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Matt_Layden

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593 reviews in total 
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John Wick (2014)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Please see this movie., 17 January 2015
8/10

John Wick is an interesting film that came and went before our eyes. Yet those who did decide to give it a chance, seem to love it very much. It's 'Certified Fresh' on Rottentomatoes and has a 7.5 rating on IMDb as of right now. Impressive for a film that is basically one shoot out after the next....after the next....after the next.

An ex hit-man comes out of retirement after he's attacked by three thugs in his home. This attack leaves him beaten, without a car and a dead dog, which was given to him by his recently deceased wife. Big mistake. Once these guys tries to sell the muscle car to a garage that strips parts, the owner seems to instantly recognize it. The man asks, who's car this is. Who cares? The young spoiled brat replies. I can tell you one thing, we beat his ass to get it, and his stupid dog too. Bam, punched in the face. The kid goes crying to his mob boss of a father, who then calls up that mechanic. Did you punch my son in the face? Yes sir, I did. Why, he asked. Well sir, because he stole John Wick's car...and killed his dog.

Oh crap.

This sets up the film, the classic revenge tale. Nothing really new here. We've seen dozens of films where the retired killer has to come out of retirement to revenge the death of a loved one. This time it happens to be a canine. The dog is adorably cute and my wife was in tears...TEARS I TELL YOU, when they killed the poor pup. About one scene before it happened, she says to me, "Are they going to kill the dog?" Terrified of the answer that I would not give her. Well, yes, they did. She instantly wanted John Wick to kill EVERYONE. So I guess when a dog gets it, you instantly want those responsible dead. Funny, I feel the same way. When people die on film, no big deal, but when an animal dies, all hell breaks lose.

After that is out of the way, John Wick suits up to take out those who have wronged him. It just happens to be the son of his former boss. So when the boss finds out, he knows he's in trouble. So now he has to get to Wick before Wick gets to them. Thus, the body count piles up. It piles up in a finely tuned operatic fashion, as the action sequences are some of the best in the last few years. Wick uses his guns with precision. Shot to the chest, then to the head. It's robotic. One man against a dozen? Fair fight.

To say the action in John Wick is stylized in an understatement. This is one of the best action films in years. Chad Stahelski, a stunt coordinator, makes his directing debut here. So he knows his way around a fight, being responsible for such films as the Expendables, The Wolverine, Tron: Legacy, and many many more. I like this new trend of giving people from different departments a chance at the directing chair. See what they can bring to the table. The man clearly knows his stuff, so give him a script to shoot and see what he can achieve. He nails it here. One impressive sequence has Wick going into a club, with multiple levels and rooms and takes out the bad guys one by one. First silently, then when all hell breaks lose, with calm and ease. Bottom line: This is one FUN film.

Reeves never impresses with his acting ability. It's kind of a running gag with people that he cannot act his way out of a paper bag. One scene here has him actually showing some emotion, which is when he reads the letter from his wife after receiving the dog. The rest of the film is how bad ass can Reeves look while taking out dozens of people. The answer, really bad ass. Familiar faces show up, such as Willem Dafoe, as another assassin. Adrianne Palicki as a beautiful....well...assassin. Michael Nyqvist, from the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, plays the Russian Mobster, whose son, Alfie Allen aka Theon Greyjoy, gets him into this mess. As if we needed another reason to hate Theon. Finally Ian McShane as a friendly face in a crowd of so few.

The world created in John Wick is interesting to me. These assassins have gold coins that get them into these places that only the secret society of assassins can access. There are hidden clubs, hotel rooms, etc. How can all these assassins and hit-men be in a club and not want to shoot each other. Well, there seem to be certain rules. Don't break them, or there might be consequences.

Those club scenes are really fun. Jonathan Sela, the DOP, bathes the film is icy blues and nice neon lighting for those club scenes. Giving it a heightened look and feel. Everything about the film feels smooth as ice, just like John Wick. The directing style reflects the lead character. Aggressive when it needs to be, but calm and collected most of the time. When I say aggressive, boy do I mean aggressive. Wick acts like a man with nothing to lose, no fear. He will walk right into the lions den to get the job done.

