Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Escape Plan

I can't believe Im writing this 3 weeks after it's release. But truth be told, I didn't have enough time to. I flew to California a day after watching the movie. Then again, that's 6 hours to type away. But then again, there were quite a few things I either A) Didn't remember or B) Didnt understand why certain things were done. All in a result to being absolutely inebriated. I have since watched it again (this time, I started drinking at the START of the film as opposed to 5 hours prior). And shit, how fucking good this movie is.

Just to give a little backstory on the production of this film. Originally, this was supposed to be a Bruce Willis vehicle. A plus for him, a minus for the film. Let's face it, Bruce Willie is a tired bald man. You can see it in every action film he has done in recent (and not-so-recent years). Sadly, he's 8 years YOUNGER than Stallone. And Stallone is running circles around this man. But going back to my plus & minus statement. Almost every movie Willis has done recently has been on par with his acting ability. Is Willis particularly bad in any film he's in? No. He's just bored and boring. It's Bruce Willis playing Bruce Willis. All his IMDb credits should read "Bruce Willis as Himself". If he DID do this film, it would benefit him, because this film is damn smarter than it needs to be (more on that later). Fortunately for the film, it lost Willis and gained Stallone, and THEN Schwarzenegger. Holy hell.

Originally titled "The Tomb" (a far more ambitious title) centers around Stallone's character Ray Breslin who is the foremost authority in prison security weaknesses. He is literally hired to break out of prisons to locate and address each and every weakness. His next job? A low-key, privately-funded, maximum-security prison that is off the books. Little does Breslin know, it's not a routine job. Someone wants him in there forever.

The film opens in a way to let you know how smart and clever it really is. Don't kid yourself, this isn't something like The Departed, where it's complexity is so fine-tuned. The phrase I throw around left and right with this film (and as previously mentioned) is "smarter than it needs to be". It is not a dumb film. It is not The Expendables (and fuck, do I LOVE The Expendables). It's clever. It has you guess how, and then gives you the answers. And not only does it give you the answers, but they actually make sense. Now of course there are some concessions made, in terms of accessibility. But they all still work. Going back to the opening of the film (don't worry, no real spoilers), it's more-so an introduction to Ray Breslin's (Stallone) character. He breaks out of just a routine-prison. And within those 10 minutes, you see how anything and everything are essential to escaping a prison. The layout, the routine and any help you can possibly get. From observing when guard smoke breaks occur to utilizing a milk carton to figuring out the exact keypad number combinations to your cell. It lays outs how Breslin thinks and operates.

I don't want to give too much away in terms of the story. So I won't. All that you need to know from here on out is that Stallone arrives to the off-the-books prison and realizes that he was not sent their on business. He was sent there to stay in there forever.

In the prison we meet Schwarzenegger's character Rottmayer. And I am so happy that he finally rediscovered his acting abilities again. Because I was a little nervous due to his performance in The Last Stand (you can read the review: HERE). In that film he was rusty and just awkward. In Escape Plan, Im going to say it, he STEALS the film from Stallone. A VERY fucking hard task to do. It's hard for me to even say it due to me being a "Stallone > Schwarzenegger" kind of person. Schwarzenegger not only dusted the dirt off of his shoulders in this, he is fucking hilarious. And I mean 70% in a Schwarzenegger kind of way and 30% in a genuinely humorous kind of way. He has some new soon-to-be classic lines, some German-speaking lines and one GOD-AWESOME dirty "your mother" insult. It's just really great seeing him at the top of his game again. And obviously him and Stallone together in more than a glorified cameo role. In fact, for the first 20 minutes of the film, it's solely Stallone's movie. But once Schwarzenegger's character is introduced, they split the screen time 50/50.

The rest of the cast were either tolerable or above-average. And with a Stallone/Schwarzenegger film that's NOT The Expendables, that's all you can ask for. First, we'll get to the antagonist of the film. Warden Hobbes played by Jim Caviezel (AKA Jesus in Passion of the Christ). He played a pretty good cunt warden. His character had a nice touch of Hannibal Lector, all the while staying grounded with his work. A pleasant surprise was Sam Neill, who played the prison doctor. He wasn't really sold in any of the trailers or TV spots, which rare for films like these. Vincent D'Onofrio was another nice addition to the cast. And oddly enough, 50 Cent wasn't horrible in this either. The fact that they casted him as just a computer specialist was fine for me. They didn't ultra-nerd-up his character, and didn't make him this udo-tough guy. He was just a regular character for the most part, which is the best thing they could have done for an odd casting like that.

The action. I would say that the action in this film is few and far between, but it's not. And IF it is, it's paced really well. Because there is not one second where I felt bored in the non-action sequences. Like I said (AGAIN!) the film is smarter than it needs to be. In all the in-between scenes where Stallone's character has to explain all the technics of how to escape, it's all very interesting. From navigating where they are exactly by deciphering which way the toilet flows, to deciphering how low below sea level they are by the type of metal the prison uses, to figuring out the guards' routines based on their ticks and interactions with other guards, it all works very well. But when the action happens, it's intense. Because you are obviously rooting for these guys to escape. A) Because it's only natural to see one prevail B) Because you want to know why the fuck these guys are in the prison to begin with.

Technically, you can tell some good money went into the film. The sets were realistic and believable. There were only a few noticeable CG shots. And by a few, I mean like 2. Most of the film is set inside the prison. And from what I could see from B-roll footage (raw, on-set footage) almost all the sets were practical sets. It was shot just fine. A few nice crane shots. And I think that was really to put the money on the screen. Because a lot of the sets were pretty damn high.

I am relieved to say that I set the bar high for this film, and it delivered. Do I like it more than The Expendables 2? No. But only because The Expendables 2 is too fucking fun. Too fucking fun. But I assure you, Escape Plan is a much better made film. How The Expendables 2 has a 68% on Rotten Tomatoes and Escape Plan only has a 48%? Maybe it was the Van Dammage...
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Machete Kills

Im not sure why, but I loved the first Machete. For me, it succeeded in making me laugh. Is it a real film? No. But I had a hell of a lot of fun with the first one. The odd thing is that I do NOT like Robert Rodriguez. I dont care for his style, and I dont care for his films. But he struck a chord with me with the first Machete. It was over-the-top, had killer stunt-casting, and was just generally hilarious. So with the first film ending with a tease of what's to come, I naturally got excited.

It took 3 years for Machete Kills to happen. And Im not quite sure if ideas were tossed around within those 3 years, or if they were tossed around RIGHT before shooting began, because the film was kinda' sloppy. What the first film achieved was some sense of cohesiveness. Machete Kills isn't really a cohesive film at all. I understand that if the first film was Rodriguez's "Mexican Shaft" that the second film was his "Moonraker". But for me, you can't switch a franchises genre around so abruptly. The whole film just felt off.

Let's get to plot of the film. Machete is hired by the President of the United States to stop a madman from launching nuclear missiles into space. A much larger idea than just border patrol issues like in the first one. And I'll admit, with his mission in "Kills" comes some pretty funny situations, but for the most part, it almost seemed like it was trying to be a homage to something as recent and undeserving like Jason X or something. I know for a fact that wasn't the intention at all. Maybe Leprechaun 4: In Space would be a better comparison. Regardless, they should have kept the character grounded (literally) for maybe another 3 movies.

