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Blood Ties (2013)
I do wish that Clive Owen would stop being cast in American movies to play an American as he cannot nail the accent. In Blood Ties his dialogue often consists of a handful of words - the longer the sentence .... Other English actors do it better like Tim Roth or Gary Oldman.
A crook and cop brother with their complicated love lives paths cross and collide when the jailbird brother is released from prison. A half hearted attempt is made to stay straight but a life of crime beckons leading to trouble for the family. The pace is slow and the story is unconvincing. James Caan playing the father still thinks he is in The Godfather and must wonder why those around him appear comatose. Tunes form the 60's and 70's frequently punctuate proceedings -is this a compilation album or a movie - Stick with Carltos Way, Donnie Brasco even Dead Presidents for a more convincing slice of retrospective 70's crime drama.
Movies like this waste my time and have contributed to driving me away from cinema into the world of television series where the quality is now at.
Officer Down (2013)
.....along with the script
Alas Stephen Doriff is now languishing in B movie hell. At least he had Purcell for company, now a veteran of such garbage. Officer Down is in the mould of woeful police drama/corruption/conspiracy thrillers like Dark Blue, Streets of Blood and Bad Cop ( aka Sinners and Saints) The plot is convoluted and yes you do need to pay attention to follow the plot strands. There are lots of flashbacks - all shot in black and white. A once corrupt junkie cop turned hero by accident finds his past returns to haunt him when he receives a lead regarding what appears to be a rapist. Now a reformed churchgoing character he investigates but all is not what it appears to be. Sounds interesting? Well it isn't. The direction and script are 2nd rate and no one apart from James Woods in an extended cameo clocks in a performance.
Officer Down is slow, disengaging and above all really boring. Released on DVD by Anchor Bay , a distributor synonymous with B movie trash like this.
Awful beyond words
It happens to them all, Coppola, De Palma, Craven etc etc Like musicians there is a time to quit and that is when you are ahead. The closest comparison piece I can think of to this garbage is Freidkin's Bug - another pretentious art house turd with "something to say". Sign up a Twilight pretty boy and combine with a body horror auteur - that's a winner - right?. Wrong. I am not alone in not bothering to disseminate the "plot" here. No spoilers required.
Cosmopolis may find favour with those studying for a PhD in philosophy but for the rest of us mere mortals this is one hour 40 minutes that will suck the very essence out of your soul. The dialogue rankles, being a facsimile of second rate Mamet - people do not talk like this even if they are cold dysfunctional shells. A treatise on the evils of capitalism does not make for entertainment. It is commented on during the film that the anarchists have the same objective as the money makers - as in destruction. The irony. The irony. The protesters of this near future behave like theatre luvvies attacking with cream pies and hurling dead rats into restaurants.
The horror. The horror.
The sound of inevitability
When I saw the Mutual Film Company reference appear on screen and the winter landscape I immediately thought of A Simple Plan - if only. That is the film Deadfall aspires to be. There is a lot to admire here but realism and logic, forget it. Eric Bana excels as a psychologically flawed criminal thug with a dysfunctional family past that continues to scar his ability to even empathise. Even his close relationship with his sister is strained by his control freak personality. The psychology of the characters is more interesting that the plot itself.
As for the plot lets say it is clichéd thriller territory with the main characters all merging together at the one place and time at the end. That is the sound of inevitability. While you could believe that Bana could survive unscathed from a stint in a minus 80 degree freezer his heavily made up designer wearing sister surviving two minutes in the whiteout wilderness beggars belief. You also have to believe in the concept of love at first sight too while watching this. Maybe I am too cynical. A great cast has been assembled here and the acting is top quality. Pity the story wasn't more engaging and believable
Dead Man Down (2013)
Not just the rabbits foot that went AWOL
This must be the dumbest bunch of gangsters ever seen on celluloid. How on earth they don't rumble Farrell much earlier in the film beggars belief. Most of the time when he is prepping his hits he is "busy" - what exactly was he employed to do by the mobsters - always turning up late. At one point it looks like his boss is about to expose him but then the movie jumps with an amateur cut to Farrell in the seat of his car - phew! that means he is around for the lame finale in which he morphs into some sort of Terminator after driving his wheels through the wall a la Straw Dogs remake style - in fact the Straw Dogs remake was infinitely better than this.
The tagged on "romance" with Rapice is incredulous. Post Prometheus she looks like a flash in the pan. At the end there is a steal from Repulsion when she chops the eyelashes off a client in the beauty salon when daydreaming, trapped in her tormented world. The mood of the film is sombre throughout which gives the movie a takes itself far too seriously feel. Nice the way Victors character dropped his Hungarian accent for an Irish-American one though.
