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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's Thomas' (Thomas Mann) 18th birthday and his friend Costa (Oliver
Cooper) has plans to throw him the biggest party ever. With his parents
going out of town for their anniversary, Thomas has the house to
himself. Thomas just wants a small get-together or "enough to be cool"
as he puts it. However Costa wants this to be a party everyone
remembers, one that everyone will be talking about long after it's
over, and one that will change the lives of Thomas, Costa, and their
friend JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) forever. Not to mention the three of
them finally getting laid. Chronicling the entire spectacle with his
camera is a weird kid from school named Dax (Dax Flame). With his
sights set on nothing but a sea of women and the most epic night he and
his friends could possibly ever have, Project X is what Costa labels
this little filming event.
A documentary-style party movie isn't exactly something that anyone should be excited about. A found-footage The Hangover is all this feels like going into it and Todd Phillips producing doesn't really help change that opinion. The end result is mostly exactly what trailers let on with a conclusion that is extremely predictable with few surprises in between.
Stupid high school humor and crude and raunchy jokes are what bridge the gap between first being introduced the characters and the party actually happening. Its immaturity practically becomes overbearing as the comedy will mostly just make people outside the high school demographic feel older than they really are. The biggest surprise comes in the form of a drug dealer named T-Rick (Rick Shapiro). This is where the mascot for the movie comes in and T-Rick's pursuit of retrieving that mascot is perhaps the only original aspect of the movie. The line about him being like The Terminator is the funniest line to come out of Project X. Nick Nervies and Alexis Knapp play Tyler and Everett who are hired as security for the party. Tyler has this big bouncer like attitude and is this teeny tiny little kid while Everett takes his job a little too seriously. These two, T-Rick, along with the quick montage of Milo the dog being in a bouncy castle and getting into crazy antics during the party are the closest things to highlights the movie has to offer.
With that said, nearly everything else plays out exactly as you expect it to. Losers try to throw a party to change their reputation, that party finally taking place and being even bigger than they imagined, and eventually said party getting out of control. There are so many instances in the movie where an entire song will play while we're shown various shots of this crazy party and Thomas and his friends enjoying themselves. If anything ever felt like an extended music video before it was outdone by Project X. There's barely a story here. Filming an out of control party doesn't make it a movie. Calling it a movie feels disrespectful to anything that came before it.
There is one small shred of depth Project X offers and it lies within that one party changing everything mindset. It's as if it offers this sense of accomplishment while doing something nobody thought you were capable of. Changing your life with the events that transpire in one night is something that probably seems strangely liberating, but this could also be viewed as the movie encouraging this type of behavior which is just as idiotic as the premise of the movie itself.
Project X feels like the combination of Superbad and The Hangover shot in the same style you saw in Chronicle, but doesn't come anywhere close to being as good or even as decent as any of those movies. Many people claimed to be surprised by Project X afterwards and that it was more or better than they thought it would be. The studio rep told me he found the movie somewhat inspiring. Unfortunately Project X inspired me to do nothing more than see something that's actually worthwhile.
I've lived without a father my entire life. He hasn't passed away and
isn't comatose or medically disabled. He just had no interest in being
a part of my life until I turned eighteen. Then his view on me changed,
but it was too little too late. Even when he was around the first few
years of my life, he actively showed that I didn't matter to him. That
entire experience is perhaps what helped me relate to Being Flynn the
most. While drugs or alcohol were never much of an issue, the strained
relationship between a father and son is something I understand all too
Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) has always been in his father's shadow even though he was never around. Nick's father Jonathan (Robert De Niro) is a conman, a liar, and the self-proclaimed greatest writer in the world. As an adult, Nick is struggling to find his place in life. His never ending search to find a job that means something along with putting at least some effort into becoming a writer himself is taking its toll on him. He finally starts putting his life back on track; he finds a new place to live, he gets a job at a homeless shelter, and even starts dating a girl named Denise (Olivia Thirlby) who also works at the shelter. That's when fate intervenes and Jonathan re-enters the picture. Despite never being there for him growing up and only having over a hundred letters written by his father to fall back on, Nick struggles with either giving his dad one final shot or pushing him away for good.
