Friday, June 26, 2015

Kick-Ass (2010)

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writers: Mark Millar, John Romita Jr., Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn

Composers: Marius De Vries, Ilan Eshkeri, Henry Jackman, John Murphy

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth McGovern, Christopher Mintz-PLAsse, Mark Strong, Dexter Fletcher, Clark Duke, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Craig Ferguson, Xander Berkeley

More info: IMDb

Tagline: I can't fly. But I can kick your ass.

Plot:  Dave Lizewski is an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training or meaningful reason to do so.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I read the comic a couple of years ago and loved it yet it still took me this long to get around to pulling this off the shelf and watch the damn thing.  It's great and it does a fine job of staying faithful to the comic.  The cast is great but it's Moretz and Hitgirl that steals the show.   The pacing is quick and even though it's pretty obvious of its comic origins, it's also violent as shit and it totally embraces it.  I'm so glad they went the 'R' rated route. Anything less would have been insulting to the original material.  I'm looking forward to the sequel but I hear it's a letdown to the comic sequel (which I read and liked).

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Prayer for the Dying (1987)

Director: Mike Hodges

Writers: Jack Higgins, Edmund Ward, Martin Lynch

Composer: Bill Conti

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Bob Hoskins, Alan Bates, Sammi Davis, Christopher Fulford, Liam Neeson, Leonard Termo, Camille Coduri, Alison Doody, Anthony Head

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They want his heart, his mind, his blood.  He wants his freedom.

Plot:  Martin Fallon is an IRA bomber who tries to blow up a troop truck but instead kills a bus load of school children. He loses heart and quits the movement and goes to London trying to leave the U.K. and start a new life. The IRA wants him back (he knows too much) and the local crime boss, Meehan, will only help him if he performs one last hit, on a rival crime boss. When Fallon does perform the hit, he is seen by a catholic priest. He refuses to kill an innocent again and must find a way to escape the police without killing the priest who can identify him.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Considering the director, I expected more.  It's said that he and Rourke disowned the film after the producers mucked with it.  I assume that their touches drastically changed the film.  As it stands, it's rather tedious.  You know what everyone wants pretty early on and there isn't much to surprise you.  The silly ending with the bomb on top of the church that threatens to kill the four main characters (still alive) is rather silly.  What's more, the two you expect to live do and one of the dead is miraculously not instantly killed and goes on to survive just long enough to say a few words.  Utterly ridiculous.  Rourke's performance isn't anything to write home about.  I didn't care for him at all.  He's pouty, quiet and looks like he's carrying the world on his shoulders but he's too cool for school at the same time.  Fans of his who get wet underpants just thinking about him will LOVE him in this.  Hoskins, though, is fantastic as usual.  Alan Bates is fun as the mob boss who hires Rourke and then wants to finish the job Rourke couldn't.  He starts out as an interesting villain but somewhere along the way he loses that spark of fun and just becomes the simple-minded heavy.  That's simplifying it too much I think.  It was probably his dumb, over the top manner of elaborately dispensing of his target.  Conti's score was nice.  Ultimately the picture offers some nice moments with Hoskins and Bates and early roles for Neeson and Head, but Rourke's bad boy with a redeeming heart of gold doesn't work for me in that "look at me" way.  It's tiresome.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Spy (2015)

Director: Paul Feig

Writer: Paul Feig

Composer: Theodore Shapiro

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Allison Janney, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Serafinowicz

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  One of the guys.  One of the spies.

