Shoot ‘Em Up Review
Review # 165
Director – Michael Davis
Cast – Clive Owen,Monica Bellucci, Paul Giamatti, Stephen McHattie
Right from the very first scene, you will know if this movie is for you. Clive Owen (Mr. Smith), an innocent bystander, sees a man threatening to kill a pregnant woman. Mr. Owen then kills this man with a carrot. He is immediately set upon by henchmen/fellow goons of the dead man, and, via a bullet to an oil pan, he creates a makeshift slip and slide to fling himself past them all. In between these two events he finds time to help the lady give birth, and sever the umbilical cord by shooting it.
Need I say more? Do let me continue.
He carries the baby with him through the rest of the movie, because slimy baddie Paul Giamatti wants it dead for some reason. When we are told the reason, we realize it makes no sense and thus we discard it. The plot just doesn’t matter. Luckily the movie knows this, and takes itself exactly as seriously as we take it, that is, not at all. It should also be mentioned that Monica Belucci tags along as a hooker with a heart of gold. She helps hard ass Mr. Smith with such non-manly things as breast-feeding. They also participate in the mandatory sex scene, but one which quickly morphs into a horrific gun fight. You know all you need to know about the tone of the movie when I tell you that they do not stop screwing when the bullets start flying. You get the sense it just spices things up a bit.
Simply put, this movie makes Sin City look like a down-to-earth thriller. Shoot ‘Em Up is preposterous trash, a C-movie with a miraculously high budget. It is lucky to have stars who know the movie is absolute bull shit, and act accordingly. It gets a bit draggy towards the end, but that can be forgiven. The stunts, shootouts, and acrobatics are so absurd we can’t help but giggle, and go along with the fun. And fun it is.
I can not stress this point enough. In Shoot ‘Em Up, Clive Owen kills a man with a carrot. Voila.
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The Escapist Review
Review # 144
Director – Rupert Wyatt
Cast – Brian Cox, Damian Lewis, Joseph Fiennes, Seu Jorge, Liam Cunningham, Dominic Cooper, Steven Mackintosh, Frank O’Sullivan, Jack Walsh
The Escapist stars Brian Cox in a stunning turn as Frank Perry, an inmate in an unnamed English prison. Hearing news of his daughters sudden illness (brought on by an unknown-to-him drug addiction), he decides he must see her before she is lost to him. With help from a brash boxer (Joseph Fiennes), an old friend (Liam Cunningham), and a drug dealer (Seu Jorge), he meticulously plans an escape, while trying to avoid the attentions and cruelty of the powerful inmate known as Rizza.
I love movies that confine themselves to one are. A remote manor house with Agatha Christie, a tall tower for John MacClane (before the airport, the city, and then whatever he did in Die Hard 4). The rules are always so clear, bringing great satisfaction when the hero manages to succeed. In this case e are immersed immediately into the rough and tumble world of the prison. We creep through the halls with the characters, and feel just as scared as they do. With rapists and murderers around every corner, we don’t blame Frank for wanting to escape, we would probably even forgive him without his daughter as motivation.
The Escapist structure is based on a bit of time jumping, from plan of escape to its execution, back and forth and so on. While a tad confusing the first time, I loved this device here. Sometimes it can be pretentious or just disconcerting, but it is not so here. It built tension in a very effective manner.
And tension really is the key to the movie. Stakes are high, and people get hurt. Many even die, and when Frank and Co. do make it out of the prison walls, they realize that the worst is yet to come… they must navigate their way through old tunnels and subways, deep underground. We want Frank to get out and meet his daughter for one last time, and it constantly seems like he may not make it out. And then comes the twist…
They say the best thing to do with a “twist movie” is to not only not reveal the twist, but not reveal that there is a twist at all. But what happens when the twist is the only bad thing about the movie? Such is the case here. It destroys the preceding two hours, rendering them absolutely needless. Not only that, but it is a bit vague as well, begging questions instead of providing answers. It’s plain insulting.
The Escapist is an absolutely thrilling and fascinating movie that is wasted with a ridiculous twist that slaps the audience in the face for following the characters as long as they have. Wonderful actors do great work here, but one script change would probably have made this into my favorite prison escape movie. As is, it is just frustrating.
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In the Loop REVIEW
Director – Armando Iannucci
Cast – Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy, Chris Addison, Peter Capaldi, Gina McKee, Steve Coogan, David Rasche
In the Loop is a pitch black political satire, partially based on the TV show The Thick of It (and starring most of the same actors, playing the same or similar characters). There is not a particular lead character, as it is more of an ensemble nature, but the plot follows Minister for International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) as he blusters his way through the political mire of British-US relations. A comment about war with Iraq being “unforeseeable” starts a chain reaction of events, involving the discovery of an American secret war committee, the destruction/alteration of a paper advising against war, and all sorts of political shenanigans. And swearing. Lots and lots of very creative swearing.
There could not be a bleaker view of politics, this ain’t The West Wing. There are only two people in this movie who are in politics to make positive change, and one of them (Simon) is a bumbling near-incompetent. Neither one achieve their goals; I think that is a main theme of the movie. You can’t win, and you don’t want to end up “in the loop.” The less you know, the less you will get caught up in it all.
The characters in the movie are rich, despite the proportionally small screen time they get. James Gandolfini, probably the best known actor to American audiences, shows up half way through as an American general, and is very funny. Everyone here is, really. In the Loop gives us shocking things to laugh at, and we do end up laughing. This is the kind of movie optimists call pessimistic, and everyone else calls realist.
I plan on re-watching this soon, and I think it will hold up to many repeat viewings. It also makes me want to look up the TV series to which this is a spiritual sequel, The Thick of It. There have been many comparisons between that and the 80’s series Yes, Minister, of which I am a big fan. Bring it on!