I guess I'll get to the plus of the film. And that is once again the casting. Machete had Robert DeNiro, Don Johnson, and fucking Steven Seagal. Machete Kills? MEL FUCKING GIBSON. Dont even worry about who else is in the film. Mel steals the show. And I am not saying that biasedly. Everyone else in the film isn't even in the movie long enough to do anything with their characters. Mel plays an arms dealer named Luther Voz, and does it so fucking well. Voz is essentially a classic Bond villain. I would say he hams it up, but he plays it pretty straight, it's his costumes and surroundings that seem to ham up his character (he wears a fucking cape!). If you threw Mel in a Daniel Craig Bond film as the villain, with a serious tone and all, you would have something GREAT.

Now to nit-pick a problem with BOTH films, it's use of blood. There are PLENTY of scenes with clever and grotesque ways of dismembering and killing the baddies. It's just a shame there are no practical FX. It's all digital. And that is one of the many things that Tarantino excels at that Rodriguez does not. If you watch Django Unchained, you can clearly see that ALL of his kills are on-set squibs. Rodriguez loves to digitize everything. He shoots digital and does all of his FX in post. Which just shows a sense of laziness. I dont care if I dont like the film or not, I know Tarantino tries to make everything inside the frame as real as possible (not to mention on actual celluloid). I didn't really notice much (or any) feux-film grain in Machete Kills, but the fact that he used it for the fake trailer and the first film made absolutely no sense. If he wanted to get a sense of "aging" and "distortion", the picture should be pixelated. Putting film grain on digital video is like... Actually, I can't think of anything as stupid.

The one thing I WILL give to Rodriguez is his outsider-esque mentality. What do I mean by that? I'll explain. He works and operates in his hometown of Austin in his own film studio. He chooses less traditional projects (Sin City, Machete, etc.) and out-of-left-field projects (Spy Kids). Is Spy Kids the least bit good? Absolutely not. But I can admire wanting to make a movie his own kids can view. His craft may not be very good, but I can admire the independence he has in creating what he creates.

I know it doesnt sound like I liked the film, but in the end, I actually did. It was fun. Just not nearly as good or humorous as the first film. And that's even with the presence of Mel Gibson. Sheesh.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Top 10 Most Anticipated Fall Films

It is now September. And usually by this time each and every year, I have very little to look forward to the remaining months. With 2013, that is not the fucking case. This summer has been horrendous for film. With any film I DID like, I only really just... Liked. Usually there is at least two or three films that I either obsessed over, or loved. Not the case... At all. This fall not only looks great in comparrison, but actually is pretty damn good standing alone. I have TWO Stallone flicks and one Mel Gibson flick within a week of each other?! FUCK ME RUNNING.

1. Escape Plan

This film has been on my radar for quite a while. And after Stallone's Bullet to the Head & Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand being not very good at all, I was a bit worried that I'd have nothing to really look forward to that wasn't The Expendables 3 from these two. Then the trailer hit. Fuck. I was actually uber-impressed as to how good the fucking movie looked. The film cost $70 million to make, which is $30 million less than The Expendables 2, and it looks higher-quality than EX2. And I mean that in terms of production value (it's going to be hard to top EX2... Until Expendables 3).

One other giant plus this film has is Schwarzenegger's screentime. From early reviews that I've read, Arnie is in the film almost as long as Sly. With The Expendables, you almost come to expect short-lived scenes. But this is a duo-film, not an ensemble piece.

Im so fucking amped for this film, that I rearranged a trip that Im taking the same time it comes out. Originally, I was supposed to fly out to California the 15th of October and get back home the 20th. Escape Plans comes out the 19th. There is NO FUCKING WAY I am not having a drunken private screening the second we receive the digital key to unlock the film. So, I will now be headed to the airport minutes after the movie is over. The reason I'm flying to California is because my buddy Ross is getting married. I informed him of this shuffling, in which he replied, "You're a fucking idiot.".

2. Machete Kills

Two words. THE MEL. I liked the first Machete a lot. Probably more than most people. Everyone loved the feux-trailer, but not everyone loved the film itself. I loved it not only because it actually made me laugh (out loud for that matter), but because it was an ensemble film unlike The Expendables. And believe me, The Expendables is my favorite kind of ensemble film, but Machete was just so fucking all over. The fact that Robert DeNiro and Steven Seagal share a film credit together is baffling. I know, I know, DeNiro has chosen some lousy films in recent and not-so-recent years, but Seagal is on a whole other (sub) level.

Machete Kills is following the first film's tradition. Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen (AKA Carlos Esteves)... Lady Gaga. 'Nuff said. On top of all of that, Mel is the heel (as he is in EX3). Mel has never played a full-on baddie before. An anti-hero? Yeah. It'll be interesting/sexually-inticing to see what he does with it. Is this going to be a "real movie"? Probably not. Do I give a fuck? Absolutely not.

3. Grudge Match

Here is yet another duo-film with Stallone. Except, this time with DeNiro. Which for a few reasons, is pretty damn cool. One, this is a boxing film. Of course it's going to elicit the "Balboa vs. LaMotta" & "Itallian Stallion vs. Raging Bull" response, as it should (and most certainly intended), but for me, it's a Copland reunion. Copland, to me, is criminally underrated. And both are GREAT in it. More so Stallone due to him breaking his mold. Instead of tough, in shape and intimidating, he was a push-over, out of shape, and timid.

Grudge Match has the potential to be a great feel-good comedy. But I don't expect much else. And where is that "feel-good" apsect coming from? It seems to be riding off the success of Rocky Balboa. A lot of the film looks and feels like Balboa. Which is not a bad thing. It's just unoriginal, especially with Stallone involved. Regardless, I think it'll be a lot of fun.

4. Gravity

A lot of the films coming out are either released in IMAX, 3D, or IMAX 3D. And most of them don't warrant either of the three. Because it's either not shot with IMAX film stock, post-converted from 2D to 3D, or both. With Gravity, I hear the conversion process is unnoticeable. Critics are throwing around the words "breathtaking" and "intense". Those words can be used for almost any film, if you wanted to. But after watching the trailers, I feel as if it really has the potential to be so. Obviously, if you're converting 35MM to IMAX, it will not consume the entire screen, but the upper hand that I think Gravity has is that it's outer space. With films that have landscapes that extend past the frame, it's visually evident where the frame ends. With a film that's background is most likely 80% black, it'll be pretty easy to become emmersed. From a story standpoint, who knows?

5. The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese.

6. Parkland

I am a sucker for almost anything that has to do with the JFK Assassination. I've spent countless hours on YouTube watching theories, footage, interviews, everything. films like Oliver Stone's JFK are like porn to people like me. It's so incredibly facsinating. And the reason why Im looking forward to Parkland is because it's not so much about the assassination itself as much as it is about the doctors who tried to save him. Should the film be called Parkland: A Lost Cause? Yes. But it should be an interesting watch nonetheless.

