (pun intended)  but not enough to forgo the normal theatrical release.

The other effects in the film were done with care and don’t scream out that a CGI effect has been done. Mark’s emaciated body toward the end of the film as well as the floating debris in space blends in so well that they all enhance the imagery without drawing attention to themselves.

Mark’s sense of humor helps him a lot in the weeks and months alone. He makes logs to keep a chronicle of his journey and Matt Damon embodies that character well. His touches of sarcasm and mental acuity are played well that gives Mark a charm that draws you into his plight and engages you in his survival. You want him to live because you fall in love with how down to Mars he is.

I have been ordered to read the book by a friend who says that the book as a lot of humor in it. As I understand it there are a number of cut scenes. There are a lot more of Matt Damon cracking wise in character for the camera. I can’t wait for the blue ray to come out so I can see them.

What blue ray release have you waited for in hopes of great extra features? 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ek Tha Tiger

Ek Tha Tiger - 132min – NR

My trip to India has turned me on to Indian cinema. I have seen three movies in the last few weeks and it just happens that all three are made by the same director. Kabir Kahn directed this film in 2012 and it looks like it’s his directorial debut. You can tell it’s a first film from some of the shots and the, at times, odd pacing of the film. I am very glad that he has progressed as a director and some of the choices he made in the other films he has done has defiantly shown improvement. There is more self-assuredness to the camera choices and how he set up the scenes.

Tiger (Salman Khan) is an agent for RAW the Indian equivalent of the CIA and he has to retrieve some information from an Indian scientist, Professor Kidwai (Roshan Seth) in Dublin. Tiger starts to make a move but gets distracted by the professor’s cleaning lady, Zoya (Katrina Kaif). He falls for her but she turns out to not only be a cleaning lady she works for Pakistani Intelligence and she is there to get the same information. They now have to make a choice between love or country.
Salman Khan is a mountain of a man and has the most charming demeanor, even when he is at his most bad-assed you still kind of feel like the nicest person in the world is kicking ass. Katrina Kaif is awesome on the screen and she is so talented but her fighting skills are not as refined as Kahn’s. When you see her fight, it defiantly looks like she is concentrating on trying very hard to make the punch look right. She is outstanding otherwise.

I wanted to spend time talking about the director. This is an interesting confluence of events that I have now seen three of his movies just by random chance. Watching them in reverse order gives you an interesting perspective on his progress as a director. The first one I saw was Bajrangi Bhajaan,which is his latest film about an Indian man getting a young mute Pakistani girl back home. It’s a great blend of music and action and emotional pull. You can read my review HERE.

Ek Tha Tiger defiantly feels like a first film. It has the length of a typical Indian film but most of that could be cut because of the over-use slow motion shots. He uses them with all the finesse of a toddler with a new noisy toy. There is a scene where we see a character knocks over an ash tray and it goes into super slow motion to show the slow fall of the cigarette butts and ash artistically floating to the floor. But nothing is happening aside from that. When that scene is used it means that something bad is about to happen when said slow motion object hits the floor or to demonstrate that the hero of the film can draw his weapon\subdue his bad guy all before the cigarette hits the floor. None of those things happened it was a wasted shot.

There were also an over-use of longing looks between the love interests. There seemed to be one too many reaction shots after Tiger and Zoya locked eyes. She locks eyes with him we see him return the look and it’s established. You could even add a touch of slow motion to these scenes to add weight to the scene but only just a touch. They are great looking but again it unnecessarily adds to the length of film.

After taking a look at where they could tighten up the shots they could reasonably cut this 132 minute film down to 100 min. This is a great example of the growth of a filmmaker I would recommend seeing all three of his film only to watch the progression of an artist.

What other movies also demonstrate the growth of a director? 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

This is the second instalement of the film version of the Maze Runner book series. See what I did there. This move takes place in a desert wasteland inhabited by zombies and survivors that are just as dangerous as the zombies. This two hour journey is a long slog through the setting to get to anything of story substance. On the bright side it is on par with the first one but the first got a meh from me.

This film picks up right after the kids are rescued from the clutches of W.C.K.D. Here’s some advice for potential bad guys out there looking to start up a nefarious organization don’t call yourself by an acronym that is synonymous with evil. There is little wonder that you can get these good kids to join you. They find out that things are not as they seem with their protectors so they have to make a break for it and try and survive out in the scorch.

We get more clues to what the reason for the mazes were and we also get more questions as well. As a second part it completely expands the story of move one with enough story elements to launch into a third movie. But the question is will we be engaged enough to get there? If anything this movie also stands as testament that if this world were to go through a similar event, I would be dead because I don’t run enough. Man they do an awful lot of running. Apocalypse rule #1 Cardio

This one was longer and for the time we didn’t get anything more than longer walking scenes. The walk across San Francisco Bay was tedious for the characters as well as the audience. The unusual circumstance that the first movie gave us is now devolved into a scorched earth setting and lacks the curiosity of the first film.