Plot: A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

The bottom line is I laughed my ass off.  Melissa McCarthy is hilarious.  It's really weird getting used to Jude Law's American accent.  I've never laughed so hard at Jason Statham.  I love Allison Janney in everything.  Rose Byrne's accent was irritating and inconsistent (something that's pointed out briefly by Susan (McCarthy)), Miranda Hart was a fresh and funny-as-shit face out of nowhere (and she needs to have my babies), Bobby Cannavale has lost some weight since I saw him last and he's almost unrecognizable and Peter Serafinowicz was hilariously fabulous.  The story is fun and it often doesn't go where you think it will.  There's a lot more under the surface than just fat jokes and because they had something more to say than just throw some jokes out, I was surprised they didn't get even more serious with it.  Except for Byrne (or maybe it was just her character that irritated me), I REALLY dug the cast.  As the film opened and the score was under way I could swear it was David Arnold.  I was shocked to see that it was Shapiro, someone I hadn't even heard of before.  His score has some strong elements of a Bond score but without aping one.  There were some subtleties in it that long-time Bond music aficionados will get a kick out of.  I have to admit that the trailer made this look like a stupid, silly film that's relying on the one gag of the female lead being a fat fish out of water.  It's rather deceiving. What you don't get a sense of is that this is a stupendously funny movie.  I hope it's wildly successful.  It deserves it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Director: George Miller

Writers: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris

Composer: Junkie XL

Staring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abby Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, Richard Carter

More info: IMDb

Tagline: What a lovely day.

Plot: In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Wow.  It's hard to think that it's been 30 years since MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985).  I'd like to have had one sooner but better late than never.  It's a really fun flick that keeps the action going almost non-stop.  Seriously, it's practically a two-hour car chase and the action is fantastic.  I loved that Miller went with is much on-camera practical effects as he did.  The quality shows and it feels more grounded in real life for as much as these stunts look and feel like they're real.  Some of the CGI is obvious but I don't care.  Oh, and there are a nice number of neat and unexpected deaths.  It's a great, fun Summer ride and I'm glad I caught it on the big screen first (in 2D and it looks great...I can't see how 3D would help it much).  Theron gives a good performance.  I've got so much respect for her.  For being one of the most beautiful actresses (and talented) out there, she has no problem making herself look weathered and beaten.  Aside from all of the great stunts and barren desert location shooting, there are a couple of things worth pointing out.  Tom Hardy doesn't have nearly enough to do to the point of wondering about calling it a Mad Max movie.  He does fine in the role I guess but there's not much room for acting for him in this picture.  There were a few moments where he had that look that would fit right in as Indiana Jones.  The role of Max was close to generic as so much as there are a slew of actors that could have done the role and it wouldn't have mattered much.  I would've liked to have seen more Max.  Still, despite those minor nit picks, it's a thrilling ride that comfortably fits into the Mad Max universe.  If you're wondering where it fits in the scheme of things, it's not as good as MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981), one of the greatest action movies EVER, and it's a damn sight better than THUNDERDOME.  One thing that would've made this picture better is having Mel Gibson back in the role despite his age and shitty racist comments.  That would have been fucking awesome!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Director: Joss Whedon

Writer: Joss Whedon

Composers: Danny Elfman, Brian Tyler

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel Jackson, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris elba, Stellan Skarsgard

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A new age begins

Plot: When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it's up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

A funny thing happened on the way to the build-up of waiting all this time for the sequel to THE AVENGERS (2012) no point was I all that excited.  I loved the first one and I've dug the various character franchise films (not so much on the Thor pictures).  But I couldn't get thrilled to see this movie.  I just returned from seeing it in Imax 3D (the 3D is OK and it didn't feel like it's a must-see in 3D).  It's a good and worthy follow-up to the first film.  All of the characters get their moments in the spotlight and James Spader's voice work is fantastic.  I REALLY dug Ultron.  I could've used more thanks to Spader's performance.  It was great seeing Andy Serkis in a minor part that felt like more of an extended scene than anything else but it was still fun and I'm glad it made the final cut.  We get action from the get-go and a nice little string of reveals for each character and their badassitudeness.  Caps is still my favorite.  There are little bits that annoy me like when Maximoff (Taylor-Johnson) does that sideways head snap thing when he's about to cut loose on a foe.  I hate that shit.  This is a darker film than the first with a lot less humor which kind of hurts the picture.  I loved the tone of the first film and the playfulness the characters had.  That's mostly gone here.  It's still a very good movie despite its shortcomings.  I read this week that Whedon wanted to release his 3.5 hour cut and said that there would be an extended edition on the home video release.  I hope so.  I'd like to spend more time with these kids.  Once you see the Thanos bit shortly after the end credits roll, there's no need to stay since they didn't include an after-the-credits bit at the tail end.  All you get is "The Avengers will return".  And I had to pee so fucking bad. I was pissed (figuratively) that I waited through 4,000 names for nothing.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Journey Into Fear (1943)