7. Jack Ryan

There is little-to-nothing released about this film. There's a few still images and a cast-listing released. But you know what? I really dig Patriot Games, and think this new incarnation of the Jack Ryan character can work. Twice I've tried to make it through The Hunt for Red October, and couldn't. I LOVE Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger was a step-down, and never bothered with The Sum of All Fears. But something about this reboot has me curiously optimistic. I dig Chris Pine (who is the new Jack Ryan), I've grown a new-found love for Kevin Costner (who is his mentor), and Kenneth Brannagh can direct a film, that's for sure. But can he direct one that actually interests me? We'll see.

8. All Is Lost

I guess this can be dubbed "Life of Robert Redford" considering the entire film is about Robert Redford trying to survive the conditions of the sea. In all honesty, I give the man credit. He's gotta' carry this entire film by himself at what? 77 years old? Redford will always be one of those actors that I respect. But one of those "Shit, I wish..." actors. What is a "Shit, I wish..." actor? For instance, Robert Redford & Paul Newman. The two movies they did together were not only incredibly well-made, but fun as fucking hell. I speak of course of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and The Sting. They should have made like 27 more movies together. And everytime I see Robert Redford, I always think, "Shit, I wish he would have made more movies with Paul Newman". If Newman were alive, he could have been the fucking boat.

9. Metallica: Through The Never

I was reluctant to put this on this list due to my allegiance to the almighty Megadeth. But I gotta' admit, this looks like a blast in IMAX 3D. Im not sure how the narrative aspect is going to organically mesh with the concert footage, but it's an interesting concept. I just wish Mustaine were still in the band for one reason, and one reason only... DAVE MUSTAINE'S HAIR IN IMAX 3D.

10. The Art of the Steal

Kurt Russsell.
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Friday, June 21, 2013

World War Z

When it comes to zombie films, I have a couple rules. And most of those rules apply to actual zombie films. World War Z is NOT a zombie film. It wants to be, and people will classify it as a zombie film, but it most certainly is not. Zombies, in the classic sense, were once humans that are infected with the zombie virus. They then come back to "life" and move eerily slow due to the rigor mortis that has set in. Not fast. I wont even hold that against WWZ because it doesn't even feel like a zombie film. The film should have been called "World War O" (World War Outbreak) or "World War I" (World War Infected). This does not carry the same weight as the Dawn of the Dead remake. The original '78 DOTD is a classic ZOMBIE film. And the remake should have been treated as such. With WWZ, nothing was totally sacred. Yes, I know it's based on a best-selling novel, but the translation from novel to screen is a lot more interpretive than screen to screen.

The film starts off relatively quick. And in most cases with films like these, it can be an added bonus for two reasons. 1) It means you don't have to waste time with underdeveloped characters. 2) It means that you can get straight to the bulk of what peaked your interest in the film to begin with. What is lost in the process is the sense of "Wait, why?...". It only takes minutes until the outbreak erupts. And at first, you experience it with the family. Out of left field and "unexpected". I quote "unexpected" because they don't give you enough time to forget what you came to see. Look at Cloverfield. When I first saw that, I went in wanting a great monster film, and 20 minutes in, it was all about planning a party for a dude who was moving out of the country. Im not saying it was fantastic acting or great character development, but it took your mind off the fact that you were watching a monster film, and BAM! The attack. WWZ lacked that. There was no shock and awe. I was expecting the shock and awe. And when it did happen, nothing new was brought to the table. In fact, I think there were still stale leftovers and dirty napkins left over from years previous.

This film is a boost to the ego for anyone who considers themselves a psychic. You can see any and everything that is headed your way, and even worse... Anything that was a surprise, was a let-down. Also, whoever shot the film must have their own personal earthquake, because the first 25 minutes looked as if it were shot by a 1-day clean meth addict.

The film did have a few shining moments. Most of which were it's intense outbreak scenes. Any scene in which you depict a society being ravaged by a mass of unknown beings, it's hard to act like you're not the least bit interested. But at the same rate, that's like saying, "I heard the new single from that one band, but the rest of the album sucked elephant dicks". You obviously went to the film to see what initially intrigued you, but if there isn't much else, then... Who gives a flaming fuck?

The major issue I have with these films is that there is RARELY any character portrayed by the actors. Brad Pitt plays a father who strives do the right thing and make sure his family is alright. Honorable? Absolutely. Particularly interesting? Absolutely not. Look at John McLane (From 1, 2, & 3). He wasn't a piece of shit. He cared about his family and all, but he also was a smartass asshole. I seriously don't understand why writers and producers even waste their times coming up with character names anymore for characters like this. As far as Im concerned, Brad Pitt played _______ ________.

Onto some things that particularly bothered me... Flashbacks. Listen, I have no problem with flashbacks. A lot of the times, they're essential to a film. But it's HOW you use a flashback, THAT is where you can falter. There is a scene where Pitt's character sees a man turn into a zombie from his perspective. And in that same scene about 25 minutes prior, there is a shot of the camera zooming down to his face. In his flashback, he sees that exact same shot. Unless there was a scene cut out of WWZ that involved Pitt's character as a cinematographer... GET THE FUCK OUT. Lazy. Fucking. Editing. Another scene was where the central task force has to land in Israel. Understand this: Humans have turned into savage beasts. Globally. They're killing everyone. Globally. They act in erratic, spastic & uncontrollable ways. The Israel ground control says, "Identify yourselves!". Seriously? You have millions of "zombies" terrorizing your land and plane identification is the issue? Maybe it's just my feeble brain, but if a plane is soaring perfectly in the air in a time such as that, I would look at that not as a threat, but as a savior.

You know what, Im actually getting bored as fuck thinking about this movie now. The only "fresh" idea brought to the table was the "zombie"/ant-climb idea. I admit, that was a pretty original and creepy idea. Aside from that, World War Z ended up being World War ZzZzZzZzZzZzZzZzZzZzZzZzZzZz (as predicted)

P.S. Since the film leaves it open for another one, I declare the cause right here: The largest stash of cocaine known to man. After all, they act nothing like "zombies" and everything like Carrie Fisher.
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Megadeth's "Super Collider"

I dont think it's any surprise to anybody that Megadeth happens to be my all-time favorite metal band. Everything about Megadeth's first four albums, to me, are near flawless. They definitely hit their peak with "Rust In Peace". And up until about 4 years ago, I was a 90's Megadeth snob ("Rust In Peace" excluded). I wouldn't touch the material with a blind man's cane. But one fateful intoxicated night, I decided to give the albums a shot. Lo and behold, I came to, and realized that there are some gems in said material. I've since come to terms that there are only 2 Megadeth records I DON'T like ("Risk" &"United Abominations"). Are the 90's albums full-fledged Megadeth records? No. But they do have a lot to offer in terms of melody, hooks, and Mustaine-isms. You're probably thinking, "Isn't this a "Super Collider" review?". Fuck you, it is. But with any conversation, you need a little context. Im giving you a lot.