Red White & Blue (2010)
Disturbing but lacking
There is a lot to admire in this low budget revenge drama. The story unfolds in three segments from which the strands and characters come together for the final bloody third. I have to say despite attempts to evoke sympathy for the characters predicaments i found all of them extremely unsavoury and unlikeable. The film is shot with the look and feel of independent cinema and the sombre piano score is used to good effect for the disturbing scenes at the end.
Its clear form the off that Nate is a very disturbed individual. Claiming to be an honourably discharged veteran who tortured animals as a child he forms an unlikely friendship with a seemingly cold hearted emotionally scarred nymphomaniac called Erica. As the movie progresses we discover that Erica has HIV and is on a mission to infect as many men as possible. Of course there is a childhood rape back story to explain her dysfunctionality.
The final third of the movie is taken up by Nate searching for Erica's kidnappers (a young rock group who had communal sex with her),one of whom has become infected. Cue revenge, psychological torture and gore as the movie descends into an indie splatter fest. The version i saw was 100 minutes long and i suspect some of the gore had been cut, yet the final murder was still extremely graphic. And so it pans out that Nate may have been telling the truth - those pesky Gulf War veterans all unhinged with nowhere to go.
The Paperboy (2012)
Fish and Chip wrapping in the end
The Paperboy is another close to being good movie let down by a weak story and script. No faulting the acting ( with the exception of nails on a blackboard performance of Macy Gray) and the atmosphere. All sweat and sleaze. But ultimately it is a film about not very much. A disturbed middle aged woman who writes love letters to swamp trash on death row, an investigative journalist returning to his hometown to search for the truth over the slaying of a local brute of a sheriff and his young brother who becomes besotted with the woman.
The pacing is painfully slow and although presented with a mystery and a mans life at stake on death row there is no tension or excitement until the final ten minutes. There are no sympathetic characters leaving a feeling of disconnect when watching. There are two highly amusing scenes ( the jellyfish sting "remedy" and the first prison visit) that threaten to give the movie a hearbeat but unfortunately for the most part it flatlines.
Alex Cross (2012)
The thriller production line
Alex Cross does just about enough to make you want to see it through to the end but will not make you want to recommend to others. Although difficult it is best to leave comparisons with Freeman behind - it was never going to be that good. The biggest failing really is the derivative script. The killer is a lean mean killing machine cypher, hired by a multi million rich financier who has been burned in the financial crisis. Loose ends need to be eliminated.
Thats as deep as it gets - as shallow as a puddle. Bar some saccharine snapshots from the Cross family portfolio there is zero character development. Some of the actions sequences are good , just not enough of them and the direction is slick, but would you wear that cornflower tie at your own wife's funeral?.
End of Watch (2012)
Buttheads in LAPD
This is beyond awful , an absolute piece of garbage. Throw contemporary entertainment models like Grand Theft Auto, Police Camera Action and You Tube into a blender and End of Watch fills the cup.
One of the worst movies i have ever seen. Makes Rampart look like The French Connection. Cartels and Gangstas have been played to death. The presentation is amateurish - don't bother watching in hi def - looks like videotape in part. Ayers other police drama/thrillers were far better. Throwing in camcorder style pov footage is hardly cutting edge. With the two leads so childishly moronic, the first half of the movie being a snoozefest and the finale laughable i struggle to understand the credit heaped on this.
Non ending for a non film
What is it with contemporary film makers. To disguise a lack of coherent script they try to mask this with jumps cuts, fancy camera work and contrived ie unnatural colour palettes. Through in whatever todays hip music is for the score and hey presto you have Drive - well almost. Rampart in terms of shallowness the baby bother of Drive.
Set at a time when the LAPD was embroiled in controversy Harrelsons cop is a one man public relations disaster the force could do without. Thus the film title is a misnomer as it has nothing to do at all with the Rampart division. His character is an ugly amalgamation of Keitels Bad Lieutenent and Geres Dennnis Peck. Good characters to plagiarise. But what is lacking is tension , excitement or any cutting edge evident in Internal Affairs or Bad Lieutenant. Rampart is snail paced, dreary and fails to hold the viewers attention. A real struggle to stay alert until the end only to be infuriated by yet another non ending.
