Archive for Reviews


A while back I was doing previews for this site and I mentioned a small-budget (nearly independent) British film, Franklyn, from first time feature writer-director Gerald McMorrow. You can check that out here, trailer included for your previewing pleasure: …wait a second…there’s something funny about that link…oh well I’m sure it’ll come to me by the end of the review.


FRANKLYN is a tale of four very non-connected people being tugged in by that ever-so-invisible fishing line we’re all being reeled in by: Fate. Layered on top of this drama is an action-packed meta-narrative taking place in an abstract alternate world: “Meanwhile City”, a Metropolis-styled Florence with shades of Gotham City, populated claustraphobically with zealots in clothes that could only have been designed by Jim Henson and Tim Burton tripping together acid tabs. In that sense, it sort of plays out like 21 Grams in terms of character and narrative, with the aesthetic sidelines of Dark City-meets-Watchmen. Granted, FRANKLYN was released before the Watchmen film, but it’s safe to say one character was at least texturally inspired by its nihilistic narrator in the squidgy mask.

Does this mix of human drama and otherworld comic-babble work? Well, yes and no. Not 100%. Our four characters each have their own (and I must stress- VERY SEPARATE) narrative strands dealing with the themes of loss, perceptions of reality, faith, and fate. In terms of loss and perception it succeeds on so many levels, but by adding the extra non-Meanwhile characters into the mix, the final product is a little unbalanced. However it’s still one hell of a trip to Disneyland, a remarkable interlude of events that almost feels vacation-like in comparison to the hum-drumness of modern-day emotional disorders.

That’s not to say in the least that the other characters are dull, they merit fascination on their own levels . In London, Eva Green plays Emelia (and another character, but we’ll stick to this), a college art student who’s thesis is filming her own suicide attempts, setting up the situations so paramedics have ample time to pick her up before she knocks on heaven’s door. Her dangerous project is somehow connected to childhood resentments  towards her father and mother, which is only briefly examined.

MEANWHILE, going fist-to-cuffs against Authority in a brown leather trench coat, Ryan Phillipe plays our masked vigilante, John Preest, on a mission against God. But is his vengeful mission real or in his head? In a fantastic use of cinematic distortion, Preest is never in London, occupying only the world he aesthetically belongs to. As he never is shown physically crossing over into contemporary London,  the question grows: Which reality is real, or more importantly, more pertinent?

The oldest character attempts to tie up this question. Peter Esser, played by a soft-spoken Bernard Hill, wanders around London in search of his missing son, giving the London setting also a narrative through line that the Emelia strand lacks. While his character is the least developed of the three Londoners, it is only in conjunction with Preest’s story that there is some sort of narrative “doom” approaching, something to keep the audience looking forward, instead of mulling over the tricky details of the jigsaw plot they’ve been trying to follow.  Thankfully, this is one of the story’s stronger points, for without it, writer-director Gerald McMorrow’s tale wouldn’t have enough suspense to keep this tangled ball of yarn rolling.

Each of these threads are intriguing, but some seem more occupational than others. Sam Riley, for instance, plays the heartbroken Milo, and very well I might add. He’s got a quiet, tender look that draws the viewer into his hurt. Just like all the other characters. However, his story strand is about a failed relationship, a seemingly doomed-before-it-started marriage, and his musings on childhood inspired true love that may or may not have been fabricated.

Emelia, Preest and Esser’s  stories link stylistically and emotionally on a more successful level, and meet up quite appropriately by the end. Milo’s, on the other hand, is simply used as a tool to perform one of the few predictable moments of the film. It’s a shame, because on his own merit, Sam Riley gives a strong performance and the story itself would make for a half-decent short film.



It’s not that it doesn’t feel at home with the piece, it’s just that it doesn’t reach the same caliber of anguish that the other characters must be going through. Yes, it follows the theme of perception, and to an event more supernatural extent, faith and fate. But by the end of the movie Milo’s payoff is cheap and, dare I say, Hollywood? I really shouldn’t, this movie is about as anti-Hollywood as you can get, even while wearing a mask and fighting a fascist state.