Despite the length, I still enjoyed the tension of some of the scenes. They have kept up the monster quota only this time it’s darker and more of the zombie variety known as cranks. In the range of zombies they are the running after you kind, but not as fast as 28 Days rage zombies but still fast and surprisingly agile with joints that are not working. The cranks have been infected with the flare virus and one bite will convert you unless you are lucky enough to have a natural immunity.

I have always been a fan of post apocalyptical setting and this one has all of the right elements. A ruined city inhabited by crank zombies. Scarce resources so you have to scavenge for anything you can use to survive. These settings and the constant action is fine but they are only set dressing unless you have a really good story to tell.

I would have liked to have seen more development between the characters.There is no time to actually get to know the characters so their choices seem to be just follow the beats of the plot. Death of a character should have more impact than just a nod. Betrayal should punch you in the stomach not wave at you from across the room. Because of the lack of development we only have time to process the action and never get to focus on the people that the action is happing to.

Will I go and see the third one? Yes, because I’m a movie nut and will see anything. However I will not be counting the days until its release. I may see it because it is showing next.
Is there a series that you have seen on screen and have been reluctantly going to see only because you have seen the first two?

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Visit

The Visit – 94min – PG13

This film is a return to the thing that made M. Night Shyamalan famous: a great story told simply. Doing a micro budget film forces you to focus on only the essentials in the story. Mr. Shyamalan has some good stories. I learned a while back that when going to one of his films don’t try and guess where the story is going; just sit back and enjoy it as it unfolds. It’s a bit like going to see a magician and working out how the tricks are done when you watching the show. You miss the magic. Maybe I’m not the best person to review this film, I already have a high opinion of his work so yeah I am going to love it. It does nothing but make me enjoy his creativity more.  

Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) spend a week with their estranged grandparents. Becca is a budding filmmaker and wants to document the trip. This leads us down a path that I have never cared for as a device. The main characters are shooting the footage. It’s not really a found footage per se but it’s chocked full of oddly staged scenes and shaky camera shots.  Using these devices, in my opinion, on a big budget film is a lazy story-telling tool. But on a micro budget, it’s understandable.

Beyond that, what really attracted me to the story is that the characters are genuine. The family is going through a separation and the kids are going away to give mom some time with the new man in her life. The kids have some time to examine the effects of their parents break-up, and we can see them working out their issues.

The pacing is very deliberate. Rising tension is relived by a touch of humor and the simple explanation that what they saw is very normal if you look at it from a certain point of view. This is another reason to enjoy this film with its understanding of human nature to accept reasonable explanations for things because the alternative would be too horrifying. Yet the horrifying is sitting right there waiting for you to recognize what you have been seeing all along. As it comes more and more into focus, the feeling is akin to that of the slow rise up the hill on a roller coaster. Click,click, click,click as you go up and crest the hill you can see the drop off and do nothing but go with it and hope that you survive out the other end.

I loved the symbolism in the film. It may be heavy handed but still done well. The characters surviving their ordeal and walking out into the rain as a baptism to their new lives touches the right notes. Unlike other films it doesn’t make victims of its characters who survive only to become creatures themselves or are horribly scarred for the rest of their lives.

The dialog has the flavor and touches of humor that have been missing from some of his previous work. You can tell that he has the story clearly in his mind and that translates to the screen perfectly. This has the same feel as the Sixth Sense. They both have similar themes: kids are stronger than we give them credit for and life can sometimes be scary but we get through it. 

I for one, am glad this film is doing well and that Mr. Shyamalan is telling stories again. I’m looking forward to the next one.  Are you? 

Monday, August 17, 2015

No Escape

No Escape – 93min – R

This is not a relaxing film. It stirs up tense moments on so many different political and familial levels. At times I was worried about the family and others worried about the filmmakers. Regardless of the tense moments it seems like a movie that is out of step with today’s understanding of the world. As a yellow light film it was riding right in the middle of good production value but poor story.

Jack (OwenWilson) and Annie Dwyer (Lake Bell) have moved their family to an East Asian Country for Jack’s new Job. They are far from their family and friends, complete strangers in a very dark landscape. Before they land, the government is overthrown in a bloody coup. The angry mob is out to kill the evil Americans who have come to exploit their water. The Dwyer family is running for their lives and get help from an ex secret agent, Hammond (Pierce Brosnan). He sacrifices himself for the family and they fight their way to the safety of Vietnam.