The Fields (2011)
One way to get kids to do something is to tell them not to do it - so in The Fields young Steven repeatedly enters the cornfield and just once ventures into the abandoned fairground despite grandma saying not to. Is that scary? - not especially. As a child i would have found living among this bunch of oddball hillbillies more frightening. Echoed voice effects and brooding music promise something - nothing and i literally mean nothing is delivered.
When we enter the park it reminded me of the dreadful Tobe Hooper Funhouse - no don't go there - too late. As others have commented on the pace is flat lined and the acting beyond terrible. The young boys haircut looks like a cornfield. Marketed as such this is NOT a horror movie - the deceptive UK DVD cover shows two hooded figures, one brandishing a scythe, in the cornfield outside the house. Cool but wait - this does not reflect anything that actually occurs in the movie.
A glimpse of the protagonists is shown earlier in the movie before the final 20 minutes. This is so brief that the film makers felt the need to include the old chestnut of an explanatory news radio broadcast to avoid any head scratching come the credits - if you make it that far.
Shia versus Herr Flick
Most definitely the worst gangster movie since the terminally boring Road To Perdition. Shia LaBoeuf concretes his position as the worst actor of his generation. Hardy nails it as the most over rated mumbling and grunting from start to finish. Oldman pops up for a cameo to show the pretenders how its done.
Slow paced, incoherent and boring summarises the plot for you.I wondered if LaBoeufs character was somehow related to Gabriel Byrnes character from Millers Crossing as he recovered remarkably quickly from almost being beaten to death.Even the usually reliable Pearce plugs in a hammy performance in his cod Gestapo officer garb. Pathetic.
Suicide Kings (1997)
This is certainly a movie for switching off the brain and cutting it a bit of slack. The story is unbelievable. The plan hatched by the rich kids isn't even half baked, They are sloppy, careless and idiotic to believe that they can rectify one kidnapping scenario by themselves kidnapping an infamous mobster. Then they cut off one of his fingers! No face masks, names and personal details revealed they get whats coming to them.
Suicide Kings is close to a one man show. This is Walken at his supreme best. Angry , menacing, ice cold and funny. Often all at the same time. He carries the movie so much that it is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role. The weakest characters for me were the two gangsters used by the insider for the initial kidnap. They were just too screwball even for a black comedy like this. Their humour was forced and unnatural while the rest of the comedy flowed. Spoiled for me what otherwise would have been a perfect 10.
Probably the best sic fi movie you have seen if you are fourteen years old. Yes it has near identical plot and setting to The Raid. Yes it is somehow even worse than the Danny Cannon/Stallone version, Dredd is a no budget po faced bore complete with cardboard villains and cardboard acting. In fairness in look at least Urban nails Dredd with his perpetually frowning facial expression.
A robotic supercop on the trail of a criminal gang intent on flooding the market in a lawless future with a new highly addictive narcotic. Didn't they do this before with Robocop 2? The low budget constraints restrict the action to a tower block. Maintaining suspense inside one building/set takes some doing. Walter Hill pulled it off with Trespass. With Dredd i had more fun watching Ryan Reynolds in Buried and that was awful.
Django Unchained (2012)
Back in Track
At last post Jackie Brown the king of plagiarism has made a largely coherent and hugely enjoyable movie. Tarantino has gone on record about the message he hopes to relay with Django Unchanined . The reality is that he straddles the line between education and a nation self flagellating. Yet much fun can be had from mocking the white hoods and the weird science of the dimples. He has chosen this time to revitalise the genre of second division spaghetti westerns but this is less about that and more about slavery.
In terms of the movie itself there is so much to applaud here . For a start the cinematography is some of the best i have seen in recent times. Flawless. Great dialogue too (which has always been a Tarantino trademark). Jamie Foxx is good but he generally just has to look and act mean. The performances by Waltz and Di Caprio are outstanding. Full marks to the director for at last giving us something to admire from Di Caprio - by making him emote.
The only two negatives for me which contrasted with the attention to detail applied elsewhere were the dreadful bursts of contemporary music every 20 - 30 minutes. Thats what the mute button on the remote is for and also the hammy performance by Samuel L , clearly a man ahead of his time complete with 20th century expletives.
Emmett's Mark (2002)
Almost hits the spot
Emmett's Mark is a decent attempt at a character driven thriller. Combining the dual stories of the search for a serial killer and a young detective facing up to the news of his terminal illness by deciding to hire a hit-man to end his own life. Of course there are plot contrivances but what i really liked about the movie most were the ambiguous characters played by Roth and Byrne. Byrne in particular does not have enough screen time but the interplay between these two established actors is a joy to behold. Having been goaded once too often Roth's character snaps. But not that you would recognise as he appears to be emotionally stone cold - that is until the very end of the movie.
