Monday, 26 January 2015

The Drop - intense meat wrapping Tom Hardy

Bob Saginowski is a bartender at his relations bar "Cousin Marv's" which also operates as a 'drop' for illegal takings for Chechen mobsters. With a strain of a big 'drop' looming after rescuing a puppy Bob finds himself at clashing with a local hood (with a reputation of being a killer) claiming to be the dog's owner.

A gritty production which daringly hinges on a single surprise plot point (written by Mystic River's Dennis Lehane), and to director Michaël R. Roskam credit its successfully executed. Its dialogue driven, small in scale and refreshingly the violence is minimum, hard hitting and over quickly.

Tom Hardy simmers throughout as Bob and carries the weight of the film to it's boiling point. His unassuming bartender is believable, emotional and susceptible. In his last role playing on a naturalistic background James Gandolfini effortlessly graces the screen in the on location shoot, amongst the naturalistic settings as Marv. There are some touching moments when Hardy and Noomi Rapace are tending to a puppy mirroring the tenderness of Rocky and Adrianne in Rocky (1976). Rapace plays the troubled Nadia best when she's on a back foot when her ex boyfriend turns up. Notable is John Ortiz in a small part as Detective Torres.

Roskam's vision captures the everyday environment with 1970's grit reminiscent of The French Connection (1971) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975) to name a few. He effectively builds up tension with the characters interplay. The Drop is subtle as it can be, there's no elaborate heists, fights and explosions, just the characterisation of the cast to keep you intrigued until the end. Marco Beltrami is on form, harmonizing the on screen drama with his score.

Granted there's an abundance of similar themed crime dramas, but The Drop raises the bar with its smartly written script and great small cast ensemble.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Exodus Gods and Kings Ridley Scott’s retelling of a classic

Moses, an adopted Egyptian prince who becomes the deliverer of his real brethren, tries to release the enslaved Hebrews after a meeting with God.

You could argue that Cecil B. DeMille epic The Ten Commandments (1956) is predictable, the critics calling Exodus predictable is comparable to saying the Titanic’s ending is predictable.

Anachronisms, historical inaccuracies, religion and DeMille’s epic aside, Exodus is a half marathon and spectacular looking film. Ridley Scott’s take on the story of Moses does appear chopped and in turn the ending feels unjustly rushed. Just like the Kingdom of Heaven’s theatrical release (possibly to appease cinema showing times or demographics preview audiences who believe they’re Siskel and Ebert by the end of the evening).

The acting is at a level you’d expect, Sigourney Weaver is imposing in her limited screen time as Tuya, Joel Edgerton is notable and his Ramesses II is developed. Christian Bale gives another intense performance, his Moses is what you expect for a contemporary retelling. Sadly given its running time the great supporting cast including the likes of Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley are underused. María Valverde’s Zipporah does steal every scene and the actress gives Bale a run for his money.

Arguably there’s more birds eye view shots than a family pack of fish fingers, still you can’t help enjoy Scott’s scope, sweeping camera work and direction which is unprecedented. The costumes are first rate and the Egypt setting is encapsulating. Although not as memorable as Gladiator 1999’s score, Alberto Iglesias music certainly complements the ancient setting, sets and special effects (some of which are more convincing than others).

Exodus (and the unnecessarily subtitled Gods and Kings) is dedicated to his late brother Tony, Scott’s offering is sober in its delivery, logical and palatable for the modern general audience, the 10 Plagues somewhat explained like a National Geographic Channel special, and the parting of the Red Sea Tsunami in nature. That’s said, Scott cleverly keeps it ambiguous, retaining its divine mystique. Is God real or in his mind, or is God a little child with great powers, it’s left to the audience to decide.

For such a well-known tale, and through no fault of its own, by default it’s difficult to be truly wowed and surprised. However, for those unfamiliar with the story and viewing it fresh it would be easy to be blown away by Scott’s vision, scope, sweeping camera work and direction.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Wahlberg - The Gambler

With only seven days to pay off his Gambling debts a narcissistic lecturer finds himself in hot water and running out of time.

