Sunday, January 27, 2013

Movie Review: Mama

Horror movies are movies I love to watch.  Something about being scared, being pulled out of your comfort zone that make them interesting, having you face situations that you’d never face in normal life.  The story of Mama is startling from the beginning, setting the stage for something unpleasant to come after the striking opening salvo.  The scenes open with a small child in her little sister’s bedroom, the two girls three and one.  The father bursts in after having killed their mother and his business partners.  He runs off with them, hoping to hide in the wilderness.  Unfortunately, he choose a cabin that is not empty, but haunted. Once the kids are finally found, the brother adopts them and their protector comes along.

The best part about the movie, to me, was the way the main character, Jessica Chastain’s Annabelle transforms from the self-involved rocker to pseudo-mother to the two girls.  The two little girls are portrayed amazingly by Megan Charpentier and Isabelle NĂ©lisse.  The two little girls are fantastic as troubled and feral from being in the wild for five years.  The movie could have held some sway if the ending hadn’t been so preposterous.  Not the best horror movie I’ve seen, but certainly not the worst.  Probably worth a rental, not worth more than the $6 I paid for it, despite the spectacular acting.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Movie Review: Gangster Squad

A star-studded cast committed to a high-level of acting can make any mediocre, overdone story into something shiny and new, and this was no exception.  When the words ‘based on a true story’ appear before a movie, I often wonder how much is actually true and what is dramatized for our benefit?  In this period piece, Josh Brolin’s Sgt. O’Mara is tasked to take on Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn.  The story is tired and worn, but somehow seemed less used with starlets Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who should just admit their insane attraction and get married, having adorable children that we’ll all be in awe of.  I digress.

Mickey Cohen has taken over Los Angeles, a mobster that’s moved west and moves further and further in, trying to establish himself as a permanent ‘business’ man.  His racket is ruthlessness and any means necessary, no boundaries to his wicked ambition.  Brolin’s O’Mara stands in his way, wanting a safe place and a return to the prior glory for LA.  The Chief of Police, played by Nick Nolte gives him free reign, warning him that he will have to operate outside of the law to succeed.  O’Mara happily takes this opportunity, bringing a few others along for the ride, your atypical supporting characters, many of which are expendable.

The story was really unoriginal, the characters pulled from classic mobster movies, like Gosling’s heartthrob turned vigilante after seeing someone die before his eyes.  While there is certainly depth to be found for all, it was a challenge to see in the picturesque 1949 LA.  I can’t say this is a great movie, although the cast was quite good.  The movie was just blah, but didn’t deserve the panning either.  It was ultra-violent, but that doesn’t stray from the course of most mobster movies.  Overall, it was worth $6, but I’m not sure it’s worth more than that.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Movie Review: Django Unchained

In this day and age, little is original or new in storytelling, and while the story of revenge isn’t new in Django Unchained, the characters come to life by superb acting from a stellar cast.

The story of Django Unchained follows a slave in the late 1800’s who is needed by a bounty hunter for assistance in identifying a trio of brothers that he can make a large sum of money off of.  The bounty hunter, Dr. Shultz, is German, played wonderfully by Christoph Waltz, and he does not like the concept of slavery, seeing no issue with befriending and freeing Django, played by Jamie Foxx.  Django is sold into slavery, as is custom in the times and Dr. Schultz takes him around Texas, killing white people and collecting massive amounts of money for it.

As the story progresses, Django confides in Dr. Shultz that he wants to save his wife, and Schultz comes up with a plan to free her from a wealthy land owner in Mississippi.  Calvin Candie is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, despicable and manipulative as ever.  Candie has, as his right hand, a black slave, Stevie, played by Samuel L. Jackson.  The latter realises the plan of Schultz and Django and the situation becomes dicey, the usual ending to a Tarantino film on the horizon.

Without giving the ending away, Django Unchained is yet another wonderful story told by Quentin Tarantino.  While the idea isn’t original, the acting and writing bring the story to life, making the situations in the story somehow believable despite the fact that they are utterly unbelievable.  Foxx and Waltz are stellar together, though I feel like Waltz’ character was very similar to his German Hans Landa, the same quirks and idiosyncrasies.  That does not detract from his performance, it just makes it feel familiar.  Foxx is quiet and thoughtful in his performance, but it too does not feel like new ground for the actor.  I only found DiCaprio’s despicable Candie was truly surprising, but mostly for the roots of slavery he promoted.

I was surprised to see this nominated for an Academy Award, mostly because Tarantino seems to get snubbed so frequently, but the movie is quite good and the acting is top notch.  Django is well worth the watch despite the excessive violence, gore and male nudity.