Paul Dano is rarely ever disappointing, but Robert De Niro has been slipping in his most recent cinematic outings. The great thing about Being Flynn is that this is the best De Niro performance in years. His anger and racism towards people he doesn't understand, his delusions of becoming a great writer and his slow downward spiral into violent dementia are really powerful and De Niro portrays all of it exceptionally well. Yet it's still bittersweet to see De Niro driving away in a taxi cab in the opening scene to the film. Meanwhile Dano's struggle with following in his father's footsteps is also fantastic in this train wreck kind of way. Their chemistry together (or lack thereof) is perhaps the biggest driving factor of the film.
The dual narrative was a unique touch. This is very much Nick's story, but it's constantly jumping back and forth between his words and Jonathan's. Hearing the same story be told simultaneously from two different individuals was pretty fascinating. Being Flynn is a pretty gloomy little drama sprinkled with bits of messed up comedy throughout. The humor is dark and dry and nobody in the film is an upstanding citizen. It's as if the film is trying to tell you that everyone has their own demons and everyone has some messed up quality to them in some capacity.
There's this one shot of Jonathan curling up on a grate that's blowing warm air on a freezing night that sticks with you after the film ends. You're eventually looking down at Jonathan; all bundled up as the camera slowly ascends to the heavens. The scene of Nick playing catch as a young boy with all of the boyfriends his mom had over the years was fantastic, as well. The way the camera goes back and forth, a different boyfriend being at the other end of the glove every time we pan away from Nick, and finally the way Jonathan was never there to do it himself. Mirrors are also really important as they not only cause these characters to look inward, but both Paul Dano and Robert De Niro have some pretty memorable scenes standing in front of a mirror. Lastly, the violins are astounding. Rhythmic and their tendency to start soft and get louder add this aspect to the film that wouldn't have been accomplished with different music or none at all.
Being Flynn isn't an easy film to access, but will more than likely touch you in some way or form if you grew up with any sort of parental issues. With the expected strong performance from Paul Dano and the unexpected great performance from Robert De Niro, Being Flynn allows you to witness the troublesome times of an individual, destroy themselves because of it, and eventually rebuild themselves for the better. In a way, it's the most depressing self-help method to ever hit the screen, but that's what makes it so easy to relate to and unlike whatever you expected this film to be.
A skilled archer is betrayed by his king and is labeled a traitor. As
his home is invaded, he has his children flee to the home of his best
friend, Kim Min-soon (Lee Kyeong-Yeong). Before they can escape, his
children witness their father's death. Thirteen years later, the
archer's children have both inherited their father's archery skills.
Nam-Yi (Park Hae-il) spends most of his days brooding, keeping to
himself, and drinking his life away. Ja-in (Moon Chae-won) has bigger
things in mind and is prepared to marry the son of Kim Min-soon
Seo-goon (Kim Mu-Yeol) even if it's without her older brother's
blessing. On their wedding day, Manchurian soldiers attack their
village, kidnap Ja-in, and enslave everyone that isn't killed in the
initial attack. Nam-Yi will stop at nothing to gain revenge and rescue
his sister with his trusted bow even if it means going up against the
Qing army and its remorseless commander Jyuu Shin-Ta (Ryu Seung-Ryong).
If the trailer doesn't sell you on War of the Arrows, then nothing will. The brief glimpses you get of the chase through the forest and arrows practically falling into your lap as they wisp by you should make that inner action child inside most of us squeal with delight. Have you ever been on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland? There's a part where arrows are supposedly being shot at you and you feel gusts of air blowing from every direction giving you the feeling that you're narrowly dodging serious injury or death. I would love to see War of the Arrows in a theater with that effect when the action gets heavy. It would be one of the greatest movie theater experiences ever.
