Monday, June 15, 2015

Harry Brown

Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, & Ben Drew
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When an actor has had a career that spans six decades and includes hundreds of films, it's hard to choose a defining role. Even if you can choose just one performance, it's usual from way back when they were in their prime, but at seventy-six years old, Michael Caine proves that some things are just better with age. Caine is portraying Harry Brown, an lonely old man, who has recently lost his wife. All Brown has left is his best friend and a tiny apartment, but that changes when a group of thugs start reeking havoc on the neighborhood and slaughter his best friend. After that, something in Brown just snaps, and he turns to skills he learned in the army a lifetime ago. This isn't a film about some over the hill action star in the CIA, there is no weird twist, or strange background associated with Harry Brown. He is just a real person, dealing with a situation that people have to face every day in lower income neighborhoods. The gangs have taken over and no one is safe, especially the elderly, and that is very apparent in this film. Harry Brown is an action thriller, but it is also one of the realist movies I have ever seen. Every thing from the gangs activity to the way Harry goes about is life is as real as it gets, and it is truly frighting. Michael Caine stars and he doesn't have the moves, temperament, or even style of your typical action hero, yet somehow he's better than all of them combined. For Caine it's never been about brawn, it's about brains, and that's what he uses against a gang that's a third of his age. Critics raved about this film, while I avoided it, because I honestly couldn't see Michael Caine cleaning up his neighborhood and taking out thugs at his age. I was wrong, because Harry Brown is one of the best performances of his career. This film is just so realistic and clever, I never would have expected it to be the amazing experience that it was. This film really got to me and it includes one of the best performances I've ever seen. Harry Brown is a true gem of independent cinema, it is free of any Hollywood bull shit, and it is the reason people still go to the movies. Please take my advice and don't miss this one.

Felony (2013)

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson, & Jai Courtney
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

After the biggest drug bust of his career, veteran Detective, Malcolm Toohey (Joel Edgerton), enjoys a few drinks with friends before driving home. On the way, he barely clips a paperboy on his bike, but what should be a minor incident, becomes big trouble when the boy is badly hurt in the fall. Toohey calls the police, telling his fellow Detective, Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson), that he was driving home and found the boy laying there. Summer believes him and lets Toohey on his way, but his young partner, Jim Melic (Jai Courtney), doesn't believe the story and despite his bosses orders, refuses to let it go. The story here is pretty solid, the investigation and police work that go into it are very interesting to watch. Unfortunately, the movie isn't focused on that, as its mostly about Malcolm Toohey and his conscience. We watch as the man turns into a shell of his former self, as he struggles with what to do next. This should be an interesting sub-plot, but not the whole premises of the movie, as it slows things down tremendously. This film moves at such a snails pace, that the terrific and unexpected ending, become almost farcical. Joel Egerton is really terrific in his role, showing how one split second can change a persons life forever. The whole cast was really good and it's a shame that such talent was wasted. It's not that Felony is bad, it's just slow, and lacks the action a police drama should have. That being said, if you're into watching people battle their inner demons and fight their conscience, you might enjoy this film, but to me, it was somewhat boring.


Starring: Katharine Isabelle, Christopher Lloyd, & Michael Ironside
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

I've always said that previews can be deceiving, because it's the job of the people who make them, to make any film look good, even something as bad as 88. The story itself had promise, featuring a young woman named Gwen (Katharine Isabelle), who wakes up on the side of the road with amnesia and a gun. In those first five minutes, the film looks decent enough, but it's pretty much all downhill from there. The film is centered on Gwen and utilizes flashbacks, to show her life before the amnesia, and what cased the amnesia, but they don't stop there, as they go from the present to flashbacks on just about every character you meet. If that wasn't confusing enough, that's when the flash forwards begin and once that happen, I was completely lost. Every thing in this movie flashes at the speed of light. and it is impossible to know what the hell is going on! The casting for this film also seemed like a bad joke, as you've got a star, who seems to be a reject from the real housewives of the trailer park, being chased by Christopher Lloyd. At nearly 80 years old, the man who brought Doc Brown to life, is one of the bad ass gangsters this girl works for, is afraid of, is in love with, who knows? And that's the point, no one know because no one can follow this movie! 88 is just one bad trip, that's all over the place and features a cast that is way to old to be believable. I don't say it often, but there is absolutely nothing redeeming about this movie and you should most certainly avoid it!


