Movie Review: HANNA

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hannaFocus Pictures
2011
PG-13

“Kissing requires a total of thirty-four facial muscles, and one hundred twelves postural muscles. The most important muscle involved is the orbicularis oris muscle, because it is used to pucker the lips.”

Raised by her father, an ex-CIA agent, in the wilds of Finland, Hanna’s upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one. Sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe, eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own. As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces starting revelations about her existence…

It was movie night with my circle of friends, and I chose Hanna to be the one we watched. This was back when the movie was first released on DVD, and while looking into the movie, the premise intrigued me. It seemed to be a bit more than your standard Bourne Identity-style psychological thriller. For one, it involves a young girl as a trained-since-birth deadly assassin, who was raised by the CIA agent that was part of the project to develop these super soldier kids. Not exactly a unique premise, admittedly; but what interested me was that it was said that Hanna wasn’t shot like the other action thrillers that were being churned out.

There’s a lot of European folktale influence on the visuals and ambiance of the movie. I don’t know what other way to explain it, other than this is definitely a different beast. There’s more of a subdued, sombre quality to the execution, almost a Kubrick-esque style. Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett are great in their roles, and the cinematography is breathtaking. The story itself moves along at a decent clip, with several locations utilized.

Overall, Hanna was a good change of pace from the bunch of action flicks that normally clog the theaters. It’s a good psychological thriller that will stay with you a bit longer than usual. Recommended.

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Movie Review: The ABYSS

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the abyss20th Century Fox
1989
PG-13

“Howdy. Uh…how are you guys doin’?”

When a nuclear missile sub mysteriously sinks, the Navy commandeers the crew of a civilian deep-sea oil rig to help in the rescue operation. This perilous mission becomes a wondrous odyssey into the unknown as forces from the ocean’s deepest region begin to make contact with the divers. For Bud Brigman and his estranged wife Lindsey, it becomes also a test of their physical and emotional limits. Their journey into the endless night of the ocean’s depths lays bare the human heart in an elemental confrontation between death, love and something else…the strange inhuman watchers in The Abyss.

The Abyss. James Cameron’s other movie classic that didn’t involve future kill-bots, Xenomorphs or a doomed luxury liner. There’s another one that seems to be escaping my attention, but whatever.

My history with this movie was…surprising, actually. The Abyss was, as I recall, one of a handful of movies that were released at the same time, that featured a story of deep-sea unknown terror. It was one of those movies that I didn’t really noticed back when it was released, as there were other more important flicks I needed to watch. Yeah, that’s it. The Abyss was eventually bought on VHS by my parents because…I don’t know, really. I do know we recently acquired a VCR the previous year, so I remember going through the family movie collection one weekend afternoon, bored and wanting to watch something–anything–and spotting this. So I watched it. And I’ve rewatched it many times since then.

The Abyss is one of those Science Fiction movies that only the 1980s could produce, in that it has that mix of wonder as well as that touch of excitement and fear that normally would be the hallmarks of a classic Spielberg movie from the era. The story is the classic humans encountering aliens…only the twist being these aliens dwell deep in the ocean, instead of outer space. Well, maybe they were from outer space at one time, but they clearly loved the ocean floor property. Location, location, location, and all that. You got the scientist that wants to study the mysterious goings on, the blue-collar guys that are hired by the U. S. Military to dive down, and the military soldiers on board as well, all with their own agendas, that leads to some interesting drama and tension. Oh, did I mention the scientist and the foreman of the boat are estranged husband and wife? Yeah, there’s that, too.

Rewatching, the effects themselves hold up surprisingly well. Especially considering this was kind of the prototype use of the liquid CGI rendering that was featured heavily in Cameron’s future sequel to the Terminator. Of course, the movie ends in a very positive and hopeful kind of way that, depending on your disposition, will make you feel all warm and fuzzy, or trigger your cynicism powers.

Overall, The Abyss is one of those classic science fiction movies that, while not one from my childhood per-se, still holds nostalgic value as well as being a great sci-fi yarn that I still watch from time to time.

Movie Review: JOHN WICK

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john wickLionsgate Home Entertainment
2014
R

“I heard you struck my son.”
“Yes, sir, I did.”
“And may I ask why?”
“Yeah, well, because he stole John Wick’s car, sir, and, uh, killed his dog.”
“Oh.”

A former hitman is driven back to his killer instincts when a thug steals his 1969 Ford Mustang, killing his dog in the process. The action heats up when he tracks the thug to New York City, only to become the target of the thug’s father, a major crime boss.

When it comes to modern action movies (“modern” in the sense of the past decade or so), I’m rather ambivalent. Action movies don’t necessarily rank high in my genre preferences, but I don’t necessarily dislike the genre.