More time would have been better spent on developing the personal demons of the other three characters. We only get, criminally enough, one brief don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it shot of why Emelia is so determined on not-killing herself over her father. The fate of Esser’s son may come clean by the end, but Preest’s motivation towards saving a little girl’s life is hardly revealed– it floats in the background but never reaches the surface. Movies like this toe the line between rewatchable intrigue and an infuriating desire to ram your finger into the pause button.

As for my own evaluation, I’m gonna have to say I find this movie the former, even if during its viewing I was leaning towards the latter, and gladly would watch it again and again if not just for its cool visuals, well-directed acting, and incredible piano score. The mood of this movie is always appropriate, even when it jars you from personal stories of emotional breakdowns to moments of hardboiled-fantasy action. Even more of a plus is when the final twist plays out, the mystery 0f Meanwhile City will make sense, and fortunately it’s the groovy kind of sense that a lot of first time writer-directors aspire, often fruitlessly, to convey.

…With all that said and done…I’m still trying to figure out the mystery behind that link……hmmm….dammit wait…what? WHAT THE?

… looking at the date in that link I apparently wrote that preview EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO TO THIS DAY (Well, yesterday, I started watching it last night, power went out…fell asleep…etc). Based on the content of this film that’s kind of spooky, kinda DAMN SPOOKY, because this is one of those strange, dreamy films that plays on that theme of fate. Smack me on the face and call me crazy! I think I’m going to Meanwhile…

I’ve been busy working. A lot. I got a job at Six Flags America, finally putting my fantasy action mindset/obsession to good use as a stunt man in a Pirate Show. Go figure.
Falling to my Doom! edit
What can I say in terms of updates? Quick stuff–

During this Summer I saw… four movies, in theaters, me thinks?

Let’s backtrack!

I most recently saw this little gem. Its being marketed as “not a kids movie” but well, if I was a kid and I saw this thing I would probably think it was the coolest thing ever. 9 succeeds in bringing some excitement and mystery that has long been lost to children’s films since the late 90s when Pixar and Dreamworks opened up shop and explained everything at all times (with the exception of, maybe Toy Story and Wall-E). 9 is exciting, simple, unique, and effective in its final moments at giving you hope for the future. In that it provides excellent entertainment, if little more. Word of note– a LOT of this movie reminded me of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and I mean that in a GOOD way.

This was probably the best main-stream action movie of the summer. Suck it, Transformers, Wolverine, Terminator, etc etc. You got schooled by a First Time Feature Director.

Inglorious Basterds
or however the hell you spell it. Tarantino does it again, bringing us a more-clever-than-it-really-needs-to-be storyline with some great scene chewing by Brad Pitt. But the real treasure to this piece of historical fiction (or is it fictional history? I always get the two confused!) is Christoph Waltz, a man you’ll all here of very soon as this gig will most likely land him a Best Supporting nod (as the trademark laughing villain will, I predict, forever be added to the character roster for the event) and also netted him the role of the villain in the Seth Rogen lead Green Hornet film. Considering Stephen Chow dropped out and they replaced him with a pop-singer in one of Bruce Lee’s trademark original roles, this is currently the best thing Green Hornet has going for it.

Basterds is his first American movie, and he speaks 5 languages. Fluently. With better acting than any American I’ve seen in years, across the board. I believe this to be an intentional effect of Tarantino’s, as he wants to make Americans sound like stupid cliches, and make the “foreigners” sound honest and real. Its ironic his name bares such striking similarity to another actor with incredible charm and dark humor. If you can guess in the comments who I mean, I’ll send you a virtual cookie.

Entertaining dialogue ripples throughout but a dearth of action really dragged this piece under, even in its final act where we expect a little bit more than what we’re given. The only reason I complain about this is because Tarantino DOES have a knack for action scenes and he totally wastes some of his greatest potential (really, this could have been twice as exciting as Kill Bill since its more grounded), by only showing the Basterds being Inglorious for about 20 minutes of the film, with only 5 of that being action. Its 2 and a half hours long, QT, if you sell us a movie about killing NATZIS, kill us some FUCKING NATZIS.

District 9–
I don’t think many of you out there would realize how sore I felt when site co-creator Ryan told me that this movie was somewhat underwhelming. I was vehement– this movie was supposed to CHANGE summer block busters– fix what Pirates, Spidey and Transformers (two more than one) had broken!