There was a very seedy feel to the story. The setting was generic Southeast Asian country and instead of focusing on any of the cultural richness of the region, it was a mishmash of prostitution, karaoke and old people living in squalor. There could have been just as much anger and rage by the people being exploited without making them out to be the worst people white people imagine about that area of the world. If anything it would have been more terrifying that a culturally rich country could have such violence amongst it.

The craft of filmmaking was great. The camera work and the scenes were well constructed to make you uncomfortable during the escape and the fighting. There are some good perspective shots that put you in the action and in the same hiding places. They also construct situations that will put you on edge. The scene where they have to ride a moped through a mob on the street in clothes they have taken off of people that have been killed by the angry mob is very tense. There was a moment that could have been better used. His bike falls over and he gets help picking it up by a guy who kind of recognizes him but doesn’t. It would have been better to have the guy who helps him is someone who he helped earlier. Say a man on the street is moving sacks of rice and Jack helps him pick up a few bags as he is going to the store for a newspaper.

The lack of blended storytelling makes this film seem very one dimensional. They have absolutely no depth to the characters or the plot. However the use of slow motion scenes and the angles used for some of the shots were great at inducing anxiety. I am not a fan of handheld shots, but in the chaos of a coup it does as designed and gives you a very uncomfortable feel. The pacing of the film is great you go from high action to quiet sneaking and back to high action, but it doesn’t remove any of the tension. Walking out of the film I was finally relaxed that it was over.

Ultimately this film will fall into obscurity and do nothing for the people who made it. The director (John Erick Dowdle) has a good eye for filmmaking but now needs to pair up with a great writer. What would be your dream team for a director and writer combo?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

As a formulaic summer blockbusters go, the latest installment in the MI series does a great job of bringing the goods. When I go and see this movie I am not looking for deep plots or a lot of character development. I come to a film like this to see the following: Tom Cruise channeling his inner Jackie Chan and doing some crazy stunts. Simon Pegg adding his pop culture nerdly flavor to the supporting role. Jeremy Renner looking fabulous as he brings the heat. Ving Rhames being the baddest hacking Motherfu(Hush your mouth).. Just talking about Ving. I enjoyed this movie immensely.

Ethan (Tom Cruise) gets attacked by the Syndicate, an organization like his, only bent on making the world a more chaotic place. He is the only one who knows for sure this organization exists and his department is being shut down because of the efforts of Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). The IMF agents are all being absorbed into the CIA. Ethan is on his own with no support from his country, but being disavowed is nothing new to him. He starts recruiting some trusted people and goes on the offensive.

I liked how this movie picks up right after the second movie. I don't know if they are going to do more but as an action fluff film they have the right mix. Other films go heavy on the humor and some just focus on causing the most damage scene after scene. This film has a good balance between building action scenes and story with just a few humorous spots to relieves the tension. The characters have had a lot of time to get comfortable in their skins and it shows on how easily they interact on screen.

The director (Christopher McQuarrie) really knows how to work with the action film elements. As writer and director, he can guide the action to be as he intended on the page. Some writers/directors need someone to bring them back after they have swerved too far off the path. McQuarrie doesn't seem to need this. His product is fresh and clean and an enjoyable journey. He first got my attention with his work as writer for The Usual Suspects. He has a great way of making the characters seem real. There is an honesty to his characters that is fun to watch.

Tom Cruise, regardless of his personal beliefs and associations, is a star. I have been guilty of making fun of the craziness that is his personal life but when we are in the theater and he is on screen he commands respect and can carry off the many performances that he takes on. He was miss-cast as Jack Reacher but still did a strong job as that version of the character.

Rumors hover over the next installment but they are going to have to tread carefully. You don't want to carry the fun on too long because when a franchise goes bad it just doesn't go a little bad it goes very, very bad. So far they are doing fine and I hope they continue with this streak, because gosh darn it, these moves are fun. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E

Proving yet again that Hollywood is out of ideas, we have another movie made form a TV show. I was never a fan of the TV show so I was only mildly interested, however Guy Ritchie is an outstanding storyteller and makes this formulaic TV story into something outstanding. This film highlights Ritchie's masterful skill at blending just the right amount of action with story and emotion. I appreciated the dedication to the vintage time period. it feels like if the filmmakers from the 60s had access to today’s technology, this would totally be a move they would have made.

Art thief Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is recruited by the CIA to work for them in exchange for not going to jail. He is partnered with a KGB operative, Illya Kuryakin (Arnie Hammer)  to find and stop a maniacal villain, Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki) from launching a nuclear weapon. With the help of a girl, Gaby (Alicia Vlkander) from East Berlin whose father is being held captive to work on the bomb. Together they work to save the world.

