Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Purge (2013)
A "concept" film that doesn't bother to explore the concept
When the trailers for this film came out I was somewhat intrigued. A New American Revolution, you say? One night a year where all crime is legal, you say? Well that sounds fascinating. Tell me more.
The setup, if you aren't aware of it somehow, is that it is America in the year 2022. Sometime in the film's past (it's not specific) the country went through a "quadruple-dip" recession along with a stock market crash that led to huge national debt and a highly devalued dollar. That in turn led some newly elected officials - the New Founding Fathers, as the film calls them - to institute The Purge: a single night where all crime is legal except use of "above Class 4 weapons" and crimes against "Level 10 government employees". The plan immediately turned things around, lowering unemployment to 1%, reducing the crime rate to non-existent levels, and "saved the country" as so many people in the film put it.
Again I thought to myself, "I'm intrigued. What caused that recession? What's a Class 4 weapon or a Level 10 official? Who are these New Founding Fathers, and what position do they hold? Is the country still even a Republic or America now under some other form of government?" The premise is good at provoking thoughtful questions. Does the film bother answering any of them? No. As a matter of fact, that three-sentence summary above is just as much background as the film gives you on The Purge. You're just supposed to fill in the blanks yourself, probably by assuming that the New Founding Fathers are members of that underhanded political party you really hate. You know the one.
Protip: the movie is way better if you imagine that David Icke was right and the New Founding Fathers are actually reptiliod shapeshifters who have decided to turn America into their own barbaric version of the Roman Coliseum.
So with that huge potential goldmine of social commentary dangled out there appetizingly and promptly ignored, the film moves straight into giving us a decent setup for actioney whatnot. You've got your standard upper-middle-class family in their upper-middle-class home, white picket fence, 2.6 kids, etc. etc. The father is imperfect but cares about his family, the mother is generic and unremarkable (a waste of Lena Headey's talent), the younger son is borderline hypochondriac (another element left unexplored) and the older daughter is like every movie teenage daughter: more concerned with her boyfriend than anything else. The yearly Purge is a tense time for this tightly knit family, safe in their well-armored home but of varying opinions on the merits of The Purge. Do they sit down and have a frank discussion of their opinions on this literally revolutionary event? F%$# no! Film's only 85 minutes long, people! Can't have all this talking, we need to make time for gunfire, knives, and fake blood all over the place.
So with the issues of family relationships also dangled and ignored, the film finally gets to the shooty heart-poundey omgitsrightbehindyou stuff. The family's uneventful locked-in Purge night is, of course, not meant to be any of those things, and in a sequence of events - one expected, one really not - things start getting out of hand. Before you know it there's a polite but clearly unhinged gentleman and his pack of murderous friends trying to break in. Things get VERY claustrophobic at this point, and it's here that the film excels. The big, big McMansion the film is set in suddenly seems very cramped indeed.
The problem is, that's really the peak of the movie. From that point on it just turns into a long string of "well that was OKAY, I guess". There's some resolution, but not a lot. There's retribution, but not a lot. A fair amount of hope and heroism and redemption, but, again, not a lot. The film sets the stage for some very visceral moments, but more often than not doesn't give you the satisfaction you crave. Not that it's without satisfaction at all, but what you get is not what the movie leads you to believe you will be getting.
With all that said, I still enjoyed the film. For a film that had the potential for such heavy-handed social commentary it was in fact quite the opposite... perhaps too much. Regardless, it still had a fair amount of action and thrills, and even a few surprises. I did not regret spending my time watching it, and came out generally pleased.
In doing some research on the film I've learned that a sequel is in the works. I'm actually quite pleased to hear that, and will definitely be watching it when it finally comes out. Let's just hope the second spends a little more time exploring the concept than the first did. Like, at all.
Hit and Run (2012)
Well that was fun
Went into this film expecting nothing, came out legitimately pleased and chuckling a bit. Quite a pleasant surprise.
Let's start by saying that this is not your average low-budget film. Instead of a cast filled with no-name actors, all of the main characters are played by pretty well-known people. A few of the roles are essentially cameos, but this isn't to the detriment of the plot at all. The characters are on screen for as long as they need to be, no more, no less. I never felt like some role was being simplified because they couldn't afford to pay someone for more days on set.