Well to a degree, it does. Its smarter, better crafted (more efficient in pacing and consistent in style), and shorter than all three of the above films. It provides a clever and original story that bears some relevance to current events. Its satirical, it makes us think, like many Schwarzenegger movies actually used to do. The special effects are fresh and fun, and are employed inventively. With all of this, what could go wrong?

Well, the main character is almost completely unforgivably annoying, the plot twist is predictable and takes forever to get to the point, the pacing is way off early on and the final act isn’t as big as it should be. There’s some strange similarity in the pacing issues between this and Inglorious Basterds, but I think this movie, with its 45 minute first act (though I didn’t record the time, it sure as hell felt that long), really took forever to start tying together threads. And then when it finally did? Felt totally rushed for the rest of the film.

My favorite example of this is the weapons used in this sci-fi achievement, and by that I mean “weapon.” While about three types of alien guns were employed at one time or another, director Blomkamp decided using the one microwave-explodey-goo-gun every 5 seconds until the end of the film would be the most exciting choice. While the sight of someone popping like a zit because they got hit by lightning never did get old, it got…well. Old. I dunno, I think you’d have to see it to know what I mean. Even when the film’s best special effect, a freaking MECH ARMOR comes into play…it still uses the same damn space blaster! What the hell?!?!

On the positive side: District 9 has the greatest final frame of a movie I have seen in YEARS.

I still recommend seeing this movie whole-heartedly. Give Blomkamp MORE money so he can make MORE movies. He deserves whereas people like Michael Bay squander. Proof is in the pudding: District 9 cost 30 mil to make, and Transformers 2 cost over 200. If you genuinely liked Transformers 2, third grade math is beyond you and you probably can’t tell the difference between those two dollar amounts, so don’t worry, let what I mean just go right over your head anyways, you’re probably 6.

and the Best Movie of the Summer award goes to…

The Hangover–
Clever. Crisp. Refreshingly SCRIPTED (my scorn flows over to your side of the table, Apatow), and angular.

This movie had humor that most guys are familiar with but told from the perspectives of three very dissimilar men trying to survive a most peculiar situation. They go to Vegas, their best friend (and soon husband to be) disappears, and well…chaos having already ensued the night before lets just say CATASTROPHE WREAKS UTTER HAVOC.

Yeah, this movie gets nuts. Mike Tyson playing real life punch out, a wild tiger in a bathroom, a baby’s mama situation, naked asian trunk ninjas, and autistic super-gambling are just a few of the great moments spread throughout this frenetic piece of comedy. A lot of these moments are laugh out loud, a feeling I haven’t had in theaters since Superbad and very little previous to that.

Whats even better about this flick is that it contains such a great little mystery plot to drag you along. Its Screenwriting 101 but put to GOOD use. You never find yourself bored, and you usually find yourself smiling. The referencing back to the bride-to-be character keeps the compelling nature of the piece always at the front WHERE it NEEDS to BE and the final twist to the whole thing just…well it kicks you in the teeth. Its one of those moments when you just look to the person to your right. Look forward again. Smile at the screen, unable to look sad, and just go “Damn.” And that’s it. Its all you can say, cause you just had your mind blown.

When was the last time a comedy actually did that to you? Not I, said the cynical film critic.

Alright, its getting late, I have a lot of homework to do, and that was really written just to fill space on the blog. Please comment if you’ve seen any of those movies and let us know what you think. Also be sure to swing by the forums, as they’ve been slightly rejuvenated and are in serious need of some threading love.

Review: Taken

I was considering getting Max Action to write a review for this one, and he probably will soon enough, but in the meantime I’ll write down one of my own quick little ones to give you guys in the insight to Pierre Morrel’s action flick, Taken, starring Liam Neeson. This has personally been my favorite trailer for the last couple of months.

The film, as you can see in the trailer, is about a former government operative (Neeson) who specialized in “preventing” conflict. I suppose this would be most similar to Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne, but they never get into the details of what he did. There is a very amusing BBQ table talk scene (which in most movies occurs at a bar) between our hero Bryan Mills (exciting name) and his buddies from the Old Times talking about Beirut, but aside from that all we know is that Liam Neeson is a very dangerous man.

