Monday, August 25, 2014

Movie Review: Sin City 2

About twenty years ago a movie came out that was mostly all black and white with touches of colour.  A little over ten years later, another move tried the same thing.  The idea of showing a black and white movie in an era where loud, vibrant colours rule the day, it is a breath of fresh air.  The first movie I’m referencing is Schindler’s List, a movie not to be watched without a box of tissues close at hand.  The second movie I’m referencing is Sin City, the sequel of which I watched this weekend.  What made any of these movies that much more stark was the contrast of colour against the nothingness of black and white.  It might seem disrespectful to bring Sin City into the same sentence with Schindler’s List, but from a purely cinematic perspective, the two seem to share a link.  Needless to say, the sequel to the 2005 hit, Sin City: A Dame to Kill for, has no connexion to either of the aforementioned movies save the presentation.

The movie begins with Marv, a somewhat deformed man who’s sole purpose on this earth is to beat things up, out of sorts and uncertain how he got where he got.  Behind him is a torn up patrol car and blood.  This doesn’t seem to trouble him in the least and the lack of colour makes it seem normal.  The movie doesn’t get any more interesting or compelling from this opening salvo and what follows are a series of disjointed yet connected stories leading to the murder of the main villains of the movie.  The first is Eva, the dame that is worth killing for from the title, played by a not dressed enough Eva Green.  Incidentally, after seeing Penny Dreadful earlier this year, I think someone should buy the woman some clothes!  The other villain is the father of the main villain from the first movie, a senator who is above the law.

The story turns into an orgy of blood and violence with far too many women wearing next to nothing.  The garishness from the first movie is lost to an abundance of nothing.  It was as if the movie was void of anything of value, the actors moving, the story progressing and yet nothing of consequence seemed to occur.  I felt increasingly bored and uninterested as the movie progressed.  There was little that surprised me and less to keep me engaged.  I can’t recommend this movie and wish it had some staying power, as the first movie had.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Movie Review: Let’s Be Cops

Somehow I didn’t realise the main actor in this movie was Damon Wayans’ son.  In retrospect, that was amazingly dense of me.  He looks a lot like his father and was slightly funnier, or perhaps the story had a little more to it.  The premise of the movie isn’t all that plausible, but you expect that at most comedies, or at least I do.  Justin (Wayans) and his roommate Ryan, played by Jake Johnson, played well off of each other throughout the story.  The two are in their thirties and have amounted to next to nothing, having moved from Ohio to LA in hopes of making something of themselves.  Ryan mistakes an invitation to a masquerade as a costume party and the two show up in cop uniforms, the same ones Justin had used to pitch his game idea.  After they leave the party, they discover that people really do mistake them for cops and they get up to all kinds of trouble.  Ryan doesn’t have a daytime job and begins to train himself to be a cop, getting embroiled into a huge operation of smuggled goods.

The story is far from perfect.  There are all sorts of really silly things that happen that you have to suspend great amounts of disbelief for, and at the same time, I really enjoyed it.  There was a point where Justin is being called a wimp (I’m making that G for the audience), and he decides to go into work and really go for it instead of being meek and scared, and it works.  While the moral of the movie is absurd, it had some staying power and with enough laughs and some slight drama, it was worth the $7 for sure.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Since Joss Whedon has got involved with Marvel and Disney, there is a different sort of expectation to all of the movies.  The Avengers, which feature the likes of Iron Man, Captain America and other star-studded characters and actors is the franchise that mints money for Marvel and Disney.  The latter knows how to milk a profitable cow and so they’ve delved further into the comic giant’s archives and unearthed the lesser popular Guardians of the Galaxy.
The story is one I haven’t heard, a comic I’ve never read and characters I’m utterly unfamiliar with.  This is usually a good thing for comics, less so, it seems, for independent properties.  There is some hidden depth to comics that I can’t quite quantify, something that Hollywood has yet to replicate with their big-budget movies.

The Guardians of the Galaxy starts with our title character, Peter Quill, watches his mother pass away and is abducted from Earth in the span of a few short minutes.  The story then picks up with Quill all grown and a bit of a roguish character.  He steals something that is sought after from around the universe and the chase begins.