I won't bother to rehash the plot, other than to say that at its core its an excuse for a long series of car chases. That's not a bad thing by any means, and more importantly it works. There's no jarring tone shifts, no strange "wait, we're doing this now?" moments. The whole thing feels smooth, start to finish.
The car chases themselves are pretty good, nothing that will make a "top car chases" list, but perfect for a movie that blends car chase action and comedy. The comedy itself works well, again nothing that's going to go down in history as the greatest of an era, but I was consistently chuckling throughout the entire film. The characters created by Dax Shepard are not just amusing, they're interesting, and not entirely one-dimensional as with some other comedies. I could believe that I would meet some of these people in real life.
With regards to Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, their shared performance in this captures something rarely seen in modern movies: a couple that isn't in the early, wild, "honeymoon" stages of love, but is in the relaxed, "comfortable with each other" yet still romantic stages of the relationship. Hardly surprising given that the two actors have been dating since 2007, but it's still nice to see a movie that shows that "oh my God I can't get enough of you" is not the only part of a romantic relationship. Other performances are great in this film as well. Bradley Cooper does a great job as an environment-obsessed borderline sociopath, and Tom Arnold comes across as a U.S. Marshal so well-meaning but bumbling it has to be some kind of genetic condition. Michael Rosenbaum is the unexpected (and enjoyable) straight man of the film, although I jokingly suggested to a friend that he took this role after portraying Lex Luthor on Smallville to prove that he can actually grow hair on his body.
Overall, I had a fun time watching Hit and Run. To be honest, I think this was a lot more entertaining than most "big budget" comedies released in past years: not the best, but better than most. I sure as hell laughed a lot, which in a comedy is really all you need.
Dark Corners (2006)
A low-budget "what's the twist" movie that's worth a watch
I caught this movie several months ago, and it was only after happening to come across it in my collection recently that I realized it was really worth commenting on here. So here goes.
Firstly, my brief take on the plot: Karen Clarke lives in a city where dark and horrifying things exist just beyond the edge of her vision. Susan Hamilton is a happily married woman suffering from recurring nightmares. Each considers the other to be the person they become in their dreams. So who is real? Now, this is not one of those "are you sure this is low-budget?" productions. There are numerous qualities about this film which make it very clear to the viewer that we are, in fact, in the land of independent financing, ranging from certain scenes shot like they're using 1950s camera equipment to the typical "small roles filled by people with all the emotions of a cardboard box" syndrome. This even extends to one of the more significant minor roles, an older blond woman whose acting ability alternates between competent and "Plan 9 From Outer Space" depending on the scene.
With that said, there's still something to this film. It takes a bit to get going, with the first 30-40 minutes leaving the viewer with a lot of puzzle pieces and very few ways to connect them, but the pieces themselves are reasonably interesting. Once we hit the halfway mark, however, things begin to connect a bit more. Most of it is executed well, leaving the viewer feeling neither confused nor as though they've been led by the nose. A few times, however, clues are all but identified with bright neon signs, particularly a seemingly pointless conversation which suddenly draws attention to itself with a rather unorthodox camera pan. The presentation otherwise is excellent, with many of the scenes set in the "dark" city just about oozing a sense of corruption and decay. Much of the content is surprisingly robust as well, with a lot of allegory and outright symbolism present throughout. (Though the significance of it all isn't truly clear until the end of the film) While the smaller roles are filled with the typical low-budget riff-raff, the principals all do an excellent job in this film. Thora Birch is entertaining to watch and, as always, you can sympathize with her character(s) almost instantly. Toby Stephens gives a short, interesting, and dark performance which is perfect for the film, and in a pleasant surprise Alan Perrin makes a highly intriguing detective in both "sides" of the narrative.
However, the real winning part of this film is the final reveal, the "twist" if you will. While it isn't what I would call exactly genius, it's still pretty clever; even the most observant of viewers will at best be able to determine part of the twist, but not all. More importantly, the reveal is both creepy and satisfying, albeit in a Schadenfreude-y kind of way. It's a worthy payoff for 90 minutes of invested time.
