The Hurt Locker (R) 130 min. Directed by:Kathryn Bigelow. Written by:Mark Boal. Starring:Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Feinnes, David Morse, Evangeline Lily. Cinematography:Barry Akroyd. Original music by:Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders.
Despite the glut of films centered around it over the past few years, the Iraq War has not exactly made for compelling cinema. Tangled in extreme political stance or statement, or designed around a general cluelessness about the way the actual battle itself is being fought, previous pics like The Valley of Elah, Lions for Lambs and Redacted were dead on arrival. Now, Kathryn Bigelow, director of Point Break and Near Dark, enters the Iraq conflict with The Hurt Locker;an expertly crafted thriller that leaves behind politics and posturing and brings the viewer onto the grimy, narrow streets of downtown Baghdad. With a singularity of vision and a documentarian’s eye for extreme and seemingly inconsequential detail, Bigelow transcends not only her own previous films but typical action cliches to deliver one of the most suspenseful and intense cinema experiences I’ve ever had. Continue reading
The Wolfman (R) 103 min. Directed by: Joe Johnston Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker & David Self Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving Cinematography: Original Score: Danny Elfman
There is a scene in the new Wolfman where Emily Blunt runs through the foggy night forest, pursued by Del Toro’s slobbering beast. She runs as far as she can, and finds herself balanced precariously at the edge of a treacherous cliff that overlooks a roaring waterfall. Behind her, the monster comes loping and snarling through the underbrush. She has nowhere to go, so she turns pleadingly to face the attacker, her hands concealing the weapon behind her back.
I love moments like this, and the beautifully lush cinematography, Elfman’s shrieking gothic score, as well as Blunt’s wide, staring eyes make it a thing of haunting beauty. When I was a kid, this was the stuff of my dreams and nightmares. In fact, that’s the biggest problem with all of Joe Johnston’s The Wolfman. Less a rendition of the original 1940’s classic and more a high-gloss version of a geeky fan-boy’s interior fantasy life, this Wolf is a total howler. It’s still fun but the odd subtext trumps the dark tragedy of its predecessor. Continue reading
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
December 22nd, 2009–
Here we go. These are my choices for the top ten best horror films of the decade. As I said before, once I really examined the decade I realized that it did give me some of my all time favorite thrillers. It just took some sifting. The ten movies below are, in my opinion, all excellent films that are working at the top of their game and genre. In this instance all have been out long enough that I’ve seen them a few times each (including Pontypool). They represent a quality of work and artistic exploration that isn’t typically associated with the genre. In the coming decade we can only hope to have horror pictures as absorbing and effective. 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
Richard Kelly’s The Box brings with it some good news and bad news. The good is that it’s about 100% better than his last movie, Southland Tales. The bad is that despite a really solid opening hour or so, it never duplicates the kind of alternate-reality mind trip that Kelly struck paydirt with on Donnie Darko.
I’m just going to link you over to Atomic Popcorn and you can read my more in-depth, and mostly spoiler-free, thoughts over there.
Well, here it is, the latest Boll movement. And y’know what? I’m legitimately intrigued by it.
We finally have a trailer for a Uwe Boll movie and it actually looks interesting in a non-trainwreck sort of way. The German maestro of stultifyingly sub-moronic video game adaptations and low-rent trash has seemingly made a movie with a somewhat original story and actual mood and atmosphere.
The Final Storm, or Storm as it appears in the trailer and promos, isn’t distinguished by its cast (Lauren Holly and Luke Perry aren’t exactly draws unless you are airing on Sy-Fy) but by its premise and a creepy visual style that screams psychological thriller or grim post-apocalyptic drama.
A farmer and his family start noticing strange celestial events like blood covering the moon and ominous portents of a biblical nature. Then, everything goes quiet and most of Earth’s population seem to be absent. Enter Perry as Silas, a man who may know more than he lets on and is adamant that this is the Christian end times after the Rapture and they have all been left behind. Faster than you can say Mike Siever, things are going crazy wrong and I felt like I was seeing excerpts from The Road. Continue reading