Posts tagged action films

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

In a world of Magic Mike, Jumunji remakes, and enough Men in Black movies to make your head spin a big Hollywood movie finally had the courage to be… well… really good. I remember as a kid sitting, watching those action films that came out from big Hollywood studios. They had more than big budgets and fancy effects, they had a story, they had heart, and as much as Avengers was fun and enjoyable The Dark Knight Rises is without-a-doubt the best big-budget Hollywood film to be made in years.

Nolan is a master director who’s craft comes from an expansive history of old film. And I’m not talking digital, RED camera, Canon 5d Mark 2 digital film, I’m talking spool into a camera, big expensive post-processing type of film. The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) feels more like a modern 50s drama than a story about Batman. The mood and atmosphere are giant, overwhelming, and at all times rarely (if at all) suspend your disbelief. Many superhero films leave a sense of reality behind, and sure at moments Baine can sound like Dr. Evil with his dialogue, but the audience never thinks to themselves, “well that would never happen!” This movie is grounded in a dirty, gritty, ugly reality. Even more so than The Dark Knight and Batman Begins (the film TDKR’s backstory and heart are truly from).

Nolan’s directoral skills here never stray. Whether it be a huge fight or an intimate encounter his characters, his direction leaves a heavy emotional toll on it’s viewers. The evil isn’t just your typical film evil. There is a deep essence of hate for these people. An understanding of how they became the way they are but a complete lack of how they perform the horrible actions they do. Bruce Wayne, a low voiced Christian Bale, goes through a large character transformation and even he, when he’s not yelling at a DP, can put on a good performance, for 90% of the film.

The addition of two other main heroic characters also seems like it’s too much for one film and in some ways it kind of is. The new police officer, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, and Anne Hathaway add some new spice to the table, keeping the tired formula feel fresh and new. Anne Hathaway especially gives a fantastic performance in a bar fight scene where she screams for help while fleeing the scene. It’s a blood curdling moment that is character building and emotional, it’s absolutely brilliant.

Visually the film, shot 60% on IMAX, looks amazing. It is clear, sharp, crisp, and damn it if it doesn’t sound amazing. Watching this film on IMAX will imurse you like no other IMAX movie will. It may though give you a headache as it, just like The Dark Knight before it, switches formats on you edit to edit. One scene in IMAX will then be cut and changed to a normal film ratio and back to IMAX within seconds. The only gripe of the format honestly. If you have a nice IMAX theater and a lot of extra money, go see it on IMAX, it’s an experience no HDTV can match.

The ending is something I will not, and refuse to talk about because I loathe spoilers. What I can tell you is that I left the film, just like everyone else, going “that was the BEST F$#&ING ENDING EVER!”

TDKR is a beautiful film that captures an emotional arc from it’s characters, performances, and it’s visual presence. It’s fantastic finale to the now “legendary” Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy.

Go see it. See it as soon as you can.

5 Bats out of 5

Review: Act of Valor

This movie was made specifically for people who like accurate tactical fight scenes and people who play Call of Duty. If you don’t fall into those categories you should think twice about committing two hours of your life to this film. (Before I continue I must say that we support the troops in all of their ventures. This review is focused solely on the film and does not reflect our feelings about their service to our country) The acting is horrendous. The storyline is dull and full of nothing, but the action and tactical warfare is on par with some of the best modern day warfare films out there.

Using real navy seals to film an action movie is a great idea in the writing room. “Those guys will make the movie look totally real” or “The action scenes will be jaw-dropping” were surely said when trying to get money to film Act of Valor. The reality of the situation though is that they forgot one of the most important things needed in a movie. Acting.

Everyone isn’t an actor for a reason. It’s because not everyone can do it. Even Paul Walker can act a little bit….. But these Navy Seals sure as hell didn’t take any theater classes in High School either. They all lack any emotion, any truthfulness in their voices during absolutely any moment of the film. It makes the whole thing feel that much more fake and not “real navy seals kicking ass.”