Based on Fyodor Dostoevsky novella and James Toback's the Gambler, director Rupert Wyatt's offering is a well-paced and a wonderfully shot piece of drama entertainment in its own right. It's tension builds as the days countdown for the debut to get paid back which is complemented by the music and downtown Los Angeles on location setting.

In her limited screen time Jessica Lange gives a meaty performance as Mark Wahlberg's character's mother, Roberta. Both John Goodman and Michael K. Williams are exceptional as the loan sharks. Brie Larson is great as Amy but her student character and Jim Bennett never really feel connected enough to emphasise the danger they are in.

The dialogue is profanity laced, in-keeping with the environment and the world in which Mark Wahlberg's Jim Bennett resides. Wahlberg is perfectly cast, reliably superb as the sharp unlikeable venomous literature professor. With snappy dialogue and timed mannerisms he achieves a believable performance. That said, under the cool pretence and intense pressure on the backdrop of impending doom at times he feels a little too fearless. William Monahan's dialogue rolls of Wahlberg's Jim tongue as he searches for redemption. Still as he plays it out more than adequately you can't help but feel for his characters sensibility.

It's not an easy watch given the unsavoury main character but just like the character's plight it isn't meant to be. Recommend for that reason.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

John Wick Busy Equalizing

A grieving hit man after a series of unfortunate events goes about exacting revenge on his former boss' son.

Since Rocky 4 the stereotype Russian bad guy films seemed to ease off, however, mirroring the politics of today there appears to be an increasing influx of bad guy Russians, Equalizer, Taken 3, Jack Ryan, Die Hard 5 to name just a few. Amongst the abundance of them comes John Wick with its on location feel and slick action sequences.  

Wonderfully directed by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch's with great action scenes and Derek Kolstad's solid dialogue Wick goes from one scene to the next exacting revenge on those who have wronged him. Its a fine straightforward affair without the quirkiness or humour of the likes director Guy Ritchie or Paul McGuigan. Stahelski delivers a straight up action thriller with hard hitting violence, blood baths through a hotel, church, cars and blood spattered clubs. Unashamedly from the shootouts to knife fights it oozes cool, complemented by the lighting, sound design, music score and tracks from Tyler Bates.

The cast are unprecedentedly on form with Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki and memorable Willem Dafoe. Bridget Moynahan and Ian McShane cameo with John Leguizamo small part effortlessly stealing the cameo show. Keane Reeves is perfectly cast with his minimal dialogue and screen presence. 

Even with its dark tone it's more fun than the comparable excellent Equalizer. Yes, like all actions there's an obligatory Jason Statham/Van Damme-like showdown/fight off and John Wick is unavoidably reminiscent of Get Carter but as a revenge action it is as completely rounded as they come - recommended.

Vice - When A.I. goes awry

The ultimate resort: VICE, where customers can play out their wildest fantasies is shaken up when artificial inhabitants becomes self- aware.

What starts off as a respectable sci-fi thriller never really explorers or develops its interesting premise turning into a chase picture with guns being uninspiringly fired left right and centre poorly imitating The Matrix's (1999) modish feel in the latter half.

It's reminiscent in part of Michael Crichton's West World (1973) and Future World's (1976) concept that then delves into the realms of a staged The Purge: Anarchy (2014) mixed with a pleasure park gone wrong and carbon copied Blade Runner dialogue scattered though out. What sits uncomfortably in Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore's dialogue and Brian A Miller's depiction, is that the park goers fantasies are either excessively sexual or sick and awfully violent in contrast in tone to the exaggerated gun play action.

With great physique not even Ambyr Childers' look and performance as Kelly lighting up each scene as the park's on the run self-aware artificial robot can help the clumsily action and expository sequences. With a lack of back story Thomas Jane tries his hardest with a clunky script and given his performance in the comparable Surrogates (2009) Bruce Willis is flat and looks bored. Bryan Greenberg's Evan and Brett Granstaff's James feel miscast and actors Charlotte Kirk and Johnathon Schaech are sorely underused.

As well as the classics there's The Machine (2013), Automata (2014), Impostor (2001) and other quality low-budget movies or the Almost Human TV Series to name a few which have tackled the themes in a superior fashion.

