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Captain Phillips (2013)
These High Review Scores Are Fake
I tend to write comprehensive reviews but for this movie there is simply no need. It's plain boring and the high scores it's receiving are clearly just due to marketing, in the same way that Justin Bieber has more fake twitter followers than real ones.
The acting is just fine but the plot is practically non-existent. Between pirates getting on a cargo ship and Navy Seals shooting some faces, what is in between in not an exposé on the unfortunate causes for this piracy problem (only 3 lines are said on the topic) nor is it a tense thriller (unless you think listening to Somalian men rant, fueled by claustrophobia and general cluelessness every other minute is a riveting way to spend 2 hours). The script is garbage, the pirates are absolute morons and Tom Hanks does little but mumble or sit quietly. This is a 15 minute short stretched into a feature length that gives you the hope of something interesting happening until you realize it's building towards nothing and you've just wasted your time.
Let me describe the first 7 minutes for you, you'll thank me....
Let me get out of the way that I hate people who are trying to always find fault with movies, snickering at the slightest movement of a cup in the background from shot to shot, etc. So when I describe the first 7 minutes of absurdity in this movie, realize that I am doing it to illustrate just how phoned-in this script was in an effort to save you a rental fee (or know what a laugh you're in for). Onto the movie...
So we start with some chimps in the jungle. Then suddenly, African guys with AKs show up to scare them, droving them through a series of traps. One chimp gets caught and gets taken away in a metal box. It shouts in anguish and being taken from its family (seriously, it's the chimp version of KHAAAAAAAAANNNNN!!!!!! but drowned out by somewhat sad, angelic choir music).
Next scene, the same chimp is doing puzzles in a room with a handler/scientist and a video camera. The chimp is doing really well. James Franco taps on the glass observation window of the room carrying a clipboard, just doing his morning rounds. The handler tells him how well he's doing. Franco sees and in shock runs away yelling "Get me that video!"
He runs to the office of his superior and says the drug they're giving the chimps works and he wants to start human trials. His superior gives the usual "I speak only in terms of money and I have my doubts" spiel. Franco throws down what looks like x-rays onto the desk and says "The data is there, sir!".
What data? Do you know what data is James? And what the hell did you throw on the desk? Was that the papers that were already on your clipboard when you were doing your rounds? His boss says it's only one chimp. "One is all we need, sir." His boss replies "Take some more time" which is answered with "I've been working at this for 5 years!" I don't think James gets how science works. The boss looking at the paper seems convinced (seriously, what is on those pages?) but says he has to pitch it to the shareholders.
Next scene we're in the boardroom. They pitch this drug as a cure to everything neurological. Shareholders are impressed. Meanwhile a handler is being a dick to the same chimp, who they need to demonstrate its skills as proof. The chimp gets mad, so they have to lure it out and snare it (I don't know why either). It gets out and starts running around the lab between pipettes and MRI machines. Shouldn't this be a kennel sort of set up? At least have a door that keeps chimps who have gotten out of their cages from escaping entirely, surely. But no. It jumps around a lot and has an odd preference for jumping through plate glass (I count 3 times). The handlers grab dart guns.
The chimp is suddenly in the lobby of the company's headquarters. I know Pfizer does all their research on the 2 lowest floors of their skyscraper in downtown Manhattan. That's how much space research takes right? And why are their literally zero locked doors between the animal testing area and the lobby? That seems like a security risk. Our fuzzy friend jumps around, through another huge piece of glass which Franco's presentation is being projected on. Shareholders are terrified and hit the deck. Chimps are like black bears. Just curl up in a ball and they'll leave you alone. Or is that brown bears? The chimp roars at the power of standing on a boardroom table. Then gunshots. A security guard empties his clip into a room filled with the most important people in what must be a multi-trillion dollar company. The chimp falls dead and the handlers show up screaming "No!" In this company, lobby guards always know to draw down when wildlife get out. God forbid the chimp get out and then...do what exactly? It had been given a drug, not been infected with Rage. What's the BFD? The chimp dies, scene ends.
And there you go. That's what you're in for. Draw your own conclusions and hopefully my description of the movie has been more enjoyable than watching the thing was. A low bar, I'll admit.
A Trite Look at Sex Addiction
I won't presume to know what it is like to be a sex addict. I've battled addiction but never had it truly take over my life. It's a compelling subject, especially because addiction is a very natural extension of a lot of the qualities (some not even regarded as negative) which every human being possesses. So this movie intrigued me, especially given its name. "Shame" seems to hit the nail on the head when it comes to putting a single word to addiction. Arguably more significant than the physical, emotional or psychological needs that always get the spotlight in addiction stories is the shame. That dissonance between what we ought to do and what we choose to do is universal.