John Wick is one of the biggest surprises of 2014 for me. While some might call it a no brainer repetitive action film I call it high class action fun. FUN is the key word here. Watching John Wick dispose of those bodies was fun. Seeing this society of people who all know each other was fun. Seeing Keanu Reeves back in the limelight doing what he does best? You called it...fun.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Too slow of a build up for 15 minutes of good fun., 11 January 2015
4/10

I wasn't too impressed with this one. I felt that a lot of the cinematography was lacking for an effectively shot film for the viewer to enjoy. Too many dark sequences when characters were not properly lit. If done on purpose, it was a poor choice. The technical aspect of making the film is probably the biggest. Aside from the lighting, what about the sound mix? Why is it almost DEAD QUIET in the bar / club when a band is playing and there are dozens of people. Everything is the background is muted and THAT really took me out of it because it was obvious they wanted you to focus on the banal dialogue.

The film sure takes awhile before it gets going, all I knew about the flick was that Alyce Kills....get it?. The reason for her descent into this madness was not justified to me. People might be more impressed with the first 3/4's of the film, but I rather enjoyed it when she gave in to the murderous impulses, as weak as they were. The scenes where she goes after people who've wronged her were the best parts. To me, the film took too long to get to the interesting parts. It drags.

Gore factor? Not much here. It's mainly the "aftermath" we see lots of blood, but it doesn't really spill, it's just on the floor. A good sight gag that I enjoyed is when Vince went to call someone while hanging onto his guts, once he reached for the phone, his guts fell out. I feel like this film needed a bit more of that for me personally to enjoy it.

I will say this though, it had a great ending.

There were a few scenes that I thought were weird and definitely piqued my interest, all of which happen AFTER she has lost her mind. The war masturbation, Necrophilia boob touching and weird sex fight. These scenes are not the norm and when a film does something odd, it catches my attention. Unfortunately these scenes are not enough to save the film as a whole.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Check This One Out Before People Start Talking About It., 7 January 2015
7/10

The Spierig brothers first came onto the scene with a film entirely funded by themselves and their friends. This was the Australian horror zombie fest Undead. While the film had an annoying lead character and some tone & pacing issues, it was pretty clear that these guys had some serious talent. I expected big things from them in the future and 6 years later they came back with the genre flick, Daybreakers. Daybreakers came just after the sexy leading man vampire of film (Twilight) and television (The Vampire Diaries). So it was nice to see the gruesome, bloody, ugly creatures that they are come about in this film, which has an interesting enough premise to warrant a watch. Well, almost another 6 years later, the brother are at it again, with Ethan Hawke at their side for the second time, with their sci/fi time travel picture; Predestination.

Hawke plays a temporal agent, a man with the task of going through time to try and stop catastrophes before they happen. He's tracking down a man known as 'The Fizzle Bomber', responsible for the death of thousands of people in more than a dozen bombings. His next bombing will apparently kill over 10,000 people in New York. If this sounds similar, it's because this story has been done to death in time travel films. Someone has to go back, multiple times, to try and stop a bad guy from doing a bad thing; Source Code, Terminator, every other time travel film. Now while the premise of the film seems redundant, everything else about the film is not. I promise you, you've never seen anything like this film before.

I won't go into detail about the story plots of the film, anything I say will ruin the twists and turns the film throws at you. Yet the one fundamental flaw the film has is the fact that it is a time travel film. People will go into this film, I know I did, with theories about this and that, way before there are any hints of it in the film. Predestination suffers from this and it doesn't help that the Spierig brothers drop pretty blatant clues in the first act. I caught them pretty clearly, which made me guess certain things...but here's the weird part; even though guesses came true, I still sat there dumbfounded at what I was watching.

Hawke is pretty great here, he gets the opportunity to have some fun in certain scenes and lead with some heavy drama in others. The guy is hard to peg, he certainly does love his genre films though. Even though he hasn't done anything to really wow me yet, I find his films to be entertaining enough and a lot of it has to do with his abilities on the screen. Yet the real standout here is the fresh faced Sarah Snook, who undoubtedly has the hardest task here. The backstory behind her character is tragic, weird, gross, mysterious...she pulls all of this off nicely and I look forward to seeing more of her work.

Well shot, but from my experience that is to be expected. The film's premise would make you believe that the film has a lot of action, chase sequences and shootouts. Yet there is hardly a whisper of that. This is a deliberately slow paced film, yet it never drags. Despite the film being about Hawke pursuing a bomber, the brothers are not interested in that aspect. They would rather have the film pursue other means and themes, such as love, identity and purpose. Predestination wraps itself in all of this and more.

