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Blue Ruin Adds Dash Of Realism To Coen’s Bloody Footprints

By on May 7, 2014 in Reviews | 0 comments

Revenge films are in vogue. And as much as I enjoy Denzel Washington exacting vengeance in the genre classic Man on Fire, or laugh at the studios coming up with another excuse for Liam Neeson to hunt down his targets in Taken 3, or look forward to Mads Mikkelsen taking a break from chewing up the scenery in Hannibal to provide some vengeance spaghetti Western style in The Salvation; I find the genre pretty forgettable. With no shortage of such films the question is what makes Blue Ruin memorable?

Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier deserves most of the credit by focusing the story on someone completely lacking the “special set of skills” that Neesson is constantly highlighting.… Read the rest

Favorite Scenes: Preemptive Launch from Crimson Tide

By on May 6, 2014 in Favorite, Scenes | 0 comments

Often scenes have stronger memories for me than the films themselves. Not much about Crimson Tide sticks with me. I remember it as an echo of greater films like Run Silent, Run Deep and Das Boot. But what does resonate for me is the scene-chewing that Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman bring in their fight for command of the ship. There have been many scenes like it where a captain and a first officer clash as they each try to uphold their individual beliefs. Such clashes have been featured in historical classics like Mutiny on the Bounty and modern sci-fi films like Star Trek, but no modern scene crackles with the tension that Washington and Hackman bring to the screen:



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The Raid 2: Body Count Is In The House!

By on Apr 21, 2014 in Reviews | 0 comments

Great films have moments in them that make you think, “This is something special.”

There is a moment in the opening of Saving Private Ryan during the Normandy Beach invasion scene where the audience realizes it’s in for level of violence that it’s not prepared for. Likewise there is a moment in Donnie Yen’s film Ip Man where the normally peaceful grandmaster mows down a group of Japanese black belt karate students in front of his captors, with the intent to maim. Then there is the famous hammer scene in Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy where a brutal hallway fight involving knives, sticks, and the aforementioned hammer turns into an altogether different art form not unsimilar to dance.… Read the rest

Brief Reviews: Headhunters, The Killer Inside Me, and End of Watch

By on Apr 9, 2014 in Reviews | 0 comments

This week’s Brief Reviews, I’ve lined up three films with a criminal theme.


Easily the film with the highest production value and sharpest cinematography, Headhunters is a surprisingly unsatisfying experience. Based on bestselling Norwegian author Jo Nesbø’s crime fiction, Headhunters tells the tale of an art thief who makes the misstep of stealing a painting from a former special forces soldier who specialized in tracking people. A great setup which the film executes as if the producers of CSI made their own version of No Country for Old Men. Perhaps it is telling that director Morten Tyldum spent the majority of his career heading a Norwegian TV series.… Read the rest

Gorgeous New Trailer For Jupiter Ascending Means The Matte Artists Deserve A Raise

By on Mar 28, 2014 in Previews | 0 comments

There are many problems with the Wachowskis’ upcoming film Jupiter Ascending. It is anchored by two leads, in Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, who are fine in comedies but neither of whom could sell snow cones in the desert when it comes creating layered characters. It has a tantrum throwing villain that looks like a combination of Ra from Stargate and Ard (aka “it’s my Loknar you bitch!”) from Heavy Metal. And at first blush its plot seems simple even by YA standards.

So why am I previewing the trailer? It’s gorgeous. As if the Wachowskis combined the visuals of the underrated Sunshine with a mash-up of Minority Report and Fifth Element.… Read the rest

David O’ Russell Hustles Up An Acting Master Class But Forgets The Sizzle

By on Mar 26, 2014 in Reviews | 0 comments

Who would have guessed that the director of Spanking the Monkey would turn into one of Hollywood’s darlings? I certainly didn’t. David O’ Russell has been on a winning streak since The Fighter. His latest film American Hustle racked up 10 Academy Award nominations but walked away empty handed on award’s night. Unlike most decisions by the Academy, there was good reason why.

Russell’s directing is near perfect and the entire cast brings their A-game, but the film invites comparisons to much more compelling movies. With such expectations the risks it takes are not high enough and the con game at its center is not slick enough.… Read the rest

Grandmaster: Wong Kar-wai’s Subversive Martial Arts Film

By on Mar 25, 2014 in Reviews | 0 comments

Wong Kar-wai films are sumptuous. Like looking at the masterwork of a painter. I can revisit them often and find something new that captures my eye. Do his films have a plot or a storyline? Maybe. But those elements take a backseat to Kar-wai’s tone and visual palate.

In The Mood For Love is his masterpiece. It reminds me of the painting Nighthawks by Edward Hooper or Hemingway’s “A Clean and Well Lit Place”. It forgoes pace for longing. It is filled with night shots, smoking, perfectly framed shots, and infused with Nat King Cole. It is a tone poem masquerading as a film.

Grandmaster shares the visual flare of Wong Kar-wai’s previous films.… Read the rest

Favorite Scenes: Whose Car from The Town

By on Mar 24, 2014 in Favorite, Scenes | 0 comments

There are scenes in films created simply to demonstrate to the audience how tough a character is. Often they are action scenes. But sometimes a crafty director can show a character’s toughness simply by how they answer a question.

My favorite scene in Ben Affleck’s The Town is like that. A heist film with several shootouts worthy of Heat, the film is anchored between the friendship of Affleck and Jeremy Renner’s characters. In this scene Affleck asks Renner a question. I love the way Renner answers. It’s the way true friends should answer. The action scene that follows is just icing on their character sketch:… Read the rest