The trailers don’t do the movie, or characters, enough justice.  The mixing of characters, their introductions and weaving of the friendships of the characters is heartfelt and a few napkins might be helpful while watching.  There are some very predictable elements to the story and the execution of the scenes by the able cast makes the whole thing feel like a surprise throughout.  It is nice to feel surprised and see things that pull at you, either to laugh or cry.  Hollywood has lost that effect on me for the most part, but it was nice to enjoy it once again.  I saw this in 3D and it was good enough that I’d say you might enjoy it as such.

The movie was fun.  The actors were superb.  I didn’t know Chris Pratt at all and he made Quill a relatable character that you wanted to root for.  Bradly Cooper was utterly outstanding as the voice of Rocket, the raccoon, and his performance (once again for me, as he was the only redeeming quality to Silver Linings Playbook), is just sublime.  That man brought this pint-sized character to the forefront of the movie and the heart and soul of the story.  This is one you won’t want to miss on the big screen.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Movie Review: Lucy

When I had first seen trailers for this movie, I had hoped it would be one of those groundbreaking type of movies for women, that didn’t quite happen, but it wasn’t half bad, or half good either, really.  The story revolves around this woman who is in Taiwan and living it up.  Her so-called boyfriend of one week handcuffs a mystery case to her arm and sends her into a building to deliver it.  It doesn’t get better for the main character from there, nor the audience, really.

The story felt familiar and then I realized there was a movie with that guy from the Hangover, Bradley Cooper, with a similar premise, Limitless.  After that discovery, it kind of felt anticlimactic.  The entire movie has over the top antics and action sequences, a good summer blockbuster, but the story didn’t have much staying power.  The idea that humans only access 10% of their brain and then allowing one person to access the rest through recreational pharmaceuticals makes it less palpable. 

I wanted to enjoy the movie, but the lackluster reviews set me up and once I saw the movie, it just never drew me in or blew me away.  I want to like Scarlett Johansson, but outside of the Marvel world, this character didn’t have enough charisma to make her interesting. In a way, having the character portrayed as clinical instead of human made it ever harder to feel connected to the story or character at all.  As Lucy becomes smarter, she becomes less human, but there was so little time with “human” Lucy that it all felt very put on.

I can’t, in good faith, recommend this movie, but for $7, not $12, it might be worth seeing.  Either way I’m more excited about the Guardians movie coming out this coming weekend.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Bosnia List

One good thing about being in a book club is that it encourages me to read books I would normally never pick up.  My sister, who is currently stationed in Bosnia, selected this book.  The topic of the book, as Muslims, makes it resonate that much more.  Sadly, the author’s attitude shine through the book, making it more about how he is a 12-year old in a 30-year old body.

The novel is broken up into present and past segments.  Mr. Trebincevic was 12 years old when Serbian leader Slobodan Milosovic decided that ethnic cleansing was the way to purge Muslims from Serbia.  What follows is Mr. Trebincevic account of things as seen through his eyes at 12, but also how he never once let go of the feelings of hatred that were placed.  I won’t deny that what he lives through is not devastating.  Watching people who used to be your friends turn on you and try to kill you would scar anyone, but that is what therapists are for.

The information, taken out of the blind revenge Mr. Trebincevic displays throughout, is horrifying.  Muslims were corralled and quarantined, killed at the drop of a hat, brutalized for fun and all in the name of an insane leader.  Sounds familiar?  It should, and yet as even I look back, few if any nations stepped in to stop any of it from happening.  What I learned most from this book was that what happened in Bosnia was allowed to happen by the nations of the world.  And while I would hate to talk politics further, what is happening in Israel seems eerily similar, save that the Muslims there are able to fight back, though they’re fight Goliath, who has the backing of some of the strongest nations in the world.

There was a curious discovery I made early on in the book, while his family was Muslim in name, it didn’t sound like they practiced any of the tenants of Islam and this made their punishment almost that much worse since they were hardly Muslim at all.  By the end of the novel, the only thing that Mr. Trebincevic did that followed Islamic rules was not eating pork.  He did not pray five times a day, he did not fast during the holy month, he did not seem familiar with reading the holy book.  This colored the book further for me.