I don't expect this film to make a big splash anywhere, yet I can tell it will have a cult following. I enjoyed the film, I found myself coming up with some of the craziest scenarios that could happen and smiled when most of them were right on the nose. Predestination is a fun, stylized science fiction film and should be seen by more people. Check it out.

7500 (2014)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Just Terrible., 4 January 2015
2/10

I'm a fan of a lot of horror films and will watch basically anything. I've seen a lot of crap in my time, and you can bet your bottom dollar that 7500 is part of that crap. A half baked idea that got funding due to one location, recognizable but cheap actors and a genre that will have an audience. Hopefully people read the reviews of this one before they shell out some hard earned cash because this one stinks.

Flight 7500 on route to Tokyo experience some supernatural terror and people start dying.

One sentence plot description there with little to no effort from me. Something the screenwriters did as well, add little to no effort in the writing of this film. Aside from clichéd characters that no one ever gives a crap about, bad cinematography that makes you think this could have been shot on a JVC camcorder, the film's worst attribute is the screenplay. I'll throw the direction in here as well, as there are no thrills, no scares, no tension or even bits of comedic levity. Absolutely nothing redeeming about 7500.

The inane twist doesn't even help it. It goes nowhere and is a retread of a famous TV show. Originality is out the window on this one. I wish I didn't waste my time watching garbage like this. Even the last scene is laughable in that it makes no sense and caters to stupidity.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Wait a minute...why don't I hate this movie?, 4 January 2015
6/10

The amount of hate people had towards the idea of this film before it even came out was staggering. Throw myself in that mix. All the things they were saying about the film; aliens, mo-cap, bay...everything seemed to be going against this film. Even after watching it, I can name dozens of problems I had with the film. So why don't I hate it? I had the same reaction to this film as I did with G.I. Joe - It's not the same as the original, but for some strange reason...I had fun watching it.

Some of the biggest pratfalls with the film come with the origin story. Sure, you can change it up a bit, but to completely alter it baffles me. Gone is the backstory between Shredder and Splinter, which means there is no emotional resonance here. It's a shame they took this away because it feels so empty in this entry. Add on top of that the inane way they learn how to fight. Splinter teaches himself from a book they find in the sewer? Laughable.

The film doesn't wait to get going, which is particularly good because the film lacks good story or characters to carry any slower dialogue heavy scenes. I don't really have a problem with this. I guess what I'm saying is, if you go in expecting to hate this film, you may come out surprised. Maybe even liking it? The action sequences are Transformers-esque, which is what one would expect from a picture produced by Michael Bay. Overloaded CGI fest spectacles. The difference is here you actually know what is going on. I'll take ninja fighting turtles over mangled robots clashing into each other any day of the week. At the very least, this feels a bit different, even if it seems familiar.

The turtles fit their "roles" fine enough. Leonardo is still the confident leader, Donatello the brains, Michelangelo the goofball and Ralph the hothead. They all still love pizza, disobey their master, yet respect him highly. Splinter himself still spits out wisdom, kicks ass when he needs to and cares for the turtles as his own children. His fight sequence with shredder is one of the highlights of the film, I just wish it had that emotional backstory that it needed.

Fox and Arnett have little chemistry together, he was hired for his comedy skills, her for her looks. Neither for the acting ability. Fichtner isn't fooling anyone with his good guy performance and Whoopi Goldberg of all people shows up as O'Neill's boss. Always there to disbelieve in ninja turtles.

The bottom line here is that the film is light hearted family fun. The kids will probably love it, I didn't hate it, surprisingly. It won't hurt anybody to admit that you might like these Ninja Turtles.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Most underrated film of 2014, 2 January 2015
8/10

The storming the beach sequences were spectacularly filmed. I never lost track of where I was within the action. Too many films these days try to hide their shortcomings by having the immersive camera, which basically means shaky cam. This does not enhance the viewers experience in "war", it does the opposite. You'll have your audience squinting at the screen trying to see what the hell is going on. Liman manages to film the battle sequences beautifully, blending action, comedy and drama in all those sequences.

Wait, what? Comedy? Yes, this film is funny. Liman has fun with killing off Cruise multiple times in funny and unique ways.