His weekend-visitation-custody daughter, Kim, asks a favor of him, and vis-a-vie her mother, Lenny (played by the milf-tascular Famke Jansen in this film, they would have had some good lookin kids…and this Katie kid is good looking. Kinda dumb and obnoxious but hey…OK so you think this parenthetical tangent is going off point but its ENTIRELY relevant to the plot because in about 2 sentences I’m going to tell you what happens, as you have seen in the trailer, and why it relates to the people in this movie being hot etc etc), tricks Bryan into signing a permission sheet to allow their daughter to go spend a month or something in Paris to see museums and stuff. Daddy Mills says “no way, the world is dangerous.” Mommy says “You’re being a paranoid jerk now sign the papers.” Then the daughter cries and screams I hate you at her dad and then he signs the papers. Too bad she was lying about seeing Museums and stuff in Paris. Dad finds this out later, however it is totally irrelevant because, as it goes with all Luc Besson produced films, the action stays in Paris. And why is that? Because paranoid secret agent Daddy was right! The world IS a dangerous place, and within 15 minutes of arriving in Paris, the daughter gets kidnapped by sex traffickers.

Moral of the movie: Never Question Liam Neeson. Now this has happened on multiple occasions in multiple films, and aside from the God-awful The Haunting, Liam Neeson has always been the unstoppable correctomundo dude. He’s been a Jedi, he’s saved thousands of Jews, and he’s even been the Christian God and Savior in Large Feline Form. For those who say “But he died in Batman Begins!” obviously you don’t know the REAL story about Ra’s Al Ghoul, which can be summed up in two words: Lazerus Pit.

Ahem, back to the Taken review…my apologies. Anyways, Kim gets kidnapped and its up to Bryan, under the approval (long overdue I’m sure) of Lenny and her new husband Stuart, to go get her. They have finally accepted the fact that only Bryan Mills is awesome enough, regardless of how much they hated the whole “Former CIA Guy” thing before, to rescue their daughter, and send no one else to get her. Now I get it– you have the best of the best already, why not send out milk cartons? Why not offer a ransom? (Stuart bought her, literally, a horse for her birthday. He owns oil or something). Hell if it’s sex trafficking why not go there and buy her with your oodles of cash? Nope, we need to send the Man himself after his daughter, using her as a human Macguffin so that he can mow down over 50 people, most of which with his bare hands. Don’t expect any growing relationship or revelations scenes like Besson’s best screen effort, and one of our personal favorites, Leon, to occur in this one. Just a lot of Sayoc Kali/Krav Maga styled Assassination killing strikes over and over again with a couple of chases thrown in between for good measure.

I’m going to be honest here, while I did over all enjoy the film, it pretty much ends up being a better-shot-modernly-edited Steven Segal film, only with a better actor at his most tepid level of performance. In some scenes he’s very good. My favorite moment of his, and I believe its in the above trailer, is when he is wrapping up a karaoke machine for his daughter. He is methodical, he is accurate, and he does not mess up like many people would. The gift is wrapped better than your grandmother could do it, because Bryan Mills is a very dangerous man, and what makes him dangerous is his 110% dedication to everything. However in some scenes, oddly enough the family ones, he is very…TV-dad-ish, and not strange in the least. Cut back to when he’s in ULTRA KILL MODE and he will beat women, destroy property, and as he threatens, “tear down the Eiffel Tower” to get his daughter back. If nothing else, this movie proves all of that to be true, and Neeson’s performance is at its best when he’s dishing out the goods. However, it isn’t exactly anything special, which is unfortunate.

So yes, Morrel and Neeson trust each other, but I think at some times this movie was a little too trusting. Released to the US a year later as PG-13 thriller along the lines of the Bourne films, the violence in this “revenge” film is very dulled down. Gunshots are not loud, punches have impact, but sometimes work too well, and the violence is mostly offscreen. This isn’t all a bad thing, of course, but I did expect a little more brutality than this in this sort of film. When your main character is a Very Dangerous Man, yes he should be able to go through people like butter, but at times Taken gets ridiculous. Liam Neeson literally defeats over 50 % of his opponents in one or two hits. Supposedly many of these people are very dastardly, and some of them should be high-ranking body guard types, much like himself, but they never put up a fight at all, whatsoever.

