Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top 10 Films of 2014

1. The Expendables 3

Surprise. (Read review HERE).

2. Interstellar

Christopher Nolan is one of those directors who gets his cock sucked left and right. The problem I have with it, is that most people who stand behind the "In Nolan We Trust" mantra is... They know next to nothing about film. It's easy to "love" Nolan. He makes accessible films for both the mainstream average movie-goer and film-fanatics alike. And the people who rally behind him, and believe he is without flaws are merely people who haven't seen enough films to know what a god damn flaw is.

I know that first paragraph sounded like the beginning of an anti-Nolan rant. And I guess it was. But now the rest of this review is put into perspective as to how good Interstellar actually was.

I can honestly say that I love most of Christopher Nolan's films for what they are. Well-crafted, modern mainstream popcorn films. But something about Interstellar seemed as if it was going to be overly-pretentious and bland. So because I had that notion in my head, I was almost rooting against the film. Just because buzz around a film can either inflate or deflate your excitement a film. Once the film was over... I was very impressed. I believe it was a combination of having moderate expectations and the film actually being as good as it was.

There are so many things going for the film. I'll start with the cast. There are some Nolan alumni in here (Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway). But it really is Matthew McConaughey who is the glue of the film. He's an intelligent, risk-taking family man. And it's all three of those qualities that make him the driving force for the film. He is a very relatable human character that does extraordinary things. But it's all in the confines of believability, if you can wrap your head around the scientific theories this film demonstrates. A lot of emotion is concentrated in his character Cooper. And for a film this ambitious and large in scope, it's crucial. Otherwise, it would be an almost-3-hour tiresome science-fiction film. But that isn't to say the rest of the cast isn't great. Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, everybody is great here. And the film had a hidden actor not in the billing cast that was a nice surprise for such a high-profile film like this.

This film was originally supposed to be directed by Steven Spielberg. And the more I think about it, I don't think it would have been nearly the film that it is. I only say that because I think it would have been played a little more safe. Some of the scenes in this film are pretty fucking intense. The shuttle take-off scene was particularly uncomfortable (in the best possible way). From the sound design and the sense of claustrophobia, I don't see it being as intense in Spielberg's hands (and Spielberg is my favorite film director).

The visual FX were incredible, as you might expect. But they didn't look like "good special FX" like in a movie such as Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers. There were scenes that looked 100% photorealistic. If they had told me that they had photographed IMAX-sized Hubble Telescope images, and it wasn't from a Hollywood film FX company, I would have believed them. Granted, the more fantastical scenes and images were a little less believable, but fantastic special FX nonetheless!

The one stand-out elements of the film was the score. Now of course Hans Zimmer is a master of his craft. And almost any project he's involved with will surely have a damn good score, regardless of the film's quality. But his score for Interstellar can be split into two categories. The modern Hans Zimmer score you would come to expect from him. And a harken back to the sci-fi scores of the 70's. Granted, the 70's aspect of his score doesn't feel like a cheap nudge to the ribs. To give a perfect example as what it DOESN'T try to achieve: Look at a lot of the modern "throwback" horror films that use 80's synth for the majority of it's score. You know whole well what they're doing. And it's cheap and throw-away. Zimmer's score for Interstellar really blends with the film. So much so that I didn't even notice it in the film until I was walking past one of the theatres it was playing in as I was checking theatres, making sure my ushers were doing their jobs. I literally stopped in my tracks to listen to it. Zimmer really did a fantastic job with the score and added yet another layer to an already rich film.

I really could not be happier with the film. Any film that makes you feel like a fucking speck of dust in an otherwise endless universe and makes you want to kill yourself, is okay in my book.

3. Gone Girl

If there is one director in which I am looking forward to their next project, regardless of subject material, it's David Fincher. This is the man who made "The Facebook Movie" not only watchable, but even... Good. He really is a master of his craft. He knows style, story, writing, casting, music and hell, even marketing. You have directors like James Cameron, who are technical geniuses, but may not know how to direct 180 pounds of flesh how to deliver a line. Then you have a thousand indie directors who know how to get a performance out of an actor, but can't direct a film to save their family. And then there's David Fincher.

What I loved so much about Gone Girl was that it took almost 15-20 minutes to understand why he chose this, of all projects, as his next one. Granted, the first 15 or so minutes were good and well-done, I just didn't grasp why THIS film. And then the movie turned into Se7en. And I don't mean that it felt all too familiar. I mean that any great director puts a good stamp on their work. Did it mimic Se7en completely? No. For the most part, it has nothing to do with that film. It's just that Fincher knows how to guide you through a story without you guessing 90 minutes ahead. Of course, this is an adaptation, so 60% of the audience knew the conclusion of the story. But me, having not read the book, I was unsure as to where it was going to go. And that is all due to all the pieces being laid out meticulously, and treating the audience as if they had at least half a brain.