The setting is the cold war and they did a perfect job of fitting in with that time period. The costumes and set design are one thing, but the choice of font for subtitles blends in with that time period perfectly. They even took some of screen division elements from the TV show. You know the ones where we see one protagonist looking one way, and only on the top half of the screen and the other protagonist looking the other way occupying the bottom of the screen. They both split further and the bad guy is looking directly at the screen. The animated series Samurai Jack used this technique well.

I enjoyed the way that they sometimes back tracked on a scene, showing what is happening all at the same time. The end is a great example of this. We see events unfold from one point of view. Then we see them from a different character’s POV, and again from a different character. All of the events happened simultaneously but we are now seeing what everyone was doing right before the final outcome, with the scenes edited together without confusing the audience is a challenge. They did a great job of it.

I have yet to see Guy Ritchie movie that I didn't like. Unlike the other directors of today he seems to have gift for adding just the right amount of everything. He has a knack for pace and for blending all the elements together to make a highly entertaining film. His choice of performers is outstanding as well. The three stars of the film work really well together on screen. They have a great chemistry that makes it enjoyable to watch.

Armie Hammer's portrayal of Illya is perfect. He has the intensity of a hard Russian spy but enough subtle vulnerabilities that make him interesting. As the straight man to Solo's sense of humor he gives a lot of great material to play off of. Henry Cavil's Agent Solo is extremely American. Every line he delivers is like he is making an announcement at a pageant. Every line is dripping with roguish charm.

When I was a kid, I saw the show in reruns but it never held my interest, maybe now that I'm older I should give this series another look. Or maybe Guy Ritchie took a dull series and made it entertaining.

What TV shows did you look at in a different light after they were put on the big screen? 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Terminator Genisys

Ok, Ok. I admit when I heard they were making another Terminator movie and having Arnold reprise his role, I was the first to jump on the "He's too old" bandwagon. I am also the first to admit when I am wrong. This film not only respects the original two films, but incorporates them in a way that gives Arnold's age a feasible reason. I apologize to Mr. Schwarzenegger. He still has it. This film is now the third movie in my perfect trilogy of The Terminator series.

This movie takes place long after and long before the events of the first film. When playing with time travel you can easily bake your noodle. They do it in a way that makes it easy to follow. A guardian terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent back to prepare Sarah Conner (Emilia Clark) to survive when they send another terminator back to kill her. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) comes back in time unaware that Sarah is waiting for him and prepared to rescue him from a new terminator.

What really gets me is their dedication to the original film. They took great pains in reshooting the original scenes from the first terminator movie to such detail that I had to go back to the original and verify they didn't use remaster shots. They did a great job of matching it shot for shot.

As Arnold isn't getting younger they quickly age him by way of having to jump forward in time without him. The guardian can't go with them he has to go the long way around to meet them. Thus providing the means of having Arnold just the way he looks now. He also has more of a heroic role that he wanted. He is the protector and the series two terminators (T-1000) are the bad guys.

He has trained Sarah but she has also trained him. He is now programed to not kill humans. This is an interesting dynamic that was in the second film and it works well.

Another nice touch to show the distance in time was the addition of the Character O'Brien. When Kyle jumps to the 80's He meets a cop by the name of O'Brien (Wayne Bastrup) once they jump further in the future O'Brien (J.K. Simmons) is there and his run-in with the killer robot has affected him and he looks for stuff like time travelers. This gave the scenes distance from each other. It added to the realism of the time travel.

Matt Smith is now the embodiment of the Skynet and a complete change from his previous role as the Doctor in Doctor Who. This is a perfect example of his range. The Doctor was charming funny and fun to be with, Skynet not so much. He takes over John Conner(Jason Clark) in the future and send John Conner back to start the process that will ensure Skynet's creation.

This is where it blends in with the second film. The same location and company but this time Skynet has advanced the technology they have created to make the T-1000 machines a lot sooner in the time line.

Emilia Clark is outstanding as Sarah. She plays her with strength and just a touch of humanity. She has proven to me that she can take on some more action roles and not lose touch with her charm and femininity. She is not the victim in this timeline. She has been training for this fight and brings the heat to the machines. I would pay to see her in another action film.

A perfect Saturday would be Subway sandwiches, cooler of your favorite drinks some snacks and a trilogy with The Terminator, Terminator Two: Judgement Day and Terminator Genisys. The others two don't need to be brought up. Who's in?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Private Parts

Private Parts - 109min - R

Howard Stern appeals to a lot of people. Not me, but I have to admit that he has a very interesting life. See what my thoughts are in my article  Here on web Wombat. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Dumb and Dumber To

I almost don't want to write this review, because it would mean having to admit I have seen this movie. I really want block out the whole thing. But if I have to say I saw the movie then here goes. Avoid this move like it was a warm glass of laxatives disguised as a good luck toast. I have said it once I'll say it again. Don't make a sequel for nostalgia's sake. Make a sequel if the story is strong enough to warrant a movie. This one was not.