In the Loop is fast-moving, smart, and devastatingly funny. This isn’t a movie for everyone, but anyone who likes dark humour and their politics in satire form will love this. This is a political satire Ricky Gervais would make. (That should tell you right away whether you’d be able to tune in to this movies sense of humour.)
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Director – Scott Charles Stewart
Cast – Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, Kate Walsh,Tyrese Gibson, Willa Holland, Charles S. Dutton, Kevin Durand, Adrianne Palicki, Jon Tenney, Doug Jones
This particular story follows a group of people stuck in a roadside diner during the apocalypse. Not just any apocalypse, this is The Apocalypse. God has decided that Mankind has once again fallen from a position of grace, and He must wipe them out, ala The Great Flood. But no natural disaster will do this time (perhaps God has had enough of Roland Emmerich films too), and he decides to take us all out with zombies; and yes, God hates slow zombies too.
An infected sinner may expect to find their teeth rapidly sharpen, their eyes look like a stoner’s, and may even find they can walk up walls and onto the ceiling. An outside wall appears to be a different matter however, especially if there is a main character on the roof. Apparently they can only walk up walls on the inside of a house. It’s all in the fine print.
But there is hope! The child of one of the embattled survivors is… is… well, it’s actually never said what he is, but we are told over and over again that he is the “Only Hope”, that he “wasn’t meant to be born”. This is explained to us by an ex-angel (Paul Bettany) who was told to kill the baby, but disagreed with God and now fights with the survivors. For defying God he has lost his wings, but we know he is good because he wears a white trench coat, instead of the black ones worn by the other angels. Yet we never know who or what the child is… it’s kind of annoying.
The ending could not be more open-ended, but the problem here is that we have so many questions about the movie we just saw that to promise another is ridiculous. We want questions answered now, not in the next movie. I don’t know whether they were actually planning a sequel, but it felt like it. Frankly, we all like seeing Paul Bettany get some work, but a sequel to this wouldn’t be worth it.
I will give Legion brownie points for trying. There is no campiness here; everything is treated with the utmost sincerity. Unfortunately, that approach led to the other extreme. We have numerous boring monologue scenes that do nothing towards advancing the plot or, it could be argued, enriching the characters; we have a tone that starts at depressingly dingy and gets consistently worse; and we have angels that dress like fetish enthusiasts and apparently attend marksmanship and martial arts courses.
If I have to mention some good things about the movie, I would say that one particular sequence involving an ambush at some gas pumps was actually fairly exciting, until the incident with the child, which crossed a line for me. Those who have seen the movie will know what I mean; those who don’t may be able to guess at what type of thing I am referring. Dennis Quaid is quite good here, playing a role that would be expected of a lesser known character actor, and Charles S. Dutton is very likable as a hook handed cook.
Paul Bettany seems to be heading into B-movie territory, which is a huge pity, because he is a talented man. He was great in those two Russell Crowe movies Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and A Beautiful Mind, and more than hold his won against his forceful co-star. I wish his star had risen a bit higher to be honest. He deserves more than this kind of thing.
Legion is a dingy, dark, and joyless action/horror movie. Its cast may be much better than the movie deserves, but even they can only do so much. Too many questions are left unanswered, and the many boring monologue scenes stop the movie dead in its tracks. I can’t really think of anyone I would recommend this to.
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A Single Man REVIEW
Director – Tom Ford
Cast – Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult
Colin Firth stars as George, a man whose long time boyfriend (played admirably by Matthew Goode) dies. He decides to end his life, and sets his mind to the task. The film follows him as he goes about his final day, and it turns out he may not have made up his mind as much as he thought he had.
Of course, Colin Firth’s performance is extraordinary. This is a given, we expect this. The surprising performance here is given by Matthew Goode. His mannerisms are subtle and sweet, and we have no choice but to fall in love with him just as much as George had. This is vital, of course, for us to understand George’s heartbreak. Julianne Moore also appears, as George`s friend and past lover. She is a flighty character, but her flightiness is just a cover for her inner turmoil and pain. She is really a tragic figure, and I think this is actually the first performance I have liked her in.
A Single Man looks great; it is restrained and classy, and a little desaturated. It’s look changes a few times, whether going into flashback, to show the beauty of random moments throughout his last day, or even for random dramatic effect. This movie is certainly beyond reproach in that regard. It’s gorgeous. I suspect this may have something to do with director Tom Ford’s “day-job”, as a fashion designer.
In fact one of the main points of the film is the beauty of everyday life. Throughout his day he has chance encounters with a young girl, a young man who wants to pick him up (or be picked up I suppose), a young student etc. Each time he has one of these beautiful moments the film loses most of its de-saturation. The color floods back into the film momentarily, and we really get a sense of George’s feeling. Now this is a bit unsubtle; I wouldn’t say ham-fisted, but it’s damn close. It happens a few times, as well. Perhaps less would be better in that direction.
Despite that, A Single Man certainly makes its point. One of its little points seems to be that gay relationships are just the same as straight ones, and we definitely get that. It is never even mentioned that George is really gay, they just show him with his boyfriend. It’s simple. It doesn’t turn itself into an “issue movie”; it just gets over it so that we can follow the story. We get right to Firth’s heartbreak, and then on to his process of life re-building. It is a very human story. You don’t have to be either gay or straight to get this movie, it’s something we can all feel.
A Single Man is beautiful, both in emotional content and in its look. The acting is note perfect, and while we may get confused as to a particular or tow now or then, it comes together in a wonderful package. Let’s hope Tom Ford continues this other career. Recommended!
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