October Quick Reviews (Fury, The Judge, Dracula Untold)

Fury_2014_posterBrad Pitt plays a more serious version of Lt. Aldo Raine in this film that follows a platoon of tank operators in the final days of World War II. David Ayer (End of Watch) directs a phenomenal cast led by Logan Lerman who stars as a young typist offhandedly thrust into battle. Shia LeBeouf gives arguably his best performance ever as the tank’s religiously grounded gunner. The other crewmen, played by Jon Bernthal and Michael Peña are equally as captivating.

The film goes through several war film clichés. Because of that, you won’t miss anything groundbreaking if you manage to never see this film. But along with a strong cast and solid pacing, the action sequences are striking and vivid. More gruesome than many war films, it undoubtedly earns it’s ‘R’ rating, but all of the horrifying imagery is necessary in conveying it’s dog eat dog theme. FINAL GRADE: B+

 

The_Judge_2014_film_posterEver since Iron Man, it has been admittedly difficult for me to see Robert Downey Jr. as anything other than Tony Stark. But here, RDJ does his best to give new direction to his trademark narcissism in the form of snarky lawyer Hank Palmer. The film, directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) has the backdrop of a court drama, but it is moreso about the rigid relationship between father and son.

Robert Duvall stars as Joseph Palmer, a stubborn, elderly judge in a small town in Indiana who is forced to seek the help of his estranged son after he is charged with a hit and run. The courtroom elements can get a bit cartoony, especially when Billy Bob Thornton’s prosecuting Dwight Dickham comes into the picture, but the film is nonetheless solid. The family drama will tug at your heartstrings and Duvall and RDJ are both naturally brilliant. FINAL GRADE: B

 

Dracula_Untold_posterLuke Evans stars as Vlad the Impaler in a reinterpretation of the classic vampire tale that mixes myth with the factual inspiration for Count Dracula. Ruler of Transylvania after escaping a lifetime of being a brutal soldier for the Turkish army, Vlad is forced to seek the help of a nearby vampire (Charles Dance) after the power hungry Turkish sultan (Dominic Cooper) requests his son and the rest of the kingdom’s young boys for his new army. After drinking the blood of the vampire, Vlad is endowed with all of its powers, with only one catch; he must resist drinking human blood for three days or risk being a vampire for eternity.

A film like this isn’t meant to have groundbreaking plot, but it would’ve been nice if the script didn’t seem razor-thin. Playing out like a super hero origin story, this movie feels more like Ghost Rider than Blade. While Evans is a solid actor, the story seems to clunk along from one action sequence to the next without much explanation or purpose. None of the characters are developed other than the Impaler himself, and even the action sequences are reduced to the same old tricks each time. After a while, even turning into a swarm of bats gets old when we’ve seen it throughout the trailer. In the end, this film is a clear case of wasted potential. FINAL GRADE: C-

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Gone Girl Review

Gone_Girl_Poster A horror movie came out this weekend. No, I’m not talking about Annabelle. I’m talking about David Fincher’s Gone Girl… a movie about how truly petrifying marriage cane be. This movie, much like last year’s haunting Prisoners, tells a very intricate story that can best be summed up as half murder mystery, half thriller.

The centerpiece is “Amazing” Amy (Rosamund Pike), so named because she is the inspiration for her snooty parents’ wildly successful set of children’s books. Amy is swept off of her feet by charming, laid-back everyman, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). They are head over heels in love and get happily married. Years later, on their fifth anniversary of marriage, Nick goes home to find that his wife has disappeared.

As mentioned, the first half of the film is a compelling murder mystery where we are mainly spent wondering how, why, and most importantly, if Nick killed his wife. The tone is dreary and the soundtrack is perfect, but what truly sets this film apart is it’s narrative. There have been non-linear murder mystery’s before, but few manage to toy with the audience like Fincher (Panic Room, Benjamin Button, The Social Network) does with this film. We mainly follow Nick, who seems as genuinely confused by the events as everyone else, but because he doesn’t seem as saddened or concerned, the police detective charged with the case (Kim Dickens), the media, and we the audience, are left to draw conclusions based on three things: The evidence we are allowed to know, Nick’s numerous character flaws, and Amy’s own narrative via her diary. But like any murder mystery, it is never as simple as it seems.

Untrustworthy narratives, coupled with numerous twists and turns, make the second half of the film an absolute thriller. Once we know what really happened, it then becomes a cat and mouse game to discover who can better prove their innocence. Some twists you may see coming, but whether you can foresee it or not won’t take away from how eerie the whole situation is.

An absolutely stellar cast also manages to keep our interest in this nearly three hour film. Affleck is perfect as the everyman who just wants people to hear his side of the story before he is judged. Rosamund Pike plays her best role ever as the exceedingly cerebral Amy. Together, their characters are the epitome of every wife’s fear in a husband, and every husband’s fear in a wife. Surprisingly, Tyler Perry is also absolutely infectious in his role as Affleck’s Johnnie Cochrane-like lawyer.

The length of the film might get to you. We can’t all handle lengthy films, but the story and more importantly, the way it’s told should be enough to keep you interested. No movie I’ve ever seen does a better job at convincing an audience that there are always two sides to every story. And by the time the film comes to its unsettling end, I guarantee you’ll feel far more horrified than if you’d seen a film about a possessed doll.

FINAL GRADE: A-

Denzel Washington Movie Review… You know which one

The Equalizer was a television show about a retired black ops agent who volunteers to help people in trouble. It ran in the late 80’s. But you don’t care… nor should you. Because, as I made evident in the title of this post, it doesn’t matter what the name of this movie is or what the plot is. You watched, or will watch, for one reason and one reason only.

The_Equalizer_posterDenzel Washington is arguably at the top of the list of actors we’ll watch in anything (and justifiably so). Here, he takes on the role of Robert McCall, a former intelligence agent who, in this film, lives a peaceful life working at a hardware store in Boston (the most heinous, corrupt Boston imaginable). His happily meticulous life is interrupted after a teenage prostitute (Chloe Grace-Moretz) he befriends, is brutally beaten by her Russian boss. Avenging her sets off a wave of violence as the Russian Mob comes after him.

Denzel Washington has played some badass roles in his long career: American Gangster, Training Day, The Book of Eli are just some off the top of my head. But this role? It’s on a whole different level. Imagine Liam Neeson’s character in the Taken films, but even more skilled. I’m seriously not joking. Washington’s character leaves an even larger body count and rarely picks up a gun throughout the entire film. And he’s more likable too. He’s the perfect person; reading books in honor of his deceased wife, voluntarily helping coworkers better their lives, sticking up for the little guy… hell, I kept expecting him to help an old lady across the street.

But it isn’t just the charming likability and the humble toughness of Washington’s character that makes the movie a worthwhile outing. There are several nice little undertones and dramatic moments wedged in there to keep it from being as dumbed down as something Jason Statham would make. The supporting cast is also solid, highlighted most notably by Marton Csokas as Washington’s equally brooding adversary.

There may not be an intricate plot or even an adequate amount of worthy challenges for the hero. But, what The Equalizer does give you is a solid superhero, creepy villain-like story with the backdrop of a crime thriller. You’ll have to excuse some action movie clichés, like walking away from a massive explosion in slow motion or the villain methodically walking after prey instead of sprinting. Little moments like that threaten to turn this into a ‘B’ movie, but overall, it’s undoubtedly ‘A’ movie fun to watch.

FINAL GRADE: A-