Orin Boyd is a loose cannon Detroit detective who gets on his superiors’ nerves with his lone wolf antics. After thwarting a political assassination (by shooting the hell out of everyone) he is thrown into a tough precinct in a rundown part of town. Things only get worse when he accidentally busts a drug dealer who is really an undercover cop and that ruins an elaborate undercover operation. Busted down to traffic cop he gets a chance at real police work again by working the beat with a partner, but things quickly heat up as signs of extensive corruption begin to show and the good guys might not be that good at all. The title is mysteriously irrelevant to this film’s story, but it pretty cool for a thriller nonetheless.
Even Seagal’s morbidly entertaining brand of fighting is overdone here and made fake and uninteresting by the efforts to make it look all high tech and fancy, vainly trying to copy Matrix-like slow motion and anti-gravity moves, neither of which do anything but make you sigh and slap your forehead. I can’t say that I wasn’t at all entertained by the fighting scenes in the film, but there are just some inexcusable things like the scene where Boyd (Seagal) walks out of a court-ordered anger management class (after tearing his desk apart because he got stuck in it) to find a bunch of hoodlums trying to break into his brand new Dodge pickup truck, which still has the factory sticker on the window (this is the only commercial that Dodge apparently could afford to put in the film. Mercedes commercials, on the other hand, filled the rest of the movie). Boyd gets out to his truck and finds, as always, one of those groups of car thieves that are somehow under the impression that it takes the whole gang to break into a single car, and if the owner shows up, it’s probably best to stay there and talk to him until he beats the hell out of everyone than to scatter and move on to a different car. Boyd puts his smack down and his whole anger management class runs outside and cheers. The event is a success, because Boyd has made his fellow rage-aholics happy, but as always, he grunts and gets into his truck and speeds away.
Exit Wounds does, in fact, have a good amount of twists in it, and twists are a good way to make a boring movie interesting. But it doesn’t throw these twists in at an unexpected moment and therefore get a good reaction from the audience as much as it deliberately misleads us to believe one thing and then completely turns around and throws in all this other stuff to completely cancel out everything that it’s said so far. It leads us very carefully by the hand in one direction, and then out of the blue shoves us in the opposite direction. In this case, backwards. This structure is embodied perfectly in a scene late in the film where Boyd and Walker confront each other and start fighting. They fight viciously for a minute or two, and then at the drop of a hat, Walker gets knocked to the ground and says, `You want to see what’s really going on? Follow me.’ At which point Boyd forgets everything he’s ever known about any kind of enemy and casually follows Walker into his own territory, which could be filled with all of his buddies and all of their guns if he hadn’t immediately decided that hey, we’re friends now. He would never do anything to hurt me.
Quality or quantity is a choice that you have to make, and in this case, there is a large quantity of plot twists, none of which have any quality at all. About half way through the film the plot jerks you around so much that by the end you want to just turn off the movie and lay down for a while. Action films are supposed to thrill you, not wear you out by taunting you to try to keep up with the twists. The movie tries to be interesting by piling on all these twists (maybe in an effort to make up for the botched martial arts), but if they really wanted to be interesting they might have thought to try to throw in there somewhere a reason that the movie was called “Exit Wounds” in the first place, other than to have a hugely unappealing title. The justification for such a repellent title may have been more interesting than anything else in the movie.
Written by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne, The Yakuza shows us a different side of the Gangster world than we have been privy to before. This is not a movie of good vs. bad; it’s a movie about loyalty and honor to friends and family. We follow Mitchum as Harry Kilmer on a mission to save a friends daughter. For most movies made these days, that premise would be enough, but The Yakuza is deeply layered and far more interesting than that. It turns out that Harry had been in Japan after WWII and had fallen in love with a beautiful woman, Eiko. 30 years later Harry is back in Japan, much has changed, but his feelings haven’t. Harry teams up with Ken Tanaka, Eiko’s brother, to find the kidnapped girl. Samurai swords slash and guns blaze, adding intense, well-choreographed action as the plot thickens and Harry realizes that this is no ordinary rescue.