I don't want to recap the movie because it's still too painful. Let’s just say that Harry (A fucking Emmy Award Winner Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) are the same but now they are looking for what they think is Lloyds daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin). They stumble into lots of great setups for fart jokes and a few other scatological hijinks, but really, nothing happens.

I saw the first one and I enjoyed it. It was exactly as it said on the tin. It was at the midnight showing and I had just gotten off of a 12 hour shift so my judgement may have been impaired, but the first one was funny. This one is not funny, and it’s convoluted and doesn't work. The jokes are stale and every punchline takes way too long to get to and once you do hit us with the payoff it doesn't really pay off. I kept hoping that they would stop the movie and say “just kidding.”

The formula is still the same but with only a few changes in side characters. I would have liked to see some progression with the characters. They have this painful joke about Lloyd acting like he is in a catatonic state for the past 20 years as a prank. It gives them a reason not to progress the characters. They could have had Harry learn few things while Lloyd remained the same character because of the prank. That stinker is the opening of the film. You would think that it would at least get a little better if you start out so low. It doesn't.

In this go-round, Rob Riggle is the butt monkey who takes all of the abuse from the two idiots while he is trying to kill them. I am so sorry he has to have this on his list of credits. If anything Hollywood should give him more films so he can push the stink of this film further down his credit list.

I literally left the theater in a worse mood than when I went in. Every joke that bombed was another kick to the groin. I was so embarrassed for these people who can and have done so much better. You could tell they were selling it for all they were worth, but the material was just not funny. I can't even tell if it was just me because the theater I was at was empty except for me. Well that may be telling right there. I only went because it was showing next.

I understand the need to recapture the magic of something that worked once but it’s like smoke: once it's in the wind it's gone. You can only enjoy it for that one moment. You look sad when you try and get the same magic out of a manufactured moment. Like a high school graduate going back to the campus 20 years later to remember the glory days it should be a private walk down memory lane, not filmed and packaged as a bad movie.

Do you want to know the most annoying sound in the world.... this movie. Let's all just pretend this sordid affair didn't happen and we can go on with our lives. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind - 137min - PG

This movie is from my youth I enjoyed it and its held up for the most part. Take a flight down memory lane reading my article Here on Web Wombat. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hitman: Agent 47

Hitman: Agent47 - 96 min - R

As much as I love video games, I have been burned by how bad a video game translates to the screen. There have been way too many misses to justify the few hits. This movie falls in that middle ground. Not good enough to be a hit but better than many of the video game movies I've seen. The first time director, Aleksander Bach, steps onto the scene with power and excellent skills, all be it rough around the edges. He could evolve into the next Luc Besson given more time to develop. They definitely took great care in making sure the story matches the spirit of the game. At least he hasn't followed in the footsteps of other directors who have taken a dump on video game moves..Koff.. Uwe Boll, Koff, koff.

Katia (HannahWare) is a woman trying to find answers about her past. She has remembers a man, but nothing else. An agent is after her, a genetically engineered killing machine with no emotion or motivation other than to complete his mission. The Agent, who is numbered 47 (Rupert Friend) will stop at nothing at getting to her. A man named John Smith (Zachary Quinto) is trying to help Katia but in this movie nothing is as it seems. This is an extremely hard balancing act to pull off. Everyone is a mystery we are just as lost as the characters to start off.

Keeping the audience in the dark about the who is a good guy or a bad guy is a good hook but you can’t maintain it for too long. When the audience doesn't have anyone they know going into the second act you've lost any chance at getting the audience to root for them.

As a first major film for the director it’s really decent performance. It has just the right amount of action and the supernatural abilities of the main character to make it feel like you are watching great player play the game. The timed cause and effect special attacks and general fighting are fun to watch. The acting is monotone. Agent 47 is not designed to have any emotions so it makes sense he would be toned down when delivering lines. There are a few spots he lets a little life into the delivery but only the briefest of moments. The lines are also very binary. What I mean is one person says something and the other person responds. There is no interplay with the dialog. It would be nice to see the effect of what’s being said on the face of one of the characters.

The scenes in-between the fighting are amateurish. There are little to no depth or construction to the in-between shots they seem to be there only to pass the time until we can get back to the action. The CGI is applied with a heavy hand in some scenes. There was one scene where the Agent and Mr. Smith are falling into a moving train and then fall to the track below. Very heavy CGI effect takes me right out of the movie and wonder if they should have perhaps done better or cut the scene all together.