Fast-forward to 2005, Megadeth (or MegaDave) made their return with "The System Has Failed". I loved it, and still do to this day. For me, it was a combination of classic Megadeth (see: "Kick the Chair & "Back In The Day") and 90's Megadeth (see: "Scorpion" & "Of Mice & Men"). Then came along "United Abominations"... A total dud. THEN came "Endgame". Awesome. Then came "Th1rt3en". Weak. I still like "Th1rt3en", but it's very weak in comparison to "Endgame". But there is a trend: Great, lame, Great, weak. "Super Collider" should be great, right? Im still not sure. It's weak now, but when "Endgame" first came out, I wasn't all too big on it. It wasn't until a few spins of the disc later that I realized that it was truly a return to form.

Without further ado... "Super Collider".

The first track is "Kingmaker". This was the second single release, and frankly, it should have been the first. This is typical fast Megadeth-fare. It's a step above being totally mediocre, but a notch below being great. I guess the classification would be "good"? The chorus is the best part of the song (the case with most songs off this album). There is also one guitar part ripped right out of "Sweating Bullets". You'll know it when you hear it.

Second is the title-track "Super Collider". And a VERY weak title-track it is. This was the first single released, and got a massive backlash upon release. And understandably so. I actually do like this song, but this is not the song to sell a Megadeth album to Megadeth fans. It may cause some Foo Fighter fans to open their wallets, though. It also has themes borrowed from "I'll Be There" which is strange to me considering the song is called "Super Collider". The lyrics have almost NOTHING to do with a super collider. With a title like "Super Collider", it should be fast, heavy and aggressive. AND... It's the title-track. When you have a weak title-track, you know have a problem. Having a great title-track that is hard to compete with is a good problem to have. Having a weak one that almost any song can compare to, not so much.

The third track is "Burn!". This track is fun, but nothing special. It opens with a fairly-forced guitar solo intro. The verse riff reminds me a lot of "Burning Bridges" (and no pun is intended). And the chorus may turn some people off due to the cheesy nature, but sometimes Mustaine can pull off cheese (see: Sweating Bullets).

Next up is "Built for War". This song pisses me off a bit. The vocal pattern used by Mustaine just doesn't work. He drags out the verses and injects "Built for War" between each one. The only section that works for me is the choir-like chant Mustaine does about midway into the song.

The fifth track is "Off The Edge". For the most part, the song is pretty generic. But it's the chorus that saves the song for me. The riff almost makes you want to dance, and the vocal pattern used by Mustaine compliments the riff as well.

"Dance In The Rain" is the sixth track, and is composed of classic Megadeth themes (lyrically). It's essentially about big brother, the monitoring of Americans, corporate handouts, etc. Nothing specifically new, but like I said, classic Megadeth themes. Musically it's interesting, but nothimg special. It does however, transition into a shredding-fast riff but doesn't take off from there. There isn't a coherent beat. It's mostly a series of fills. This is also the track that David Draiman from Disturbed does guest vocals on. Because every Megadeth fan was waiting for the day he would appear on a Deth album. All cunting aside, he's not even that noticeable. They have what appears to be a megaphone effect on his vocals that makes him sound distant. The further the better, the further the better.

Next we have "Beginning of Sorrow". Nothing about this song stands out. Like, at all. Maybe the unlikable chorus? I guess.

"The Blackest Crow" is the eighth track, and is an interesting one. Fucking Willie Nelson did guest banjo on this track. If I had to compare, this would be similar to "Have Cool Will Travel", except much darker. Does this achieve being a good Megadeth song? Im not too sure. But I do enjoy it due to the eerie cajun elements injected into the song.

"Forget to Remember" is track 9, and may quite possibly be my favorite track on the album. There are a lot of songs I can compare this to. Two of which are Megadeth's "Black Swan" and Sodom's "Buried In The Justice Ground". This isn't a particularly heavy or fast Megadeth song, but could easily be on "Youthanasia" or "Cryptic Writings". The chorus (again) is the most outstanding part of the song. Personally, I love it. It's almost uplifting an sad at the same time. Kudos.

And the last original song on the album is "Don't Turn Your Back". Not a strong song, but enjoyable. And yet, ANOTHER song in which the chorus is the outlier.

Lastly, we have a cover of Thin Lizzy's "Cold Sweat". And sadly, it's the second-best song on the album. Aside from it being a killer cover, Mustaine's vocals are what shine here. The chorus calls for a grunt-like vocal chant. And not only does Mustaine do it flawlessly, it's something you've never heard him do before either.

At this point, I wish I could say I loved "Super Collider", but I'd be lying. There aren't enough moments to warrant it being "really good". I kinda' like it, but that's about it. It has the same problem "Th1rt3en" did. Though, the one improvement over "Th1rt3en" was the production. Which is odd, because they went with the same producer this time around. It's also unfortunate about Dave Mustaine's vocals. On "Th1rt3en" and now "Super Collider", he growls more so than sings. And I am not going to fault him for it. Reason being, it's all due to the neck surgery he had done years back. They told him he would lose some singing ability, and that's evident. But what I WILL fault him with, is his lyric-writing. The previous two record's lyrics were so simple, predictable and cheesy. I know he still has it. Just look at "Endgame".
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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

I would be lying if I said I was a gigantic Star Trek fan. After 2009, I noticed a slew of people who have supposedly always loved Star Trek. Quite frankly, I think that's a heaping pile of shit. After franchise reinvigorations like this, there always seems to be people who claim they've always been fans. I assure you, I am not one of them. Did I always appreciate the show for what it was? Of course. But I could just never fully become enthralled with the show. And that is part of the reason why I believe I enjoy Abrams' Star Trek films. He grew up a non-fan of Trek as well. And it wasn't until he was brought on board to tackle the first film that he became a Trekkie. The approach he took with the first film was interesting. It felt fresh without feeling as if it had to fit inside a specific mold. To sum up the first film, he reinvented iconic characters, injected a new visual style and ran with the rest.

With Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams managed to delve into classic dark second-installment territory, but without losing the popcorn fun that the first film had achieved. With Into Darkness, there are stakes involved that feel not only high but very real. With the first film, you almost knew no one significant was going to die due to being the kick starter to a newly-restored franchise. But with Into Darkness, I had myself thinking, "Shit, maybe he IS gonna' bite the dust...". The casting with these films are near-perfect. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, and the rest of the cast do a solid job. But there are two particular actors that were added to the cast that COMPLETELY owned the film. And I speak of Peter Weller and Benedict Cumberbatch. First and foremost, let me just say that it is FUCKING AWESOME to see Peter Weller in a major role again. He's not just a footnote in this film as you may expect. He's got some pretty decent screen time in this. And his character is not a simple character. He's complex as you may or may not expect. But I am sure all eyes will be on Benedict Cumberbatch. And any attention he does get after this is well-deserved.