To state the obvious, there's an extreme importance lying on bows and arrows in this foreign action film. It does take place in the mid-1600s, so maybe firearms had yet to make it to Korea. It's fascinating to see a war movie like this with an absence of any sort of guns though, especially with such excellent results. The arrows are not only important as a weapon, but the types of arrows used by each individual archer usually helps identify the person shooting them. The half-pound arrow is a great example, but even Nam-Yi's red arrows make it easier for his enemy to track him.
The fast-paced action does get really heavy though and that should be the selling point. Get excited whenever somebody runs into a forest. Those sequences along with the ones in the field are the best in the film. Arrows flying in every direction, everyone hiding behind trees for cover, and blood spraying into the air as some unfortunate soul wasn't aware of Nam-Yi's awesome arrow shooting technique. It's also pretty much become the standard of all foreign films looking superb on Blu-ray. War of the Arrows is littered with luscious shades of green, red, and yellow. The film is just completely enriched with both color and fantastic action.
Complaints for the film are few and far between. The camera work is a bit too shaky at times, especially in the first half of the film. It seems like the camera man is running with the actors, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but will leave you craving a steadier shot. We probably could have gone without the barf scene, as well. The completely computer generated tiger also looks kind of funky, but isn't around long enough to be much of an issue.
War of the Arrows is beautiful to look at, has a solid story, features a strong cast, and its action is swift and intense. While the camera work is a bit wobbly at times during the action sequences, it eventually balances out. With its vibrant colors, breathtaking scenery, and accelerated chases that usually end in bloodshed, War of the Arrows is not to be missed by anyone who's a fan of action or foreign films.
Special features and extras are kept to a bare minimum. There's a four minute behind the scenes feature. The biggest piece of information you take away from it is how fast Park Hae-il was able to learn how to ride horses and use a bow and arrow. The three minute "Highlights" feature is a little odd. It introduces the characters, but also gives away several key story moments. Then there's the original trailer and the U.S. trailer. That's all the bonus materials War of the Arrows has.
After missing "The State" when it was on the air, I became a fan of
David Wain when "Stella" hit Comedy Central in 2005. From there I went
back and visited Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models. Wet Hot
American Summer is a classic while Role Models is humorous but just
slightly better than average overall. Expectations were honestly pretty
low for Wanderlust. The trailers were mostly just toilet humor
(literally) and what appeared to be your everyday modern couple going
to live with a group of hippies. How good could that be? It's probably
because expectations were so low that Wanderlust is as great as it
turned out to be.
George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are moving to New York to follow their dreams. Well, George is reluctantly moving there while Linda follows her dreams. Now they find themselves with a studio apartment (oh excuse me, a "micro-loft") that is incredibly tiny and massively expensive. But things get rough when Linda's hopes get washed down the drain and George loses his job. George's brother Rick (Ken Marino) has a job waiting for George, but they're all the way in Atlanta. Leaving their dreams behind, George and Linda go on a road trip and stop at Elysium before reaching their destination. Elysium is unlike anything George and Linda have ever experienced before as everyone shares everything, is so open with one another, and even believes in free love. As everything that could go wrong does, George and Linda are faced with the decision of continuing to live in the city for the technology and advancements they love or moving to the country, being stripped of that technology, and feeling happier than they can ever remember.
One could argue that Wanderlust uses the same formula over and over involving raunchy jokes and dialogue and featuring the most nudity of any film in your recent memory. That may be the case, but if you're familiar with David Wain's humor then this should come as no surprise. You probably know what you're getting yourself into and you're either a fan of his work or you hate it (but then why would you be seeing this anyway?). Wanderlust is labeled as a comedy and if it makes you laugh, then it's done its job. If anything, this is actually a return to form for both Wain and the majority of the cast of "The State." The film throws you headfirst into hilarity as the "breaking the apartment in the old fashioned way" scene is kind of a warm-up for what's to come. George's sarcasm is what will more than likely win you over the most while Linda's inability to commit to any sort of career causes her character to be pretty unpredictable. Elysium is a gold mine of eccentric characters; the most noteworthy being Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio) the nudist and Seth (Justin Theroux). Wayne's nude habits will either have you in tears from laughing so hard or cause you to turn away in disgust while Seth's outdated technology references, his ability to loiter around doorways out of sight and selfish tendencies are hilarious in their own right. Paul Rudd's mirror scene is what you'll remember the most though as you'll be laughing for a good two or three minutes straight from that scene alone.