This is the second attempt at making the Hitman series a hit. The first attempt at a movie from this video game franchise in 2007 was a critical disappointment and this one isn't doing much better. I have begun to wonder if this is just not meant to be made into a movie. If they do want to do this right, (I know I am going to get heck for saying this), they need an origin story. Hear me out. What this movie is missing is an emotional connection to the character. He is a tin man who excels at killing folks. The audience needs to be invested in the character’s progress. This movie doesn't give us this.

There was also no doubt the good guys would win. They had absolutely no consequences or risk in the fights they were having. In the end, this movie is nothing more than violent eye candy. That's fine and sometimes really hard to do. Now they need to make sure they can balance out with more story.

Did you think this better or worse or on par with the 2007 film?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Top Five

Top Five - 102min - R

I have enjoyed Chris Rock's work. He out does himself with writing this great story while acting in a not so great story.  Take a look at my article here posted to Web Wombat. 

Monday, July 6, 2015


Minions - 91 min - PG

Side characters almost never do well when they try and pilot their own film. Looking at my coffee, I am struck by an analogy. I love my cinnamon dolce latte but I don't want a cup of hot cinnamon water. The same goes for the Minions movie. At first glance I admit I was interested because I loved them in the Despicable Me franchise. But they really only work as side characters. This film is not strong enough to be a green but not average enough to be a yellow. I guess you can't eek by on cuteness and charm.

This is the origin story of Minions and shows us how they came to work for Gru. From the dawn of time they have sought out the strongest, meanest bad guy and devoted their entire existence to serving them. As we watch them progress from bad guy to bad guy we see them inadvertently kill off each and every bad guy they serve. The literally love their bosses to death. This movie tries to explain what we have taken on faith.

Charley Bucket wisely said chocolate doesn't need a reason, the same could be said for minions. This movie does nothing to enrich the Despicable Me universe. So much time and effort needs to bring something to the universal story arc. The minions do fine with shorts, but after the first thirty minutes the film loses steam. It starts back up again once the people who speak English are on screen.

Some of the good qualities are the performances by the actors. Sandra Bullock gets her mean on by playing Scarlet Overkill, the baddest villain before Gru. John Hamm is great as her husband. Talented as they were their characters made no sense. I know I am arguing sense in a movie where in the first film they stole the moon. But some things you are willing to go along with.

The psychotic nature of Scarlet Overkill was way out of check. The example of her having planned out how she was going to be Queen and based her dress and look on the picture she drew when she was young. When the designer doesn't make her look exactly like her picture she loses it. I don't believe she has the wherewithal to become the biggest villain when she can't see that this is an unrealistic request. She could have been stronger and more maniacal. Instead she comes off as unstable.

This is a journey that is best forgotten. If you are getting an urge to see the minions, watch the shorts on the extras disk on the Despicable Me movie. That's about as long as they can carry a story. It's not a bad thing to do really good short films. You have to know where your strengths are and work with them. Keep banning them out, make 2 hours worth of them. Just don't put them together and try to make a movie with them.

I think they should have focused on Gru as a kid. Start off fighting Scarlet Overkill take us through the relationship they have with Gru. You have established characters and if you want to have a we have killed all the bad guys we have worked for in the past montage. But they are trying their very best not to inadvertently kill young Gru. That opens up many more humor options than what they have.

Can you think of any movie that had side characters take center stage in their own move that did well? Perhaps this is why there is no Side Character Genre.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - 101min - PG13

Oh how wrong can things go when you underestimate the viewing audience. This movie didn't play with the fan base or new audience. See what I wrote about this steaming pile of Turtle leavings here on Web Wombat. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fantastic Four (2015)

There seems to be a lot of hate heading toward the Fantastic Four, and for good reason. It's yet another shallow reboot attempt that's sole purpose is to keep ahold of a copyright. This time they take a crack at the Marvel Ultimate version of the FF story. We have to trudge through another long-winded origin story instead of dropping us off into the action. Director Josh Trank previously impressed me with his work on Chronicle. He needs to go back to that franchise and leave Fox to hoarding the unsold Fantastic Four paraphernalia. I bet the studio heads are all wondering why this one didn't work. I am guessing it’s because instead of letting talented people do what they do best they figured that as they are paying for it they need to have creative control as well.

I am going to list all of the good things about this film.

If we are going for the Ultimate look then the casting was spot on. A younger cast looks like they walked off a set of a CW series. Miles Teller does a great Reed Richards. Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan bring the Storms to life quite well. Jamie Bell has a moody take on The Thing, dark but well played. The Doom is brought to life by Toby Kebbell and is dag-nasty evil in this telling of the fab four.