It is not a film that wears its emotions on its sleeve, and is all the more affecting for that the awkwardness of Mitchum’s meeting with Ken and the hesitancy of his reunion with Keiko (and the subtle re-enactment of the old photos in her album) – everything is in the pauses and between the lines. It’s these emotional undercurrents that make it stand up to repeated viewings. The early seventies was a last golden age for the eternally under-rated Mitchum, with outstanding performances in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Farewell My Lovely and Ryan’s Daughter, and this is one of his best. His ‘strange stranger’ and Takakura Ken’s ‘man who never smiles’ (“He’s been unhappy ever since he lost the war. I keep trying to tell him it’s not his fault but he won’t take my word for it”) is a match made in casting heaven. Their screen presence is remarkably similar, exuding a lifetime of world-weariness and personal loss that attracts both empathy and respect for their characters. Both give superbly understated performances, with the great Takakura Ken getting his best English-language role to date. Jordan gives a nicely unassuming performance in the juvenile lead, making the most of his romantic subplot by showing the least, and there’s an added poignancy to his fate since the actor’s death.
Then there is the long expositions of back story and how Japan is different; and also the dreaded Western perceptions of Japanese myth and ritual. All that Asian mysticism bound up with warrior culture is well beyond its use by date now. It was new in 1974, but that dates the film and its sensibility very strongly. Then there is Mitchum and Keith. Mitchum was a straight up no nonsense actor and worked well as a tough guy, but here he is too stony faced; too much like a dead fish and wooden that it drags on the film. He stands, speaks and reacts but hardly acts. Keith is not much more interesting and a lesser presence. It’s not helped by direction that is sluggish, lacking dynamic energy and close to a “Starsky and Hutch” episode.
Another of the film’s quality points, mentioned earlier, is that this is a movie that exists to examine obligations, the “burden hardest to bear” as a Japanese word has it. Pollack gives us a well-constructed story in which to help us make our own examination. For those who enjoy things Japanese, another plus is the care Pollack took to capture the look of Japan. The Yakuza never becomes a travelogue, but there is much of Japan to see in the movie, from a game of hanafuda to all those pachinko players, from a quiet temple to a narrow Tokyo downtown street, from a hostess nightclub to a bathhouse. It all looks right. And finally, the movie works so well because Mitchum gives an excellent performance. At 57 when he made this movie, he brings the authority of experience to the part. He is matched by Takakura Ken. The two actors both are heavy-weights. Mitchum doesn’t dominate the movie so much as he shares it equally with Takakura. The secondary characters all do fine jobs, too. The Yakuza is a fine and unusual action movie.
Darkness wont get the best of Sydney Wells, played by Jessica Alba (Awake, and Machete). Left blind after an accident with firecrackers, she has used her other senses to get by in life since the age of five. With fifteen years time, she was able to achieve anything from living alone, to being a professional violinist. But her sister Helen, played by Parker Posey (Dazed and Confused, and The House of Yes) is willing to go above and beyond to free herself from guilt, and give her sister her sight back.
With luck, or perhaps fate, Sydney for the second time is undergoing a cornea transplant. Now that her sight is gradually returning she is overwhelmed, but ready to enjoy every bit of pleasure she can get from the world; matching voices with faces, reading music notes, and watching television. But all the fun stops when she feels her new eyes are playing tricks on her. When confronting her vision therapist Dr. Paul Faulkner, played by Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle and Face/Off) about the problem, he assures her it’s only part of the experience of seeing the world again. That her brain is relearning to process reality.
Sydney on the other hand, is not one bit convinced her brain is playing catch up. She is seeing people who are not there, witnessing traumatic life events that are not hers, even events that have not happened yet. After a bad attempt to ignore the spirit world around her, and ending up back in the hospital, her sister unknowingly helps her realize that the girl she’s becoming accustom to seeing in the mirror, is not actually a reflection of herself, but her donor. Sydney is now at her wits end, she must track down who her donor was, and discover the truth. Question is, is she capable of accomplishing what her donor could not?
