Archive | Review RSS feed for this section

Lawless: Review

4 Sep

Based off the book The Wettest County in the World, Lawless follows the Bondurant brothers – Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia LaBeouf) – who run a moonshine business in Virgina during the prohibition era. Despite having a friendly working relationship with the police, the brothers are threatened by deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) who want a cut of their profits or to shutdown their operation down completely.

Guy Pearce is almost unrecognizable with dark hair, a strangely high pitched laugh, virtually no eyebrows and fancy tailor-made suits. That being said he’s in full crazy mode for this role. Bloody and graphic fight scenes dominate the movie – the most horrendous scenes are when Pearce is killing or torturing his enemies in gruesome and unpredictable ways. Vicious, vindictive and creepy, Pearce deserves at least an Oscar nod for his role.

Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke’s performances are quiet and solid as the two oldest Bondurant brothers. Hardy’s character deliberately lacks intensity compared to his other roles as Bane and Bronson. His character is always steady and provides guidance to his thoughtless and reckless younger brothers.

Shia LaBeouf plays the timid and weak youngest brother Jack. Regardless of his shortcomings, Jack’s committed to becoming a real gangster like his idol, Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman). Surprisingly enough, LaBeouf does a decent job as the black sheep of the family. Usually LaBeouf fills me with disdain considering his other roles are horrible or downright ridiculous, yet John Hillcoat managed to make LaBeouf somewhat sympathetic, which is no easy task.

Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Gary Oldman have minor roles that don’t seem worthy of them. Why pay for top celebrities, when anyone could play the role?

Director John Hillcoat previously adapted The Road for the big screen and Lawless is only his second big budget movie. Hillcoat balances out the intense and excessive violence with short funny moments, e.g. when Jack desperately tries to avoid Bertha’s (Mia Wasikowska) preacher father and Forrest replying with mhhmm in serious and scary moments.

In spite of all the talented actors and cringe worthy shootings and bloody fights, Lawless is lacking momentum. There never seems to be any urgency to get rid of deputy Rakes even after he injures or kills some of the brothers’ friends and family. The film never really seems to build to a final intense fight scene, rather there’s a series of violent scenes littered throughout.

Lawless is worth seeing for Guy Pearce’s performance, but don’t expect an outlaw picture that rivals Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or a period epic like The Godfather. Take the movie for what it is – an entertaining action adventure.


Intermission: Review

7 Aug

Intermission is a 2003 black comedy about a young couple and their friends and family. Set in Dublin, the movie’s filmed in a documentary style and has multiple intersecting storylines that address love, crime and revenge.

The movie follows:

– Oscar, a man fearing that he’s lost all sexual function and can’t find a stable relationship.

– John (Cillian Murphy), a dissatisfied grocery store clerk who recently broke up with his long-time girlfriend Deirdre (Kelly MacDonald) as a “test” and regrets it once Deirdre moves on with Sam, a middle-aged married man.

– Sam’s wife of 14 years who can’t understand or cope with her failed marriage and sets out on a rage spree.

– Deirdre’s sister, Sally (Shirley Henderson), who’s so traumatized by her last relationship that she stopped physically taking care of herself and grows a mustache.

– Lehiff (Colin Farrell), a young thug that recruits John in a robbery where love and revenge will intersect.

The best way to describe Intermission is a darker and grittier version of Love, Actually. Like Love, Actually there’s an amazing ensemble cast that includes Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Red Eye, The Dark Knight Rises), Kelly MacDonald (No Country For Old Men), Kelly Conron (Rome), Colin Farrell (Total Recall) and Colm Meanie (Star Trek: The Next GenerationDeep Space Nine).

Essentially Intermission is a romantic-comedy, but a far more cynical one. The character’s are realistic, complicated and at the same time, crude and stupid. For example, after John learns that Deirdre is moving in with Sam, he storms over to Deirdre’s house calling her a blaggard and a whore on the street for everyone to hear. Interesting behaviour for someone who ended the relationship. Cillian Murphy’s performance as John is heartfelt and sympathetic. That doesn’t mean John’s particularly smart or interesting, more that his motivations are understandable.

Colin Farrell has a small, but memorable role as the unpredictable career criminal Lehiff. One minute he’s charming a pretty young waitress, the next he’s jumping on a car and threatening the driver with a shovel. Shirley Henderson (Bridget Jones’s Diary) is straightforward and brutally honest as Sally. Disgusted by her sister taking up with a married man, Sally tells the new couple that she’s can’t sit in a room with them because of “the smell of infidelity.” In a movie with so many libertines, the addition of a moral and traditional character is refreshing.