When actors play villains, I always feel that if they do it well, they have hit their peak at an acting standpoint. When playing a villain, I believe it can become an outlet for most. From numerous interviews that I have seen and read, most actors tend to lean towards the "everyone has a dark side to them" remark. And by channeling that side, you create a character so unrecognizable and memorable that (again, if done well), it's hard to top. Look at DeNiro in Cape Fear, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, etc. Those characters work because it's rare for those actors to play characters, let alone, villains like that. But then you look at Jack Nicholson. You associate the word "villain" or "crazy" with him. And because of that, it has very little punch. Reason being, it's Jack Nicholson playing... Jack Nicholson. What Benedict Cumberbatch does with this character is incredible. I've only seen the actor in one role, but his talent is sure as hell displayed in this film. And much like Peter Weller's character, he's complex as well. He's not The Joker. There's a dynamic. Is what he is telling you really his motive? Or is there an alternative one? His "John Harrison" character is a very effective one. Far better than Eric Bana's Nero in the first film. He is unexpectedly brutal as well. Unexpectedly, because the guy is about 5' 11" and slender, but he has a very tactical combat style. It almost hurts to watch him assault the enemy. The violence in this borders PG-13 and R. Do you see anything? Not really, but there are some damn effective shooting and editing tricks pulled in this film. For instance, Harrison crushes a man's skull. You don't see any of it, but you HEAR all of it. And I've got to be honest, it's pretty damn brutal.

The first film successfully re-invented the iconic Trek characters, and this film only develops them more. Some characters are tested, and react in a way you wouldn't expect them to, and some do what may come to expect in a science fiction film. There are a few convenient devices used in the film to propel the dramatics, but nothing utterly eye-rolling. Amongst the crew, the most impressive character development was Simon Pegg's Scotty. He was the comedic do-what-you-ask figure in the first, and is mostly that in this film. But there is a pivotal scene where Kirk is instructed by Star Fleet to bring aboard torpedoes onto the USS Enterprise. Scotty strongly suggests that Kirk does not bring them on board. Kirk refuses to listen to Scotty, and Scotty resigns (temporarily, of course). To me, that defiance was necessary and much-needed. It makes you wonder who else may defy Kirk's orders, and what may come of the situation due to it.

Now to the more technical of things. First and foremost, the FX. The FX work in this is GREAT. I cant recall a scene with sketchy CG. Almost every scene had a fantastic marriage of practical sets and CG. And the 100% CG shots looked fantastic as well. Depending on what the rest of the year brings, Into Darkness should win the best Visual FX Oscar. This film is MASSIVE. That's partly due also to IMAX. The film has been released in IMAX 3D and is very impressive. Unfortunately it was not shot in native 3D, and was post-converted, but select scenes were shot in the native IMAX format. If you haven't already seen it, see it in IMAX 3D. And if you already have seen it, see it again in IMAX 3D. I can't say the 3D is phenomenal, but it IS good. The only option you have to see it in IMAX is IMAX 3D. And a little tidbit for you: If you're turned off by 3D due to the brightness levels, IMAX 3D films run off of 2 projectors with 2 bulbs as opposed to a regular 3D theatre that runs 3D films with only 1 projector and 1 bulb. With 2 projectors and 2 bulbs, you don't lose any brightness (the glasses are the only element that diminish the brightness).

Michael Giacchino is a composer who absolutely knows what he's doing with the films he scores. Star Trek Into Darkness is no different. He did a damn good job with the first film, and excels with this one. He has a very genuine traditional style. Nothing feels nudge-nudge about his work. Of course he plays around with some classic Star Trek themes (which is mandatory), but he blends his original material with the classic material seamlessly.

The only gripe I held onto walking out? The humor. The humor doesn't fail miserably, it just fell flat most of the time. Which is a bummer, considering that the humor was a very strong point in the first film. Dont get me wrong, there was nothing embarrassing, the humor was just generic.

JJ Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness? Easily the best movie of the year so far. The only question now is... What will JJ Abrams' Star Wars Episode VII bring?
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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Bullet to the Head

In August of 2012 we got The Expendables 2. In January & February of 2013, we get 4 films from 4 Expendables. January brought Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand and Statham's Parker. February brings Stallone's Bullet to the Head and Willis' A Good Day to Die Hard. Only 2 of the 4 interested me. The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head. Practically every Statham film is the same formula, and the last Die Hard film was, how can I put it politely... A complete fucking pile of triceratops shit. And unfortunately, both Schwarzenegger & Stallone's solo-efforts were a one-two punch of disappointment.

To be fair, I actually expected The Last Stand to be better. But it wasn't. With Bullet to the Head, I expected the generic end result that I got. The various delays the film received did not bode well for the film. The trailers didn't help either. They were poorly edited, they had horrible musical choices, and just didn't sell the film well enough for me to say, "That looks ace!". Look, if Stallone is in it, Im watching it. It does NOT always mean Im going to like it.

Bullet to the Head was directed by Walter Hill (The Warriors, 48 Hours & Red Heat). The man may have directed some great films back in the day, but if this film is any indication, he may have lost any "special sauce" he once had. He hasn't directed a feature film since 2002. In that time, you either get hungry, or you get rusty. I think he got the latter. There are a lot of elements that can make or break a film. Story, casting, acting, editing, musical choices, etc. Aside from story, everything else is wrong with this film. Howabout I go one by one? Yes? Okay.

Let's talk story. I am absolutely okay with the story. Stallone plays a ruthless hit man whose partner is killed, and seeks revenge. Awesome. He partners up with a cop trying to investigate the murder, and naturally, they hate each other. Stuff happens, shit blows up, people get shot... In the face... A lot, and more stuff blows up. Okay, the story is out of the way. Moving on...

Casting. This film suffers the same casting problem The Last Stand did. You have your iconic action hero. In this case, Stallone. And you surround him with sub-par or little-known actors. Who else is in this? That Asian guy from Fast & The Furious 8, the black guy from The Thing remake, the neanderthal from the Conan The Barbarian (2011) atrocity... And Christian Slater. At least The Last Stand had Forest Whitaker, an oscar-winning actor. There really is not much else to be said about the cast. Reason being... Who the fuck are they?!

The editing was a huge issue for me. Walter Hill suffers what I call T.S.E.S. (Tony Scott Editing Syndrome). Both are (were, rather. Scott is dead) 60 year-old film makers trying to make "hip" new films. Tony Scott would throw in a really obnoxious CSI: Miami-esque edit/filter, or include some semi-ambient techno-esque music track. And it's ALWAYS horrible. Which is unfortunate, because I can strip the film of all of that, and see something good. But it IS apart of the film, so I can't classify it as "good". Walter Hill does the same shit with Bullet to the Head. Except the only difference is, it's ABSOLUTELY unnecessary. For instance, the scene would transition, and for no reason, the frame would shake and have a quick overlay of orange. There are a lot of strange and terrible editing choices in this film. A lot of the landscape shots of the city were sped up, again, much like CSI: Miami does. Fuck...

Music is a crucial component in a film for me. Look at Tron: Legacy. That film was pretty lame, in my opinion. But the score was phenomenal. And because the score was so great, every time I listen to the score, I always want to give the film another shot. Had this film had a better score, I may have enjoyed it a lot more. What did we get? A piss-poor, gloomy, and drum-driven rock song. It sounds like they snuck into the editing room of Taxi Cab Confessions, and stole their soundtrack files. I think Stallone may be through with wearing both the actor and director's hat for one production, but when he did, he got some pretty great fucking scores! Rocky Balboa, Rambo, The Expendables 1 & 2. Hill's music direction for this was very poor.