Films like these, casting is crucial. Actors like Ben Affleck aren't the most likeable, but recognizable. But given the proper director, you can play on their strengths and weaknesses. Is Ben Affleck an awful actor? Absolutely not. But I'll never look forward to "the next Ben Affleck film". Yes, he's delivered passable directorial efforts. But he never had that "likeability" for me. In the film, without giving too much away, he is both sympathetic and despicable. For the majority of his character, you feel sympathy. But there is a portion in which you feel a little distain. Rosamund Pike, who plays who his wife, the "Gone Girl", she is a lot less a sympathetic character. In fact, there's no sympathy. Guess I gave that away. Moving on...

Tyler Perry. Maybe this guy isn't such a fucking waste of time after all. If I were him, I would choose an "actor-for-hire" career path as opposed to producing his own acting endeavors. Because he was plain and simple... Great in this film. Well, was he "great" in the film? No. He was very very good. Why? Because he played it straight. He's been shroud in this joke-of-an-actor cloud due to his own choices. But turns out, he can actually act. He was just fine in JJ Abrams' Star Trek, and he was rather good in this.

In the hands of any other director, this could have been a Lifetime Original Movie. And yet, it's one of the year's best. 'Nuff said?

4. Godzilla

I already did a write-up of Godzilla (Read review HERE), but the film is worth re-reviewing(?). I've seen the film a couple times on Blu-ray since, and it still holds up. This is a "sigh of relief" film. This could have been horrendous. And it wasn't. Is it the quintessential Godzilla film? Absolutely not. But it's the quintessential American Godzilla film. 1 out of 2? Not bad.

5. Supermenche: The Legend of Shep Gordon

God damn, was this a surprise. Was it a surprise that I would enjoy a documentary about Alice Cooper's manager? No. Was it was it a surprise that a documentary about Alice Cooper's manager was so fucking good? Yes.

This documentary was directed by Mike Myers, and you can tell that he poured his heart into it. There are segments that will produce a tear or two. I obviously know almost all of Shep Gordon's history with Alice Cooper. But there is so much more to the man than him just managing Alice Cooper. He has managed A-listers from almost every spectrum. From music, to acting, to culinary arts. If the term "well-rounded career" could be pinned on anybody, it's Shep Gordon.

The film takes you on a journey from one young Jewish man's venture from sex, drugs and rock 'n roll to sex, meditation and culinary arts. And it's as crazy a journey as it sounds. But more importantly, it's all heart. There is never a moment in the film where you ever side against the man. And that's a very rare allegiance, if you will, to have for a manager.

Oh, and having Alice Cooper & Sylvester Stallone as talking heads: A plus.

6. Super Duper Alice Cooper

This one is a no-brainer. I don't say that because any documentary on Alice Cooper is going to be good. I say that, because if you're going to do a documentary on Alice Cooper, it has to be different. And this is quite different. Unlike Supermenche: The Legend of Shep Gordon, it has no talking heads. In fact, you don't see a single talking head until the end. And it's technically not even a part of the documentary. It's more so an extra. Instead, the whole film depicts Alice's trek in animation and video clips with commentary and voice-overs. Though, it's not drawn-animation. It's animated though existing photographs and images. And it's done rather well.

I don't need to delve into his whole story because you know 65% of it. Though, to give you more incentive to watch it, it does expand on those said stories. The other 35% consists of events not cemented into the legend of Alice Cooper. There is one particular segment that even caught me by surprise. And that was the fact that Alice had free-based. I was always under the impression that he had just been a "beer-drinking, woman-chasing minister's son" (to quote Alice Cooper's "Guilty"). And in any interview I have ever seen, read or heard... Alcoholism was all there ever was. Crack was never mentioned when it came to his 40+-year career. Apparently, the producers of the film had dug this up, discussed it with Alice, and all the cards were laid out on the table.

If you love Alice Cooper, this is a mandatory to watch. If you casually like the guy, check it out. If you don't like him... Why the fuck are you reading this?

7. Cold In July

This is a film that I feel was sorely overlooked this year. It barely got a theatrical release, and was essentially a VOD release. Would it have done well in theatres? Doubtful. But at least give a film a chance to fail.

There are three main factors as to which this was even on my radar. One: Don Johnson. Two: the trailer music was damn good (from a band called Dynatron). Three: the film just looked damn good.

As I mentioned above, the trailer is what sold me on the film. But what MAKES the film is what the trailer DOESN'T show you. The film essentially looks like a typical "man's home gets terrorized, man seeks out help outside the law, man gets justice". Well, it's not. That's only half the film. Say no more, I will.

Like I said, Don Johnson was the primary reason for wanting to catch the flick, and though, Michael C. Hall and Sam Shepard are damn good in it, Don Johnson steals the show. But that's just what Sonny does.

Also, if you get the chance, check out Dynatron's "Cosmo Black". That's the track used in the trailer, and it's killer. It's a retro-synth band, but that track is too damn catchy to not like.

8. Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise has been on a roll when it comes to picking and choosing his projects as of late. Granted, there have been a few critical and commercial duds here and there. I didn't really care for Oblivion, but I see what he saw in the project. But I loved Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (the best in the series, in my opinion), Jack Reacher was great and I loved Edge of Tomorrow.