Wanderlust does get pretty outlandish in its second half, but it isn't exactly the most grounded concept to begin with. There are several dream-like sequences that are fantastically surreal. The two that come to mind are Linda's peyote-like trip during the trust circle and George's fly dream. The fly dream is actually one of my favorite scenes in the movie since it's just so bizarre and random yet manages to fit the flow of the movie somehow.
The R-rated comedy does have its shortcomings though. Rick is easily the most annoying character to be featured in any film so far in 2012. You'll breathe a sigh of relief once his story arc is resolved. The other main one is the film's conclusion. It feels a bit generic when all of the raunchiness is dropped for heartfelt speeches and the struggle to do what's right. Everything still comes together in a logical sense, but it's in a way that seems so familiar which is kind of a letdown. The transition just doesn't feel as smooth as it should.
Wanderlust is vulgar, obscene, littered with jiggling unclothed man and lady parts, and downright disgusting at times, but it's laugh out loud funny because of all of these things. The story may be a bit lacking in parts, but your laughter will drown out whatever flaws the movie may have. While Wanderlust may not be for everyone, it certainly soars and caters to those who love this type of comedy.
Eight active-duty US Navy SEALs said no to Act of Valor for four months
before finally agreeing to be a part of it. They also refused to be
given credit in the film as none of their names are featured during the
end credits. We're thrown into the lives of these eight men as they
enjoy some brief time with their families before heading off onto a
mission. They're sent to recover a kidnapped CIA agent, which
eventually leads to a massive terrorist threat that could affect the
The downside to Act of Valor is that you pretty much feel like it's going to be a recruitment video going into it and the film is never really able to shake that impression. You see men with families serving their country and doing all of these incredible things out on the battlefield including being masterfully stealthy, being an expert at several different types of weaponry, and fighting against a threat for the country they love. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that? Sure, tragedy may be lurking around the corner but who cares as long as we do it for our country? Act of Valor does have a fairly dynamic use of perspective though. Its camera work is pretty fascinating at times whether you're riding on the hood of a car, gripping for dear life in the back of a speeding ice cream truck, clutching the throttle behind the handlebars of a motorcycle, or being hit in the face by several intruders trying to kidnap you as they roll you up in the carpet to your home. There are some pretty great camera tricks used here. The most important one comes in the POV of the Navy SEALs as they're out on their mission(s). It literally puts you in their shoes. If you like first person shooters, then you'll probably enjoy this.
Having real US Navy SEALs portray them on-screen is both admirable and patriotic, but it feels like it backfires just as often as it complements the film. The acting feels a bit made-for-TV-ish on more than one occasion. One could make the argument that they're not actors or that they were off fighting for our country while we were sitting on our butts watching movies or someone else could ask what they were doing in a movie to begin with if they have no acting experience. It's a messy situation and both valid arguments, but it's also something that deserves to be mentioned.
This is very much an action movie as it's literally jam packed with explosions, heavy gunfire, and copious amounts of flowing testosterone. When the action first hits, it's like an immediate rush of adrenaline but its indulgence is mostly bittersweet and short lived. The rush wears off almost as fast as it bursts into your system and the movie winds up feeling an hour longer than it should which is bizarre since the movie isn't even two hours.