Starring: Cameron Monaghan, India Menuez, & Vincent D'Onofrio
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Joseph Hahn is best known as a musician with the band Linkin Park, and after directing a ton of music videos, he decided to give movies a shot. His first film, Mall, is kind of like a car wreck on the side of the road, in that it's horrible, but for some reason you can't look away. It's a seemingly normal day at a normal mall, and five friends are just hanging out, looking for something to do. Everything is pretty normal until a strung out shooter opens fire, but instead of fleeing, the teens decide to hang out and interact with people caught in the aftermath. This is one really strange movie, and as I said earlier, it's pretty bad, but for some reason I couldn't tear myself away from it. Shameless's Cameron Monaghan stars and was really fun to watch. I've always been a fan of his work and find his character, Ian, to be the most interesting one on Shameless. Mall is a different role and different character, but Monaghan is still able to bring that same charisma to the role and made this film somewhat more enjoyable for me. He really has a gift, at the turn of a switch this kid can go from sweet, to sexy, to evil, thanks to a very unique talent and you heard it hear first, this kid is going places. That being said, I tend to think he would be wise to leave this film off his demo reel, as it is just super strange and anti-climatic. Once you start watching Mall, you won't be able to stop. You'll see a great performance by Cameron Monaghan, while you sit and wait for any number of things to happen, that never do, making the film Mall just another confusing, artistic, independent film, that is really only fully understood by the person who wrote it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Preservation (2014)

Starring: Wrenn Schmidt, Aaron Staton, & Cody Saintgnue
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sometimes, the smallest of twists in the most common of stories, can make all the difference. Preservation is nothing you haven't seen before, as it features three hikers who get lost in the woods and are then hunted, while trying to find their way out. The real difference in this film is who is hunting them and why. To me, the scariest horror films are the ones that are believable. The events of this film could really happen and that is more terrifying than any ghost or goblin that Hollywood can create. Aside from the trip to the woods, there is a back story that features the hikers, making them seem all the more real to the audience. Unlike many similar film, the innocent hikers are people the audience will feel like it knows and they feel like people one can relate to. Preservation also features differences from other similar films, in the methods that the hunted use. How many times have you watched a film and said, "these people are stupid, I would never do that in a situation like this!?" In Preservation, they don't make those mistakes, in fact, they pretty much do everything a reasonable person would do. Finally, the cast is almost entirely made up of newcomers and they are truly terrific. Wrenn Schmidt is the kind of common hero that people tend to love, while Cody Saintgnue is the baby face who could do no wrong. At first I thought this film would be just like every other romp through the woods, but it's so much better than that. The film is extremely realistic and very well written, making it one of those independent films that you want to tell all your friends about. 

The November Man

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, & Olga Kurylenko
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

They say that a great action star never gets old, someone should have told that to Pierce Brosnan. In the latest spy thriller from Director, Roger Donaldson, Brosnon is playing a retired C.I.A. agent, who is called back to duty after years away from the business. He's supposed to simply rescue a fellow asset in the field, when he gets drawn into a world wide conspiracy. I've never been that crazy about spy movies to begin with, because it seems like it's always the same thing. The story goes back and fourth, with crosses and double-crosses, leading to one fight after another and The November Man isn't much different. Brosnan is supposed to be the best agent there ever was, the deadliest, most intimidating man there ever was. Now I don't know about you, but I don't find a hundred pound British guy in his sixties to be all that intimidating. Given Brosnan's age, the film really didn't have much in the way of fight scenes, just poorly executed car chases and a whole lot of shooting. Even the dialogue in this thing was a joke, with classic Bond lines, and an enemy hiding beyond every door. The bottom line, The November Man is a cliche, with a star who is much too old to be playing the guy all the action is centered around. Luke Bracey, who plays Brosnan's former protege and nemesis, would have been much more believable as The November Man, even still, this film was just poorly written and executed all around. At one time, Pierce Brosnan was one of the best, but The November Man proves that it's time to for him to stop being the man, and start being the one behind the curtain, who controls the man.