The film is commonly referred to as the Groundhog Day of sci-fi. And that is not only a perfect description, but also great premise. The film, on paper, sounds like it could get monotonous, but it does anything but. A soldier waking up in the same time and place, over and over again, amidst an alien war. What director Doug Liman delivers is a fun and energetic ride. I like to refer to the film as "the perfect video game movie". And I mean that in a couple different ways. First and foremost, the plot device: Restart. When you play a video game, you start off at the beginning and then you usually die off. Plain and simple. You start again, and get a little further because you learned a couple of things along the way. Then you die again. The third time, you maybe get a lot further because you learned a few more things. And the process repeats itself. That's essentially how the film progresses. This cowardly soldier becomes a "weapon". But of course, there is more to the story than that.

The other "video game" aspect of the film are the special FX. They're good, but a lot of the times they do feel like a video game (as a lot of Hollywood films do). Good FX, but not deemed "amazing".

You're either a Tom Cruise guy or not. I so happen to be one. If you aren't, watch the film anyway. He dies like... A lot.

9. Sabotage

Not really much more to say about the film than I already have. (Read review HERE).

10. The Raid 2

I wasn't a fan of the first. A lot of people were, and I guess I get it. It just felt all too straight-to-video to me. Great fight choreography, for sure! Other than that, not much else going for the film.

The Raid 2 was FAR more superior. It had rectified most of the issues I had with the first. The story was more involved, the cinematography was brought to a professional level and it really fleshed out the world in which the characters were inhabiting. Though, I'm well aware the first film didn't lend itself to many of those aspects.

The most prominent reason why The Raid 2 kicked so much as was because... It kicked so much ass. It was so inventive with it's violence. A lot of cringe-inducing scenes. Which makes it all the better. It's almost as if the Saw-franchise had a brain... And good cinematography... And a story... And talent... And anything else that it took to make a film watchable.

And those are my favorite films of 2014. Are a lot of them going to revolutionize cinema forever? Hell no. But rewatchability is key for me. And there isn't a single film on this list I wouldn't rewatch again and again.

We'll see what 2015 brings. Will Mad Max: Fury Road be as rad as it looks? Will Terminator: Genesys be as bad as it looks? Will Jurassic World do anything to prove that 2014 can even touch the FX of 1993? And... Star Wars (fingers & toes crossed).
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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Expendables 3

The fact that I am writing this review about 3 weeks prior to the official release, is both radical and unfortunate. Radical, because chances are, if you’re reading this, there needs to be no explaining how incredibly amped (understatement) I was for The Expendables 3. So to see it early is incredible to me. On the other hand, it’s really unfortunate that someone essentially sabotaged the film’s opening weekend. Who knows, maybe it won’t affect it too much. Maybe it will. I’m a theatre manager, and I am STILL going to buy a ticket just on principal alone.

Before I delve into the film, I would like to stress that we do not know what the final theatrical version will be. It could be the same exact cut that was leaked online, or it could be a more polished version of the film.


FUCK. ME. They finally fucking got it right. And that isn’t to say that I don’t love the first two films. Though, tonally, they were very unbalanced. The first film took itself a bit too seriously. Another issue I have with the film is the way it was shot in certain scenes. A little too frenetic (and I don’t mean in a good way). Then you get to The Expendables 2, and it was a bit too cheesy. One-liners and nudges are fine, but to an extent. Also, the film looked really cheap in select scenes. Digital zooms distorting the film quality, sub-par CGI, etc. The Expendables 3 rectifies almost every issue from the previous films.

Obviously, the cast is the bread and butter of these films. And with each installment, they get exponentially more impressive! But Expendables 3 slays all. I’m still hazy from seeing Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson, Dolph Lundgren, Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger in a film together. And the additions of Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes? All other films being released this year, fuck off.

There are quite a few scene-stealers in the film as well. We’ll bang out the biggest one, and that is Antonio Banderas. I made a prediction based on the trailers that he would in fact, steal the movie, and he did. He’s fucking hilarious in the film. The Expendables films have always struggled with humor. It’s either guilty-pleasure corny or just plain bad. It’s never genuinely FUNNY. Banderas is genuinely fucking hilarious. Not one joke is flat and his delivery and comic timing are spot-on. He’s also fantastic in all of the action sequences as well. They also provide a decent backstory for him as well.

Another casting decision that paid off very well was… Kelsey Grammer. When he was cast, the entire internet scratched their head in unison. As did I. No, he’s not an “action guy” (despite him being in X-Men AND Transformers). But the role that he played didn’t call for him to be an “action guy”. He essentially just recruits grunts for special operations. A grunt manager, if you will. What shines the brightest is the chemistry between him and Stallone. They’re fucking awesome together. It’s strange. About 10-15 minutes of the movie is of them traveling together recruiting new team members. And Im not even kidding, if they did a road trip film together, it would be fucking rad. They play off of each other so well. The two characters obviously have a history together, and it’s conveyed perfectly on screen. So no, Kelsey Grammer was NOT miscast.