Winner of Golden Trailer’s Best Horror Poster, and 2008 Teen Choice Award’s Best Horror/Thriller Actress-Jessica Alba. The Eye is a good reminder that we should be grateful for what we do, and do not have, and praise the ones who are shunned for their differences, but pushing to make a difference. For once, this remake is actually somewhat spot on to the original 2002 film, Jian Gui by the Pang Brothers. With slight differences here and there, you can still enjoy the remake for what it is. However, I can not stress enough to say time and time again, watch the original first, and make sure to turn off all the lights.
Dolph Lundgren is pumping these out pretty fast these days. This one is one of the better ones that has come out with him in it. The camera work is not anything special, the lighting needs to be worked out, but when it gets down to the action Lundgren is his usual rock against which all of the waves think they can make a mark, and the addition of Cung Le only ever makes things better. The supporting cast do a decent job of giving us a reason for all of the drama, and the final showdown though a bit short, and sudden does play out well Vinnie Jones is always a good bad guy. I Enjoyed this for what it was, an afternoon action movie, no tear jerking around here. I recommend this one to action fans who have already run through the top 500, this is getting pretty close to scraping the bottom of the barrel, but there has been much worse in the past few years than what you are given here.
That said officer appears on set in an ill-fitting uniform and facial hair that would never be permitted in the American armed forces removes the said scene of any impact. Dolph Lundgren is the nominal star but plays the bad guy in an unconvincing wig and fake moustache. (Indeed the fake hair in this film has to be seen to be believed.) It is an interesting performance from Lundgren whose character displays some particularly vile misogyny towards a prostitute in his employ. Cung Lee is our good guy but simply does not have the acting skill to sell his roll convincingly. Vinnie Jones is second billed but plays little more than a glorified cameo. His contribution to the film is reasonably effective but hardly career defining. What the film does benefit from is a number of solid character actors in small supporting parts. James. C. Burns. as Sergeant Mitchell conveys a subtle humanism as well as conflict between his duty and what he knows to be A Certain Justice (to use another title the film was released under). Briana Evigan brings humanity to what was likely on-paper the fairly vacuous role of the used and abused prostitute and the ever-reliable Robert LaSardo adds a touch of gravitas in a single sequence mid film.
Probably the best performance though is from Mario Melchio as Shady, a disreputable neighbor of Cung Lee. He sweats constantly in the thrall of his drug use, twitches and paroxysms of pain evident as torture is inflicted upon him. There is also a memorable yet just death scene. Production values are efficient but far from memorable. Action scenes are overcut and lack any impact. Little production errors (like the woman seen wearing underwear seconds after being pack-raped offscreen by the bad guys are numerous. Puncture Wounds is watchable action fodder but lacks memorable elements or effective cohesion. Four out of ten is a fair representation of its value and demerits.
This movie does not disappoint you if you are looking for some nice action. Many movies have been made on a similar storyline, but Puncture Wounds presents it you in a different flavor. Cung Le has given good performance and Dolph Lundgren has impressed like always. Vinnie Jones appears briefly but plays the bad guy role very naturally. One thing that may let down Dolph Lundgren fans is that he was not given longer screen time. Avoid.
The first Captain America film made the most of it’s period setting to distinguish it from the rest of the Marvel flicks. It gave it an enjoyably old-school atmosphere, feeling like a classic boy’s-own-adventure type yarn. With the end of the movie (spoilers) bringing him into the present day any sequel was always going to have to take a somewhat different approach. With Winter Soldier they decided to go down the spy thriller route, and the end result somewhat resembles a Bond movie with Super-powers (with a dash of Bourne for good measure). Much as every Bond film starts with a pre-credits action scene, Winter Soldier kicks off with a thrilling first-reel action sequence involving a rescue mission on a ship hijacked by pirates. The action is exciting and well choreographed throughout, keeping up the high standard seen in most Marvel productions to date. A lot of the action is surprisingly down-to-earth too, with plenty of old fashioned hand-to-hand combat and gunplay inbetween the comic-book super-soldier smackdowns. That’s not to say there’s not plenty of the completely fantasy-based stuff in the mix too, but this is certainly closer to the likes of Iron Man 3 than The Thor movies. The action is expertly mounted, and there’s much less of a reliance on CGI than in many of it’s predecessors.