Director: Norman Foster, Orson Welles

Writers: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Eric Ambler, Richard Collins, Ben Hecht

Composer: Roy Webb

Starring: Joseph Cotten, Dolores del Rio, Ruth Warrick, Agnes Moorehead, Jack Durant, Everett Sloane, Eustace Wyatt, Frank Readick, Edgar Barrier, Jack Moss, Stefan Scnabel, Hans Conried, Robert Meltzer, Richard Bennett, Orson Welles

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Welles and Del Rio together! as Terror Man vs. Leopard Woman--for possession of a mysterious stranger in the powder-keg Middle East...a man with a military secret worth more than his love and his life!...It's menace melodrama thrilled with mighty mystery and suspense...SEE IT!

Plot: A Navy engineer returning to the U.S. with his wife from a conference finds himself pursued by Nazi agents who are out to kill him. Without a word to his wife, he flees the hotel the couple is staying in and boards a ship only to find, after the ship sails, that the agents have followed him.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Hmmmm.  It's not a bad film by any means but it's not really all that great.  It's missing something or a lot of somethings.  It starts off with a bang and moves at a nice clip.  It's fun watching Howard (Cotten) get whisked away from his wife and somehow end up on a ship without his getting a word out to his wife where he is.  I can see how easily it can happen and it was fun seeing Howard get the runaround.  We can clearly see what's happening but he's in the middle of it and he's barely has time to make sense of it all.  Orson Welles is in it a little and he's a load of fun to watch.  What's weird is that there should have been more to the story.  It's only 68 minutes long which works to a degree but it would have been nice to stick around longer.  Maybe the studio forced the time limit.  Maybe there was more to tell but the film makers were restricted.  Beats me. I'm certainly happy to have seen it now but it's not something I'll be revisiting.  There are far too many other film noirs and thrillers from the forties that I haven't gotten to yet. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hooper (1978)

Director: Hal Needham

Writers: Thomas Rickman, Bill Kerby, Walt Green, Walter S. Herndon, James Best

Composer: Bill Justis

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Jan-Michael Vincent, Sally Field, Brian Keith, John Marley, Robert Klein, James Best, Adam West, Alfie Wise, Terry Bradshaw, Norman Grabowski, George Furth, Jim Burk, Don 'Red' Barry, Robert Tessier

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It just ain't summer without Burt!

Plot: Aging stuntman Sonny Hooper is still on top as one of the best stuntmen in the business. But up and coming Ski is starting to do bigger and better stunts. Hooper has the experience to setup a stunt safely, and Ski lacks the common sense to know when a stunt is too dangerous. Maybe together, along with their fun loving buddies, they can do a stunt together that will surpass anything that anyone has done.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yup.

I bought this as a blind buy on Blu-ray (it was under ten bucks and it was released a couple of weeks ago in widescreen for the first time).  I normally don't do that but I figured the price was right and the cast and crew were people I really dig and it's from an era of fun movie making that I'm particularly fond of.  The sweet thing is I was right to do so.  It's a really fun flick.  It's Burt, Sally and Hal riding off the surprise hit high of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977) and it looks like everyone is having a great time.  I was really surprised by how the professional relationship between Hooper (Reynolds) and Ski (Vincent) stayed healthy through the end.  Usually you'd have a young upstart come in and try and one-up and squeeze the old guy out but not this picture.  There's a genuine admiration from the young guy to the older one and it was refreshing. There are lots of great stunts (as you'd expect) ending with the huge stunt-laden sequence at the end.  SMOKEY gets a bit too silly for me but this film feels a lot more grounded in reality (and I do realize that stunts are a lot more calculated than how easily they perform them in this picture) and it's nice to see Burt-in-his-prime in a film I hadn't seen before.  The Warner Bros. Blu-ray has a great looking transfer that feels 1970s but the only extra is a fullscreen trailer.  That's right, a fullscreen trailer.  That's just pathetic on two fronts.