Onto Max Drummer. IE: Harrison Ford. Bruce Willis, you are not missed. Harrison Ford owned this role. So much so, that it needed to be addressed in the film. Stallone asks Ford’s character “Where’s Church?” in which Ford replies, “He’s out of the picture.” Another example of them getting the comedy right in this. That line is a perfect double-meaning quip. And to my surprise, they sprinkle Ford throughout the film pretty well. I would say he has about 6 scenes, which is about 4 more than I expected. There is no Harrison Ford Finger of Doom in this, but he does get a juicy F-bomb, which is always welcomed.

Dolph Lundgren, Wesley Snipes and Schwarzenegger were all great in this as well. Dolph, much like the previous two plays a giant lumbering drunk. And much like the last one, he’s hilarious. He could have had more screen time, but with about 16 billing names, I guess he got a decent amount. Snipes is a perfect addition to the franchise. He would have been in this from its inception, I’m sure, but obviously his legal troubles prevented him from doing so. He plays a character named Doc. Before Statham’s character, there was Doc. He also so happens to be good with a Blade. Go figure. So naturally there’s a rivalry between him and Statham. And through that comes some pretty good chemistry between the two. And of course, we have Arnie… Doing what Arnie does. It took a while for him to dust off the rust, but after Escape Plan and Expendables 3, it’s safe to say… (Insert obligatory “HE’S BACK” line here). He too, is hilarious in this. Much like Expendables 2, he gets to play with the boys. And for the Jet Li fans, don’t get too excited, he doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time. Though, he too gets to play with the boys.

And of course… Mel. It should be no surprise to anyone that he completely fucking decimated. His character bared a resemblance to his in Machete Kills (an arms dealer). But obviously this movie was much fucking better. He plays a character named Conrad Stonebanks. He was one of the founding Expendables, but then decided to steer into black market arms dealing territory. I gotta say, my one worry was that they wouldn’t give Mel enough screen time. And that wasn’t the case. Of course any movie can always benefit from more Mel, but I’m content with what I got. Fuck, did he own some scenes. One in particular is a scene where they capture him. The intensity between him and Sly was incredible. Gibson really pries into Stallone. The sure insanity that pours out of Mel’s eyes… It’s unmatchable. Stallone is lucky he got Gibson for the third installment, because if he had been cast as the villain in the first film, it would be a feat topping him.

Let’s get technical. As I mentioned above, there are a lot of improvements over the first two. One, it’s cleaner. I believe they used RED Cameras on this, and the quality (even from the leaked screener) looks great. I cannot wait to watch it in theatres. Second, the director Patrick Hughes did a great job on shooting the action. The action and set pieces were bigger and more elaborate. Another plus? The locations. They go from New Orleans, to Mexico, to Arizona, to Las Vegas, to whatever fictional country that Bulgaria stands in for. It was a visual treat to more than rubble locations.

With all the improvements this film made over the previous two, there is one issue that was not rectified. The CGI. Now like I said, maybe the screener that leaked is a cut from months ago! Who knows? So I won’t make final judgment until I see the theatrical release. Luckily there are a lot of practical FX and practical sets in the film, so there aren’t a whole lot of CG sequences. But when there are, it doesn’t look very good.

To address another issue the film had was the new team. In my mind, they weren’t horrible. They just didn’t do much for me. When they’re integrated with the original team (Statham, Lundgren, Couture) and the other new guys (Snipes & Banderas) they work just fine. But standalone, they’re just… Serviceable. Though, I believe that half of the time it took to introduce the new team, that time could have been spent on Snipes, Lundgren or Gibson.

The music. Brian Tyler always does a fantastic job with the scores he does for Sly. Be it Rambo, The Expendables, The Expendables 2. I was slightly disappointed with his score for this. Only because… It felt that there wasn’t one. All the themes used in this are in the previous two. There didn’t seem to be many new music queues. It literally sounded as if it was copy and pasted into the movie. Granted, they fit with all the scenes, it just wasn’t wholly original. I already pre-ordered the score, so I can again, make final judgment when I listen to it isolated.

And my final and biggest gripe: Sly vs. Mel. The fight scene was WAY too fucking short. I honestly recall it being a minute long. One minute. Rambo vs. Riggs. Rocky vs. Rockantansky. One minute. I would have been FURIOUS if they hadn't given Gibson enough screen time through out the film. But fortunately, they did.

If you want me to sum the film up in a couple simple words: THE EXPENDABLES 3 IS FUCKING GREAT. It doesn’t come without its flaws. But those flaws don’t even come close to ruining the film for me. I really think that if people pay to see it how it’s intended to be seen, on a giant fucking screen, with loud surround sound audio, in a theatre that reeks of stale popcorn and middle-aged men, then they’ll like it. Possibly even love it. Like I said for principal alone, I will be buying a ticket. So there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Well, unless of course, you lost your job, went through a divorce, your wife took half of what’s left and only have $356 to spend on a used shotgun to blow your head off because you’re dead inside.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Godzilla is one of those characters that is timeless, yet dated. You look at the majority of the Godzilla films from the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and 00's, and you will see films that may not "hold up" by today's standards, but there is a reason why it has lasted now 7 decades. The character himself. He resonates with most people. Whether it's the serious aspects of the character (commentary on atomic warfare), or whether it's to give you your fix on mayhem, destruction and chaos. Both sides of the spectrum and all in between are what make Godzilla a character like no other. I almost look at Godzilla much like Rambo. The first film in the series dabbles in the serious effects of war and the consequences of creating a killing machine. And then you have the sequels. Cheesy & fun, but losing sight of what it initially intended to be. Obviously, Godzilla lends itself to straight-forward cheese more-so than Rambo.