Thanks to John Crowley’s tight direction and a well-written script, you never lose track of the character’s or how they know one another. It’s a fantastic directorial debut that gives audiences hope that not all romantic comedies are absolutely horrible. If you’re sick of formulaic and dull love stories check out Intermission.

Total Recall: Review

6 Aug

The reboot of 1990′s Total Recall opened in theatres this weekend. Unlike its predecessor, the new Total Recall has a family friendly rating, huge production budget and loads of CGI. Mutants and Martians have been replaced by beautiful women, sleek new robots and highly advanced technology.

Colin Farrell plays Douglas Quaid, a dissatisfied factory worker who may be a secret agent under the employ of the evil Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) or working for resistance leader, Matthias (Bill Nighy). This version takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where only the UK (the United Federation of Britain) and Australia (the Colony) remain after another world war and chemical warfare. The two land masses are connected by a huge elevator called “the Fall” that transports workers from the poor crowded Colony to the rich and affluent United Federation of Britain (UFB).

Quaid lives a one room apartment in the Colony with his wife, Laurie (Kate Beckinsale). Though Quaid’s marriage seems solid and stable, he finds himself dreaming about another woman (Jessica Biel). Trying to add some excitement to his life, Quaid goes to Rekall – a company that can implant a variety of fake memories into clients’ minds. Quaid decides to implant memories of being a secret agent, but before the procedure can start federal agents break into Rekall and everything goes wrong.

Acting on instinct, Quaid kills all the federal agents and escapes home to his wife. While comforting her distraught husband, Laurie attempts to suffocate him. After an intense fight scene, Laurie reveals that she’s a federal agent employed by Cohaagen to pose as Quaid’s wife. A confused Quaid manages to outrun Laurie and begins to unravel the mystery of his identity.

The first twenty minutes of the movie are promising. Farrell seems immersed in the character and is believable as an unhappy Douglas Quaid. He spends his nights shuffling around a dirty overcrowded city contemplating how and why his life has turned out this way. Unfortunately, once Quaid heads to Rekall, director Len Wiseman abandons the characters in favour of making a full-fledged action movie.

The explosions, shoot-outs and fight scenes dominate the movie and there’s every kind of chase scene imaginable. Beckinsale relentlessly pursues Farrell and Biel through city streets, in an elevator, in a car, in “the Fall” and then some more. Len Wiseman obviously thinks very highly of his lovely wife because throughout Total Recall, Beckinsale is kicking ass, taking names and looking smoking hot while doing it.

In comparison, resistance fighter Melina (Jessica Biel) seems infinitely boring and bland. Though she desperately wants Quaid to remember his role with the resistance and their relationship, her character’s sad and slightly pathetic. She’s a far cry from Rachel Ticotin’s tough as nails Melina in the original.

After a solid hour of explosions and fight scenes, Quaid meets Matthias and audiences finally start to learn more about Douglas Quaid, whose real name is Carl Hauser. Our hero learns Hauser was a UFB agent that switched sides and joined the resistance after meeting Melina. Rather than discuss Hauser’s role with the resistance or why he switched sides, Farrell and Nighy have a trite and tiring conversation about what really defines a person – their memories or their present actions. Forced and tacked on, the conversation leads to nothing and Nighy seems as bored and uninterested by the dialogue as the audience is.

Despite its production value, talented actors and special effects, Total Recall is uninspired and lacks the charisma, fun and flamboyance of the original movie. Ultimately, Total Recall will turn a good profit, but disappear into the realm of forgettable action movies.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Review

26 Jun


Based on the book of the same name, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a fictional account of the 16th President of the United States’ life and his secret quest to kill all vampires. The story begins with the death of Abraham’s mother by a vampire when he’s 9 years old. This fuels Abe’s mission to rid America of vampires throughout his life. Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) is aided by the mysterious Henry (Dominic Cooper), who assists, trains and provides Abe with undead targets. Lincoln soon discovers that the South and the slave trade are controlled by Adam (Rufus Sewell), a powerful vampire, whose ultimate goal is to take over America and make it a nation controlled by the undead.

Seth Grahame-Smith wrote the mash-up novel and was given the opportunity to adapt the screenplay. Despite some winning scenes, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is disappointing to say the least.

The plot is rushed and deviates from the book in almost every scene.  Within the first 25 minutes Abraham’s mother and father are both dead, he attempts to kill his first vampire and he’s trained by Henry. It’s too quick and you barely see enough of Abraham’s parents to care that they’re dead.

