January 29th, 2009–
The best thing that can be said for Martin Campbell’s new thriller of Edge of Darkness is that it’s a gritty and welcome return for the fallen Mel Gibson who stars as Detective John Craven. That’s not a back-handed compliment either. Even before events in his private life shattered his rep, Gibson hadn’t exactly been lighting up the cinema with his onscreen presence. His ability was never in question but his choice of films often felt like paychecks to help finance his own personal directorial visions. He’s a gifted and canny director, but I haven’t really bought one of his performances since 1999’s Payback.
Now, in a variation on that role—add in a heaping helping of Liam Neeson’s grim, determined father from Taken—Gibson comes back to the acting fold with a character that walks the line between justice and vengeance so erratically one feels compelled to check the credits and make sure his name isn’t Max Rockatansky. Continue reading
The lights turn down, the 3-D glasses go on, and what follows is one of the most basic and honest reasons to go the cinema; pure delight. James Cameron finally unveils his Avatar and it is one of the most entertaining and visually accomplished works of his entire career. This is the pulp sci-fi feast fans thought they were getting some ten years ago when they went walking into The Phantom Menace hoping for magic to strike. When it happens, you can hear the thunder and feel the electricity. This is why I love the movies. Continue reading
November 25th, 2009–
American Ninja, where art though? Pray for Death, you have gone…never to return. Even Ninja III: Domination moved away and forgot to write. The over-the-top kill happy martial-arts fantasies of the mid 1980s have all abandoned us, and nothing ever came to take their place. With the exception of a occassional, errant nugget like 1995’s The Hunted (yea, it sucked…surprise) a genre I so loved as a child has all dried up.
Yes, I’m talking about the ninja film. Sure, Japan produced a few half-hearted attempts over the years, including the recent Shinobi:Heart Under Blade, but it had a decidedly wuxia feel to its ninjary (TM), and it played like a feverish video game. Then, hope briefly surfaced in the form of an announcement; the brothers Wachowski were making a big budget ninja film with their acolyte James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) behind the camera and Korean pop star Rain in front of it. Now that it’s here, Ninja Assassin turns out to be one more glittering chunk of fool’s gold. Outside of a killer opening sequence and a rather lively final battle, this one proves a tedious disappointment. Continue reading
There is no getting around it. Roland Emmerich’s 2012 is a spectacularly stupid movie.
Over the course of its 153 minute running time, Yellowstone blows its top, D.C. gets predictably crushed under heavy down-pour of CGI, and most of California just crumbles like a French pastry. In the midst of this eye-smashing gauntlet of global apocalypse, a startling number of gifted actors run about dodging falling Earth shrapnel, choke out hokey lines about mankind’s fall, and work overtime to convince us that this time it really is the end. To top things off, Danny Glover gets to be the second black president to shepherd the human race through an extinction level event. Continue reading
Nov. 3rd, 2009–
Wow. I’m wondering if Disney even knows how to cut good trailers anymore.
I wish I could be more excited for this one. Afterall, it’s one of the big summer tentpole movies.
It took me a few moments to process Donnie Darko as a swashbuckler, but more than that, it’s the 1999 Mummy sand fx that seem out of place here. I’m not digging the excessive use of digital imagery and the central plot seems like a cookie-cutter genre affair. For a movie with its own established franchise, Persia looks a bit too much like LOTR, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean stirred into a giant CGI stew. Continue reading
So, this is the movie responsible for Predator, Die Hard and Hunt for Red October? In a way, yes it is. Those three films are all pinnacles of the action genre; peerless giants, and all three were directed by John McTiernan. Predator, in fact, would be made one year later and it’s this little supernatural thriller that nabbed John the job to helm that film. So, if you give it nothing else, give it that: it jumpstarted McTiernan’s career and got him a gig directing one of the seminal sci-fi action pics of our time. The good news is that Nomads is also a highly creepy, engaging thriller, well worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it. Continue reading
I’d say that it has felt like I’ve been waiting for Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat for years, but that wouldn’t exactly be accurate. It hasn’t just felt like years, it has been. Dougherty made the film in 2006 and was grooming it for a 2007 fall release when WB pushed it back to the spring, then to the fall, and then just kept pushing. Now, in a move so belated that the film has built a cult following among festival goers, Trick is finally getting released, just in time for the season where it best belongs. Thankfully, it turns out that the movie was worth the wait. Continue reading