Chris Evans is completely home in the lead role by now, portraying the boy-scout role convincingly, without being bland. This is as much a SHIELD movie as a Captain America movie though, and several familiar faces take much meatier roles than we’ve seen them in before. Samuel L Jackson is always reliably excellent as Nick Fury, but here for the first time he’s more of an actual character than a leather jacket and an eye-patch. Scarlett Johanson’s Black Widow plays her biggest part to date, essentially playing the second lead. She’s believably bad-ass and more than hold her own against the big guy himself, and her playful interplay with Evans is a lot of fun. Perhaps inevitably this means that the newcomers have less to do, with Emily VanCamp getting a particularly insubstantial role. Robert Redford is reliably solid as a SHIELD big-shot, but doesn’t stand out as especially memorable.
Marvel movies have generally struggled to create memorable villains- Loki aside- and it’s no different here. The Winter Soldier himself has little to make him stand out, and the big revelation about his identity doesn’t really have the emotional wallop it’s intended to.
Any complaints are relatively minor though, and when you’re actually watching it, you’ll be too entertained to care. There’s never a dull moment and it grips from the off. It delivers everything that you’ve come to expect from a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, while adding a few surprises along the way. The character of Captain America always has the potential to lend itself to flag-waving jingoistic nonsense that won’t play well outside the States, but they’ve ably sidestepped it here. The Winter Soldier might not quite manage to reach the gold standard for Marvel movies that is The Avengers but it’s not all that far off. An unabashedly fun time at the movies.
Divergent is a film adaptation of the novel, written by Veronica Roth, that takes place in dystopian Chicago. The society that resides there is split into five groups or “factions”, each representing different virtues: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, Erudite. On a certain day each year, all youth that are 16 years old take test that determined which faction is the best fit. In the end, no matter what the result, one is free to choose whatever faction they wish to. However, if that faction is different from the one they were raised in, they must leave their families and everything else behind and fully commit to their new role in society. Tris is one of these 16 year olds to be divided. On testing day she shows equal aptitude for three separate factions, making her “Divergent”. Confused, Tris is told to keep her results a secret and ends up choosing the Dauntless faction. As Tris deals with the grueling challenges of becoming Dauntless, she discovers that being divergent entails much more than she ever imagined.
The cinematography and editing I thought was also very well done. I really liked the costume and set designs for this movie, and how well they reflected the factions. From the clothing to their homes, it was all very well thought out on how such a civilization would actually love. However, with a taxing two hour and twenty minute run time, Divergent is a complete clunker. The real grit of the story doesn’t begin until well over an hour in and it isn’t until the last thirty minutes that some kind of resolve needs to happen. Since I haven’t read the book, I’m not sure if it is Roth’s lack of imagination or the screenwriters Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor’s failure to bring the book to life, but Divergent is absolutely devoid of any kind of world building to make this film stand out besides its loony way of assigning factions to its citizens. They even use the Chicago’s L transit system to ride into Hogwarts, I mean Dauntless. Strangely, there seems to be no adults anywhere unless they play a small role in the plot, and yet there are so many kids running around. The bulk of the movie is focused on these kids and their plight to fit into Dauntless. Tris and Four’s parents become a convoluted piece of the puzzle near the final act, adding little relevance, clarity, emotional depth, or importance. Janine, an Erudite and President Snow rip-off, is one of the few adults we get to know and acts as the main antagonist, posing as a faceless, unmotivated, and irrational villain.
This underwhelming storytelling is thankfully carried by a more fascinating and delicious vision. Neil Burger creates it into larger-than-life, and they are much entertaining than what the script tries to deliver. Everything just moves briskly and makes sure that it doesn’t miss a satisfying thrill. The coolest scenes are proof that these filmmakers have big ambition to the project and yet the narrative fails to justify it. The cast has also done well. Shailene Woodley and Theo James are competent enough as the heroes, and Kate Winslet somewhat elevated her villainous character. Divergent could be like one of those vapid YA’s such as Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, or whatever. Except this one is probably the best among since it has a craft that at least made it watchable. But then the meat is not well defined.