The set design was really wonderful. The other dimension and the labs look great. The costumes were basic but I think as an origin film they didn't need to get into the whole blue spandex thing, at least not yet.

and... that's it....the end of my list of what they hit the mark on.

There were other good performances with the Reg E. Cathy playing Dr. Storm, Johnny and Sue’s father. Even more impressive because they had to work with a completely flat and lifeless story. It takes too long to explain how Ben and Reed are friends when we can really just take it on faith that they are friends. That time could have been better spent.

The company Dr. Storm work for seems to be a front for a shadow organization. The dimensional portal that the team has made is up and working and the company seems bent on getting NASA Involved in doing jumps to another dimension. Before they hand over the machine the young intrepid scientists decide to go on a jump of their own. Things go drastically wrong, and Victor Von Doom gets left behind. The remaining three get spirited away to an Area 51 esque military base. Reed Richards escapes and starts to try and find a cure for the effects of the journey to the other dimension. Ben, Sue and Johnny are left behind and start working for the shadow group.

Like the earlier film the “heroes” are not doing anything heroic. They are only cleaning up their own mess. If they hadn't used the machine they wouldn't have created Doom. If they hadn't brought Doom back to try and save him, he wouldn't have created a wormhole that ate a town. When they finally put an end to Dr. Doom’s diabolical scheme, the government agency that was using them as black ops team is now sucking up to them. They are given a secluded high tech lab to run even more dubious experiments in. With all the damage these folks have done, I wouldn't be so quick to give them more ammunition. It’s easy to look heroic when you’re cleaning up a huge mess that you created. Come to think of it my son may be taking this tack when he is bragging about cleaning his room.

Doctor Doom is a very dark bad guy that has no care for human life. He goes through the military base exploding heads. His rationale being that humanity ruined this world and he can make his world a better one. I don't know if I am a fan of the eco-warrior vein they have him written in.

Josh Trank is better than this film. He has shown that given space to work he can do a very compelling hero movie. His first film was really strong storytelling despite the cliched “found footage” aspect.
 I get the feeling that he was brought in to breathe life into this franchise that is on its last legs. But instead of the studio heads giving him resources to do what he does best, he was hampered by the “Old Studio” formula where every executive thinks they should have creative control over things. They should have really just stepped back and let the talented people work.

What leads me to think that non-creative people had a hand in the downfall of this film? It could be the fact that the studio required a reshoot after Trank had finished the film.  Sue’s wig is a dead giveaway that time has passed and she has moved on to a new hairstyle. The pacing is completely off in the film. There was a huge uproar about the leaked information about the original Dr. Doom and the nerd sphere pressured the studio so they changed the story to fit the desires of the fandom.

You can tell by the way Fox Studios cranks out a Fantastic Four movie just before their rights to the material expires that they aren’t interested in making this a great franchise. They are just trying to keep the copyright and the subsequent merchandising revenue. In the long run it would be more profitable for them to sell the rights back to Marvel and have something to show for it instead of trying to fake their way through a story.

Some studios never learn.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Fletch - 98min - PG

Chevy Chase is Fletch, It's a shame that they didn't make more of these.  As I understand there are plans for a reboot. See what I say about Here in my article for Web Wombat. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Bajrangi Bhaijaan 163 min NR

I took a trip to India and did some research on Indian culture and found out they love moves almost as much as I do. I made it my goal to watch a few Bollywood movies to get ready for my trip. It was during that research I fell in love with Bollywood films. They are epic compared to our blockbuster popcorn films. Its interesting that American movies are popular over in India. Ours do well but I figured with their rich move culture that our films wouldnt rate much. The two different styles are so diverse they arent really competing.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a great example of the India masala film. It has touches of everything. Some joy, sadness, humor, drama, dancing and singing. Most of these movies are going to be long, so long they provide you with an intermission in the middle. Intermission is a lost concept on the American movie audience. But if you are going to commit to a three hour film you need a break in the middle. Its just more humane. The theater could benefit by giving their customers a break to go more snacks.

They are written in two halves to give you more of an understanding of the characters going into the second half of the movie. The second half is more action and conclusion to the stories. Masala movies weave a vivid tapestry from the characters. You get to know them very well before the major action happens in the film. You will also have some musical numbers mixed in with the story, sometimes its blended in with the story sometimes it happens spontaneously. In most cases its completely in line with the story. Now its odd that everyone on the street would know the intricate dance moves but it is so catchy you just go with it.