In places the script is as ambiguous as some of the characters with the director dangling the possibility that Roth may indeed also be the serial killer. Scott Wolf was just OK in the lead role of Emmett. The big anomaly also for this reviewer was just how and why Roths girlfriend informed on him - yes his flat was a mess and she saw that he was living a deception but i couldn't see the evidence linking him to Byrne in the pit he resided in. At one hour 40 minutes the movie is 10-15 minutes too long but still remains an interesting watch.
Stand Up Guys (2012)
Things to do in Hollywood when you're dead
A near masterpiece.? Excuse me? Are employees of Lionsgate writing these reviews because this is as bad as it gets. Here we have a crime comedy flick that guess what - isn't remotely funny. Its sad watching Pacinos career get flushed down the toilet bowl . Never as busy as De Niro gone are the days when he was more selective. Maybe decent scripts just don't arrive on his desk anymore.
The story for what its worth is hackneyed and clichéd and yet they still manage to mess up the script. Pacinos' character has another nasty medical escapade with his genitals.Oooh that needle must have hurt. Shouldn't have taken all those blue pills. Must have brought memories of People I Know flooding back. In fact male genitalia are the meat and drink for various unfunny gags during the first part of the movie.
Walken tries his best but he was much funnier in the equally lame Seven Psychopaths. Its Cocoon for the mob with Butch Cassidy thrown in the mix. 2013 just got off to a really poor start.
Summerfield for the 21st century
The first half of Wrath (also released as "Outback") was rather intriguing. The outstanding question being just why were the two or possibly three (and it was) hillbillies taking out travellers in the outback. However when the question is answered the reveal is underwhelming. When one of the assassins called the other a retard i began to piece it together before all was revealed.
Why name check Summerfield? Well if you know your Australian movies you know that incest is the key just as it is here. This being the new millennium violence and a small amount of gore are thrown into the mix as well. When the inbreeding family finally all appear on screen together they are a rum bunch and are frankly irritating. Their victims, all the ones who are murdered , are the interesting characters and are also the better quality actors. Pity to see them all exit by the hour mark. The countryside is bleak yet the cinematography is excellent. Wrath is worth a watch but the pay off was very disappointing.
A soap opera
Great title for the book and subsequent film . Is the film entertaining?. No, not in the least. Yes these guys are tough - always impartial and honest , of course not and yet as of many police forces world wide are used by politicians like a football. So the scene is set, a young rookie for ostensibly financial reasons joins an experienced hard core riot squad. Then virtually the whole movie gets bogged down in the protagonists domestic lives and all the trials and tribulations that entails. What a snooze fest. Isn't that what soap operas are for.
I personally don't feel the need to launch into some half baked political diatribe but clearly racial disharmony is a thread binding the film together with a couple of scenes attempting feebly to mimic American History X. ACAB is over-hyped and boring. Criminal.
The Good Doctor (2011)
Travis Bickle with a stethoscope
After enduring the dreadful Martha Marcy May Marlene complete with its non ending here we have yet another movie with a non ending. At least in the case of The Good Doctor the movie was moderately interesting up until the final two minutes.
The doctor in question played by Orlando Bloom is a difficult character to fathom. There is no Vietnam war experience to explain or excuse his actions and patient obsession. It may be a problem if you like to have a reason why he is so messed up as none is given.
Following the despatch of the blackmailer the film descends into American Psycho style with a tenacious detective looking like he is about to calmly intimidate Bloom into accidental confession. Alas the viewer is presented with a Bret Easton Ellis fantasy/reality double ending which merely perplexes.
Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.
The Factory (2012)
Who's the Daddy?
No this is not Cusacks' worst movie by a long shot . Quickly glancing through his filmography i picked out 9 movies between 96 and this which are far less satisfying. He is not stretched here but puts in a solid performance. The plot is basically a variation on Kiss the Girls with a touch of 8mm at the end. These are two excellent movies to plagiarise.
The twist, ridiculous as it is, is good and i didn't see it coming. It is incredulous, but not as much as the spot of off screen surgery performed by the daughter on one of her fellow kidnap victims.
Carpenter is good but Roberts steals the show as the kidnapper/killer. Maybe i'm feeling generous because i have watched so many poor movies over the Christmas holiday period. I find more often than not though the rubbish review movies or straight to DVD fare are much better than the critics favourites. The Factory being a case in point.