We care, we fear, we admire their prowess and resourcefulness. Here I was hoping a nuclear bomb would come down and put all the factions out of their misery. In fact, a sixth faction was evolving throughout the film: the bored ones, those of in the audience who were looking for entertainment and still had hope we could rely on future installments of a “new” trilogy. A few years ago, a much better series with Kidman and Daniel Craig was not given a chance, though it had a very interesting premise. Wait! Did they pay tribute to that one, too? I wouldn’t be surprised. But, perhaps my biggest issue is that it Divergent follows a lot of the usual standards for Young Adult adaptation to screen. And I won’t spoil too much of it, but as you watch nothing really does feel like you can’t guess the next move. To me, this is better than The Hunger Games and so much easier to get into. So, at least I concluded this review on a positive note.
The snoopy reporter Sadie Blake is called by her nerd colleague Ethan Mills that has deciphered a code and found an address in Koreatown from information of the Goth Tricia Rawlins about a bloody cult. Sadie does not give attention to Ethan, but when she sees on the front page of the news that Tricia has been found dead in a dumpster in Koreatown, she decides to visit the address. She finds an abandoned house with a gruesome basement full of blood and she immediately drives to Ethan’s apartment. She finds the place in a complete mess and is abducted by a stranger and taken to Bishop, who wants to know what Tricia has told her. Then, Bishop and his mate Eve kill Sadie and they have a necrophilic threesome with her body. Later, Sadie awakes in the freezer of the morgue and sooner she realizes that she is a vampire and promises revenge to her sire.
The story jumps around a lot, flouting the conventions of time as we know them; things simply don’t happen in the exact order we’d expect them to, which clouds Sadie’s motives and intentions quite a bit. Is she good? Is she even human? After all, once she’s been attacked by the vampire people, she’s not exactly the picture of health, and she’s gotta eat to survive. Is her ultimate goal of revenge enough to offset the unpleasant facts? It helps that there’s a typically hissable bad guy, Bishop (James D’Arcy). He’s eternal, of course, and he kills and mutilates and rapes for the sheer joy of it. There are no moral or ethical quandaries with this guy.
Some of the spatial transitions involving Lucy Liu’s character seemed like an editor wasn’t paying proper attention. Probably the best case is where she’s getting tucked into a car trunk, unconscious, during a dialog about getting her car and the kidnapper’s car to another site and then the scene transitions to homeless people on cots and someone who looks like Lucy, dressed in scrubs (when did that happen?). She sucks the juice out of a fresh corpse, then wanders into the night and onto a bridge to kill herself. What happened to her car? When did she get redressed? Who were those morons who kidnapped her? Was that business about taking her to bishop part of a script that got rewritten? Other odd transitions make you wonder if you’re following the same character, or are there multiple characters who, in the failing light, look like they might or might not be Lucy Liu, making you want to go back and review scenes for the wrong reasons.
A couple of minor flaws here are what keep this one down, but otherwise this one here has a couple of really good points to help it. Give this one a shot if you’re into vampire films or a fan of the creative cast, otherwise stick this one into the heed caution category when trying to decide to watch it. The final confrontation in the barn is all of the above, with some really great suspense and atmosphere, a great location and some nice action, which is always appreciated. The fact that the flashback to the turning scene is continuously shown, going more into detail about what happened and it shows that it was a graphic, brutal, bloody scene that is a little uncomfortable to sit through, the way it should be. The fact that there’s also a really a really high body count is the last one, which is always great to have in a film, making it fun and really enjoyable. Even though there’s not a lot of blood spilled, the fact that a lot get knocked off is really nice. These here are the film’s best points.
Europa Report injects a fresh take on the sci-fi/horror genre and is destined to become a cult favorite. While many saw Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and was mesmerized by the simple things that can make us appreciate life, scare us and make us sweat with anticipation of what will happen next, Sebastian Cordero’s Europa Report, also released in 2013, gives us a similar taste in reality. The film uses the found footage technique to enhance your experience like you’re watching a documentary and in this particular case, it works and doesn’t show off as just a gimmick but as a staple on the overall project.