This film challenges the division between Pakistan and India. There is a huge cultural divide between the two countries that have a shared history. This movie takes a young mute Pakistani girl, Shahida (Hershaali Malthotra), and strands her in India. She wonders into a town and finds Pawan (Salman Khan) who is a kind hearted Hanuman Bhakt. devotee (they believe in living a true and honest life in order to develop the divine in your own spirit). Together they find a way to communicate and once Shahidas origins are discovered, Pawan has to take a great risk to himself to safely return her to her family. Pawan isnt the smartest tool in the toolbox but he is the most honest and the strongest.

Hershaali Malthotra silently captures the audience with her powerful presence on the screen. She is adorable and through her eyes she makes a connection with the viewer. Its really difficult for a performer to convey thought and feelings without speaking but she makes it look easy. Salman Khan is a superstar in India and shows off that he is an accomplished performer: singing (or at least some spot on lip syncing) , dancing, fighting and making us cry.

A catchy Bollywood dance number, your welcome. 

His character's total innocence and brutal devotion to honesty is so endearing and makes you want him to succeed. The Director (Kabir Khan) gives both sides of the border a touch of humanity. Political and fundamental problems between those two countries aside, this movie shows that families are families regardless of what side of a fence you are born on. Its a great story, showing how absurd politics and devotion to bureaucracies are.

Films can help transform the social landscape, sometimes for good. I think more of these stories will help soften the dialog between the two countries. It speaks to the viewer and shows them we are more alike than unalike. Once we see more humanity we see in our enemies the easier the peace process can be.

I recommend watching this movie. If you have never seen a masala film before this would be a good introduction. Then I can share a few others with you.

What other countries' films should I start watching?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Horns - 120min - R

A great movie that makes you think about the power of good and evil. The lines between revenge and justice get blurred in this film.  Take a look at my review Here on web wombat.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Trainwreck - 125min - R

My readers know that I am not a fan of crass humor. Crossing the good taste line just to make a joke and say, "look, I made a dirty joke, laugh at me" never impress me. Amy Schumer uses these themes but seems to play on just this side of the good taste line. I like it. I have never seen her show, primarily because I don't have cable but I am going to have to give her a look. She just made my watch list. Knowing what is good and what is crossing the line makes this a green light story.

Stories with character growth, either good or bad are super appealing to me. They are engaging. You take the journey with the characters. Amy starts out as a person who puts on the veneer of being fine and in control of her life but she looks and seems to be hurting and looking for something. She is a party girl and embraces the stereotype. She works as a journalist at a shallow mens magazine (Sorry if I was being redundant there). She has to do a story on someone who is not her type but who she has a connection with. They start a relationship and Amy really starts to take control of her life because of it.

Amy Schumer's character is enjoyable to watch. When I explained the premise, I know that it seems to have an anti feminist tone. She meets a man and he changes her for the better. I had a conversation about this with my wife and she said the story sounds like its switching up the guy is a playboy and finds the right girl to change him. I have to agree that if the genders were reversed we wouldn't be having this conversation. She meets him at a time in her life when she is ready for a change. She sees that her life isn't what it should be but she trapped by the attitudes and personalities of the people she works with. Their relationship is the new territory that she is trying out as she has never been ready for a real relationship.

Bill Hader plays Dr. Aaron perfectly. He has a great screen presence. He plays the straight guy to Amy's shenanigans in a way that is real. He blends the common man persona with specific hints of humor that accentuate the absurdity of the scenes without sounding condescending. Bill Hader is charming and intelligent in this role. He needs to get more work.

One bit that really ruins the movie for me is one scene at her father's funeral. Vanessa Bayer plays a work friend who is shallow and inappropriate. Her performance of this character is spot on, great character work. She makes a ham-handed attempt to pick up on a person of color in a completely racist way. It was played to be over the top, fine, but it completely ruined the emotional moment of the funeral scene. There was plenty of humor before the sequence and even during the eulogy Amy gives for her father. The emotional moment was at a perfect length without having to have a relief from the sad emotion. It was completely unneeded and cheapened the genuine emotion they were building up to.

I found that scene to be disrespectful. It was not that she was hitting on him at a funeral. It was not that it was racist. It was that the filmmakers were disrespectful to the emotional connection that the audience had with that scene. Because of that poor attempt at a joke we lose the gravity of the eulogy that Amy gives her father. That scene could have been so much more powerful if they hadn't wasted the momentum with that little throw away joke.

But one mistake in the entire film is not enough to tarnish the genuine fun this movie is. From my normal recommendations this is one that you leave the kids at home and anyone who is uncomfortable at a blue show and take your friends and enjoy this ride through one woman's growth and journey to a mature relationship.

What movie have you seen and enjoyed that is out pf character for your normal viewing?