Act of Valor deserves accolades for its portrayal of US Navy SEALs and its strong message, but maybe it's because everyone goes into it thinking it HAS to be overflowing with patriotism that it just doesn't digest properly. The acting felt rigid at times and it just seems like it's trying too hard to convince you to fight for your country when it has no right to do so. I heard a man tell someone while walking out of the theater that, "This is the most important movie since The Hurt Locker," and I think I gagged a little.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*This does include some spoilers in the fourth paragraph* Storyboard
artist and key animator for several other Studio Ghibli animated films
(Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo)
Hiromasa Yonebayashi takes over directing duties from Hayao Miyazaki in
Studio Ghibli's latest The Secret World of Arrietty. The film is based
on Mary Norton's novel The Burrowers as Arrietty and her parents are
only four inches tall. They "borrow" only what they absolutely need to
survive from the normal sized family they live with unbeknownst to
them. Things drastically change when Arrietty goes out on her first
borrowing and gets spotted by an ill boy named Shawn who's come to rest
up in the house his mother grew up in before an operation.
All Studio Ghibli films have this specific look to them. The human characters are all drawn in the same style with their larger than life eyes and narrow noses while each film is an absolute treasure to look at. The Secret World of Arrietty is no exception. Miyazaki was so adamant about using traditional animation and preferred everything to be hand-drawn. Visually, you usually can't tell the difference whether something is hand-drawn or not in a Studio Ghibli film. With The Secret World of Arrietty, the beauty is in the details. Seeing this four-inch family try and survive in a normal sized world is the amazing aspect of it. How they travel, what they use such simple things for, and realizing how dangerous our world really is to them is half of the film's charm. Insects, drops of water, a fat housecat, a bitter crow, and a simple cube of sugar all take on different meanings after viewing this. The film wastes little time putting things into perspective for you and you can't help but notice how extravagant it is.
The animation is as crisp and fluid as any other Studio Ghibli film. Arrietty is extremely colorful. There's this wide variety of plants, patches of flowers, and lush greenery that it doesn't take long for you to feel like you're also four-inches tall and running right beside Arrietty. Her miniature world is just extraordinary with how detailed it is. Most of the female characters tend to overreact quite a bit, especially Arrietty's mom Homily and Haru the housemaid. This is usually a pet peeve of mine, but Haru's fantastic facial expressions and over the top outburst at the end of the film save her character alone while Homily is just a worrisome woman who cares a little too much about her family.
The biggest flaw Arrietty has is that it doesn't end. Shawn is set to have heart surgery while Arrietty and her family along with Spiller have ventured out into the world to find a new home. Will Shawn survive the surgery? Will Arrietty find a new home? Are there more people like her out there? None of these questions are answered as the film just stops. But maybe that was the point. Arrietty and Shawn conquering their respective fears seem like the bigger accomplishments here. It's just a shame that a movie so good has no real conclusion.
The Secret World of Arrietty isn't nearly as good as its studio's back catalog, but is still more than a worthy addition to the animation studio's resume. It does feel a bit short as the awkwardly placed ending won't help matters. But Arrietty still engulfs your senses with its vivid and beautiful animation and ability to tap into your emotions at will. It's still incredibly imaginative and creative, which deep down is what made Studio Ghibli films so good to begin with. The Secret World of Arrietty will be the best animated film that everyone overlooks this year.
I think everyone had the urge to run outside and kick the ugliest puppy
in their neighborhood when it was announced a second Ghost Rider movie
was going into production starring a returning Nicolas Cage. The
director of the original Ghost Rider (Mark Steven Johnson) was out and
the directors of Crank (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor) were in. Now
that it's been released it's been getting nothing but a barrage of
negative reviews pretty much anywhere you can think of. Ghost Rider:
Spirit of Vengeance is practically a reboot and could serve as a full
on reset of the franchise if Cage wasn't attached. With everything
working against this requel (that's reboot + sequel combined) and every
entertainment site on the planet practically guaranteeing its atrocity,
I seem to be one of the few critics in existence who was actually
entertained by this movie.
Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) has gone into seclusion in Eastern Europe. Johnny fights not only the urge to become The Rider, but fights to stay hidden from those who are hunting for him. That is until a man named Moreau (Idris Elba) shows up on his doorstep offering Johnny a second chance and a way to lift his curse. The offer gives Johnny a chance for revenge against Roarke (Ciarán Hinds) who's Lucifer himself in human form and the man Blaze made a deal with to become The Rider in the first place. The one catch is Johnny has to guard and protect a boy that Roarke is searching for to fulfill the prophecy of becoming the antichrist.