The training sequence with Henry is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Everybody loves a montage like in Rocky 1 when Mickey trains Rocky or in Batman Begins when Henri Ducard and Bruce Wayne have a sword fight on a frozen lake.  Training Montage = Awesome.  In Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Lincoln waves around his silver plated axe a few times while Henry lectures him on why he must kill vampires.  It’s painfully boring and we don’t see enough of Lincoln actually killing vampires to make the sad little montage worthwhile.

Best training sequence ever.

Director Timur Berkmambetov never met a slow motion sequence he didn’t like.  At first the slow motion scenes are interesting and fun, but after four or five they get old.  It becomes obvious that the visuals completely usurp the plot.  The entire movie is filmed in sepia and blue-grey tones that eventually take away from the atmosphere instead of contributing to it. There is a great visual where Adam hints at his age and talks about how he’s seen the rise and fall of Egypt, Christians feed to lions and people enslaved.  The whole sequence is a painting come to life that shifts between time periods.  It was by far the most entertaining part of the movie.

The characters lack any real depth and there is no explanation for their choices.  Why does Adam want a nation of vampires? What does Mary Todd find appealing about Lincoln?  Little touches that round out characters are completely skipped.  The lack of direction leaves actors with a stiff plot and little to work with.  Nobody really seems to be enjoying themselves and the movie shifts between being absurd and serious.

As a director, you have to make a decision, are you going to go campy like Planet Terror or are you going to go serious like Planet of the Apes?

In the end Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter lands somewhere between monotonous and forgettable.

That’s My Boy: Review

19 Jun

Let me be frank: Adam Sandler movies have been garbage for the past decade. The last Sandler movies I enjoyed were Punch Drunk Love (2002) and Mr. Deeds (2003). For some reason though, I keep thinking the next Sandler movie will be different. Maybe he’ll be funny again like he was in Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore! So on Friday, I decided to give Adam Sandler another chance and went to see That’s My Boy.

I was cautiously optimistic about That’s My Boy because, unlike other Sandler movies, it boasts an R rating. I’m sorry, but the raunchier a comedy is the better. The movie also stars the awesome Andy Samberg, who’s had success with digital shorts and Lonely Island, but still hasn’t accomplished much with movie roles.

Sandler plays Donny, who as a teen fathers a son after an illicit affair with his high school math teacher, Ms. McGarricle (Eva Amuri Martino). Ms. McGarricle is sentenced to 30 years in prison for statutory rape and Donny’s awarded custody of their son. Of course, Donny is a crappy parent because he’s a child himself. His son, Han Solo (Andy Samberg), leaves home at age 18 and has no further contact with his father.

When Donny, older but not wiser, gets a huge bill for years of unpaid income taxes, the lousy father decides to reconnect with his rich and successful son, who has changed his name to Todd Peterson, a week before his wedding to Jaime (Leighton Meester). Since Han is embarassed by Donny, he pretends his father is an old friend.

From start to finish That’s My Boy is mean-spirited. Within the first 30 minutes, you see why Han Solo escaped and never looked back. As a child, Han weighed over 400 pounds because Donny let his son eat cake, cookies and ice cream for breakfast. When Han confronts his father about this, Donny replies with “That’s what you asked for!” Now, that Han is in shape, Donny comments that he’s lost “his boobs” and he’s no longer a “fat f**k.” Great parenting.

There are some scenes where Donny, Han Solo and Han’s Uncle Ice (Vanilla Ice as himself) are out having fun. “Fun” includes pushing people over at an ice rink, peeing on the side of a restaurant, stealing drinks from a mom and pop store and taking a child’s bike. The scenes are funny, but it shows what a jerk Donny is. It’s no wonder that Han grew-up with a weight complex and a desperate need to fit in.

What’s especially irritating is that the movie glorifies bad parenting. In an early scene, you find out that Han has told everyone that his parents were killed in a tragic explosion. At the wedding rehearsal, the priest (James Caan) gives Han his condolences. Since Donny is present, Han gets a dig in and says his father kind of deserved it. The priest asks “Did your father abandon you, beat you …etc.” When Han answers no to all the questioning, he’s chastised and called an ungrateful child. Maybe Han wasn’t abused, but Donny’s barely a functioning alcoholic and constantly demeans his son…doesn’t that count as a dysfunctional parent?

Despite all my complaining, there are some funny moments, like when Han’s fiancée Jaime tells her future husband to stop acting like a “big vagina” or when Hans pukes on and bangs Jaime’s wedding dress after his bachelor party. There are some hits, but way more misses.