BOTTOM LINE: It's not really award worthy and it's certainly not perfect, but it's entertaining and has a wonderfully satisfying-yet-creepy ending. If you're a fan of "twist" movies like Memento and Sixth Sense but prefer a "darker" feel this may be right up your alley.
Would have been much better as a TV show episode
Over my many years of movie watching I've learned a few things as far as judging how good a movie is going to be. As a rule of thumb, when the content of a movie fits in the span of 95 minutes you may want to be wary. Darkness, unfortunately, is such a movie.
The premise behind the movie is not a bad one, and in fact is rather intriguing in a way. But it is quite obvious to me that the script has been somewhat "stretched". The plot and dialogue are not obviously thin, but the final minutes of the film -- the "catch", as it were -- is not one that deserves an 80-some-odd minute build-up. The build-up itself is alright, at first, but after 30 or so minutes I found myself saying, "oh look, something else creepy happened, now would you freakin' get to wherever this is going?" Were this confined to the span of an hour I think the entire movie would be much better. Sadly that can't be done for a movie; 90 minutes appears to be the lower cap on the length of mainstream film.
I do want to say that the final minutes of the film are indeed fairly creepy. (Any fans of the Silent Hill video games will find themselves wondering if the set designer is also a fan.) If you still care what happens in the film by that point then you should find yourself pondering the final events of the film for a while afterward.
Final Score: 5/10. Would have been 2/10, but the ending is worth it.
Much better than anybody wants to admit
Okay, I'll be honest: I'm not the biggest Bennifer fan. In fact, the guy sometimes annoys me. But his performance in this well-scripted piece of cinema was quite acceptable to me.
It seems to be a rare thing these days to find a SciFi-Action movie that isn't so awful it has been exiled to Direct-to-Video or Direct-to-Cable status. Fortunately, Paycheck does not fall victim to the curse of SciFi-Action movies. While it isn't exactly award-worthy, the film definitely entertains and keeps you wanting to find out what's next.
The plot has all the makings of a good head-scratcher: some self-induced amnesia, a large sum of money now missing, a dose of conspiracy, and a number of seemingly benign items that will provide answers to the questions the plot raises. The fighting sequences are placed at just the right points in the film, as is the comic relief, keeping the audience entertained as the suspense builds. The fight sequences are well-choreographed as well, especially the large one towards the end of the film. And most importantly, the plot is almost completely devoid of the plot holes one would expect from a SciFi-Action film such as this.
One other thing which I found quite noteworthy: the "secret" of the film is given away in the first half-hour, yet this barely detracts from the suspense of the film at all, and in some cases adds to it.
Final verdict: 8/10. Well worth a watch if you're a SciFi fan, certainly worth purchasing. And the soundtrack is kinda catchy too.
Timecop: The Berlin Decision (2003)
Surprisingly not that horrible
I caught this film on SciFi Channel at midnight one evening. After a good meal, sitting in a relaxing chair, you're liable to watch just about anything. Which is why I didn't immediately turn it off once I spotted the incredibly horrible visual effects at the beginning which just smacked of god-awful Direct-to-Video cinema. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of the film.
The key to enjoying this film is to suspend disbelief. Pretend that you're looking at the German countryside, not some foothills in the LA area shot through a Sepia filter. Pretend that a Chinese man dressed in a business suit in the 1800s wouldn't arouse a lot of suspicion. Above all, pretend some of the more horrible special effects don't look as bad as they do. Once you've done that, you'll enjoy the film a lot more.
The performances by most of the cast are neither outstanding nor bad, save for Thomas Ian Griffith, who makes an incredibly good villain in this film. The plot of the film is almost secondary and unnecessary, chock full of plot holes and serving only as a backdrop against which to set fight scenes and excuses to change the era. But if you went into this movie expecting something scientifically sound, just stop; remember that this is the sequel to a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.
Were a few things changed in this movie, specifically some of the horrid "special" effects, two or three of the more illogical and confusing points of the plot, the cheesy Direct-to-Video style overlays for the credits, and most importantly the unbearably long final 10 minutes of the film, it could have been worthy of a cinema release.
Final verdict: 5/10. It's worth watching if it happens to be on, or worth buying if you spy the DVD for cheap. Really cheap.