The main attraction to this movie was how it looked. There's this featurette that highlights just how camera oriented Neveldine and Taylor are when they come to shooting their movies. Seeing Neveldine basically risk his life rollerblading on the back of a motorcycle or hanging off of a wire along with the stuntman just to get the shot was incredibly intriguing to me. Unique perspective and fascinating camera work is something I look for in movies and Spirit of Vengeance let you know it had that in the trailers. The flaw in this method though is that even though it gets you up close and personal with the action it also feels really shaky at times. It seems very rough in comparison to dolly tracks or tripods being used. The camera work also involves those slight zoom-ins at random intervals to make it seem like the camera wasn't in the right place when they started shooting.
I'm hearing a lot of people complain about the special effects, but those are another high point. Ghost Rider's appearance is more charred in comparison to how he looked in the first movie. His skull looks scorched, his leather clothes are melted, and the steel on his motorcycle is noticeably red hot and altered thanks to his transformation. The fire looks pretty fantastic all around and there's plenty of it. Everything The Rider drives becomes engulfed in flames and the special effects crew has a ton of fun with that. Maybe it looks terrible in 3D? I was going to recommend seeing it in 2D anyway. Johnny Blaze's transformations into Ghost Rider are pretty sweet, too. Seeing his eyes sink in for the first time is a bit unsettling, but it becomes a trademark. As he holds off The Rider the majority of the movie, his eyes are the first thing to show the transformation. It was a bit reminiscent of the T-1000 being shot in the face in the steel mill at the end of Terminator 2.
Nicolas Cage is exactly what you expect him to be here. The issue is that like always he's way too over the top during intense moments and not emotional enough during the quieter ones. The best example is when Johnny Blaze and Nadya (Violante Placido) are trying to catch up with the men who took Danny (Fergus Riordan) who's Nadya's son and the boy who's set to become the antichrist. Johnny and Nadya are interrogating a man named Vasil. Notice how twitchy Cage becomes here and how crazy he becomes during his "bad man" and "scraping at the door" speech. It's pretty insane in this so bad it's good kind of way. Cage's performance seems to evolve throughout the movie and he almost seems sincere by the end of it. Cage also modeled The Rider's movements off of his pet cobra and it's blatantly obvious. His performance as The Rider is full of rigid movements, swaying motions, and quick cuts. It's very bizarre, especially when it gets to the scene where The Rider is floating around in circles on his back as if he's duplicating Trent Reznor in the Nine Inch Nails video for "Closer." You'll wish Idris Elba's wine-loving Moreau had more screen time than he actually does as the Moreau character is generally pretty interesting, but doesn't really get a chance to shine. He does have a few really memorable scenes though. This will make more sense after you see it, but the "decay vision" gets a little bothersome. It's like looking at the action through a giant peephole or fishbowl. The evolution of the Carrigan character (played by Johnny Whitworth) is pretty awesome though.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is not as bad as people are making it out to be or maybe it is and it's just really entertaining anyway. The dialogue does get really cheesy at times ("You're the devil's baby mama."), but the story and part of the screenplay were written by David S. Goyer so that should give you a little bit of hope. The special effects are fantastic, Cage's performance eventually grows on you, and Spirit of Vengeance is a huge step up from the original movie overall. In the end, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is explosively entertaining and just the type of brainless fun you need to forget about a hectic week.
Bullhead is the story of Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) a
cattle farmer. He along with his business partners inject their cows
with steroids and hormones to achieve the results they desire. The
problem is the only thing Jacky injects more than his cows is himself
as he's got some sort of chemical compound coursing through his veins
at all times. Things begin to go south when Jacky makes a deal to
distribute his cows to a well-known yet crooked meat trader. A federal
agent is killed amongst their negotiations as Jacky is dragged into the
investigation and his disturbing past comes bubbling to the surface.