So here we are, 2014, and Godzilla is still alive and well. Of course us 'Mericans had a slight (major understatement, I know) hiccup in 1998. But this entry in the franchise is more than enough to make up for the abortion of a film released in 1998. So lets delve in, shall we?

First and foremost, the design of 'ole Goji MUST be right. It is not a flawless design, but I would say they got 90% of it right. The way I see Godzilla is almost like a construction cone. The base of his body has to be huge. The less stealthy, the more menacing, in my eyes. Godzilla should be brute power and destruction. He's not a fucking Velociraptor. He needs thighs, and they surely gave 'em to him. But the most important is his head. The one thing that always made Godzilla's look successful were the cat-like features he possessed. Look at Jurassic Park. What made the designs work so well, was the fact they went with bird-like features (which is accurate) as opposed to making them too lizard-esque (hissing tongues, etc.).

THE ROAR. I loved what they did with his roar in this one. Though, I do think it's maybe a TAD too electronic sounding. It's essentially the classic roar, but beefed up with more layers of who knows what. Along with the design, the roar is essential to NOT fucking up. As silly as it sounds, if you're on the fence with the movie at that point, that roar can really make or break the film for you. The film is batting 2 and 0 so far.

The humans. The casting for the film was pretty decent, though it could have been stronger. Getting Bryan Cranston on board was a HUGE plus, considering (much like most of America will agree) that he proved himself as a tremendous actor thanks to Breaking Bad. Though, Aaron Taylor-Johnson was not bad, he could not carry the film on his own when Cranston's character had to take a "coffee break" (spoiler?). Ken Watanabe is someone I like as an actor (fucking Last Samurai), and I did actually like him in this, but he just looked so fucking angrily confused in every shot of the movie. Almost as if someone had hurled an insult at him that he didn't quite understand the meaning of, but had to look pissed and offended anyway. That being said, he was still enjoyable.

The MUTO creatures were a pleasant surprise. Warner Bros. really sold this as a disaster flick, and not a monster-on-monster film. Which is a win/win in my eyes. One, it gives you that element of surprise that almost no fucking films have nowadays. And two, I think that was their counter-response to preventing it from flopping on U.S. soil like Pacific Rim. The creature designs for the MUTO's were rad as hell as well. I mean, not wholly original, but that's okay. If a couple thousand Starship Troopers arachnids had gangbanged the Cloverfield monster: MUTO's. And I love all 3 parties involved.

The score was one of the underwhelming aspects of the film for me. Granted, I did like the score. But nothing REALLY stood out. There was no theme that I attached to. The theme that played during the opening credits worked really well with the eerie bomb footage. But aside from that, I was never anticipating a particular theme aside from the classic Godzilla theme. I knew they weren't going to use that them due to it being too "dated", but I think there is a way you can really make it work in today's day and age. Whether it's slowed down or played at an extremely low bass level. All in all, Alexandre Desplat did a pretty decent job. Come to think of it, his best musical pieces were played during the establishing geography shots. Though, the end theme was a little too "America" for me.

Two major gripes that I know a lot of people have are: Godizilla's screen time and the fights. I'll address how happy I was with the amount of screen time Godzilla had. It all goes back to JAWS-syndrome. You never see the damn shark fully until half-way through. Now granted, you don't have incredible characters like Quint, Hooper and Brody to tide you over. Regardless, it's the "less is more" theory. I do understand a lot of people's issues with the fight itself. It does cut away far too often. But factor in this: Until a couple weeks prior to it's release, most people didn't even know there were other monsters in the film (myself included). So for me, I was delighted to even see a fight. And to top it off, we didn't get ONE radioactive breath, we got TWO radioactive breaths! Two of those motherfuckers.

I am really happy with how this film turned out. And especially being a sophomore directorial effort from Gareth Evans... Kudos. The budget for the film was required, and appeared to be put to use because the majority of the FX looked great. You can't win all the shots, but most of them were pretty well-crafted. A year ago, in my mind, there was no reason why this film should have been good. Turns out, fuck me.
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Saturday, April 5, 2014


It's been a rough 2013/2014 for ole' Arnie. Last year's The Last Stand bombed at the box office, then Escape Plan. It's disconcerting to me because he is Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger. Did I like The Last Stand? No. Did I like Escape Plan? No. I LOVED Escape Plan. But both films should have performed well due to it being his first 2 films since 2003. Maybe I was born in the wrong fucking decade, but I just don't find The Rock, Vin Diesel, and Jason Statham all that appealing. Do I have anything against the likes of them? No. The appeal with them is not unfathomable. I get it. I just don't understand how they can perform better at the box office alone than Stallone & Schwarzenegger TOGETHER! I seriously want to smash a fucking light bulb on an infant's head with the thought of it. And I don't want the "they're too old" excuse. First of all, they're NOT too old. Just look at Stallone. CASE. IN. FUCKING. POINT. Secondly, how the fuck does Liam Neeson START his action-career at damn-near 60, yet Stallone & Schwarzenegger fail to CONTINUE theirs at 67 & 66?! I suppose there are some riddles of the universe I will never come to understand. Like the radio, twerking & mayo.