I’d have to say the worst thing about the movie is that Andy Samberg didn’t have any funny lines. Samberg’s hilarious, but he’s stuck playing it straight and the whole movie suffers because of it.

Skip That’s My Boy. If you have to see it for some unholy reason, wait for Netflix. It’ll be on there in a couple of months.

Dark Shadows: Review

14 May

In 1774, the master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green).  Secretly a witch, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the changed world of 1972.  Over the last two centuries, the Collins family has suffered from the curse cast by Angelique and the now risen Barnabas makes it his mission to make his family prosperous once more.

Dark Shadows was originally an American series that ran from 1966-1971 and then there was a revival series in 1991.  Both series are unintentionally hilarious and highly enjoyable.  According the Burton, he was a huge fan of the 1960s series and wanted to focus on the funny and quirky aspects of Barnabas Collins and his family.

I was skeptical about Dark Shadows because I despised Alice in Wonderland and Tim Burton’s films are becoming hit or miss for me.  Well let me tell you, Dark Shadows is horrible.  I can’t even sum up all the terrible things about the movie…so here’s just a few.  The characters are sedate and lack any real depth.  Accomplished actors like Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Botham Carter are completely wasted.  One of the only well-developed characters is Barnabas Collins.

The worst mistake a director can make is when the audience can’t sympathize with the protagonist and I think Barnabas Collins is an hypocritical douche.  For example, Barnabas is a vampire and he kills at will, but the minute somebody else does something questionable, Barnabas kills them.  He also “falls in love” with the Collins family’s governess Victoria, who happens to be the reincarnation of his wife from two centuries before,  but it’s hard to believe that Barnabas really loves Victoria considering he bangs both Angelique and Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Botham Carter). Obviously, he didn’t learn to keep it in his pants.

The only saving grace of Dark Shadows is Eva Green as Angelique.  Angelique’s desire to possess and punish Barnabas drives the entire plot and her hatred of the Collins family is understandable even though it’s excessive.  Green’s scenes are the only bearable ones and I kept hoping that she would destroy the Collins family in the end.

Let me sum it up by saying Tim Burton has lost his mojo.  Sure, his films are still quirky and gothic, but it’s all too familiar and it feels lazy.  Do not waste your money on Dark Shadows. 

Cabin in the Woods: Review

10 May

With all the  hype surrounding The Avengers, you probably forgot that Chris Hemsworth and Joss Whedon worked together on another project.  Directed by Drew Goddard and cowritten by Goddard (Cloverfield) and Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly), Cabin in the Woods stars a slightly less built Chris Hemsworth, Kristin Connolly and a variety of other actors that you’ll recognize from Whedon’s TV shows.

The story follows five teenagers who take a road trip to a deserted cabin for a weekend of drinking and getting high.  Naturally, all the archetypes are present.  Chris Hensworth plays Curt, the handsome jock.  Jules (Anna Hutchinson) is Curt’s hot blond girlfriend.  Kristin Connolly as Dana, the shy virgin, despite having a relationship with her professor.  Holden (Jesse Williams) is the handsome bookworm who could be the potential new man in Dana’s life.  Last but not least, Fran Krantz plays philosophical stoner Marty who has more common sense than everyone else combined.

At the start of the movie, it’s apparent that the teenagers are being monitored and controlled by two laboratory managers (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) from a high-tech control room.  Though, the reason for the surveillance is unknown.  Early on it’s clear that Cabin in the Woods is not a standard horror flick.  It’s a horror-comedy.  Jenkins and Whitford spend the opening scene complaining about child proofing and women’s hormones so it’s not a surprise that the pair provide the majority of the comic relief.  The lab managers are cruel to the teenagers, but they are so funny that you have to love and forgive them.

Aside from the lab managers, the only other character worth caring about is Marty.  It’s rare in a movie that the goofy stoner is lovable, insightful and observant.  It’s obvious that Whedon and Goddard want you to like and fear for the other characters…but they are still just monster fodder in the end.

I don’t want to give away too much since there are so many quirky, funny and just weird plot twists.  Cabin in the Woods is a unique and amusing movie, but definitely not for everyone.  If you’re a fan of Joss Whedon, blood, gore and dark comedy, then Cabin in the Woods is for you.

No Game Unplayed

Dedicated to experiencing all video games: good, bad, or downright ugly.

Creature with the Atom Brain

A Straightforward Guide to Horror Movies.

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.