Matthias Schoenaerts' performance is the first thing that will win you over. The reason why he shoots up so frequently along with what he injects himself with has this really breathtaking explanation. Schoenaerts has a short fuse the entire film and you never know when he's going to explode. That's the beauty of his performance. He's so dangerous yet you can't help but feel sympathy for the guy. Schoenaerts is a ferocious powerhouse that chews you up and spits you out like the most devastating hurricane imaginable.
Bullhead features some incredibly impressive cinematography. Belgium has never looked so beautiful. Those shots of the sky and the clouds that populate every inch of it and those lush moments of taking in the countryside speak volumes. Something as simple as grass blowing in the wind is made to look like this grand accomplishment thanks to how the film was shot. It was interesting to see characters that were out of frame become out of focus and or blurred in some way; whether they were approaching somebody in frame or walking away. It was a masterful touch.
The Belgian drama has a unique sense of perspective, as well. The dizzying staircase sequence near the end of the film is the best example. It kind of goes hand in hand with the cinematography though; a brilliant looking film is even better with distinguishing shots. Speaking of unique, the entire film is one of the more original experiences to grace the silver screen in quite some time. Bullhead does draw comparisons to films like Drive and even Bronson, but the mafia and mobster kind of storyline is presented in this rough, grainy, meaty, and intense package that hasn't been done before. Bronson is actually a really great comparison. Matthias Schoenaerts put on 59 pounds of muscle for Bullhead and Tom Hardy put on 42 pounds of muscle for Bronson. While the two films are almost nothing alike when it comes to their story lines, they're extremely similar at their core.
Bullhead is an extremely intense piece of cinema that includes a fairly bloody and hard hitting elevator sequence that rivals that infamous scene from Drive. With an incredible performance from Matthias Schoenaerts, gorgeous camera work, and a huge injection of originality, Bullhead should not be missed by anyone especially those who are looking for something different when it comes to movies. This comes highly recommended for those who enjoyed Animal Kingdom, A Prophet, Drive, and/or Bronson.
McG hasn't really been seen in the director's chair since Terminator
Salvation hit theaters back in 2009. Audiences were split as to whether
they actually enjoyed Salvation or not as critics hated it and the
movie failed to make back its budget in its domestic gross. So what's
the logical next step after doing a movie about the nuclear holocaust
and the ongoing war between humans and humanoid machines? You could
probably guess the action bit, but the romantic comedy part would
probably throw you off.
This Means War is the story of FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) two CIA agents who are two of the best agents in their field. FDR and Tuck are partners and best friends, but come to a gentleman's agreement when they both start dating the same woman named Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). Both FDR and Tuck begin falling for Lauren and not only begin breaking the rules that they set for one another, but use whatever means necessary to keep Lauren in their good graces.
This Means War throws you right into one of FDR and Tuck's missions right from the start. The main issue becomes how dizzying the camera work is. The action hits extremely hard and is incredibly fast paced, but you have a difficult time actually following just what is transpiring in these quick cuts let alone trying to keep your wits about you. This is kind of odd since I wasn't a fan of Terminator Salvation, but felt like one of its strongest qualities was how the camera always seemed to be in the right place during the action. Maybe McG decided to regress back to his Charlie's Angels mindset for This Means War.
The action heavy romantic comedy is dragged down by annoying girl talk. Lauren and her friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) do nothing but whine and complain about their lives the entire movie while also revealing they're basically the biggest whores around. This Means War paints this picture of women that they all date multiple guys at once and will put out just to try and make a decision. It's pretty demeaning to women in general. Between Lauren and Trish's talks of the size of a man's private parts or a lightning round involving sex, every inch of dialogue between them is unbearable right from the start. Meanwhile, FDR and Tuck have quite a bit of immature bickering between one another as well. It becomes borderline homophobic at times and just feels very third grade for nearly half of the film. The second half becomes a little easier to digest and the highlight comes when FDR mocks Tuck's British accent.