Sadly this movie is not about that. It's not really about much to be honest. To make a movie about an addict requires fleshing that addiction out and fleshing the character out. Things need to escalate, to get out of control. We don't really get that. We get a few scenes that shocked some Guardian readers into saying it's a masterpiece. And while there are explicit scenes, they never convey that Brandon is going down a truly dangerous path. If this movie was about overeating, the progression of addiction would go from Brandon eating pizza every night to having cake a couple times as well. Then he'd blow off a friend and hit the Burger King for the big finale. It's just not much of an escalation and despite Fassbender's best attempt to look distraught or anxious (which happens a lot), we don't really get to know what the guy is thinking or feeling.
We get long lingering shots,scenes that go on forever and a lot of quiet moments but nothing fills that silence. It's just empty. And when we get actual reactions from Brandon to his circumstances, they're abrupt and somewhat absurd. I think he did his best with a poor/vague script but Shame is clearly written and directed by a guy who doesn't understand the subject matter.
The end result is shallow, deeply lacking emotion and altogether a terrible disservice to what could have been a truly fantastic concept. I can't wait until a script writer sees this and, so compelled by how good this could of been and yet how bad it is, decides to write what Shame should have been.
Running Scared (2006)
Awesome movie but not for everyone
Like every great movie that garners some hate, this movie is a bit of a genre-buster. It's a couple of movies mashed together. The plot is simple enough, a dirty cop gets killed with a gun and Paul Walker's character Joey Gazelle is tasked with disposing of the weapon. It's taken from him by his son's friend and gets used in a shooting. He has to track the kid and gun down to keep from having the cop's murder linked to him.
It's not terribly complex but really is just a vehicle for the second plot, a modern day fairy tale. And I've never seen any movie that's so perfectly been a fairy tale. Not in that cliché, slightly morbid, cleaned up over the centuries kind of fairy tale. This is a genuine "wolves will do terrible things to you if you go in the woods, Red Riding Hood" kind of fairy tale, like that very fable was when it was told by Germanic tribesmen to their children. Literally everyone encountered is dangerous, twisted and evil (except for one). Otherwise human characters even take on supernatural qualities for brief moments. It has an interestingly artistic quality in how deliberately over the top characters are.
My only complaint is that the gunfight at the end was a little absurd. It came off as a bit bumbling with guys slipping around the ice. It would have been fine if it was set up better. However that part of the scene only takes place for a moment, but it was somewhat jarring given how consistently good the movie was before that.
Overall 9/10. Definitely going to be a cult classic.
Dead Season (2012)
In case you're wondering why a rating that describes a movie as "not bad" would rate this 10 stars, the current rating is 4.3 and that's far from the case. Romero fanboys simply are impossible to please (and endlessly pretentious) while the gore-seekers were only thrown a couple of bones during the length of the film. Realistically, this is a zombie movie that takes place on a tropical island, often in the day time and thus is not filled with pop-out scares. It also focuses heavily on the characters who are smart enough to hole up in the safety of their compound as much as possible.
More than anything, I expect people disliked the fact that this movie makes too much sense. It's a bit of a damned if you do, damned if you don't conundrum. Either characters do stupid things and tense action ensues, or they hole up, plan wisely and people call it a boring movie. That said, I particularly liked one instance where the characters are drawn into acting reckless, but it leaves you feeling "Yeah, I'd do the same". Which left me a bit impressed.
Make no mistake, it's not perfect. The makeup is good and the camera isn't half bad either but the acting isn't amazing although it doesn't have to be. Things feel purposely flat and grim. This is certainly not a B-movie. It's too serious and lacks any camp moments. Some people may feel the setting works against this but I thought it worked quite well as a "spoiled paradise".
Overall, I watched it to the end, never groaned at a characters actions and enjoyed the moral dilemmas and zombie-face-smashing equally. More than I can say for a lot of this genre.
Star Trek (2009)
Good but not great
I hate to be all negative but I do agree with most people's assertions about what makes this movie good. However I think it's worth saying what makes it less than perfect:
The way I can describe this movie best is like a small, fancy dinner. The flavours (script, cinematography, casting, acting) were fantastic but when I was done, I didn't feel full. All that character development was great, and the slow pacing was appropriate until the movie just petered off. It felt to me like the script was for a 2.5 hour movie but they were forced to amend it and remove the last hour.
I say this because Nero wasn't terribly compelling as a villain. Not because Eric Bana isn't awesome but because he had very little to work with. I wanted to know more about his mind and his madness (think about what made Dark Knight so good and you'll see what I'm getting at). I was really hoping for that next "act" in the movie where they are about to destroy Nero only to have him get away and cause them some grief (ie. take a crew member hostage or really mess up the ship). Something to ramp up the movie so that when Nero dies the stakes are higher and we've gotten to know him a bit more (heck we could sympathize with or despise him, but neither option was developed).
It was the start of something great but the movie itself was not "great". I can see the sequel truly being amazing as this has the energy of the original with a solid execution.