Another VERY VERY picky component of the film that bothered me, the format. Walter Hill shot this movie in flat. For those of you uneducated in the format options. You have 2 formats. Scope and flat. Scope is usually at the ratio of 16:9, and flat is at a ratio of 4:3. An easier way of putting it is scope is more rectangular, and flat is more square. Scope is wider, therefore you get more picture captured in one frame. Scope is aptly-named. Because when you watch a scope film, for the most part it feels bigger in size. When you watch a flat film, it feels smaller (and less cinematic, in my opinion). The poor editing and editing effects made the film feel straight-to-video enough, but the format REALLY makes it feel cheap. And just because a film is shot in flat, doesn't mean it's always going to feel sized-down (The Avengers was shot in flat, and that film is gigantic). But in Bullet's case, it doesn't help it.

Believe it or not, I do have great things to say about the film. The violence. The film gets pretty fucking brutal. Nothing you haven't seen before, but it feels real. A lot of R-rated action films that come out nowadays just have CG blood-spray/splatter and a couple curse words. Bullet to the Head earns it's title. It's brutally violent. Stallone causes some serious damage. And it's all believable because he is in incredible shape. There is one scene in a bath house that showcases his physical shape and physical ability at age 66. The man is a fucking beast.

Bullet to the Head. Is the film as good as it's title? Sadly, no. Had there been a bigger budget in place here, we could have gotten a better cast, better direction, and a better film. After The Last Stand and this, Im hoping Schwarzenegger & Stallone make it up with their next film together, The Tomb in September. Until then, there's always... Die Hard 5. Just kidding, that's gonna' blow hard... 5.
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Last Stand

Oh it pains me to say this, but... Schwarzenegger may be "too old for this shit". This review may be all over the place, but that's how my brain is when it comes to this movie. And to be honest, a lot of what is actually on my mind has more to do with his career than the film itself.

There are two very gigantic larger-than-life icons of action. And those two are Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's very hard to top them. Yes, you have Bruce Willis. But he was the counter-part to them. The anti-action hero. But with Stallone and Schwarzenegger, you had films that overcame practically everything. And it's not only fun to watch them do so, it can also being inspiring, no matter how ridiculous the circumstance. THAT is what made these two men action icons.

They ruled the 80's. After that, things started to crumble. But only for one. The 90's for Stallone were only decent. His average total box office gross was between $30-40 million. Which in comparison to Rambo: First Blood Part II's $150 million and Rocky IV's $127 million, it doesn't sound great at all. Schwarzenegger on the other hand, 4 of his films crossed the $100-million mark (one of which crossed $200 million [T2]). Come early 2000, though, Schwarzenegger hit the patch Stallone hit the decade prior. Then he did Terminator 3, it did $150 million (though it cost $200 million to make). Schwarzenegger then ran for governator, got elected, and has been out of the leading-man game until now.

When it was announced that Schwarzenegger was making his return with The Last Stand, I actually thought it was a perfect comeback-vehicle for him. An aging Sheriff taking on a drug dealer fleeing to the Mexican border, but has to pass through his town to do so? Perfect. Only... It wasn't so perfect.

When the films starts, it sets up what Schwarzenegger's character Ray Owens is up against. And for the most part, I was on board. Then it transitions into Owens' introduction. And you would think that after getting Arnold Schwarzenegger (fully) returning to acting, you would have a grander entrance. Unfortunately, it was almost like they were introducing a secondary character. And I understand his character isn't larger-than-life, but he still deserved something more... Powerful. But then again, maybe the problem lied in the writing.

The Schwarzenegger-less lead-up to watching Arnie destroy men with bullets wasn't as painful as I expected. They tried to give the heel of the film a back-story and development, which I appreciated. Did I really just want to get to Schwarzenegger cutting people in half with bullets? Yes. But the time between wasn't painful. 20 minutes later, it got to the action. Therein lies a lot of issues. First and foremost, Schwarzenegger is looking his age when he runs. I fucking HATE to say it, but he is. And to be fair, he always ran kind of awkwardly due to his size. He was mostly a gigantic fighting man in film. Not a running man. Despite the fact that he did indeed star in... The Running Man. In The Last Stand he just moves... Old.

Because he moves more lethargic, it tones down the action. Which is unfortunate because this is not a toned-down action film. It' R-rated. There is blood and violence. And a lot of the violence is brought forth because of Schwarzenegger... With a gun. And to be honest, it doesn't take a lot to fire off a gun. It's not until the very end that he gets really physical. And only for a couple minutes at that.

Im sure this isn't going to be a big issue for most, but it was one for me. The acting. Schwarzenegger isn't renowned for his acting abilities. I understand that. Do I think he's horrendous? No. He isn't fantastic, but in a lot of films, his delivery is pretty decent. It's just like Schwarzenegger talking like Schwarzenegger. The problem with this, his line-delivery is very awkward. And not in an awesomely-awkward way. More-so in a "holy-fuck-youre-rusty-as-fuck" awkward way. And it's a shame, because if this film is any indication of the rest of his career... Sheesh.

To the more technical problems of the film. A lot of the shots were an issue for me. In action films, I feel the shots should just flow. Whether they cut really fast, or cut every 15-20 seconds, they should flow. In this, every other 6 shots would seem "off". And who knows, maybe that is due to editing. But some seemed very amateur-esque. And I understand the director who created this film doesn't speak English and needed a translator on set. But maybe THAT was the reason for most of the flaws with the film (and maybe explains Arnold's awkward line-delivery).

The director of the film was Jee-Woon Kim. He's a South Korean director and was responsible for films such as The Good, The Bad, and The Weird and I Saw The Devil. And I can honestly say I haven't seen any of his films until The Last Stand. And unfortunately, I feel the language barrier may have gotten in the way with an American production like this one.

I also think that if the supporting cast had been a little stronger, it would have helped a great deal. Forest Whitaker was a good casting. As was Peter Stormare (who doesn't love that guy?!). But having Johnny Knoxville and Luis Gusman as your sidekicks? You can do better than that. If Michael Caine can be someone's butler and do not a damn thing in 3 films, Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger can get some radical sidekicks.

Before I go into my rant about how aging actors still "having it", I guess I'll conclude on The Last Stand. As a film, it's fun. Is it terrible. Not quite. Is it close to being incredibly awesome dumb fun? Unfortunately, it doesn't even achieve that. It's just... Fun.

In a couple weeks we have Stallone's Bullet to the Head coming to theatres. Am I sold on the film? Yes. Do the trailers help? No. Personally, I hate the trailers. But Im trying to see past the generic modern-metal soundtrack that raped the 2 minutes and 30 seconds of the trailer. And I see a 66 year-old man beating the shit out of people and believable so. I only bring this up because of The Last Stand. Had Schwarzenegger KILLED it in The Last Stand, this review would have ended with "... And we have Stallone's Bullet to the Head to look forward after this". But due to The Last Stand being an underwhelming effort, I have to resort to displaying a true exibit of how a 60+ year-old man can present himself as relevant.