I feel like a history book might have been a better source of information than Mr. Trebincevic rabid vengeance and his desire to tell of anyone who did him wrong.  At one point during the narrative, his father and brother are taken to a camp, presumably to be killed, yet neither of them exhibited the same blind hatred that the author did.  I can’t presume to understand how he might have felt, but he had no forgiveness in his heart and had no gratitude for surviving the harrowing experience.  Instead of being thankful for being alive, having a great job, parents that sacrificed everything so they could have a decent living, Mr. Trebincevic did nothing but grouse and complain about how unfair his life had been.  I am sure there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims who would gladly have traded places with him.  It is hard to sympathize, or empathize, with an author when he displays such a great amount of arrogance.  It isn’t until the very end of the book that he sounds, still petulant, but realizes he might have been the lucky one.  You think?  If you read this book, the information and story of Bosnian Muslims deserves to be told, I just wish it had been done by someone who wasn’t so unpleasant and ungrateful as Mr. Trebincevic.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Movie Review: Purge: Anarchy

The Purge came out last year, a new idea on the future in horror movie form.  The first movie centered around a family who sold security systems in America for the one day a year when all crimes were legal, including murder.  The idea was a population control mechanism, though it didn’t seem to always work out that way, being a way for people to kill others.  The movie alluded to crime dropping significantly because of this one day, letting people act out their aggregations in a ‘healthy’ way.

The only flaw of the first movie is that it followed one family and the revenge the neighbors wished to enact upon them.  In this sequel, the original is a distant memory and now the world is acclimated to this activity and the viewer follows the lives of several different groups who are being pursued for being out and not at home during the annual night of the purge.

The different groups that are followed were rather stereotypical, yet they still added a little variety through the narrative allowing them to buck the norms that would be expected for each character.  The person who you might think would be the first to die, isn’t who you expect and it flies in the face of a lot of what we expect.

What this sequel did that built off of the original is it gave context to the first movie, to what society would be like if this were a reality.  If the world turned to this, there would be order in the chaos, but there would be those who would realize that this is a way for the government to control the lower classes, as they were the ones who were purged more than the wealthy.  The story took some eventful turns which kept me engaged and interested throughout.  This is a nice entry to the horror movies that have come out in 2014.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Movie Review: Snowpiercer

In most cases I don’t go in for the triple AAA Hollywood action movie.  When I go to the movies, while I do like to be distracted, I want it to have some semblance of order and not just be over the top.  When I read about this movie in Entertainment Weekly, they made it sound like it was a new-age action movie, something I’d never seen before.  That wasn’t entirely true, but it wasn’t wrong either.  The movie delivers enough story to make the over-the-top action seem like a second element to the story itself.  There may be SPOILERS below, if you plan on seeing this movie and want to be surprised.

The premise of the movie centres around a train that is travelling around the world, which has turned to ice for reasons that were never established.  Chris Evans plays Curtis, a man who is stuck in the back of the train, what would be considered steerage of the Titanic.  The train is comprised of different sections where people who paid more live in the lap of luxury, and those who don’t, they are relegated to live in poverty.  With the outside world gone, the class system is preserved in this train.  Curtis leads the back of the train forward in an attempt to take the train and no longer be cowed the affluent. 

The story unfolds with a delightful ensemble cast supporting Evans, including Tilda Swinton playing a love-to-hate villain as well as Octavia Spencer as a crazy mother separated for her son.  There was also a father-daughter combo who were playing a very curious role of seemingly addicts, but the addicts were collecting the drugs for use as an explosive as opposed to abusing.  When Evans finally gets to the end of the train, the story twists again, revealing the plot that he was set up to come forward from the beginning and must now decide to inherit the role of the man in the engine room or not.  The movie ends in a chaotic sort of way, perhaps to give us hope that the world hasn’t ended, but it still looks bleak.  A very unusual action adventure that kept me engaged and guessing.