Cruise is a coward when we meet him, trying his hardest to NOT be enlisted onto the front lines. But things don't work out for him and he finds himself waking up in cuffs and thrown into the war. No idea how to use his mech suit, no idea how to fight, no idea how to do anything, he finds himself in hellfire trying to stay alive. He doesn't last that long and ends up dying after blowing up an "Alpha" alien.

Rewind.

He wakes up again back in cuffs, alive. But how? What can he do differently to survive this time? Edge of Tomorrow takes a few minutes to explain to the audience why Cruise has this ability and what he must do to stop it, but other than that, this film is non-stop excitement. The editing here is crisp and benefits the story immensely. We are in Cruise's shoes at the beginning, learning what is going on, seeing the different outcomes for the first time and how it can be changed. Then, we find ourselves in Emily Blunt's shoes, experiencing events for the first time, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it hasn't happened already. Cruise reveals that he's been here before, despite the viewer never seeing this scene. Now we have no idea how many times he's gone back.

The third act raises the stakes a bit, I won't reveal why, but at that point it also tends to be a bit more generic and clichéd. Other than Blunt and Cruise, we aren't really given much character development from others. Not needed really, but how are we suppose to care for the squad Cruise is with when they die? We don't.

I found myself asking questions after the film was over. Does every time Cruise die start a parallel universe ala Back to the Future? There was one particular sequence where he dies and it continues on for a little bit. We see what happens after he dies, so the question remains, does each time he die have that exact timeline continue on? OR is it simply that ONE timeline that continues to be reversed. Either way is possible.

I highly recommend seeing this film. I went in with low expectations and was more than surprised.

At least it tried., 2 January 2015
4/10

A film that is entirely shot from the perspective of cameras, laptops and cell phones. Sounds ambitious.

I saw a short film that employed this technique earlier this year, it was extremely well done. It hit the nail on the head about our use of technology, the good, the bad, the ugly. It was short and sweet. Here we have a feature film starring Elijah Wood as a fan who wins a contest to meet his celebrity crush, played by retired porn star Sasha Grey.

A man online tricks him into following his orders and the results lead to a chase of sorts, blackmail and other twists and turns. Not enough to warrant a feature length film though. Wood, does a serviceable job here and it seems he is creating a niche fan base in the horror genre after his turn in another experimental film; Maniac. Shot almost entirely from his POV. I'm more interested in seeing what he does next in the genre than I am talking about this film.

Grey doesn't do much here other than act as the "scared female" you'd find in so many horror films. She has no problem disrobing, which comes as no surprise. I don't get why people are enamoured with her.

To be honest, it did keep my attention better than I thought it would. It starts off slow, but manages to make it somewhat thrilling. I have to say they do cheat with "camera" techniques in which we see through cars and buildings in some kind of 3D rendering generator. It was odd and took me out of the "reality" of it all. This will not be the next step in "found footage" films, or at least I hope not.

Tusk (2014)
4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Never Go Full Walrus., 15 December 2014
5/10

Smith's second attempt at a genre other than comedy. His last effort Red State was Smith's homage to the Coen brothers, specifically their crime film Fargo. I applauded that film for being Smith's most ambitious film, taking him out of his comfort zone and always pulling the rug out from under me. I had no idea where he was going to take it and I was along for the ride. With Tusk we have Smith dipping his toes into the horror genre a bit further. This time he seems to be channeling more Cronenberg-esque with body mutilation, but knowing the history behind the creation of this project, I can't help but think the entire thing was a big joke.

A lot of what happens has to be seen to be believed. After seeing this, I have to ask people who have also seen it a simply question. Should this film have remained a smodcast idea? Was there enough story here to justify Smith making it? I asked myself these questions when the film would oddly throw in some flashbacks. One set of flashbacks are told in black and white from Parks' lifetime, while the other, in colour, belongs to Long. As mentioned earlier, the idea was from a smodcast that Smith and his long-time producing partner, Scott Mosier did and you can actually hear them talking about this idea near the end of the credits. They laugh at the ridiculousness of it all and ask fans to vote #WalrusYes #WalrusNo. Well, as you could have guessed, #WalrusYes won and we have our film. Tusk awkwardly tries to honour the original idea of it being a horror film, the grotesqueness of body horror and also try to be hilariously stupid at the same time. Smith doesn't balance this tone very well and the reason is the cameo performance from a Hollywood A-lister.