Daniel Wu and Sharlto Copley headline an international cast of astronauts who are trapped within their own vessel and struggle to stay alive within the vast infinite space. A hidden evil is disrupting their lives and they must fight their way to reach home. The way the film is set up is you already know the outcome of the story. You already know how it goes down because the film is edited out of order. The journey here is the most important aspect and you feel trapped and lonely alongside these characters. How would you react to an unknown enemy? How would you prepare yourself in this situation? These are questions you ask as characters are picked off one by one. While the script has moments of generic tendencies and cliches because we’ve seen this tale be told many times over, the characters themselves are natural and speak volumes. It’s like the actors onscreen are actually in danger within this environment. Director Sebastian Cordero structures everything together to create such panic inside the walls of the ship.
The editing is masterful and the tension keeps building as each frame goes by. Bear McCreary’s epic and terrifying score enhances the film to layer each scene with acute vulnerabilities and heightened awareness. For 90 minutes, you are whisked into this reality as you see these people get lost into oblivion with every decision that is made and wish them anything but this as a desperate calm. While the ending is hit or miss and may upset some viewers, the film is an energetic work of art and shows that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. If done right, horror and sci-fi can coexist. Europa Report fell under a lot of people’s radars which is a shame but this is a film you have to seek out because it deserves the recognition. A hidden gem that must be discovered. A work that has to be seen to be believed.
Sam Waterston is Sidney Schanberg, a reporter working for the New York Times in the midst of a civil war in Cambodia in the early 70s. His dedicated interpreter is Dith Pran. In and around the capital are a few dozen other reporters and diplomatic personnel, including photographers John Malkovich and Julian Sands. It’s dangerous work. This is a most powerful and visceral film. It is probably the best of the Vietnam war/drama movies even though it is not directly about that country, but of Cambodia. It clearly demonstrates how war transposes into other countries and can forever disfigure them.
Civil wars and political upheaval can often bring out the best elements in a film: suspense, emotion, and the immediacy of current events, in this case turning yesterday’s headlines into a grim but gripping human drama. The 1975 collapse of Cambodia and subsequent ‘re-education’ of its population (through brainwashing and genocide) by Khmer Rouge insurgents is reconstructed through an unlikely but true friendship between two journalists from opposite ends of the globe: hard-nosed New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg and his resourceful Cambodian counterpart Dith Pran. From their anxious refuge inside the French Embassy in Phnom Penh to the horrors of a post-revolution work camp, the film builds moments of agonizing intensity, although the latter half splits into separate stories of unequal impact: Schanberg, in New York, agonizes verbally and at length over the unknown fate of his friend, while Pran, in the newly named Kampuchea, endures a torment that surpasses words. The performances in general and the cinematography in particular merit special attention, with the moody colors suggesting the light of a solar eclipse: darkness in broad daylight.
The film scatters the nationalities of most of the other first world, usually Capitalist, officials Schanberg and Pran deal with; a deliberate deploying of varying nationalities representative of The First World attempting some form of aid to those of Pran’s ilk involved in the hardships, everything from Australia to Scotland to England to Russia. But the film is less bothered with the politics than it is of the true story of these two men linking up; Schanberg’s relationship with Pran, like Pran’s characteristics in regards to his own natives The Khmer Rouge, is in stark opposition to that of his getting along with The American Government, whom he berates from the beginning and clashes with on a number of personal and political points. After initially arriving and meeting with a relatively spaced out photojournalist named Al Rockoff (Malkovich), Schanberg is forced into travelling to the site of an American bombing raid with some locals when denied access to fly out along with the Americans; a later event as Schanberg attempts to practise liberalism in trying to photograph some atrocities leading to arrest and later realisation at press fabrication with what they perceived to have happened there that day.
This is powerful, engaging and disturbing. The violence and blood is never gratuitous. I doubt anyone could sit through this and not be affected. It does not make for a pleasant viewing, but it is important and should be respected, not ignored. While there is some humor in this, it is seldom if ever a light experience. The script is well-written throughout. It is very difficult to find flaws in this. Wonderfully filmed, well acted, brilliantly scripted, The Killing Fields is a timeless, important classic. A must see for any student of history or film.