When James Bond does this, I expect it because he is the nation’s top, demigod operative. When Jason Bourne does this, he doesn’t expect it but demonstrates an art that he doesn’t want, one that twisted his brain to the tightest screw. Neeson’s character is almost too powerful for the movie to stay thrilling, and because of this we know he’s going to get his daughter back from the outset and it devolves into a “how many people CAN Neeson kill while getting his daughter back?” hypothesis, rather than a “How many people will he Have to kill?” as it was in the Old Days. The answer is, of course, “a lot,” but because we never see the majority of the violence or it is all so “BANG KNOCKOUT” styled, it doesn’t feel all that exciting at times. This becomes further flawed when he is finally trapped by the badguys and is saved by the world’s lamest Deus Ex Machina, and not by any part of his skills.

Don’t get me wrong though- the action is INCREDIBLY shot, Morrel will be a big name in action movies to come if he keeps it up, he simply needs to go back to his hard-hitting B13 routes and ditch the super-killer main characters. Have some fun Morrel! Don’t fall into the recent trend of super-agent-can’t-be-stopped that Craig and Damon have created. Christ I think even Statham took more damage in his last couple of films…

I will end this review simply stating I liked the movie, but I don’t think its as high caliber as I was hoping for. It flows very fast, has a great pace, some cool moves for the Kali/Arnis enthusiast, and Neeson does make a pretty cool action hero. The plot, even though I have made fun of it, doesn’t have any real gaping holes, it just doesn’t go past the level of “serviceable” either. Morrel’s best effort, District B13, was an example of a movie that does such a thing, and most of Besson’s work has been more than capable of that in the past. It’s time to kick it up a notch, guys. Go back to the drawing board and just add some meat to the bone you’ve structured so damn well!

Mean Guns Quick Review

Ok, I know what you guys out there in blog land are thinking: A Christopher Lambert movie that ISN’T Highlander isn’t really worth anything. Well my friends, you’d be absolutely WRONG! Here’s my ghettolicious review of MEAN GUNS (1996) by Albert Pyun!

Mean Guns, a B-Action movie directed by Albert Pyun, is a non-stop crazy train of violence and comedy. It contains both utter malice and over-the-top machismo charisma thanks to a collection of leads and supports that play each of their simple parts to the most amusing letters possible.

So where to begin? How bout that plot! It’s all in the tagline, baby! 100 Assassins, 1,000 Guns, 10,000,000 Dollars! Ice T himself spells it out to his top-tier gamers: The World’s Best Assassins From the World’s Most Powerful Syndicate. They arrive at a state-of-the-art prison (which looks more like an uptown high school to me, but hey, that lighting makes it shine!) under no pretense whatsoever except to heed the call of their elite syndicate. The game? Fight to the death, cause all you motha-fuckas betrayed at some point–big or small it’s ALL THE SAME. Think the motivation of the badguy from Oldboy on a corporate level, and just as messy and impersonal and BOOM you’ve got the motivation of…well people you never see. But that’s beside the point because they get their personification through Ice T’s “platinum” grill yo!

The follow through is simple: Three players can win the game, claim a split of the money, and leave with their lives (I won’t spoil the twist where the syndicate is going to backstab them in the end and kill them all anyways…oops). This is all supported by the amazing cast of crazy people that Pyun and his writer Andrew Witham have created: Lou the psycho played by Lambert, a three sweet ass bitches (one kicks ass, one complains a lot, guess which one is hotter?), two hilarious birds known as Crow and Hoss, and Marcus the cold-blooded badass as played by an immensely under appreciated Michael Halsey. After the released of a case of guns and a box of baseball bats upon the crowd, CHAOS ENSUES. The main characters go through the prison forming bonds, backstabbing each other, and murderin otha gangstaz who get in der wayz. Deez G’s all play it fo Real yo, bringin out da beats to make dis gangsta ass film some heavy shit.

What I mean to say is that Lambert’s crafting of the character Lou is quite different from his typical shy-but-cunning Mcleoud persona of the Highlander series (or pretty much every other movie he’s ever done since). He brings such a joyous bloodlust to the role that it becomes hilarious contagious, bridging the gap of cheese-that-could be to enjoyable B-movie killtacularocity. There’s some range provided for his character as well, with comedic lines, bad ass looks, and even some real dramatic pauses in the end. I liked Lou. He was a cool character, with action moves such as running across table tops, wielding two handguns and smiling while being shot at, it was like watching some bastardized American version of Devil May Cry– and you all out there know my love for DMC.