Magic Mike

Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, & Matthew McConaughey
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Over the years, plenty of bad movies have made millions by simply featuring beautiful women wearing very little, so why not try turning that around? The idea for Magic Mike, actually came from it's star, Channing Tatum, who worked as a male stripper prior to becoming eye candy in some really bad films. The idea was solid, an obvious money maker, but this film really could have been something special, had they added a half way decent story line to it. Magic Mike is about the interactions of three people. You have the eccentric club owner (Matthew McConaughey), his star performer, Magic Mike (Channing Tatum), and the newbie (Alex Pettyfer). The film does take several small breaks from the techno music and dancing strippers, to touch on story lines of regret, romance, corruption, and drug use, but they are so brief and resolved so quickly, that one may ask what was the point? The point of a film like this is to attract people with strippers, but that doesn't mean it couldn't have had a good story to go along with it! The writers could have had just as many dancing scenes and lap dances, but still added something like a rival company or an organized crime connection, something to give this film a little substance, but they didn't. As for the stars, Channing Tatum was his usual robotic self, albeit one that had some pretty sweet dance moves. Alex Pettyfer was fairly entertaining as the newcomer, learning as he goes, but the only true star here was Matthew McConaughey. His jokes and outrageous persona were really pretty good, and the only thing of substance for a true film aficionado to appreciate. Magic Mike was unique and drew large audiences, leading to a sequel due later this year. With a little luck, that film will have a little more substance and a little less dancing, making it appealing to a broader audience.


Starring: Edward Furlong, Christina Ricci, & Lili Taylor
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

If you've never seen a John Waters film, then you don't know every penis joke in the book. For nearly four decades, the Hairspray creator has made a career out of letting people know he's gay, through odd ball characters, weird story lines, and every innuendo in the book. Pecker is the story of obsession, weather it's about the main character's obsession with photography, his girlfriends obsession with her laundromat, or his managers obsession with him, everyone has a strange obsession. Pecker (Edward Furlong) is a teenager from the small town of Baltimore, Maryland, who has been taking pictures for years. Finally, he's having a show at the fast food restaurant he works at and to everyone's surprise, a New York City gallery owner shows up to make Pecker he new protege. The whole family goes to the big city, where Pecker becomes a star, putting his town and his whole family under a microscope. As is common in Water's films, the characters are as strange as can be, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why he decided to portray Baltimore as a small town. Edward Furlong stars as Pecker, and even though he has long been one of my favorite actors, even he couldn't save this film. I like weird and admire something different, but Pecker was so far out there, that it became a farce of itself. The characters are uninteresting, the penis jokes are old, and the obsessions are just so above and beyond believable that it turns the whole film into one bad joke. As I said everyone is obsessed with something and that really foreshadows the main story. From his grandmother who talks to the virgin Mary to his sister who is the biggest gay pimp in Baltimore, all the obsessions blend into one big gay, confusing, ridiculous ending. I've seen several John Waters films and for the most part have found them to be pretty funny, but Pecker is just so far out there, that it's almost unwatchable.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Human Target

Starring: Mark Valley, Chi McBride, & Jackie Earle Haley
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

FOX has become notorious for cancelling great shows before they'd even gotten started. To them, if the show isn't in the top 50 after it's initial 13 episode run, it isn't worth their time or money. As a result, some of the most imaginative and intense shows to come along in years are cancelled before they've even gotten started. Human Target is on a list that includes, Alcatraz, The Chicago Code, Gracepoint, Almost Human, Dollhouse, and dozens of others that you've probably never heard of. Unless it's a top 50 show right from the start, or a lame animated comedy, Fox has no use for it and shows like Human Target are replaced with Bob's Burgers and The Cleveland Show.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Human Target is based on a long running DC comic by the same title. It is the story of Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), a mysterious man with a mysterious past. Joined by a former police detective, and a hacker/thug named Guerrero, Chance has formed a company that discreetly serves an elite clientele. Their job is to protect their clients from threats at any cost, by injecting themselves into the persons life. Chance's job is to identify the threat and eliminate it before anything happens to the client. 

I don't know how Mark Valley is not a household name at this point. This guy is so intense, always has tremedous, unorthodox ways of getting out of trouble, and to be honest, he really reminds me of MacGyver. Valley has the looks, the charm, and of course the skills to make Christopher Chance jump off the pages and come to life.

But this show isn't just an episonic show, there is also a deep and complex back story that gets more intense with each episode. We know the players and what they are capable of very quickly in the series, but what we don't know is their history. As more and more is revealed, the characters just get deeper and more intense.

Human Target was a great show, it was original, exciting, and better than almost anything on FOX at the present time. Mark Valley is very impressive, as is the writing. Every episode has at least one thing in it that you did not see coming, and if it were up to me, this show would have been on for years. Thanks for exciting me, getting my hopes up, and disappointing me once again FOX!

