Friday, September 21, 2012

Getting back into this...

It's time for me to get back into reviewing.  To get me started, I've lined up these 4 point-form reviews.  Stay tuned for more real reviews to start up soon!

Lawless (2012)

Rating: 4.4/10 and ranked #1026 of the 1822 movies I’ve seen.
Plot: In Depression-era Virginia, three small-town brothers struggle to keep their bootlegging business alive against the threat of a new deputy.
Background: A western/gangster drama by the patient director John Hillcoat (The Road), and based on the true story and novel ‘The Wettest County in the World.’

  • Fantastic acting from the evil Guy Pearce, the brief-but-fiery Gary Oldman, the reliable Jessica Chastain and surprisingly Shia LaBeouf.
  • Steady and capable direction from Hillcoat that allows the actors to shine.
  • 3 fantastic scenes: 2 of them being Oldman’s only moments and the other is a fascinating window into an old-fashioned church service.
  • These notable scenes are few and far between; let alone inconsequential.
  • The tone is all over the place. The film sometimes pokes fun of itself using caricatures of human beings, inconsistent music choices, and some oddly comedic final scenes, but then like Hillcoat’s previous films, this is contrasted with an overall dry tone. [note: this dry feeling worked extremely well in ‘The Road’ since it fed off of the source material’s bleakness; it does not work here].
Summary: A pointless dry film about maturing and forming a family. If you need something serious to watch in this bad season of movies, go for it.  Or if you just want to see the annoying Shia LaBeouf get beat up numerous times, this is the film for you!

Dredd (2012)

Rating: 1.5/10 and ranked #1730 of the 1822 movies I’ve seen.
Plot: In a future where crime thrives, the police are promoted and given the power of Judge, Jury and Executioner. Judge Dredd (who looks like Captain Falcon) is in for his toughest assignment yet, locked in a tower with 200 floors of criminals out to get him.
Background: A remake of a notoriously silly Sylvester Stallone 90s action movie (which I haven’t seen). Both of which are based on a comic from the 70s.
  • Stylish and slick looking
  • Strong confident female characters in an action movie!
  • Nice Dredd costume
  • A re-hash of a far superior film from earlier this year, The Raid.
  • Bad and pointless 3D effects.
  • Confused morals and themes: Dredd could have been satirical or an indictment of police enforcement and a warning to where our legal system can go (like Minority Report).  It barely touches these ideas through the ‘Rookie’ character, but it ultimately sides with Judge Dredd himself and relishes the violence.
  • Every once in a while, there are ‘Wow’ moments, but they are unfortunately rooted in and reliant upon violence; often portrayed in a yawningly overused slow-mo shot which only glorifies the bloodshed.
  • Zero climax
Summary: DREDDFUL. This movie has beat out ‘The Five-Year Engagement’ and ‘Dark Shadows’ as the worst movie I’ve seen this year...hopefully there’s none worse.

The Campaign (2012)

Rating: 7.0/10 and ranked #567 of the 1822 movies I’ve seen.
Plot: A lazy congressman of an American district now has to make an effort to be an active politician when he is challenged for the first time in 4 years by a new candidate. A dastardly political campaign ensues.
Background: Typical to most of his films, this is another simple and crass Will Ferrell comedy that seems more script based than his previous heavily improvised outings (for good and bad). This time he teams up with recent funny man Zach Galifianakis.
  • Like his SNL sketches and previous movies, The Campaign is based on a certain idea (corrupt Politics) and stretches it out to a full length film. Yet unlike his previous failures that stretch for too long (Casa de mi padre and Blades of Glory), this one doesn’t feel forced to the subject.  Instead of being a heavy handed satire, it only takes a few shots at politicians and is thankfully more focussed on comedy.
  • It would have been easy to pull cheap shots at George Bush (Ferrell’s famous impression from SNL), but the movie takes the high road to not take shots at specific politicians.
  • The Campaign also has the key ingredient for any comedy: an abundance of one-off funny side characters (and animals).
  • The veteran actors (Dan Aykroyd, John Lithgow and Brian Cox) feel sour and have a lack of magnetism. They tend to suck the energy right out of their scenes.
  • Barely and hour and twenty minutes, there is not much to this movie.  It has a few things to say about corruption, but is nevertheless fairly vapid.
Summary: Although fairly forgettable and not much substance, The Campaign is still first and foremost a comedy with plenty of hilarious moments and is sure to entertain. Besides, it does land in the better half of Will Ferrell movies.

The Island (2005)

Rating: 5.8/10 and ranked #830 of the 1822 movies I’ve seen.
Plot: In a futuristic human colony shunned from the rest of the world, 2 curious inhabitants escape in search of a liberated life and discover what’s outside.
Background: Another big-budgeted action movie from the now much ridiculed director, Michael Bay. As is typical of most of his movies, there is a vaguely intriguing idea scripted by a terrible writer. 
  • At least we can say that Bay is a consistent director.  The Island has action sequences that are in fact quite fun; most notably the flying motorcycle scene. 
  • The set design and art direction is slick with a clean glossy smear throughout. It is an easy film to look at, and immediately puts you in the environment.
  • There general concept of the movie is original and intriguing, and since it doesn’t delve too much into the ethics of this colony, the viewer can accept its simplicity and just sit back and numb their mind with a silly sci-fi flick.
  • A script or foolish director that dumbs everything down.
  • Many moments are framed, coloured and stylized like commercials - initially I thought this was to mirror how the protagonists are in fact products/items for sale, but since this style never changes as the characters progress beyond products, this theory is shut down. Also because the movie is just littered with horrendous product placement. Gotta love that first generation xbox virtual simulator chamber! Not to mention each of Bay’s films are like this.
Summary: As silly as this movie is, the central plot is intriguing enough to warrant its existence. It is often laughable, but is good ol’ dumb fun. One of the better Michael Bay films, but that doesn’t mean much.

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