You look at Stallone and you may think too much facial surgery. That's fine. I agree. Do I think he's grown into it? Sure. It looks a little better now then it did before. But one thing that is almost flawless: His body. The motherfucker is in Rocky III-shape. And if you need to be reminded, that was the peak of Stallone's physical shape. And because of his feats today, I proudly say that I am a Stallone-fanatic. And I totally understand that Schwarzenegger had the biggest state to govern for 8 years, so the shape he's in now is due to that. But to be honest, he started losing it even before he even began to think about running for governor.

Arnie has a slew of films lined up in the next coming years. The Tomb (with Stallone), Ten, Unknown Soldier, The Legend of Conan, Terminator 5 and more. Im hoping that he just needed wipe the dust off his soldiers with The Last Stand. Because the amount of films that he has lined up in the short amount of time they're set to be released, I can only seeing it slowing him down.
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Top 10 Films of 2012

I am currently an hour, 12 minutes and 3 beers into 2013. 2012 was a fucking year. And Im not just speaking in terms of film. I've seen a ton of killer bands, moved into my apartment (twice!), and hit a few "snags" in the road (but I'll wait a couple years to disclose them). But back to what this fucking blog is about. Film in 2012.

For the most part, I was spot-on with what I thought I was going to enjoy. Yes, there were some duds. But it just wouldnt be Hollywood without 'em! But what may possibly be the best part about a retrospect of film are the surprises. More than half of the films on my top 10 were films I didnt believe were going to be nearly as good as they were.

I only got around to doing a handful of reviews for the films (don't forget, Im a movie theatre manager, so when Im not WATCHING the movies, Im RUNNING them). But any that I have reviewed, the link will be listed.

Enough dicking around. Wolves, tigers and Bane, oh my!

1. The Expendables 2

For most of you reading this, the chance of surprise was probably at -39%. Let's face it, this film improved on almost everything than the first film. On a TECHNICAL level, I think the first is superior. And Im not saying that either are pristine examples of film making, but at least most of the first film's shot weren't blurry. Now that's not to say the shots themselves were poor choices (too much shaky cam), but the actual quality of the film stock was just better. But it improved on character-involvment (WIllis and Schwarzenegger in combat), scope, villians, and of course raised the bar with it's cast. Can The Expendables 3 top #2? Bring me the casting of Kurt Russell, and a discussion will be had.

Read my Expendables 2 review HERE.

2. Get The Gringo

If you haven't seen this yet. Do so. It's available on Netflix Instant. And if you're a fan of Payback, then you definitely need to see this. It is literally like a Mexican-based sequel to Payback. Mel Gibson is batting 3 and 3 since his comeback in 2009. Edge of Darkness, The Beaver and now Get The Gringo.

This was a film that was painful to wait for due to it being shelved since 2009/2010. Originally titled "How I Spent My Summer Vacation", it was stalled soon after Gibson's incredible telephone rant. Which is unfortunate because most critics and audiences loved it. So had it gotten a theatrical release, it would have found it's audience in a wide sense.

The film is a terrific debut from director Adrian Grunberg. He was Mel Gibson's assistant director on Apocalypto, so we can see where he got some of his directing chops from. There is so much to love about the film. The locations, the naturalistic quality of it, the balance of comedy, violence and drama, practically everything.

It was basically filmed in the slums of Mexico. You can practically smell it in the air. It's gritty, sweaty and just raw. The location was a perfect one for a fish-out-of-water film. For those of you unaware as to what the film is about... Mel Gibson plays a con man who stole a giant lump sum of cash from someone inside the US, tries to get away and crashes the car across the Mexican border. He gets arrested by the corrupt Mexican Policia and tries to con his way out of the Mexican prison, certain problems arise and it takes off from there.

The last two films Gibson did didn't give him an opportunity to really show off his action chops again, but this sure does. Everything about him is impressive in this. His acting abilities are brought to the foreground in this as well. Because to be a convincing con man, you have to be a convincing actor. And he showcases that for sure in this.

The violence in this is radical. It isn't toned down whatsoever. And you know what? Had this gotten a theatrical release, I feel as if it may have been toned down. There are some killer Mexican stand-off sequences in this. Well, actually only really one. But a lot of western-esque battles. The body-count rises, the blood sizzles in the sun, and Mel Gibson... 'Nuff said.

3. Prometheus

This is a film that for the most part, I feel the same about as everyone else. Some people say it was a let-down and a pile of garbage. But most people had a dual-response. They were let-down, but still liked it at the same time. I am the center of the "those people" and "loved it" venn-diagram. I liked it more than most, but was still a tad disappointed. My issue with the film was the issue most people had with it. The stupidity. A lot of the characters do retarded things non-retarded humans shouldn't be doing. I have no problem with the abiguity of the story, and the altering of Alien-mythology. I mean, in a sense, that is kinda' what a prequel fucking is. Otherwise, what's the damn point? And yes, an argument can be made by saying, "Then don't do it". Okay, fine. But if you ARE going to do one, throw a fucking curveball at me, instead of showing me what I already know.

It's a fucking gorgeous film. If you watch the 3 hour+ "making of" documentary, you'll see how much went into building all of the practical sets, and mumbo jumbo that goes into making a truly gorgeous-looking film. Im going as far as to say that it should have an Oscar nomination/win for set design. It's outstanding.

Read my Prometheus review HERE.

4. The Dark Knight Rises

Unlike the previous two films, my stance on this film has changed quite a bit on this film. My initial review kind of scathed it. And for good reason. All the reasons why I initially scathed it, I still have problems with. But the film really did grow on me. And it's not like I tried to convince myself that it was good, because that isn't the case. I like Batman, and like the Nolan films, but I dont obsess over them as much as other people tend to do (in fact, I wonder if they even like Batman or just love to slob Nolan's knob). Anyway...

With TDKR, there really are a lot of things that work in the film. At a film making standpoint, it looks great, has great performances, a great score, and great characters. But a little weak with some of it's pacing and story-points. Though... They could have knocked it off with the 2nd-rate Clint Eastwood-impressionist voice...

Read my Dark Knight Rises review HERE.

5. Life of Pi

This is a film that really cannot be sold in a trailer or a clip. I watched the trailer, I've seen clips, and even walked into 10 minutes of the film when I was working. There was really nothing about it that demanded that I see it. Until one day I woke up and said, "Fuck it, I'll go into work a couple hours early to catch a movie before my shift". The only one that was over before my shift was Life of Pi 3D.

The movie starts off okay. It introduces everything necessary to the story. His family, the origin of his Pi's name, his reason for believing multiple religions, etc. The first half hour is only slow because you've seen the trailers, and you know most of this film takes place on a boat. So you just want the story to acheive getting to the boat. But like I said, it's a necessary slow half-hour.

Without really handing the story to you on a silver platter, I'll give you the gist. The story starts with Pi, a young Indian boy whose family owns a zoo. Years later, they run into some financial issues and have to move their zoo to Canada to stay afloat (no pun intended). Upon their trip across the Mariana Trench, a horric storm practically wipes out the ship. Thus leaving only Pi and a tiger on a life boat. From there on, watch for yourself.