Even the sequel enticing ending feels forced. Aesthetically Vice looks great and the score is fitting to the well-lit sterile environments. If only Vice we're half as good as the actors cast, lighting and locale it could have been an entertaining A.I film to add to the shelf.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Predestination - Spierig brothers hit time travel gold?

A time-traveling Temporal Agent travels back and forth time in order to stop an infamous terrorist known as the 'Fizzle Bomber'.

While Terminator and Back to the Future put time travel on the film map not many have equaled it since, multi-talented Spierig brothers, Michael and Peter offer a satisfying serious slice of time hoping scifi. Predestination delivers what Looper debatably failed to do, not since Nacho Vigalondo 2007 Timecrimes have paradoxes been thought out and executed so well.

The film oozes a retro atmosphere and writer/directors Spierig brothers bend the conventional story telling with not just time travel but flash backs too, thanks to some good editing. The music and makeup also deserve a nod. It takes it's time to come together allowing the fine actress Sarah Snook a chance to shine. The Spierigs re-team with Ethan Hawke and put him alongside the understated Noah Taylor, all the cast are on fine form. It's a character and story driven tale.

With scenes set in 1945 to 1970s and 1992 to name a few without giving the game away it avoids getting weighed down by techno babble and there's enough twists to peak interest without relying on huge amounts of effects and explosions.

If you love though provoking personal time travel films on a large scale this one is a must see.

Taken 3 it ends here, really?

Framed and wanted for murder retired CIA operative Mills goes out for revenge with some help from his former comrades.

Thankfully Liam Neeson reprises his role as Bryan Mills and is not given a younger comedy sidekick, love interest or any other cliché they tend to pop into a sequel these days. Forest Whitaker is on form and his character is charged with hunting Mills down A-Team style. No characters are kidnapped or 'taken' refreshingly until the final act. Maggie Grace and Fame Janssen return along side Leland Orser and Jon Gries all of which give good performances but are given very little to do. With Janssen's Lenore husband recast with Dougray Scott it gives an air of depth but also predictability.

Like part two Olivier Megaton offering is hampered by it's watered-down tone and while the action set ups and drama are interesting the sequences lack the edge that made the first outing so memorable. Still it's a stunning looking on location film and Megaton's direction is as slick as the editing.

Seasoned and fine writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen drop the ball slightly here and force feed a poor series of twists that are straight from C.S.I or the Crime Channel. That said, it's main issue is that it premise borrows heavily from The Fugitive and US Marshalls to name a few. Also coming off the back of the much grittier Equalizer remake it lacks magic which made the first Taken so good.

Neeson is great as usual and it's entertaining enough, it's just not as good as many of producer Besson's other productions.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

If playmobil made famous film toys

With Lego so popular there's always an underdog, click the link and take a look at these playmobil play-sets from Star Wars to Exodus my son and I created so far of famous films and characters:

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The living dead zombies and scifi The Final Version

Two great pieces of news. 

If you're a zombie/Dead Pulse fan (and since the novel's 1st edition has gone out of print) the undead return to life in special Kindle edition of Dead Pulse with a Night of the Living Dead inspired tribute cover. You can relive the blood curdling adventure again. 

The Final Version has had an exciting makeover and now the cover also shows more of the original artist excellent painting. 

Get you hands on The Final Version or Dead Pulse today.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Seasonal thanks scifi, horror people, cheerleaders and machines.

So that's it for this year. Thank you all for following my blog, reading my film comments  (they are not  reviews, everyone has their own taste like women/men, wine and music) and reading my news. To-date this blog has had 128,205 hits!

Next year the 2nd Editions of my top 40 ebooks Blood Hunger (#13 unlucky for some) and Dead Pulse (#39) will be released.  

It's been a great year for my scifi The Final Version, with it reaching #12 in the Cyber Punk ebook chart. 

The music video I directed (packed with scifi references, see how many you can spot) has had 3,550 views to date, be warned it gets a little bloody towards the end -check it out here:  

Thank you all for following my blog, reading my books and watching my videos - I really appreciate it. Be safe, have a fantastic seasonal time and have a very merry Christmas.