So, there’s this guy named John Wick. Naturally. His wife just died of cancer, and the day of her funeral, he receives a cute widdle puppy that she arranged to have sent to him to help with the sting of her loss. Unfortunately, the very next night, his house is broken into by a gang of Russian mafia youths, and they kill his puppy and steals his vintage 1969 Mustang. This doesn’t set well with, not only John Wick, but also with the Russian mob boss who coincidentally is the father of the young man who committed doggie homicide and took Wick’s car. Because, as it turns out, John Wick used to be a hit man for that Russian mob, the kind that, when his name is even mentioned, even the mob boss pauses to reconsider his life choices. So, after an attempt to talk Wick out of finding and killing his son, the mob boss throws everything at him to stop him from doing so. It…doesn’t go very well.

So, John Wick is your standard revenge-themed ultra-violent testosterone-fueled shoot-em-up action flicks that’s very shiny looking and is heavy on the kinetic effects. While doing the live commentary thing that I do sometimes while watching movies on my Facebook page, I quipped that John Wick seems less a movie and more a bunch of Playstation video game cut scenes spliced together. And yeah, that still seems pretty darned accurate. But, there’s a bit of twist, you see. That being the inclusion of a special kind of hotel that caters to hitman society, and has rules to play by. That certainly made things interesting, and kept John Wick from being your run-of-the-mill action movie with a body count and a use of dubstep that’s almost a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Overall, I did find John Wick to be greatly entertaining in a mindless fun sort of way. Like how many like the bafflingly popular Fast & Furious movies, I would surmise. Keanue Reeves makes for a surprisingly good action star, it seems. Very much worth a rental, yes.

Movie Review: AMERICAN PSYCHO

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american psychoLionsgate
2000
R

Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh my god, it even has a watermark!

 

Patrick Bateman is a Wall Street yuppie obsessed with success, status and style. His co-workers, like Paul Allen, are just as obsessed with success, status and style. However, there’s one thing that sets Patrick apart from his co-workers. He is also a psychotic killer who rapes, murders and dismembers both strangers and acquaintances without provocation or purpose. With Detective Donald Kimball on his tail, Bateman seems to be leading himself into a spiraling downfall of insanity and defeat…and all the while, he’s still able to throw a few Huey Lewis and the News facts your way.

American Psycho is one of those movies that I’ve seen a few times prior, but haven’t gotten around to pounding out a review of, mainly because it also happens to be one of those movies that defies being lumped into just one category. Certainly, one would stick this in the general horror genre, maybe even in the psychological thriller sub-category. You might even be forgiven for thinking this is just another slasher flick, going by the title and movie poster art alone. But, first impressions going into American Psycho are deceiving.

On the surface level, yes, American Psycho certainly is a kind of slasher horror movie, about a wealthy New York investment banker in the later part of the 1980s with a taste for pop music and elaborate business cards who begins offing people, possibly due to the stress of his lifestyle. But, the way he goes about his homicidal tendencies falls squarely in the “Black Comedy” style that will have you laughing and shaking your head at the utter absurdity of it all. But then, subtly at first but then rather evident as the story unfolds, reality itself seems to be breaking down right before your eyes, taking a serious Aronofsky style mind-bending psychological twist.

It’s because of these aspects, and also the great acting by Christian Bale and the 80s setting that has made American Psycho stick in my head all this time. And I’ve watched it several times, mainly because I’m still trying to figure that ending out. Yeah, I know I had it explained to me, but I keep thinking I’m missing some kind of subtle nuance to give me that “Oh, right, I gotcha”. Also, naked Christian Bale wielding a chainsaw. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Overall, American Psycho is twisted, will mess with your head, and make you wonder what you just watched by the end. All the while, you can’t not keep watching. Recommended.

Movie Review: BATMAN

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batman (1989)Warner Bros.
1989
PG-13

“Batman! Batman! Can somebody tell me what kind of world we live in, where a man dressed up as a bat gets all of my press? This town needs an enema!”

I remember all the hype surrounding the Batman movie of 1989. There was suddenly an explosion of merch items and tie-ins everywhere you turned. The classic 1960s television show was being shown in daily afternoon re-runs on the local UHF station in my area. The billboards were ubiquitous. There was a cereal, for crying out loud. I knew of at least three guys from my class that watched it multiple times in the theaters that summer. Even if you never had an interest in the comic book character itself, you knew of its existence that year, let me tell you.

And I never watched the original 1989 Tim Burton movie. I had better things to do, really. You can send your hate mail to my email address.

Seriously, even though I did watch all the other following sequels in the Tim Burton Batman series in the theater, I never did get around to watching the 1989 Batman, until about last year when I finally got around to popping it in and seeing what all the hype was about. And I know I’m going to be in the minority here, but…I really wasn’t all that impressed.