I'm not going to spoil who the actor is, but he plays the role so comically over the top that I sat there thinking; did Smith give him 100% free range to do whatever the hell he wanted? I was on board with the seriousness of the film until he showed up, then it went off the rails in ways I can't even describe. Smith goes for an ambitious mixture of tone and I think he fails here. Played half for laughs and half for seriousness, I couldn't help but feel a little let down by it all.

I think the horror aspect works better than the comedy here. The humour here is lacking, especially with the Long character. He comes off as obnoxious and not funny, despite the numerous jokes he tries to throw out there. Does he deserve what he gets? That question is left in the viewers mind. Some people might make the argument that this film exists merely to give Parks a juicy role. Verbally eloquent, vaguely sinister, Parks spews his lines so well and with such gusto that he gives his performance in Red State a run for its money. It's one of the most successful elements of the film.

I am interested in Smith's career direction now. Red State and Tusk aren't receiving as much praise as his previous films, but the man is stepping out of his comfort zone to try something different. He's been accused of being a lazy filmmaker that only makes poop jokes. Not anymore, so I applaud him for this, he's finally making interesting films, good or bad, they are interesting.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
One Of The Year's Best Films., 15 December 2014
8/10

Jake Gyllenhaal gives the performance of his career in Nightcrawler in which he plays an alien, who learns everything he needs to know through the internet, but lacks any kind of empathy for the human race. At least that's how I saw it.

Alien, that's the best way to describe how Lou Bloom interacts with people. Each conversation seems more like a wager on what Lou can take away from it. He doesn't ever have a normal conversation with someone. He always has an angle and he always gets his way. Case in point, the dinner scene with Rene Russo. At first this seems like a scene in which he is trying to score a date of some kind of her. He's a weird guy and we all know his advances will eventually be shut down, but he turns the tables on her and us pretty quickly and his ulterior motives are revealed. One of the best scenes of the film and of the year.

His dialogue his fast and to the point. He doesn't ever waste a breath or a word on something that doesn't give him some slight advantage in some way. I so hope come award time, Gyllenhaal is given the recognition he deserves.

The title serves the film perfectly. This movie takes place 90% of the time at night. Shot beautifully in a cold dark tone with bright lights that emulate the bright light that Lou wants to chase. His dream. Does he want to be in the TV business? Who knows. He's shown wanting a job, any job and this is just something that he's good at that people want. He has no problem crossing ethical, legal and moral lines to get the shot. Sometimes, shockingly, he will change the perspective of the truth to support his gain.

With a memorable soundtrack, slick direction and a script that deserves awards, Nightcrawler is one of the best films of the year.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
This Was A Surprise., 11 December 2014
8/10

Had no idea what this film was when I decided to watch it on Netflix and was pleasantly surprised by how attached I became to the subject matter, the characters and the story.

Brosnan is a disgraced TV personalty and decides to commit suicide by jumping off the top of a building on New Year's Eve. While up there, he meets 3 other people, played by Toni Collette, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots, all there to do the same thing. None of them commit the act and instead form a weird bond between each other. A pact is made not to commit suicide until the next "popular" suicide date, which is Valentine's Day. Dark subject matter, I know.

Despite the content of the film involving topics such as cancer, suicide, underage sex and other questionable character choices, the film balances this topics interestingly enough to keep it rather light. It never became too dark, nor too comedic. It walked a fine line of genuine trust in the characters. I found myself attached to each one, their faults, their quirks and liked them all. Imogen Poots has the hardest task of playing the "wild card" character. This character can sometimes become irritatingly annoying and I can see some people thinking her performance here is just that, but I found it oddly charming and real. She's a young girl who yearns to be loved and can't find it. She's lost, she feels alone and she turns to uncomfortable humour as a shield to hide her true feelings. I felt that her character had the most demons and she came off as the most interesting.

The film is broken up into four segments and each segment is from one of the characters POV. At first I was afraid that it was going to be one of those films that played the same event multiple times from different character perspectives, but was relieved when that was not the case.

The film fails to use the supporting cast effectively. Sam Neil is only in a few select scenes and Rosamund Pike is in one very uncomfortable one. Couldn't help but feel that their talents were slightly wasted here. I had no idea this film was based on a book, thus had nothing to hold it against. There seems to be a lot of hate towards it, but I was genuinely interested from start to finish.


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