With that the plot is used as a scheme to get them from one high-intesity fight to another. Sure that’s used in a lot of action films but here it is even weaker. It’s so basic that if you’re confused by the plot you are on par intellectually with a 1st grader.

The action scenes, all over-utilizing the first person shooter vantage point, are all cinematically tight and amazingly well shot. These are the best parts of the film and make the rest of the film look like shit in comparison. If they took out all the plot and had just the action scenes back to back it would have been an hour of awesome. I would have left the theater thinking I really enjoyed that. Instead you get 2 hours of unbearable acting and amazing action scenes mixed together in a film that the most casual viewer will see and probably not enjoy even if it might move you slightly at the end.

If you play a lot of Call of Duty:
7 Modern Warfare’s out of 10

If you don’t:
3 Acts missing out of 10

Review: Haywire

In Hollywood there are many different types of action movies. From the huge blockbusters with tons of money and lots of CGI. Then there are the independent-ish type of action films. Still large-budget action films that push a creative spin on things. (Hannah, Kick-Ass) Then there is Haywire, a film that feels like you are in stop and go traffic. Where at moments you are blown away by its style, craft, and pure rawness and at others bored to death (I miss you already Bored to Death)

As basically a Bourne Identity with a female lead, Haywire follows Mallory, (Gina Carano) who may look familiar from her time on American Gladiators, a rogue agent who is double-crossed by her agency. Now she’s on the run and fighting for her life back. Okay… So it really is a female lead Bourne movie….. Director Steven Soderbergh (The Girlfriend Experience and all the ‘Oceans’ movies) through raw and violent cut scenes creates heart-pounding thrills in every single action scene in the film. The problem here is that everything in between lacks any sort of craft. Gina may be an excellent fighter (and her boobs will keep anyone distracted) but her pure lack of acting talent and emotion keeps the audience from giving a shit. At times in the action scenes you don’t care if she gets away, you are only just sitting there enjoying the fight. Gina is so bad that she made Channing Tatum’s acting look great and holy shit is that an accomplishment. Even with Michael Douglas, Ewan McGreggor, and the Shame-less Michael Fassbender Gina’s lack of skill brought the whole film down on top of her.

As action scenes go, this is where Haywire really shines. They are creative, rough, and will keep your jaw dropped to the floor. If anything you see this year could be classified as an Action-porn this is it.

For those who enjoy the fighting and the action you won’t be really disappointed. Maybe slightly though. Haywire is a good watch. For anyone who expects any more than an action flick with a crappy plot and crappy acting you will be highly disappointed. And yes….. I did expect more.

6 famous actors can’t make up for one shitty one out of 10

Review: Contraband

As much as you would expect me to pan this movie, it’s really quite the opposite. This film is a solid, highly-entertaining popcorn flick. That in itself is a huge feat nowadays (especially for Universal). Most of these big budget action films are just so hard to watch it almost makes you wanna walk out of the theater and demand your money back. But Contraband is well crafted and has A TWIST!!!!! that comes out of nowhere.

John Bryce (Mark Wahlberg) a retired smuggler (taking goods across state lines) has to take one final job to make enough cash to save his wire’s younger brother who gets in trouble with a local gang. (It’s very cliche when you say it all at once) The thing that makes this film work really well is that every aspect of this cliche-ridden film is so well-crafted that it makes it extremely enjoyable from start to finish. Marky Mark, who was by far the worst part of The Fighter, is type cast as a “bad-ass” good guy and as much as I was afraid he would ruin this film, he brought it all together. His “charm” and wit helps push the film along and keep it light even when it gets heavy.

Ben Foster and Kate Beckensale also steal the show when they are brought into the conflict. Ben can do a monologue for 2 hours straight and I’d go see it. The twists and turns of Contraband work because the acting is so finely tuned. They might be cliche, but how many times have you ate a chocolate chip cookie and still wanted another warm, out of the oven cookie? See? Metaphors work.

In what could have been a shitty start to 2012, in the month (January) of shitty movies, Contraband is an awesome beginning to a hopefully non-shitty new year.

7 Piles of cash out of 10