Bringing a balance to Lambert’s over-the-top madman is Marcus, played effortlessly, flawlessly, and damn near wordlessly by Michael Halsey. Now Mike hasn’t been in a lot of things people would remember, and I’m not sure if this is the one he’d want to be remembered for, but if I had to be known for a performance I’d pick this one: The man freaking channels Charles Bronson’s natural bravado and quiet masculine power from Once Upon a Time in the West as if he had just played Ouija with a Death Wish box set. He’s the kind of killer who is quiet, composed, and never misses a shot simply because he “timed it right” rather than has super-draw abilities (more on that by the end of the film) and impresses more with his piercing gaze than any crazed-kill one liner could ever accomplish. He’s really the main highlight to this show and its sad to say he didn’t get nearly as much credit for holding this movie together as DA T or Chris Lambert.

So what do you get when you throw a Ghetto Gangsta, a Foreign Nutjob, and a Trans-Historical Gunman character into a death match? You get 100% pure awesome. The fights are brutal without being bloody, complimented with great sound effects that really pound the senses without the use of bloodpacks. The action is messy without being incongruous allowing the editing to keep it sharp and painful, and the comedy is stylishly timed keeping the film from feeling far too serious. Nods to greater works are peppered throughout, including but not limited to John Woo flicks like Hard Boiled and Sergio Leone films like The Good The Bad and the Ugly; the latter of which has a familiar melody possibly mimicked into the score of Pyun’s movie. Its a real collage of hand-to-hand, bat-to-face, gun-fu combat all kicked into overddrive.

If you find this movie, please buy it! It is a real treasure of B cinema and is a perfect template for amateur action makers to follow. And it sure as hell had a better story than Paul Anderson’s recent action disaster Death Race. It probably cost one quarter of the budget as well! You wanna make action movies, then get MEAN GUNS and learn sometin you FOO!

Into the Wild

This isn’t really going to be a review, simply a reflection.

Tonight I watched a movie that I had been cautiously avoiding for the last few months. The story of Chris McCandles has been far from mind for three years since I read it in my senior year of high school. Sitting in a factory line desk, taking notes from a materialistic, sports-enthused history teacher, and trying hard to ignore the hypocrisy and mindlessness of recent American history, this book was the only thing I came close to enjoying in that class. Alex Supertramp, as Mccandles wanted to be known during his journey, was a half-genius, half crazy privileged white American male who gave up his hard earned savings, college degree, and chances for a rational future in 1990 to go live on the land of modern America.

For this, he learned much, met many, influenced a handful, and died alone in the very wilderness he so loved.

I sit here, typing on a computer- my main occupation consisting primarily of machines, electronics, and permits- knowing full well my life could have easily become that. I had tried to leave home many times in my high school years. Sometimes driving, sometimes walking, sometimes running. I never made it much further than a few miles. I once walked maybe four or five down the local tracks until I came across the Shady Grove Metro station.

I called my mom to pick me up, if I remember correctly. It was always just to blow off steam.

What Alex had that I don’t, however, was a real vision of getting lost. Getting away and coming to a state of nothingness. Mono-no-aware. Complete letting go and embracing the surrounding.

It is only then, after all, that we can truly start over.

I write all this, thought provoked by a spinning disc in a DVD player in the utmost disdain. I almost let this movie pass me by. I should not have been afraid. Though it does make me wish I could take such a journey or live such a life for some time, it did not drive me mad with the hatred for a society I am very much a part of. It did not turn me against my current lifestyle.

I recommend this movie fully without any caution to anyone and everyone. If you don’t like the story, hell, at least you can see a plethora of On Location shooting of parts of America you’ll probably never visit (or at least completely appreciate). The acting can sometimes feel preachy, but over all it is potent and alive. Knowing that these actors like Vince Vaughn and Hal Halbrook are playing REAL LIFE people who REALLY met and knew this kid with words taken from the amazing book by Jack Krakeur brings so much more emotion to the viewing. The beauty of the cinematography, the graceful montage editing, and the overpowering quotes of such great writers as Tolstoy, London, and Thoreau used in the narration really cements this movie as a work of art and truth.

Not my favorite movie. It most likely won’t break my top 25, though it certainly is one I will purchase, remember, and look back to when I feel like I’ve been stuck in my house for a day too long.