I guess I'll discuss Sabotage since Im already drunk and hateful. How that makes sense, who fucking knows?...

I really didn't get amped for this film up until the week it came out. Every bar I was at, it would be on the TV. Then some reviews came out. And despite the consensus of the film, the words "VIOLENT", "TOTALLY FUCKING VIOLENT", and "BLOODY AS FUCK" would pop up in almost every one (okay, maybe not in that phrasing, but fuck off. How's that?).

The film is directed from the human who wrote Training Day and directed End of Watch. He did some films in between, but to be quite honest, I never even bothered to watch them because I could be on YouTube watching Dave Mustaine insulting fans instead. The other reason: Training Day was okay, and End of Watch was... A movie. But I actually liked Sabotage.

First of all, it's great to see Arnie in a different type of movie, and as a different character. Does he still own the screen? Of fucking course. But this film is based in reality. His character is based in reality. I mean, of course you'll never see a Schwarzenegger character without an Austrian accent. That's almost always a given in everyone of his films. But he is plays a pretty damn serious character in this. Very few "cheese" one-liners. Don't get me wrong, the dialogue isn't very good. It's a lot of corny "grunt talk". But very little comes from Arnie.

I guess I skipped the introductory part. The film is about a DEA task force that is lead by Schwarzenegger, and they're attempting to take down the Mexican drug cartel. One of their missions in the beginning of the film is to seize millions upon millions of dollars. They formulate a plan to make off with $10 million after destroying the countless millions that will be unaccounted for. Double-crosses are made, their agency catches wind, and.... Thus the film unfolds.

In terms of the story, it's pretty basic. A band of brothers (and sister) are tight-knit, money separates them like water and vinegar, blood begins to shed, a reveal is made, and then, resolve. But it's effective enough to want to know the outcome. Though, the end of the film feels like a completely different film. And I don't mean that in a negative way. In fact, the end is quite possibly the best part of the film. It's "horns-in-the-air" good.

But as I mentioned a couple shitty paragraphs previous, the film is bloody. And from the B-roll footage I saw, most of it is practical FX. Sure, there are probably some CG FX, but everything looks pretty good. But then again, I can't see this having a bigger budget than maybe $30 million. And Im sure most of that went to Schwarzenegger's awesome Hitler-youth haircut.

Is the film great? No, but it's damn fucking cool. And especially given the visual fodder being thrown my way this year, it's surely the best of the year so far.
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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Top 10 Films of 2013

2013 was a strange year in film. For me, May, June and July usually bring some heavy-hitters. This year? None. And the only reason why Star Trek Into Darkness (May) and Man of Steel (June) are on this list is because... It's a "Top 10", not a "Top 8". Almost everything from #1 to #8 are from September to December. Which is a shame, because in retrospect, it really was like the gold at the end of the rainbow. Except, this rainbow wasn't too lively in color. It mostly consisted of shit.

1. Escape Plan

I was fortunate enough to be satisfied with the final product of this film. First off, on paper, this film is FLAWLESS. Stallone? Schwarzenegger? Breaking out of a prison together? Could you choose a more perfect excuse for these guys to work together? But like I said, ON PAPER it was flawless. But then again, it's all in the execution. Luckily, it not only played as the film I wanted it to be, but it also was smarter than it needed to be. Like I said in my original review, it's not a genius film. But its actually a couple notches above being "dumb fun". You can read my review HERE.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street

The disadvantage with films that I absolutely love coming out at the very end of the year is that I typically don't get to do full-on reviews since I like to recap the year as quick and drunk as possible. So the films that I already have written about get a paragraph and the link to the original review to avoid retreading the same water. I regret not spending the time writing 50 paragraphs about this film. Let me just dive in...

What a fucking movie. We can all collectively agree that Martin Scorsese is the most consistent American director working today. Is he my favorite director? No. A close second or third? Absolutely. Ironically enough, Scorsese's career is like a corpse's flat line. He's consistent, and rarely hits a total rough-patch. And if he does, it's almost so minor that it doesn't even show up on the screen. And most directors are like a living, breathing heart. It's up and it's down, it's up and it's down. Now, of course, consistency isn't always good. Look at Paul W.S. Anderson. He is consistently awful. But anyway, that's besides the point. The Wolf of Wall Street...

This film is so rich (much like any Scorsese film). I look at it as a combination of Goodfellas, Oliver Stone's Wall Street, and Miami Vice. It has the confidence and cuts of Goodfellas, the setting of Stone's Wall Street, and the physical appeal of Miami Vice. And of course the touch of Marty.