Wrong Turn At Tahoe

Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Miguel Ferrer, & Harvey Kaitel
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Wrong Turn At Tahoe is the kind of film people watch, because they see it's streaming. Compared to some of the other garbage that comes up while scrolling, this film actually seemed promising, but aside from a few interesting characters it wasn't. Joshua (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is the best middle man in the game, nothing gets past him, so when he hears that local drug dealer, Frankie Tahoe, has been threatening to kill his boss, he passes the information along. Together, they go to Tahoe's club and eliminate him, not realize that he works for Nino (Harvey Kaitel), the biggest boss in town. It's always great to see Harvey Kaitel playing a gangster, he seems to fit the role better than anyone else, and I wouldn't be surprised if one day it came out that he was the boss of a mob family. Aside from Kaitel and the mystery surrounding who Joshua is, this film was nothing more than a lot of shooting, bodies, and F words. I've said it before and I'll say it again, mafia movies may always be cool and popular, but it takes a lot more than F bombs and bullets to make a good film. We've all seen films like Wrong Turn At Tahoe, there is a lot of arguing, a lot of shooting, and in the end, what was the point of any of it?

North Country

Starring: Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, & Woody Harrelson
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sexual harassment wasn't a concern in the work place until 1984, when the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit was brought against the owners of a mine in Minnesota. This is the story told in the award winning film, North Country, which graphically shows the horrors these women had to face at work on a daily basis. Charlize Theron was amazing, portraying Josey Aimes, the woman who finally stood up and said enough is enough. Theron is the kind of actress who is usually overlooked because of the roles she takes. I had a difficult time judging what kind of an actress she really was until seeing her in the role of a lifetime. Portraying Aimes as realistically as possible, Theron really made the audience feel the struggle of a single mother, having to take a difficult job, just to put food on the table. We see how the harassment at work effected every aspect of her life and it actually changed my view on sexual harassment. As harsh as it sounds, I always viewed sexual harassment as a law created by people who were too serious and couldn't take a joke, but the story of Josey Aimes is no joke. No person, male or female, of any color, race, or sexuality, should ever have to face even half of what Aimes had to go through. This example is how you know that North Country is one amazing film, because any movie that can change a persons opinion on a subject, is worth it's weight in gold. Theron isn't the only gem in this film, as France McDormand also received an Oscar nomination for her role as a co-worker suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. I also thought that Woody Harrelson deserved recognition for his portrayal of the attorney who represented the women. In 1984, there had never been a case like this, and for him to go out on a limb for something like this was truly special, and its reflected in his performance. From top to bottom this film is very solid, the cast is terrific, and the story is a historically accurate portrayal of sadly, a much overlooked moment in American judicial history. North Country is the kind of film that I truly believe every child should see before entering the work force for the first time. It is that powerful and also earns a spot on our list of must see movies!

Adam's Rib

Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, & Judy Holliday
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

When I'm in the mood for a classic film, I usually look for something with Spencer Tracy in it. In an era where so many things were over the top and hard to follow, Tracy was a breath of fresh air, so very far ahead of his time. Adam's Rib is one of nine films he made with Katharine Hepburn, and is considered to be the best of the lot, I completely disagree. The film is ahead of it's time in that it's focused on woman's rights and asserts an affirmative defense for a violent crime, but the fact that it was a comedy, making light of a very serious charge, made the film lose credibility, and as a result, the message it was trying to portray does not come across very well at all. Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) has caught her husband cheating and responded by shooting him. It seems an open and shut case for prosecuting attorney, Adam Bonner (Spencer Tracy), until his beautiful wife, Amanda (Katharine Hepburn) agrees to defend Mrs. Attinger. Her defense is an affirmative one, claiming that Doris Attinger should be acquitted, because a man arrested under similar circumstance would be. The claim is absolutely ridiculous even for 1949, because if anything, the justice system would have been harder on a man who shot his wife as opposed to her lover. Mrs. Bonner turns the trial into an absolute circus, embarrassing her husband, leading to an internal conflict in their marriage. This should have been where the comedy really came in, these fights between the two should have been hilarious, but they weren't. The couples fights were more serious, intense, and depressing than the trial itself. Everything about this film just seemed to be backwards and ridiculous, in particular Katharine Hepburn, who was so over the top in the courtroom, that it completely nullifies her argument. Here is a woman trying to stand up for woman's rights, by pulling ridiculous stunts and being unprofessional in the courtroom, how is that supposed to show that a woman can be just as good at her job as a man? The bottom line is that this film had a very serious message to spread, but everything was so backwards and misplaced, that it just loses any credibility it had, along with my interest about half way through. If Adam's Rib wasn't about a court case, and I wasn't waiting for the verdict, I probably wouldn't have sat through the whole thing.