The storyline is very imbecilic, as well. Using the gadgets, technology, and basically every ounce of intelligence of the CIA to try and win over a woman is just asinine. The actual mission, which is certainly more interesting than the love triangle you're forced to endure, isn't even second fiddle. It's more like the third or fourth subplot of the movie. The FDR/Tuck/Lauren love triangle being the primary, FDR/Tuck's friendship falling apart being the secondary, Lauren trying to mull things over with Trish being the third, and Tuck trying to be a stand up family man the fourth. So that would make the actual mission the fifth subplot of the movie. How lame is that? This Means War does get a little less irritating as it progresses. The jokes get slightly less offensive and Tom Hardy still manages to be the best part of the movie. While Reese Witherspoon has to make it a point to try and jiggle around while wearing horrible clothes and singing off key and Chris Pine attempts to be the biggest womanizer he possibly can, they still manage to squeeze in Tom Hardy being a complete bad ass. The paintball scene is one of the highlights, but the most original aspect of the movie comes in one of the first (of many) dates Tuck has with Lauren. He takes her to a carnival and at the end of it takes her on the trapeze. It's actually really cool and would be a really fun first date for anyone.
This Means War is a frustrating and awful excuse for entertainment. Its humor is lame and offensive in the way that it insults all of mankind by how stupid and immature it is, its plot is horrible and insulting, and Reese Witherspoon will test every last ounce of patience you possibly have. This Means War gives you the impression that women are easy and that if you've got enough game then everything works out for the best. While it does have a few moments that try to make up for how terrible it really is, This Means War still can't shake the fact that its spewed excrement into your face for over an hour and a half.
Shiba (Tetsuro Tanba) is a wandering samurai who's seen it all. He
stumbles onto some peasants who have taken the magistrate's daughter
hostage in hopes of ending the corruptive leadership that plagues their
land. What begins as a spectator sport and a roof over his head for
Shiba turns into him fully supporting the peasants and their cause. Two
other samurai; Sakura (Isamu Nagato) another wanderer with a guilty
conscience and Kikyo (Mikijiro Hira) a samurai who milks the magistrate
for all he's worth eventually join up with Shiba. An epic duel to the
death lies ahead for the three samurai as the magistrate will stop at
nothing to get revenge.
Three Outlaw Samurai begins in simple yet extravagant fashion. We see Shiba take a few steps in the mud followed by an extremely loud music cue and the title card written in Japanese Kanji. Six seconds into this chanbara film and I already know I'm going to love it. The film buys its time though as the first half of the film is mostly very talkative and swords are drawn only briefly before lengthy discussions begin once again. The storytelling is a high point as loyalty and the overall cause for all of this mayhem are always both relevant to the events taking place on screen. The cinematography is also brilliant, especially since this is the debut of Hideo Gosha. The well-choreographed and intense swordplay sequences are always captured with the most precise camera placement.
Lighting and shadows also play a big part in how the film is presented visually. The one-shot sword fight in the two-story whore house is the best example of this. Right down to the drastic lighting on Kikyo's eyes before everything goes to hell, Three Outlaw Samurai is the type of film fans of samurai, foreign, and great cinema in general dream of. There's something completely gratifying about blood presented in black and white, as well. Maybe it's because it reminds me of the Crazy 88 fight The Bride has at the tea house in Kill Bill, but the crimson liquid almost seems more gratifying in grayscale at least when it comes to older and more legendary motion pictures.
The best exchange of dialogue comes when Sakura is running across a field to support Kikyo and Shiba in the final battle. Sakura yells, "Hey Shiba! I've done you wrong! I deserve to die! Kill Me!" In the heat of battle, Shiba merely replies, "I'm busy at the moment." While Three Outlaw Samurai may seem a bit slow at first, your patience will be rewarded. You'll become attached to the characters of Sakon Shiba, Kyojuro Sakura, and Einosuke Kikyo, get absorbed in their cause, and understand their decisions. As the swordplay and action becomes more frequent, you'll realize how truly amazing this film really is. Three Outlaw Samurai is a beautiful, well-written, and just a fantastic experience overall that is for fans of Seven Samurai, Shogun Assassin, and The Last Samurai.
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