The film is 3 hours long, and I felt not a god damn second drag by. Like I said, the film is so sharp and confident that it just grabs you by the collar and takes you to wherever it's going. And it fucking goes to a fuck-ton of places.

Oh yeah, I guess I better give a little insight as to what the film is about. It's based off of the memoirs of the real-life Jordan Belfort who was a stockbroker on Wall Street, who made all of his money by defrauding his clients with fraudulent stocks.

The film is just full of excess. But none of it seems to be over-gratuitous. If this film was 100% fiction. Then this film could go down as possibly the most gratuitous film ever made. But the fact that this was a telling of a true-life story? I don't see how that makes it gratuitous. The film is fucking nuts. If they wanted to go with a title other than "The Wolf of Wall Street", I personally would go with something along the lines of "Stocks, Drugs and Rock N Roll". Unfortunately, that isn't an apt title due to "sex" missing from the title. Because almost half of the fucking film is sex or sex-related. How Scorsese achieved the R-rated is unthinkable. Let's see... The opening consists of cocaine being snorted from a prostitute's rectum/vagina, road head, and office gangbangs/orgies. And that's only the first 15 or 20 minutes. The rest of the film? Let's see... Airplane orgies, public masturbation, hotel orgies, elevator blowjobs, and the list goes on.

The other aspect that makes this film work so well is the humor. But that should come as no surprise to any lover of Marty. He manages to craft some of the funniest scenes without classifying his films as "comedies". And it's not different with "Wolf". This film is literally funnier than any comedy on this list. Almost every situation in this film makes you literally "LOL". As they would say on the internets, it brings the "LULZ".

Do I see why this film has divided critics? Yes. Do I understand why some people are so fucking uptight that they fart through their nose? No. But, fuck 'em, right?

3. Anchorman 2

Whether you like it or not, the first Anchorman is one of the most quoted films ever. Are most of the lines from the first film tired? Yes. But people still quote 'em to hell. So it only made sense to continue on with a sequel. Why it took so long? Who fucking knows. I know Adam McKay (director) and Will Ferrell were adamant about getting one green lit, but for one reason or another, Paramount kept stalling. Finally, they gave the go-ahead. And to be honest? I couldn't be happier.

I am not in love with the original Anchorman. I like it. And it still holds up, but around the time it came out (and years after), I never really cared for Will Ferrell. It wasn't until Step Brothers where his comedic chops really lined up for me (with the help of John C. Reilly, of course!). But I really liked Anchorman 2. Even more so than the first. The film went the typical Hollywood direction and made it bigger. But it actually worked in it's favor. Through all the big set-pieces came a lot of hilarious scenes. For instance, the RV scene. A tumbling RV with scorpions, bowling balls and hot grease flying around? It's just fucking stupid. And it worked.

The big boost this film had over the first was the casting. In this day and age of the internet, almost everything is spoiled (cameos, reveals, plot points, etc.). But there were some cameos that managed to steer clear out of my directions. I knew about Jim Carrey and Harrison Ford's cameos, but Will Smith and Liam Neeson? I had no idea. And it really made for a couple "fuck yeah!" moments.

One strange thing (good and bad) was what was sold to you in the trailers and ads. A lot of the jokes weren't in the final film, or were alternate versions of the jokes seen in the ads. Why is it good? Apparently, there are two alternate cuts where NO joke is the same. Literally, every joke and line is different. Why is it bad? A lot of people (myself included) were disappointed that they didn't see or hear the jokes that had been advertised. But I know once the Blu-ray comes out, the cut(s) will be available.

4. The World's End

This is a film I barely remember, but remembered that I loved. I.E.: I was fucking BOMBED. Before the film, I had done a bit of a bar crawl. I can't even tell you how much I drank that night. All I remember was that I laughed my ass off, and it took the next day to recollect what had actually happened in the film.

Edgar Wright is a director that I admire, but don't adore. I really like Shaun of the Dead, I wasn't big on Hot Fuzz (but need to give it a re-watch) and never even bothered with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. But The World's End is a homerun for me. He has a very good grasp on the films he makes, and I think that's great. Much like Scorsese and Tarantino, he knows how to cut and cut to music. It's quick, confident and effective as hell.

Moving on to the actual film. Obviously, the subject matter is a no-brainer for me. But it's the character-assignment that I love. It's usually Simon Pegg playing the brains and Nick Frost playing the goof. In The World's End, Frost is the voice of reason, and Pegg is not so much the goof, but the stupid asshole. And I thought that was a good turn-around for them.

5. Pain & Gain

This was one of the few films in the beginning of the year that I actually REALLY liked. Unlike most cinephiles, I love Michael Bay. I always looked at him as a B-movie film maker with a 200+ million dollar budget. And there are plenty of film makers that can spend 200+ million and make a completely forgettable film. For me, Bay doesn't do that. He always manages to entertain me. I've said it a thousand times, but he knows what the hell he is doing in terms of the technical aspect of film making. He may not know story at all, but he'll make those 4 words a page LOOK good. Pain & Gain is a different case, though...