There are so fucking many qualities that I love about this film. I'll start with the most important to the story, it's message. Pi doesn't believe in one religion, he believes in many. And that is what I love about it. The film doesn't preach, it doesn't denounce one religion for another. It simply says, "What you believe in is what is most important". If his faith is what enables him to survive the grueling months out at sea with nothing but a life boat and a tiger, then so be it.

I'll put it out there plain and simple. If there is a film involving animals as the a main character in a movie, chances are... I'll cry. And Im not a shamed one bit. This film is absolutely no exception. There are TWO scenes that completely ruined me. The relationship formed between Pi and the Richard Parker (the tiger [watch the fucking movie, you'll understand]) is frustrating and ultimately heartbreaking. Did I just reveal what happens to the tiger? No, I didn't.

Ang Lee isn't a film maker Im particularly a fan of. But I don't dislike him. He's just a film maker that I don't have a whole lot of interest in. This film changed that. Reports said that a dozen directors passed on this film because the novel it was based on was "unfilmable". I don't understand how it was "unfilmable". That isn't to say that Lee didn't do a phenomenal job with it. I just don't understand why so many directors passed on the film thinking it was unfilmable. But Im glad they did, because I couldn't be happier with the final product that Ang Lee gave to us. The visuals were incredible, the 3D was great, almost everything worked in this film.

6. Jack Reacher

This was another surprise for me. Tom Cruise has picked some pretty decent projects in the past few years, so I was looking forward to this. But I wasn't eager with anticipation. I thought the trailer was decent enough, but hoped it would be better than what the trailer implied. Surely enough, it was.

Eversince last year's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, I've been on a Tom Cruise kick. Not only does the man know how to choose projects, he knows how to give his all in them. Though, Jack Reacher wasn't his most physically demanding, you can tell he trained quite a bit to excel in other areas that weren't his height. Cruise got a lot of flack for not fitting the 6' 5" build due to him only being 5' 7". But if you've seen the film, you'll realize he owned that character. Tall or not. It's odd, it's a Cruise character you've seen before, but haven't. He's smart, but not always right. He's dominant in almost every way, but has weaknesses.

One of the absolute best things the film has going for itself is the humor. This isn't an Expendables 2 elbow-nudge action film. It has very dry humor, and at times has some very black humor. All of which is the best humor to have in an action film like this. The action in the film is great. It isn't wall-to-wall action, but when there is action, it fucking rules. All that needs to be said is: The car chase. It's so fucking well-done. It obviously harkens back to the car chases of the late 60's & early 70's (especially Bullit).

All in all, Jack Reacher is a damn solid film. A great follow-up to M:I:4.

7. Django Unchained

Tarantino, you redeemed yourself after Intolerable Basterds. I wanted to like that film, but when you threw 20-minute talking table scene after 20-minute talking table scene, I just couldn't take it anymore. Luckily, your follow-up hit the mark.

Django Unchained is Tarantino's first straight western (even though he refers to it as a "Southern"). Kill Bill Vol. 2 was close enough, but not quite. Inglourious Basterds had a lot of elements, but Django Unchained was his first full-on western.

My relationship with Tarantino's films is love/hate. For the most part, I really enjoy his films. But he bothers me because not only does he take someone else's lesser-known material and try to pass it off as his own, but I feel as if he imitates himself in the process. With Django, not much is different. But it's a whole lot more fun.

No matter what movie, rest assured, the cast will rule. In this case, he strayed away from some of his regulars and introduced new actors into the Tarantino filmography. First and foremost for me was... Don Johnson. He was the whole reason I wanted to see the damn film. He was fucking hilarious. In the film, there's a gag that involves a Klan-meeting in which they complain about the hole-sizes in their hoods. Johnson OWNS that scene. My second favorite? Leonardo DiCaprio. He plays a fantastically despicable villian. Something that is hinted about his character that isn't fully expanded upon is incest. How he acts toward his sister is pretty creepy. Though, I do believe it is intentional and provokes your mind to wonder.

One of my favorite things about Tarantino is his use of practicality. Everything from the bloodshed to the landscapes. He doesn't cheat you out of your squibs and scenery. The blood in this is killer. It's almost too red (like Dawn of the Dead). It's ridiculously fun.

8. Cloud Atlas

This was yet another surprise. But unlike some of the films on this list, I didn't expect to even watch the film due to who directed it. I never liked The Wachowski's, and can't really say Im going to be looking forward to their next film. But they did a damn fine job with Cloud Atlas (along with co-director Tom Tykwer). It's odd that the one film I did enjoy from The Wachowski's bombed at the box office, but the ones I despise (The Matrix films) did ridiculously well. I guess there's common ground: Speed Racer.

Read my Cloud Atlas review HERE.

9. The Grey

This was a fucking movie. After the abomination that was The A-Team, I didn't think I would ever associate "Joe Carnahan" and "watchable film" together again. But he shut me up. Very few films acheive what he achieved with The Grey. You have plenty of survival films, but nothing like this. You almost literally feel the frigid air while watching the film.

The whole film is solid, but there is one particular scene that has stuck in my head for a year now, and that's the plane crash scene. When I say this, I am 100% serious. It literally feels like a horror film. It's fucking terrifying. It made me feel so uncomfortable due to the sheer intensity of the scene. And the way Carnahan tinkers with your nerves in that scene, he applies that to all the scenes with the wolves. The Grey could almost be classified as a survival horror film. It becomes such an assault on the senses. Much like what having to survive in below-zero weather would be like.

My hat's off to Joe Carnahan. If he can stick to film making like this, and avoid big blockbuster fare, I may become loyal to the defiler of The A-Team.

10. Dredd

And lastly, we have yet ANOTHER shocker. There was absolutely NO REASON for this film to be as good as it was. That isn't to say it's a fantastic film, but it was really good considering it was on the shelf for 2 years and was yet another crack at a Judge Dredd feature film.

FIrst of all, let's get to the production of the film. Technically, this was an independent film. It was independently financed and produced. And Im sure that was the reason it sat on a shelf for 2 years. It wasn't until Lionsgate picked the film up, that's when we started to get a taste of the film. But sadly, Lionsgate did a piss-poor job marketing it. Did some cool shit at Comic-Con, but that audience is already built-in. They did next to nothing to attract the mainstream audience.

Enough about Lionsgate and their poor marketing strategies. The film itself is reminicent of a Paul Verhoeven film. And that is VERY much a good thing. It's not so much the style and shots themselves that share similarities, it's how the director went about the violence. As any Judge Dredd adaptation SHOULD be, it's ultra-drokking-violent (shame shame, Stallone). Shots through the cheek, head, leg, legs, cheeks, hand, hands, just about anything that can be penetrated with a bullet. And from what I could tell, it was mostly practical squibs.

Another surprisingly effective aspect of the film was the 3D. I say that because for the first time, the 3D was actually integrated into the story. There is a drug in the film called Slo-Mo that slows time down for the consumer. So when Dredd breaks down a door to the apartment of drug addict criminals and shoots 'em up, it looks AWESOME. Reason being, you're seeing what the addicts are seeing. Slo-mo blood flow. You can't beat it.

And there you have it. 2012. Though, there were a few films I didn't get to catch that I wanted to see such as Lawless, ParaNorman, Flight, and Lincoln. But fuck it... Netflix.
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