Stolen is as hollow and shallow as Gone in Sixty Seconds which of course also starred Nicholas Cage. Director Simon West continues to be inspired by Jerry Bruckheimer's visual style. A couple of Mr Coppola's recent efforts were watchable (as in Justice and Drive Angry) but Stolen is back down the Ghost Rider toilet drain. This is generic as hell and but for some scenes of violence could easily be classified as a dreadful "crime caper" movie.
The music score can have such a strong bearing on the presentation and veteran composer Mark Isham comes up with a really weak effort here which does the movie no favours - its mostly jaunty 60's style caper music which reminded me a lot of the 1960's (and indeed remade in the 1970's) television series The Saint.
Josh Lucas hams it up terribly as the pantomime revenge seeking villain, complete with artificial limb. The film would have been over inside 5 minutes if the goonish cops had bothered to actually tail the van that Cage and Lucas were going to escape in following the initial bank heist. That would have done everyone a favour.
Spy Game (2001)
The Spy who Loved Me,,,,,,,,,,,
I have watched Spy Game twice now with a gap of six years between viewings. I felt that maybe i was a bit harsh first time around when the continuity errors really bugged me (as in erroneous dates, cellphones when they didn't exist etc). Having watched it again and even ignoring this carelessness, my core opinion has not changed - this is a turkey.
Sorry but i missed to alleged tension and excitement that others somehow managed to glean from this. The Bishop character changes from a no questions asked baby faced assassin in Nam to becoming an idealist . Hardly the trait of an espionage operative. His initial training seems to consist of chatting up women on the street and blagging his way into an old codgers flat. When he is in the Berlin bar during the cold war he blurts out the fact that he and Muir are both spies. ooooooops,hope the KGB weren't listening.
Once in the field our pretty boy ( come on he is just toooo pretty to convince as a spy) sees fit to drag Muir across an urban battlefield in Lebanon to get to a restaurant to snoop on a terrorist leader. Surely there was a safer route. Then when the suicide car bomb explodes he wanders moronically towards the burning building and the Islamic militia. A militia man then just shoos him away - very realistic - not.
Apaert form the dreadful love story between Pitt and the "human rights activist" there is a lot of on screen Puppy Love between Pitt and Redford. In fact Redford gives Pitt a lesson in acting and Pitt seems gormless in his scenes with Redford . May have seemed like a good idea at the time but Pitt is totally miscast here and gives one of his worst performances running The Devils Own close.
The very essence of this travesty is a love story and the message that friendship is paramount, not orders. Sorry did't i hear the word assets mentioned a dozen times.
Watch instead the based on a true story movie "Farewell" to observe how dirty the spy game really is to see the fate suffered by an idealist spy and his idealist handler. There are no Hollywood endings.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Again i find myself at odds with all the luvies who judge at film festivals and scribe for the dwindling number of movie magazines. Truly there is an inversely proportional relationship between the number of plaudits received and the quality of the movie and this sucks big time.
All Olsen has to do here is phone in a performance like she did in Silent House- the vacant stare, the odd mannerisms after being conditioned by the cult and while there is some amusement initially seeing her trying to fit into normality after being picked up by her sister this quickly becomes grating. The non linear flashback plot renders the film incomprehensible as it approaches its non ending. The non ending has become so de rigueur these days. It's a convenient get out of jail free card for lazy story telling. The pacing is abysmal - that's what editing is for Mr Director. There are too many long drawn out tedious scenes usually accompanied by droning electronic music - much in the same style David Lynch used in Lost Highway. But the difference being that Lynch is a master at pretentious art-house mind bending story telling.
Red Rock Down Under
If you are going to rip off another movie it's a prerequisite that an effort is made to bring something new to the table . For a while at least Tarantino did it , making plagiarism an art form. When it fails all is left is a lame copycat - a la Swerve. Yes there are elements of U Turn here but mostly this is Nicholas Cage noir thriller Red Rock West revisited
- Young, honest but somewhat naiver ex army jobless drifter ends up in a rural backwater town he cannot escape.
-Hooks up with a couple who happen to be a corrupt sheriff and his scheming femme fatale wife
-A stash of stolen money
-A hit-man in the town in pursuit
-The film climax on the freight train carriage
Sounds familiar ? Even tracking shots zooming in on the town road sign. Sigh. Sure there are some variations in the set up and script between the movies but the core of this film is a rip off. Add to that the cod Spaghetti western and coffee table muzak score. Not much to recommend
Nic Cage at his peak, Dennis Hopper, J.T Walsh and Lara Flynn Boyle versus this lo brow Australian effort. No contest.