For years, Bay has been trying to get this film off the ground. But robots have been running his life up until a couple years ago. And now, he finally made Pain & Gain. And it's his best movie since Armageddon. Much like The Wolf of Wall Street, this is based on a true story. The film centers around a Miami fitness trainer who wants to get rich quick. So he decides to kidnap and rob one of his undeservingly rich clients (with help from two other juicers). Naturally, all goes to hell, and they're stranded in the wreckage consisting of human limbs, crushed-craniums, women, dirty-money, and a fuck load of jail time. Situational, of course. I don't mean physically.

It's a hell of a ride. It's dark, unpredictable and most of all... Fun. Like I said, it's all based on a true story. And I actually read the original Miami New Times article the film was based off of, and I gotta' say the film may seem to fabricate and elevate situations that you didn't think could happen, but if anything, they watered it down. The shit that went down in Miami in 1995 was fucking insane. And the film did as much justice as possible without having people throwing their arms up in the theatre and leaving. Because what really happened truly was stranger than fiction.

6. Gravity

Maybe the festival circuit got the best of my brain, but I didn't find Gravity to be amazing. Every early review from every renowned festival was raving. And I just don't see how. I liked the film, but aside from the technical aspect, I can't see how it got such praise for it's storytelling. Good story? Yeah, but take away the technical achievements, it's just an okay film. I guess i just got burned by my expectations.

Don't get me wrong, Alfonso Curan is a great film maker, and every interview I've seen with him, he seems so genuine and down-plays his talent. Whereas guys like Tarantino want you to know how good they are. Curan is down to earth (no pun intended) with his discussions of film making. And I absolutely love that. And I almost feel bad for not liking Gravity as much as I wanted to. But then again, I don't. Why? Because the fucking movie made over 200+ million! Which is fucking great. A film as ambitious as it deserves it.

Anyway, I feel as if Im just justifying as to why I didn't like the film as much as I wanted. On to what I really liked about it. Kudos to the marketing department, first and foremost. Reason being, they sold NONE of the second half of the film in any of the trailers or TV spots. That is so incredibly rare nowadays. And it made the experience THAT much better. I forgot what it felt like to be surprised during a film.

Though, my one gripe that had NOTHING to do with expectations was the score. With a film like this, I almost wish there was no score. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more without a score. I feel it would have been more intense and engaging.

7. Machete Kills

Machete Kills isn't what it should have been. It could been a lot funnier, a lot more fun and a lot more cohesive. Unfortunately, it wasn't what it should have been, but I still did enjoy it. Though, Mel Gibson drives a Star Wars Land speeder. You can read my review HERE.

8. Grudge Match

The Italian Stallion vs. The Raging Bull. It's a shame the film isn't even nearly as good as either of the aforementioned characters' films. Here's a film that I felt could go either way, and couldn't be disappointed either way. From the trailers, I could tell it was going to be what I initially thought. Though, I did have hope that it would surprise me. Sadly, it didn't. But I know who is at fault for that. The Director.

When you get THEE two most iconic film boxing actors of all time in one film, you should probably get a seasoned dramatic director who knows comedy. Not a comedy director who thinks he knows drama. The guy who directed Grudge Match is the same man behind The Nutty Professor II. It's a shame because both talents involved (Stallone & DeNiro) really trained hard for the film, and it's almost all thrown away due to a generic tread-along in direction. And I'm not going to knock the director in a lack of interest. I'm sure he wanted to make a great film, but I don't think he was ever really capable of doing so.

I didn't hate the film, I just wish it was much better. I was entertained, and hell, I even laughed at parts. Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart were funny enough to pair together, and Kim Basinger was a nice addition to the cast. But I gotta' say the best casting that wasn't Stallone or DeNiro was John Bernthal as DeNiro's son. Not only does he look like his son, but he also has that DeNiro attitude.

The fight. Definitely the best part of the movie. But not all that it could be. The whole movie (much like any Rocky film) leads up to the fight. This fight should have been fucking great. But it was just too damn choppy. And that may be to favor DeNiro. Because if you have seen Rocky Balboa, you know that Stallone can give and take a hit in a shot, without a cut to "sell" it. Now, that was Stallone at 59 years old, and this is him at 66. But this is also DeNiro at 70. And I give DeNiro an immense amount of credit for doing all of this at his age. And that is how I know he actually really cared about this project. Because for years, he's been so damn lazy and tired with his roles. I don't think I've seen him physically prepare for a role this much since Cape Fear. And speaking of physicality, Im hearing a lot of people talking about Stallone's size, saying he's smaller than usual. It's intended. He's supposed to match the weight of a light heavyweight boxer, which is 168 pounds. Stallone is on record saying that he hasn't weighed that since 1983. And if you do a comparison of him in Rocky Balboa (2006) and Grudge Match (2013). Holy shit.

9. Star Trek Into Darkness

All my sobriety bled out on both the Stallone movies on this list. You can read my review HERE.

10. Man of Steel

I hate Zack Snyder. I hate Superman. I liked Man of Steel. Figure that one out. Too drunk to do so myself.
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