Maybe it was because I’m writing this post-Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy, or because this is what you would call the Comic Book Movie Renaissance. Maybe it was because everybody who not only have seen it and were equally shocked that I hadn’t yet (despite being both a Batman and Tim Burton fan) and had raised my expectations of this being the GREATEST MOVIE EVER(TM), that I was rather underwhelmed when I did watch it.

Mind you, I don’t hate 1989’s Batman. Far from it, for all of you extremist fanboys out there. It was quite entertaining, and had a nice dark yet whimsical quality that is vintage Burton shining through. For my money, Michael Keaton remains the undisputed Best Bruce Wayne / Batman in cinematic history (all apologies to the late, great Adam West). And Jack Nicholson made The Joker an icon all his own. No argument there. I think everybody should watch this Batman at least once, preferably as a double-header with Batman Returns.

I know, I know. There’s the point that, when this was released, the whole live action comic book adaptations available were dismal, and this Batman proved that you could make a dark and somewhat serious comic book superhero movie without delving into camp. And, I’m sure if my parents did decide to let me watch this back when I was 15, it would have certainly blown my mind, and I would be writing this with less jaded nostalgia glasses.

And so, here we are. 1989’s Batman. I like it, but I don’t love it. It is what it is.

Movie Review: The AWAKENING

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the awakeningCohen Media Group
2011
R

“It’s never darker than when we close our eyes, and yet we keep them shut. Why is that?”

The year is 1921, and author Florence Cathcart is a famous debunker of supernatural tomfoolery and the bane of charlatans in England. She’s contacted by a teacher from a boys’ boarding school, where there have been sightings of a ghost of a young boy at the school, which may have contributed to the death of one of the living boys. He wants her to investigate, to which she initially refuses…but, then she gets all soft-hearted because she, too, was an orphan once, and all that. So, she arrives at the school, and sets up her various equipment she uses to prove whether or not there’s a haunting. Doing her best detective work, she deduces the real culprit in the death of the young boy…and it’s not a ghost. Surprise, surprise. But, even though her job is done and she’s about to leave, something happens that causes Florence to question her sanity and remain at the school a bit longer during the holiday break. She’s beginning to see things, things that may tie back to her past. And also question whether or not there really is a ghost that wanders the halls of the school.

Overall, I found The Awakening to be an interesting old school style Gothic ghost story that has the same slow-burning feel of The Others and The Woman In Black, has a very creepy atmosphere and heavy bit of tension, and unravels as a pretty good supernatural mystery. Rebecca Hall is mesmerizing as the skeptic with a sad past, and I may have developed a bit of a fanboy crush. It tends to happen. I do admit that the way the story unraveled was a bit on the predictable side, adhering to the early 20th Century ghost story formula, but that’s kind of par for the course. The Awakening was a good movie, a decent way to kill a rainy Autumn afternoon (for effect).

Movie Review: GOING IN STYLE

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going in styleWarner Bros. Pictures
2017
PG-13

“What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s thinking.”
“It looks painful.”

Lifelong buddies Willie, Joe and Albert decide to buck retirement and step off the straight-and-narrow when their pension funds become a corporate casualty. Desperate to pay the bills and come through for their loved ones, the three men risk it all by embarking on a daring adventure to knock off the very bank that absconded with their money.

So, right about now, you’re probably wondering what I, a man that has a certain geek specialties and tastes in movies, am doing watching a movie like Going In Style, a comedy about three octogenarians planning on pulling a robbery on a bank? Oh, no reason…except for the fact that it stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin as the three feisty senior citizens. Do I need to say anything more? I do? Oh, all right, then. For the sake of padding up some writing space…

Yeah, back when I saw the theatrical trailer in the front of whatever movie it was that I was at the theater to watch, I thought that the premise was done, but since it stared three of the actors that are on my Watch Regardless Of What Movie They’re In list, I figured it was a matter of time before I actually watched Going In Style, but this would probably be one of those kind of movies I would wait until it was available for rental to get around watching. And wouldn’t you know it? Self-fulfilling prophecy. I did, in fact, watch it as a rental.

So, the story revolves around lifelong friends who are retired and run into some issues with their pension being suddenly revoked from the place they loyally worked at for 30 years of their lives. After finding himself at the bank during a well-planned robbery heist, they all plot to essentially do the same to offset the problem of their sudden lack of retirement income. So, enlisting the help of a pet store owner, they plan out to hit their bank. And things…don’t really go as planned. But, really, you were expecting otherwise?

Going In Style is formulaic, nothing new, and quite predictable…and I absolutely adored this. It’s not exactly Ocean’s Eleven, but then it didn’t pretend to be that. What this is, is a fun little heist movie that is probably going to be played on TBS every Saturday ad nausium for the whole family to enjoy. What can I say, but seeing the likes of Caine, Freeman and Arkin play off each other was great fun. And that’s what Going In Style is, a fun little weekend afternoon movie.

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